Monday, June 18, 2007

Symbols

It was about ten years ago this week that I ended up in the hospital for the first time that summer. It was a crazy time. I’m sure that the anniversary of that doesn’t really hurt my nervous breakdown, nor the fact that this day, is in fact, exactly ten years to the day that I knew that my life would be altered, and that this very alternation seems to be at the root of most of my current problems. It was when I was sitting in my apartment about am month after some surgery that I still have yet to be able to afford, that I wanted to regain control of my life.

To do this I sat a lot. I did a lot of homework. I played with needles. I wanted to do something significant. Something symbolic. Something that would be just me, me doing, me taking action and being in control of what was going on and not being afraid. I think that was the big thing, I was awfully afraid after all the mucking around in my insides and the long recovery that seemed to never end. So I had this embroidery hook and some body piercing hoops I’d picked up at Horsefeathers and I decided to pierce my eyebrow.

I remember sitting in the chair with the needle soaking in peroxide and a piece of ice on my forehead on a warm Waukegan afternoon while I watched Xena. At just about the end of the show I picked up the needle, pulled on a big chunk of my forehead and put that needle straight through. It didn’t hurt. I was afraid to look. I did it for the most part without looking as I have a horrible fear of things being stuck in or around eyes. Still gives me the eeky creepies. But of course being curious I wanted to look and so I did.

I could see both side of the hook on my face, all silver and shiny, and the point just above my eye and for some reason it didn’t bother me at all. Instead there was a sense of intense empowerment. This was something I owned. I’d done it to myself. No one could ever take that away or replace it. This was mine. This was me. This was who I was in that moment. I was in control of that.* It was a good moment. It wasn’t until I realized that I was going to have to move the needle to put in the loop that I was paralyzed with fear.

But I did it, because I wanted to. And, of course, immediately dropped and permanently dropped the ball for the loop. I ended up replacing it with a piece of amethyst that I wore happily for years after that and found much easier to pop in and out of the hoop if I was for some reason taking out the ring. I didn’t take it out very often though.

It was around 1999 that I had to start taking it out on a regular basis for work and not soon after that that I lost the amethyst and then the hoop and then just gave up the habit of taking it out and putting it back in. I let it go. The space closed up with only a slight amount of scaring. Occasionally I would run my fingers over the spot where the hoop once was, thinking all the while of other hands that had touched my face during those years when the piercing was in place. Friendly hands, hands of my deep true friends, those friend who now compose the family I’ve created for myself and the one that I hold in such high regard and who I could not imagine living my life without.

I was sad, time and again, that it was just a scar. About a month ago I was plucking the old eyebrow when I noticed an oddly placed bit of hair and went to smooth it over and realized that it was not hair. It was wax. Further investigation revealed that it was wax from my piercing. “Huh, weird,” was my reaction as I drew out the wax plug. And I realized the, that they space might still be open. I took all I had lying about which was an earring and within seconds I had ascertained that sure enough the space was open. Maybe it had always been open. Maybe it just wanted to be open in this now. In this time, in this space. To remind me of who I am, of who I was, of who I will be.

I went to a piercing shop and tried to get a very fine gauge ring for it but couldn’t find anything quite as small as the actual opening. I don’t like the particular place I popped into. They seem to have it out for foreigners there for no readily apparent reason. I’ve never been in once and been treated nicely. I was wandering about downtown tonight though and found a new body jewelry shop so I stopped in. The gentleman was sweet. I asked for the finest gauge loop he had, which was a 20 gauge. I thought that might be a bit to big.

“Where do you want it?” He asked.

“My eyebrow. I want to open it back up. But I need something small.”

He turned my head both ways.

“I can expand it no problem. We will put in a 16 gauge.” We talked for a moment and settled on a banana bar because I will have to take it out for work. He brought me into the back of the room and had me sit on a wooden bench. I still my breath and closed my eyes as he opened up a clean needle.

“It won’t hurt,” he said.

I breath out.

After a moment, “Are you sure it is open?”

“Yes, try from the top.”

He put the needle against the top of the opening and it slipped in easily. I closed my eyes. I breathed. There was only the faintest prick of pain. A stirring somewhere in me. A memory. I closed my eyes and breathed. I felt every inch of the needle as he pulled it out and put in the bar. He screwed the ball closed. I bought too just in case.

“How much?” I ask.

“Five thousand,” he said. He wouldn’t let me pay for the opening, only the bars.


I walked into the cool night air suddenly more aware of it. So there now, blowing against my face and pricking up chills along my eyebrow ridge. Light sparkled just so and I was more aware of it then I had been before. Suddenly everything was so much more real. So much vivid and alive. I breathed night air fresh and felt just a touch of pain which has faded to nothing now.

I felt the cool calm control of it. Feel it. And it feels good.

I am who I was. I am still who I am. I will be myself tomorrow. While the time has passed and so many things have sealed over, healed up, scarred, closed off, so many of those things are just waiting. The good and the bad. All parts of me. And it’s okay.

Tomorrow I’ll take it out for classes. I’m different enough in Korea without something extra to set me apart. Maybe I’ll keep it up, putting it in and out for a few days, a month, maybe a year. And maybe I won’t.

And it doesn’t matter.

When I want it, it will be there, waiting. And when it’s ready for me, I’ll be ready for it.




*I was also incredibly stupid as anyone who does piercing professionally will tell you. I’m lucky I did not hit a nerve or the major blood vessels in my face that run near my eye. This would be my warning to any kids stupid enough to consider doing this at home. Trust me, go to a professional. Leave the self mutilation to the already professionally damaged.

5 comments:

Ipsofacto said...

Interesting post SaraDevil (although possibly for the wrong reasons).

A (good) friend of mine had a number of piercings and tattoos (he subsequently had a nervous breakdown).

Anyway, the first thing his psychologist said to him upon meeting him was the following: "I see you like to wear your pain on the outside".

That comment has always stayed with me.

I hope all works out OK for you.

(if you're ever in Seoul PM me)

Saradevil said...

I think when I started seeing a shrink I had already lost mine along the way. She did have some interesting things to say about the fact that I suck my thumb. I think the most interest was "I think it's healthy. At least your not smoking."

Hmmmmm...

Maybe that's not interesting.

I am planning a trip up to Seoul round the second week of July. If you are still in country I'd be happy to have a drink with you. Only if you put it on your tab though as I don't think I could every really live up to Total Spending, however if I read the manifesto part about the ladies correctly that should be cool.

Ipsofacto said...

hmmm - the bit about lady drinks is somewhat *flexible* !!

But anyway, whenever you're in Seoul hit me up. I'm always around ...

Saradevil said...

Flexible hell, don't change the rules man, that stuff is golden!

Callie said...

Hello Sara.....

For now....I send to you this...

*HUG*

wishing you peace..

callistre