On a warm, sunny day, on a last day of summer, on my 27th birthday, I got my first tattoo. The warmth, fear and longing of the experience, as well as the stream of blood that poured, will stay with me always.
My grandfather grew amidst the Seville orange blossoms (nawranj), in a house quite similar to the one I grew up visiting in our native province of Khuzestan, give or take a few dozen servants who were long gone by the time I came along. A house I loved, so keenly, so observantly, so voraciously. It seemed only befitting to have that memory of childhood love engraved on my flesh, just as it has, throughout the years, been engraved within.
And when I walked into Dave’s studio with my copy of Siddhartha, pondering the meaning of life and death and promise, when he told me that he had read every last work by Herman Hesse, I knew that I had come to the right guy.
Tattoos are funny things. More often used as fashion statements, they are our way of connecting to and with memory, with love, with the past, with people and places long gone and forgotten. Long forgotten if not for the dark, musty corners of our involuntary memory, a mysterious hallway Proust loved to roam.
As Dave was working his way, as I was watching the masterful strokes of his paintbrush (or needle), as my blood poured out in drops, as I was involuntarily choking up at the thought of those orange blossoms, the smell of them, the way their shiny white petals shone in the hot, burning Khuzestan sun, I felt, in a very odd sort of way, release.
Blood is thicker than water they say. And with my blood, with an artist’s hand, a pledge had been forged. The trees and the house may fall tomorrow. But on my shoulders the flowers would rest, comfortably, for just a while longer. My memories will walk with me, talk with me and fall with me, one blossom at a time …