March 08, 2007

Word Snapshots From Southeast Asia #1

As I sit eating my lunch at one 0f the small restaurants on Khao San Road in Bangkok, a Japanese girl of about 25 years of age passes me by. Her hair is brushed back and tied in the style that is so prevalent of travellers here. I cannot help noticing behind her ear is a tattoo of a scorpion, and wonder what the tale was behind it, and how she could possibly conceal it enough, so as not to damage any career path back in Japan, where tattoos are a taboo.

My imagination fills up with thoughts about the day she decided to have it done and what followed since. It goes something like this:

One year ago...

'A scorpion. Yeah, I like this one,' she pointed out to the Thai tattooist.

'Behind the ear?' he replied, 'Are you sure about that?'

'Yes. We only live once, right?'

The body artist started up a CD of hardcore Techno, and a rush of fear and excitement pulsed through her. As the needle scraped her skin, her temporary boyfriend continued to encourage her that what she was doing was cool, rebellious and so very Khao San Roadesque, as he lay beside her, while having his own tattoo etched upon him. Forever, they would be part of the global backpacking cult of tattooed sun-worshippers.

'Daijobu... Daijobu,' he repeatedly reassured her, wincing each time the needle touched his skin.

Returning back to Narita airport, the idealised rebellion that seemed so very right on holiday, quickly metamorphosised into a nightmare, as people stared and pointed at the two travellers.

She has spent most of her time since, obsessed in concealing the scorpion image from her parents and co-workers. Her long black hair luckily curls passed her ears enough to hide it. Unfortunately, she suffers from chronic self-consciousness, and has developed an odd habit of continually pulling her hair forward at the side.

At night time, she uses paper glue to stick hair over the offending spot, so that it does not accidentally reveal itself to her conservative mother, who awakens her each day. She tries desperately to always lay on her left side.

Her ex-boyfriend, now long gone, has been less fortunate, as it soon became apparent that a tattoo of a bright pink Gandhi on his forehead was going to swiftly bring an end to his career as an accountant. He is now unemployed and plays a didgeridoo in Ueno Park, dreaming of when he can earn enough money to return to Thailand for an image of Bob Marley on his neck.

She passes me by, right now, as I drink my beer, unaware of the tale she has spun in my mind. Indeed, how apparent that on Khao San Road, she once again feels free enough to tie-up her hair.

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