Shakespeare, Faulkner, and Tattoos

My best friend Basak is getting a tattoo, of a skull, on her right ankle. I said I’d get a matching one. Surprised and touched, she yelled in excitement and curiosity “Baby!” . She didn’t question me “Are you sure?” She already knew that there was something deeper. I’m not the type of woman to follow just to follow. I’m not silly enough to get a permanent mark on my body just to fit in. I’m not that whimsical. So…. why?

Life is surprising, that is why. Unpack that: It’s unpredictable. I wouldn’t get a tattoo of a skull if it weren’t for her, that much is true. Is our friendship so strong that we decided and pledged this to each other? No. That’s not it either. Like many tattoos, the symbol attracts me. Basak and I, we fought together, we learned together, we brunched together with family. We are friends and family; we are open love. We are also an ocean apart. I haven’t seen her, hardly spoke to her, in five years. I was her university English teacher, three years older than her, in Turkey. The last time we really spoke, was through letters, on our last day of class. She wrote her message and cut the paper into the shape of a heart: “This isn’t goodbye.” We held on, in silence, to that promise, too scared it would never come true.

But it did.

The tattoo symbolizes that despite time and distance, love doesn’t die. Having her skull behind my ankle will be a love line, like two people looking at the same star at night. It reminds me the power of friendship and reminds me of my two favorite philosophic topics: time and space—not in scientific way, but a human way. Where do we put our hopes and dreams? What is remembrance? How do we design our life spaces? How do we navigate them? When is love? When does it start, when does it stop, and where is it? I thought Basak and I would cheat death of love a little by getting these matching tattoos.
She was a little curious though. I told her not to worry. I’m not sure if she knew this about me, but I’m not the type of woman to do something she doesn’t want to do. I wouldn’t say it, just to say it, or to make her happy. She said she knew this. She knew this from the start.

I told her that I had been thinking of getting a tattoo for a while now, and being a literary person, it’s a challenge, because I could fill the expanse of my body with the beautiful quotes I’ve consumed. But one always spoke to me. On the arches of my feet I wanted to inscribe:

Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth, (V.v)

How many times in my life had I just wanted to scream: ENOUGH!

How stupid of me, to think that I was the hero of my play. In what way should I be exhausted? This is it. All this pride and pomp, strutting and worrying, just for my moment of glory, chasing my dreams but for what? It is nothing. The end is come. Who will speak my name? Life is told and retold by other idiots like me: those with an unbearable, insatiable, unquenchable, and futile passion.

Signify is the best word because it reminds us that for every word, there is a symbol. The word exists for the object, and the object exists for the word. This is the symbolic nature of language. This is why all we do, all we say, is not told or completed but rather signified. The beauty of juxtaposition doesn’t fall short upon us here: the juxtaposition of sound and fury, the loudness and the rage placed side by side to “nothing” only reiterates this message. This passion is nothing. Remember it.
We will never be able to re-present thought or feeling.
We will never stop trying.

My favorite novel, The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner, alludes to this idea; his mentally handicap protagonist Benji, introduces Faulkner’s world through his: through sounds and smells. Throughout the novel, there are no markers of time. There are no warnings of flashbacks. There is no punctuation to dialogue. There is no announcements of mixed dialogues of different times: which are thoughts? which are spoken? Faulkner makes no excuses nor aids his readers. His writing is unforgiving, but ever-rewarding. It is an experience that replicates life. Life is not a neat linear chronology of events but rather, it is a constellation of vital phenomena: simultaneously, sonorously, and furiously exploding, in chaotic, and perfect orchestra.

I thought I would place Shakespeare’s verses on my arches so that with one step, I remember that life is worth living: it is full of passion and love and fury and with the other step: it is meaningless. I’m one step closer to my dusty death, eventually forgotten. Even the tattoo itself, will wear also, and erase too, and I’ll have to. with purpose, get inked again. Morbid?

The skull is close enough to my original plan, beautifully overlapped by the new one.

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