Six days ago, I pierced my ear. Specifically, the tragus of my left ear. This is the eleventh piercing in my ears: I have 4 lobe piercings on each side and two helix piercings high on the outer curve of my right ear.
This is my first piercing in well over a decade, since I declared my ears “full” and moved on to tattoos. Though the lovely and ornate young woman at Warrior Piercing assured me that no, in fact, my ears have “plenty of room left!” Pushing the steel ring through the hole she had created moments before, she then snorted at my cringing face: “I knew you’d flinch!” (Hand-piercings through cartilage may be more likely to heal well, but at least with a piercing gun, the ka-CHUNK sound with its single stab of hot pain marks both start and finish of the procedure.)
She is technically correct. While I joke about my ears — adorned with their numerous tiny silver hoops — as sporting a “spiral notebook look,” I do realize that I could push the notebooking effect far further. “Full” was less a statement of fact than a statement of desire: the impulse that led me to pierce my ears throughout my 20s (one hole at a time, alternating sides, a new hole every 1-2 years) was less about cosmetic appeal and more about fulfilling a periodic deep organic need to mark my body as my home, and it was that need that I hoped had ended. I believed that I had left it behind until a week ago when it resurfaced, urgent and unexpected. “Go. Go now,” the urgency whispered. “We are back again in our body, and this moment needs to be marked. Commemorated. Go.”
I did put the urgency off for about 16 hours — visiting a piercing parlor on South Street late on a Friday night seemed less than ideal for the calm and quiet most conducive to such rites — but I was there shortly after they opened at two the following afternoon. And with a pop of cartilage and a small hoop of steel I marked the end of the Year That Was: with all its grotesqueness and insight, its horror and elation, all the pains and ecstasies of other-love and self-love it has revealed. A year that began with my death in all-but-body and at the end leaves me with a story that for all its terribleness releases me, finally, to the future.
With this act, I mark my return from across the Looking Glass, and its land of dissociation and trauma. Of disembodiment and absence.
With this act, I suture self back into flesh.
With this act, too, a fervent prayer: May this be the last time such an act is needed.
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“and the body endures” is part of an ongoing memory project.
Additional installments can be found here.