Like most other tattoo enthusiasts, I started my road with a bad ink choice. In 2001 and only a couple months after my divorce, I walked into a tattoo shop in La Crosse and took the plunge. I didn’t do much research on what I wanted. I simply walked into the shop, with the burning desire to commemorate this point in my life.
The start of the darker road, the schism between who I was and who I was becoming. Diagnosed with two chronic health conditions only one year earlier, my life had completely unraveled. First it was my health, then my job, then my love, my marriage, my condo, my friends… and everything I knew as familiar. In one year following my prognosis, I was single, broke and living alone in a new, cursed world.
I felt like a ghost–physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And, thus, I adopted the nickname. It seemed to fit. Typically, people don’t assign themselves their own monickers. Friends or family bequeath such labels upon you. But, in this case, I felt like the incorporeal dead. Non-present. Translucent and disconnected.
The wires couldn’t be reconnected to life, not in the common means. In that darkness, someone else awoke. It was necessary to face the disassociation and make it part of me.
“Ghost” became a nickname. And not just a name, but a way of existence. In the tattoo parlor in La Crosse, I found an Oriental Kanji which was labeled “Ghost”, and signed up for the permanent branding. The strokes of the kanji are shaped in such a way that it looks like the numbers “47”. To this day, I haven’t met a single person that can validate that the image means “Ghost”; in fact, the image now exists more as a deathmark, or a memory imprint, than an accurate statement from another language.
At the time, I couldn’t know prophetic it could be. 11 years later, the “ghost” has become a dominant part of me, the artist that has always slumbered within, made to mute by unsupportive hands, awakened by dissonance and the coalescing of metaphysical voices. All that remains of the first tatt is the echo of a number, and translucent identity, measured by rate of fade, rather than age of erasure.
All that’s left is 47–timeclock or coincidence, the answer draws closer with every dying day, and with every new image of recognition branded upon my flesh, with every bruise on the armor of this invisible sheath, this echo of who I used to be. Always present. Always reminding.
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