It has recently been brought to my attention that tattoos, largely, in this culture, are for people other than ones self.
I had forgotten this, you see.
Stupidly, as my first tattoo was gleaned, after much thought, during my schoolies week in Byron C.2000.
Lucky for me I got it right. Kanji as permanent ink ANYWHERE outside of Asia is risky business. Note to self. My first brandishing was on the back of my neck so, not only did I seldom think of it, or see it, I was also sporting long hair at the time, and was thus, seldom asked what my ‘tattoo meant.’
That was then.
b: sporting a couple of kanji on the back of my neck.
which I did not know how to pronounce in 2000 means, loosely, ‘a woman of words.’
‘A Lady Writer’ an ex would explain.
Though ‘jouka’ in nihongo refers more to scripture, or calligraphy, or painting than writing. Though to caligraphise is to write. Right?
Long hair eradicates these sorts of conversations.
Then there were two more.
Tattoos that is.
The Stevie J Spears quote came to me quietly one Saturday afternoon on the loo, reading the paper.
I’d spent, you see, the best part of a year in Melbourne trying my darndest to get on top of my health, in addition to completing an MA full time in Creative Media while working part time writing reports for a forensic psychiatrist on Colllins St. I was busy. Real busy, but finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate and/or write. This was pissing me off.
It was during this time that I found myself somewhat spell bound by the state of my health. With the luxury of time for the first time since Tokyo I began to pay particular heed to all things My Body.
Much to my detriment… I remain convinced.
Things got worse, as I have detailed in my book.
Riding a bike became an impossibility, a tall order from a city cyclist from way back.
My testosterone continued to soar despite the detoxing– no drinking, no smoking, no indulging– way of life.
I wanted to fuck everything.
The two days leading up to my period rendered me bed-bound. Fatigued. Pained. OD-ing on nurofen and marijuana.
After my first ’30 Day Bikram Challenge’ I gave up the dope and the nurofen. Even the vino.
My cycle, while having been regular now for years, continued to be a pain in the fucking ass.
Days off work.
Days spent somewhat unproductive at work despite the hold on things.
The odd day off here and there, due largely to the fact I could not fucking move. Function. Get out of bed. To work. To do anything really. It was nasty. You get the point.
I remember how hard it was to juggle the morning around at work to get time off enough to go and see a specialist. I remember how I felt sitting in the waiting room, amongst so many happy photos of new mothers and fathers with their babies. I remember the look on my gynecologists face when she said ‘endometriosis. I remember how I well I slept that same night after bikram.
I remember clearly, the two weeks after the fact, in between appointments. I remember feeling very much like the hypochondriacal virgo… but still… now old enough to trust my instincts enough to live my them.
I remember feeling, ultimately, like I had cancer.
The clinic I went to have my ‘interior ultrasound’ was silent and cold as I entered. Despite the May Melbourne song.
I was tired and scared when the sonographer stared up at the screen and made a little “hmm…” sound with her pursed lips.
She tried to disguise saying anything more as she forced the plastic penis higher up into my pelvis, nudging my internal organs (and that mandatory 5L of water one must consume prior to said procedure) up and harder then they’ve ever had to make room for in the past.
“See this?” She said, as she rammed the object hard and up into my uterus… “This is not good.”
I had had, by this stage, some 5 or so internal ultrasounds, all of which, ‘not good.’
I could recognise foreign objects and had an inkling to what she might say.
”This is a tumor Alexandra. This has to be removed.”
I dressed slowly and quietly. I will not cry. I don’t know what it is about hospital gowns but they just make me want to fucking burst out in tears. Every time. They do. And I did. Quietly. With some sense of decorum. Still tears. Still real tears. And lots of them.
Pulling myself together I gathered myself and headed out of the change rooms and out in to the waiting room. “Alexandra Coffey” I said to the lady at the desk, keeping my head bowed, trying to not let on I’d been crying so hard.
“$360.85” she said as she handed the invoice across the desk.
“Yeah, sure” I replied, phoning my dad.
My dads phone didn’t answer. I left a voice message. “Just had an ultrasound. Need your credit card digits. Tar. Tar.”
(beep. beep. beep. beep.)
The nurse who had performed the ultrasound walked up behind the woman at the desk, whispered something in her ear, and then left the room. The woman at the desk reprinted the bill as an invoice and told me I could pay it at a later date.
I then proceeded to walk through the Fitzroy Gardens with a belly full of grief. I sobbed audibly. A young mother saw me and ushered her kids away from the pond and off home, away from me. I spent forever watching the ducks, looking up at the trees. Searching for any kind of sign. Anything. Nothing. Anything. It was cold and eventually it rained which seemed fitting.
Upon returning home to my sharehouse abode, I didn’t have the heart to inform my flatmates.
So I didn’t.
I launched in to Over Drive.
I phoned family specialists. Wrote letters. Posted blogs. All but begged to have my tentative surgery date set forward from 12 months– to 3-ish months– from now.
I received an email from my specialist in Newcastle some 24 hours later. No small feat. Offering me a tentative surgery date a month from the day. Perfect.
Things had been shonky and strange between my boss and I since day one so… I went about battening down the hatchets in others ways: Home. Freelance gigs. Bills. Overheads. My boss and I had gotten in to a rather grand argument the day before I was due to fly out over his luddite ways– He had this ridiculous dial up system that he’d use intermittently throughout the day to check “how the horses were going.” This would tie up the land line I was supposed to be using to schedule appointments and return calls regarding reports and court proceedings. This slowed me down… constantly… and pissed me off no end. He’d yell and rant and rave about my not getting enough done and the pain in my pelvis would always get worse. I began to wonder if it was psychosomatic. I think most pain is. Needless to say I never really felt safe enough to confide in him, so I didn’t. I just sent him an email.
I had promised myself, a year earlier, you see, on the back lawn of my place in North Melbourne, that if things didn’t get better. Didn’t change. Then I could top myself.
Fair and square.
That seemed fair.
All of this aside, I now find myself in a position where by things have not gotten better. BUT THEY HAVE CHANGED.
A stickler for semantics. I wait.
Have the surgery,
Undergo 9 months of subsequent treatment and find myself
on a toilet
reading The Age
thinking about Stevie J Spears.
I make myself some pesto neapolitana from scratch.
I boil some gluten free pasta.
I refill my glass of vino.
I roll a cigarette.
I am yet so find a direct link to the exact article I read. Though I have tried.
Why cancer? Why a sunset?
I moved in with my sister and her partner as I began my treatment in October last year. We invited a 4th party to share the rent as I was not working and overheads were high.
He, a musician, and I spoke wildly by moonlight about words and poets and Stevie J Spears and my health. Sacred times. Special times.
By the time he moved out I’d decided what I needed to have tattooed on my left wrist.
My left wrist because:
a) I peruse it when I write songs on my guitar, and when I gig. When I play.
b) My left wrist because it can be easily disguised by a watch or bangle when it comes time to be employed.
c) My left wrist because the decision was ‘left brained.’
d) and my wrist because, confronting as it sounds, I’d tried slicing that bad boy once before and had not felt a thing. I wanted the tattoo to hurt. I believe it was Amy Winehouse who said that tattoos are a way of suffering for the things you believe in. God bless her little cotton sox.
And then there were three:
I’d been living in Tokyo for 2 years before I left. Left due to ill health. A wee bit of surgery and a little longer spent recovering than I’d anticipated.
Some 3 months turned in to 9.
I found myself dreaming wildly in Japanese.
Weirdly. Oddly. Wildly. Somewhat completely fucking fluently in Japanese.
Dreams of fishing and consciousness.
Dreams of articulate fucking… and politics.
And of a level of fluency I had never gained in situ.
And of subject matter that confounded me.
One of such dreams found me waking, running, swimming, organic tee-totaling, juicing and then referencing my phrase book:
atara zasu wa ra zu.
No real leads.
I darted off an email to a clever, linguistic friend in Tokyo.
‘nani doishi ta no?’
She replied with a fairly well rounded, ‘I’ve got nothing.’
And so I continued.
To figure out this puzzle of a puzzle.
I asked virtually everyone I would meet.
I relocated back to Tokyo and began my search. Not entirely for this reason, though in part.
I met and I asked. I met and I asked some more.
Finally, I found myself perched well up high on a bench seat in Yoyogi-koen, C. 2004.
Some Canadian friends of mine with portable turntables had suggested a picnic with tunes and guitars. I’d been invited and so obliged. And we played. For hours. Just played and played.
A homeless guy came and joined us.
(Refer to my ‘High & Low’ blog on nihonjin homeless… I digress…)
We offered him a beer and he played a song on my guitar about his mother, whom, from his lyrics, I gleaned, had orphaned him as a boy.
My Canadian friend invited him to play another song.
The conversation then somehow turned to what we all did for a crust. We all exchanged anecdotes as he began the story of how he came to be living in Yoyogi-koen. The park, not the chome.
Knowing so many of these cats live in the parks of Tokyo for reasons based purely on fiscal shame… I was curious as to what this cat had to say.
He began to explain, my lover at the time, somewhat of a Tokyo based-Seattle born rock star of sorts began to translate for the Canadians and the Australians amongst us.
The homeless man intercepted.
“No, no, I wanting Alek-u-su to say fings for me, ne?”
So I did.
Surprised by his request, I began to explain, to the best of my linguistic abilities, the story of this mans fucking life… in Japanese.
I was only just drunk. As was he. Surrounded by friends and music in the park, mid-summer Tokyo. A beautiful sight.
He spoke of the Japanese mans fantasy. And of Tokyo Disney. And of being an orphan. And of being made redundant and of choosing to live in the park. This park. He spoke for a long time and I did my very best to translate his story perfectly. And then when he’d stopped speaking. Then when it was all over Sandy, my Canadian friend popped another record on his turn table and he and I, the homeless guy and I, began to talk, quietly, seriously.
I turned to him after some time and asked… atara zasu wa ra zu… what does that mean to you?
He stared at me long and hard for what seemed like an age, before asking, how do you know that?
“nani wakaru doishita no ne?”
“I dreamt it.”
Eventually adding, atara zasu wa ra zu is old school samurai speak… meaning to forget those who disrespect you.