Based on a True Sweater

May 13, 2008

My Moth

My Moth

I posted a photo of my moth tattoo on Flickr the other day, but didn't post the story behind it. It's rather a long story, and I feel self-consciously sentimental telling it in person, and I don't think I've committed it to writing before... I suppose it's time.

I've hated bugs since I was a kid, so much so that through my adolescence I avoided going outside much in the warm months. I think I've ridden a bike only once since I was about 15, because the prospect of riding through a swarm of gnats freaked me out to the point that all the pleasure of bike riding was lost. It was getting worse as I became an adult.

I started dating Zak when I was 21, and the month I turned 22, Zak and I moved out of pur parents' homes, into a shitty little basement-level apartment. This apartment was, unfortunately, not hermetically sealed against insect life. I used to get really freaked out when we found bugs in our place. I was having some really limiting health problems at the time, which were causing me a lot of stress; finding a spider or wasp would kind of send me over the edge into a fit of despair.

Zak was the kid who would turn over rocks and be delighted with what he found underneath. He had sets of nature encyclopedias bought from library sale tables, with which he was intimately familiar. He thought my phobia was unreasonable (true), and he was very distressed about my unhappiness. He refused to kill anything we found. Instead, he would put the creature in a jar and make me look at it. He would point out its various tiny features and tell me all about how interesting and wonderful it was.

Zak may be the kindest person I have ever met. He is certainly the most charming, at least in my eyes. Hearing about these insects from his point of view affected me deeply, and soon I did lose my fear of them (at least, most of the time). I remember reading in a park near our shitty apartment that first summer, and watching a fly clean its legs on the page of my book. It was a huge change for me.

One night we were at a friend's apartment nearby, and came home late. We were standing outside the door of our building, and moths were fluttering around the light. I really hated moths; I thought they were creepy, ghostly, horrible things. Zak looked so crestfallen when I said so. I wish I could remember exactly what he said, but when he explained them as he saw them, how beautiful and harmless and delicate they are, I melted into a little puddle on the step. Now I can't even summon the ghost of how I felt about moths before he changed my understanding of them; my shift in perception was so complete.

He's affected many aspects of my life in this way. I relate differently to other people and to myself, and to the world I live in. I am a kinder, happier, more generous and optimistic person since I met him. Aside from being born into the family I have, meeting him is the best thing that's ever happened to me. We've been together over 11 years now and I am still amazed and grateful to have him in my life, both as a friend and as my love.

The moth on my arm is the tangible symbol of the amazing new world I have lived in since I met Zak. It's a gentler and more beautiful place than I had guessed it could be.