The Man with the Box Tattoo
Ink of imagination
A portal exists on my left arm. Simple lines of ink bearing the bends that a canvas made of skin dictates, forms a cube open at one end. When the world around me consumes my will, when this reality pumped by a beating heart and rhythmic breaths misses a beat and grips my throat, I turn to the box on my arm.
Three years ago today I lost my grandfather. He was a man of imagination, levity, and wisdom. Of the myriad gifts he passed over to me during his time on earth, none compared to his obsession with the comic Calvin & Hobbes.
As a child I dove headfirst into the world of a 6-year old with a stuffed tiger, that which came to life when no one else was around. He was a deviant. He questioned everything. He got lost in his imagination everywhere he went, and I went along with him.
In his room sat a simple cardboard box, just big enough to fit himself and his tiger, Hobbes. Calvin climbed in that box with the opening facing upward whenever he wanted to travel in time, upside down when he wanted to transform into another creature (transmogrifier), and sideways when he created clones (duplicator).
This box tattoo has been on my arm for 6 years now, and I remember the day I showed it to my grandpa explaining his inspiration for the ink. His reaction was humble, as it always was, but I know it touched his heart. Those comic books were a connecting force between us, and since he left his earthly body to dance among the stars I have used the box to join him from time to time.
My imagination is fueled when I climb into that box, entering the portal. The spectrum of light recognized only by children warms my skin as the bounds of reality melt away. Even the depths of my dreams quake at the imaginative accomplishments possible through the ink on my arm.
In times of depression, my little time machine pulled me from the past. In times of anxiety, it forced me from the fabricated future. The box brings me back to the present, back to peace.
A tool to bring me peace is enough to paint an extra dimension of perspective on life’s canvas. This reality we exist in, this dance we engage in on a daily basis, is not the end-all. Without perspective, lives are lived like a TV show; two-dimensional and non-tangential. The nuance is lost on the plot of predictability. Without a gravitational pull to peace, our orbits fade further and further into darkness.
A particular exchange between Calvin and his tiger Hobbes has always gripped me:
Calvin: If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I’ll bet they’d live a lot differently.
Hobbes: How so?
Calvin: Well, when you look into infinity, you realize that there are more important things than what people do all day.
Funny how staring into the abyss brings clarity, yet observing my immediate surroundings can feel abysmal.
Whether I stare at the night sky or look deep inside myself, gripping that tattoo with my right hand, I am peering into the universe. I descended down to earth on a ladder of celestial collisions, explosions, and rotations.
Born of stardust, here on Earth my light shines out into the ether, crossing paths with my brothers and sisters along the way.
Even when I’m wiped away from Earth - my bones turned to dust, I’ll climb in that box and into the blackness I will go, witnessing the ancestral genetic display of the cosmos.