Monday, October 15, 2012

Body Art

Looking past the 10-foot chain link fence in the early morning while scanning the daily paper an apparition appeared, stunning you. The fence, topped with barbed wire was intended to create a protected environment, a bubble, demarcating you from them. There was no more than seven yards separating the two of you and although the fence kept him out, you still felt uncomfortable. This was your sanctuary, a two acre protected garden closed off from the riffraff, homeless and errant roaming the streets. You had experienced a similar feeling when visiting your grandparent’s graveside one early fall morning at a cemetery bordering the periphery of the city. Lifting your eyes from their graves two stags appeared in the clearing appearing more mystical than real. But by the time you reached for the Apple 3 they had disappeared back into the woods. This time it was different. 

He didn’t disappear when reaching for your Apple, although you hesitated photographing him. Would he take umbrage for taking his picture as though he was a curios? He stood there, arrogantly on the other side, poised and daring and you starring into him like an infrared missile locked onto its target but wasn’t convinced he was looking at you: his eyes masked by the brim of his hipster style hat. He wore it in a haughty, jaunty angle the way Frank Sinatra wore his; tilted slightly to his right, low and over his eyes giving him the look of mystery, perhaps trouble. What attracted you to him was not his untoned naked torso, but the body art so extensive that it seemed his singular purpose was to be a canvas leaving little skin exposed. 

Why, would anyone irreversibly mutilate his body, you wondered as you gazed at this errant young man? And why was he strutting his stuff, shirt off as if anyone really cares? Approaching him from the safety of the fence had been a consideration but before doing so he sashayed off with the swagger of a man who could care less about what you thought. 

Although he was gone he wasn’t forgotten; you were left considering why any human being would subject himself to that kind of pain and permanent disfigurement. Was he so uncomfortable in his own skin that he had to create a new one as though reinventing himself?  Was his tattooed body an attempt at hiding his shame or who he really was from the rest of the prying world? Perhaps you were being too profound, reading too much into this city urchin, giving it too much thought, giving him too much credit. Perhaps his body art was meant to be nothing more than a series of bumper stickers. After all, the images displayed on his body were tawdry pop art. Perhaps he was the product of the proverbial self-indulgent American culture, narcissistic too a fault, concerned only with himself: the here and now, the moment.

Pausing momentarily and considering the occurrence it dawned on you that the vision of those two stags on the perimeter of your grandparents’ space was similar to his appearance on the perimeter of your sanctuary disturbing your solitude.  The stags were in their last bastion, fighting extinction; He seeking distinction from the monotony of his perceived culture.