Wednesday, October 17, 2007

My (and my brother's) tattoo

My younger brother and I have matching tattoos. Mine is on the inside of my right leg, right above the ankle; his is on the back of (don’t quote me) his right calf. They are Celtic-style arrow heads and are a symbol of, among other things, fraternity. Before that, I had wanted a tattoo for as long as I can remember, but I couldn’t think of anything really good to put on there the first time. I was also aware of tattoo blunders from my other siblings: my older brother’s tattoo is heinous, my sister’s makes her feel “unfeminine” sometimes, and my younger brother had to get his first tattoo amended after him and his girlfriend broke up – it said “forever.”

Needless to say, I was immediately drawn to the story of Po and Ao that runs from pages 60-61 in Sia Figiel’s They Who Do Not Grieve. After all, they are two boys of similar age – my brother and I are Irish twins, eleven months apart – and they grew up together. Also, they wanted to get the tattoos done together in a symbolic unifying event. However, this is where the similarities stop. For one, my brother and I are complete opposites and fought often until my freshman year in college; needless to say, we did not often go fishing together. But, more importantly, I did not get this tattoo to symbolize my following my brother to his grave as Po tells Ao. Andrew is the first one to admit I will tell him when he screws up and his mistakes are his mistakes and although I’ll help as much as I think is right, he gets a fair amount of tough love; God knows I don’t follow him blindly.

However, I think our tattoos are just as beautiful as those of Ao and Po. We have had to work for our brotherhood and sift through all of the extreme and yet superfluous differences to the point where we understand our dynamic, our “click.” Also, and I can not speak for him, I realize that a true brother does not follow the other into the grave – as Po realizes at the end – but rather walks by his side as his brother. I love this tattoo, and I couldn’t be happier that it – and its meaning – are under my skin forever. Even when it becomes old and grey it will have only increased in value because it charts and commemorates the work my brother and I have put in to truly deserve an enduring image of fraternity.

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