"May I advise you? Please. Let them mark you. Because, you can see, the best among us have had so many imprints left upon them that it is like... embroidery. And these people, life-engraved, are drawn to each other and pass the time interpreting their signs. And those moments of sharing are the best of life. And this unraveling of hieroglyphs, personally I call it love, lasts only for so long as there are marks to read. Then it is gone."
Writer: Author Unknown
Dagger and Snake
Artist: Good Time Charlie Cartwright
“A woman sits on a bar stool. She’s in her early forties, attractive. She wears a plain, black cocktail dress. In every visible part of her body we see blue and red tattoos. The tattoos include twining snakes, demons, flowers, birds in flight, etc. The left side of her face is without tattoos, but bears a single scar about three inches long below the cheek. She holds and sips a glass of wine.”
Alain: Until I was thirty five, there was nothing ordinary, nothing remarkable about my life. My days were very like one of those baroque string quartets. Soothing. Placid. Repetitive. School years without protest or excess. Prom years. Not so much as a single evening’s anarchy. My uncle, a Connecticut lawyer, was heard on the eve of my 19th birthday to raise a toast which described me in a positive way he thought, as “unsurprising.”
In college, an unexceptional college, I appreciated. Appreciated music, Appreciated art. I was, if memory serves, a major in a subject whose actual point or content now escapes me. Cultural geography. Had I died at the time, perhaps of acute boredom let’s say, in the school cafeteria, eating peas, it would have been agreed, by all who know me that my epitaph should read, “She did as she was told.” Or blander yet “she did as she supposed she might be told.”
I met my husband, Arthur, at a festive tea held to honor the retiring faculty advisor of the Christian Youth Center. He proposed a toast, grapeade I think it was, and we were married two years later after weekly dates shared out among three restaurants of vastly ordinary cuisine. We were, I’m sure, the last of our generation to save ourselves for marriage. We had two children. First a girl, and then a boy. Two job transfers. Two homes, Two subdivisions. And then on our 15th anniversary Arthur left me, saying I had nothing further to give. I was, he said, "unmarked by life."
In the weeks that followed, I suffered most because I could not seem to suffer. I became an acolyte to sangria, made brief nervous forays into singles bars and one evening was walked to my car by a musician who suggested we make love there in the parking lot, between two yellow lines, as he was, as he so delicately put it, “between sets.”
Well, I resisted and much annoyed, he cut me here (points to cheek). I stood, horrified and somewhat embarrassed, at sea in the midst of asphalt, starting at drops of blood on my beige shoes. When the scar, this scar, formed I was astounded to find that for the first time people looked at me. Not unkindly, and with interest. And they were not the sort of people that I had known before. Oh no, these were interesting people, people who were not unmarked by life. And my mark, my scar, made me in some way approachable; this blemish gave me confidence. And it occurred to me then, or very shortly thereafter, that perhaps might be best to wear our lives upon our skin. And so, do I.
This serpent is Muhammed Kastapha, who coiled his life around mine and taught me that there are pressures, and dangers, even a sort of degradation so delightful that it seems ungrateful to resist.
This bird in flight, horror struck, would be my mother. This scythe, the ritual likeness of my musician of the parking lot. This lily which which blooms decays and is remembered, is Marian, who instructed me with her death. Taught me with her going. On the palm of my left hand, a crucified Christ, for Brother Shelton, who reached out a hand to save me, he thought, and was repaid with pain. A rising sun for Alex, Charybdis and Scylla, for Jimmy and Cal. An orchid for… isn’t that odd? I know her scent but can’t recall her name. They have all marked me. Well, of course you can see that.
May I advise you? Please. Let them mark you. Because, you can see, the best among us have had so many imprints left upon them that it is like... embroidery. And these people, life-engraved, are drawn to each other and pass the time interpreting their signs. And those moments of sharing are the best of life. And this unraveling of hieroglyphs, personally I call it love, lasts only for so long as there are marks to read. Then it is gone.
Sometimes the unmarked are attracted to me. They stare… briefly. Fascinated and a little frightened. And in the parking lots, I cut them. Make a small mark, (she touches her cheek). Like this. And it is then their lives begin. With a little pain. That is if there is any understanding in them. You understand me? Yes, I think I do. Salud. (She toasts them).
About Artwork: 20" x 30" original flash by Good Time Charlie, East Los Angeles, 1976.