The scars of a Christian inheritance.

(An excerpt from an essay in the December, 2005 issue of Harper’s, by Revealer books editor Scott Korb.)

It was a cool, overcast Wednesday in the spring. I had left work by midafternoon and stood under the awning at my office with the smokers, out of the drizzling rain, to confirm my appointment over the phone. I dropped the design off yesterday, I explained. It had taken me months to decide how the letters would connect and overlap. The guy on the phone assured me he would find it before I arrived. I had another copy, just in case, I said. I had been carrying the printout with me for weeks, taking the advice I had been given to wait, and then wait some more, before making it permanent. I’d donated blood the day before, in preparation, knowing I would not be able to give blood for a year after this (according to the rules of blood donation), and hoping that one session with one long needle could prepare me for the thousands of buzzing pricks I was about to face in taking this mark of my inheritance.

My track bike, with its single fixed gear, was chained, glistening, to a street sign; it would be a short ride. But then again, I thought, so was home. I could still forget the whole thing. It would be painful, I was told. It would burn. Still, I unlocked the bike and put my feet in the pedal cages. I would decide on the way uptown. Riding clears my head.

Daredevil Tattoo is on Ludlow Street, on the Lower East Side. The place came highly recommended as clean and professional, yet adequately punk rock, with Fugazi and the Buzzcocks on heavy rotation. In my head, Daredevil would be “the two large cluttered rooms over a chiropodist’s office on a back street,” from Flannery O’Connor’s story “Parker’s Back,” the shop where the sad hero, after narrowly escaping death in a fiery farm accident, has his back covered with a Byzantine Christ for his “plain, plain” pious wife, who sees his tattoo-covered body as a “heap of vanity.” “She can’t say she don’t like the looks of God,” Parker reasons. “She can’t hep herself.” Now, I don’t have a wife to think about, and I can’t say I was having this done for anyone else but me. Still, I thought, my mother would hate it, but as much as she would cringe to see me permanently scarred, she would love the tattoo. She wouldn’t be able to help herself.

Zane, the friend who recommended Daredevil, had gotten his tattoo there: DOMINUS ABSTULIT inked in bold letters in a ring around his right forearm, and under that, MCMLXXXII. I love his tattoo. Job 1:21, from the Latin Vulgate. The Lord taketh away—apparently, in 1982. I admit that was a pretty terrible year…

“All That I Have Is Yours” continues in the December, 2005 issue of Harper’s. Scott Korb is books editor of The Revealer and co-author, with Peter Berbergal, of The Faith Between Us, forthcoming from Bloomsbury.

Previously on The Revealer by Scott Korb:
“A Catholic Skips Mass for Communion in the Streets”
“Trust vs. Love: A Study of Faith-Based Initiatives”
“Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”