It’s true that every tattoo tells a story, whether it’s just one tattoo, a full sleeve or a whole body canvas. Each one says something about your past, your thoughts, your sentiments and emotions, your experiences, your pain. It says… something.
A tribute to a love affair now ended has to be one of the most common stories to tell about a tattoo. The memory of heartbreak brings to life a piece of art, an attempt to keep that memory alive physically, aside from it being a scar on an imaginary vision of a heart.
I fell in love at 19 with a talented musician. With curly brown locks, brownish green eyes and a smile of summer. I was his second, he was my first. Love was grand at that time; youthful, exuberant and exciting. The honeymoon period was a dream. Poetry before we woke and before we slept, handwritten love notes, models built as testaments of adoration, lullabies and serenades. There was nothing to complain about.
Time went by pretty quickly and cracks started appearing. I was never satisfied, he was seldom there, we fought, we cried, we parted, got back together, fought. An endless cycle repeated itself within the sanctuaries of our relationship. It eventually became too much to bear, and we split for good.
There is a line from a Smashing Pumpkins’ song that I never shook off during those sour moments: Love is suicide. It echoed in my mind louder than the sound of my thumping heart. With new found cynicism, I kept the line close in my mind and as a band-aid within, to keep me from falling to pieces. In my spare time, I started to imagine that line, as a reminder of what I thought I’d won, that came to be what I lost.
This piece went through three revisions before I was satisfied. The design was something I always had in mind and I knew I wouldn’t be open to anything else. The shape reminiscent of the Pumpkins’ heart logo, made out of the lyric. The tattoo was done with my sister as company, who was also getting inked for the first time. When it was done, I felt proud of my design, like it was a badge of honour or a purple star.
Two love affairs later and I still look at it with fondness and, ironically, much love. My music, my experience and my heartache, encompassed in this symbol (which also became his namesake), in the middle of my back.
Love still hurts and it’s still a pain. Even with this permanent reminder, I still feel like a glutton for punishment when it comes to matters of the heart. But I can’t help it if love is one of the few things I feel good at. And so it shall be: the mark on a person who knows, but does not realise.
The final word? I’ll leave that to Suede. “Cause, on you, my tattoo will be bleeding, and the name will stain.”
Aishah Ashburn is not very technologically competent, but regularly updates her Facebook, Twitter, and Multiply journal. She worked with the Singapore International Film Festival in its 20th year and is currently a programming assistant for Moving Images at The Substation.
(Text is © Aishah Ashburn)