The planet Mars is tattooed on the inside of my right wrist. It was my first tattoo that I got the summer after graduating from high school, a rash decision that I probably made from a desire to feel a little less alien and a little more in control of my own body. I don’t know much about astrology and I don’t think I truly believe in it, but I like the idea of being able to blame everything I don’t like about myself on the alignment of stars and planets. The ancient Greeks and Romans associated the planet Mars with masculinity, aggression, and war—the antithesis of my very being.
I decided to get the tattoo in black-and-grey because I thought if I had gotten it red like the actual planet, it would just look like a big angry open wound protruding from my arm. Any outward manifestation of anger, or any intense emotion for that matter, felt at the time too provocative, because nobody tells eighteen-year-old girls that they’re allowed to be angry. My whole life I’ve watched men punch holes in walls, curse, spit, yell, and grip the wrists of their girlfriends just a little too tightly. Meanwhile, I learned to compress and squeeze my rage into a ball small enough to swallow so it can live inside of me; earnestly felt, but not seen.
I wish I had gotten it in red.
It’s midnight and I have to work at 6 a.m. tomorrow but according to Twitter, Mars is supposed to be visible tonight. In a state that I can only describe as manic boredom, I decide to head to the beach. I feel strange because I’m not used to being engulfed in so much darkness: unable to see what’s directly in front of me, only what’s above. I don’t have a fancy telescope or camera and I don’t know exactly what to look for. Regardless, I tilt my head up at the night sky and see what appears to be a star, but it’s just a little bigger and a little brighter than all the others and I think, there it is. It is not a magnificent or breathtaking sight, but it evokes a sort of ethereal beauty, as it exists literally out of this world (33.9 million miles away to be exact). I can’t help but feel a little bigger and a little brighter.
I think about that David Bowie song and whether life on Mars actually exists. For a moment, I imagine little green men in spaceships going about their day—buying groceries, meeting their friends at bars, heading home after a long day at work. Then I think about the Mars Curiosity Rover who sings itself “Happy Birthday” every year from a lifeless planet and I wonder what it feels like to be that radically alone.
I gaze down at the swirls of ink etched permanently into my arm and I no longer feel like I’m in the backseat of my body. I’m awake, present, impassioned, maybe even a bit angry. I like to think I can reclaim a whole goddamn planet just for me.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michele Alongi is an English major at UNF and writer who takes her coffee almost black.