(This post has been updated with a new photograph that better shows the tattoo.)
It says: “I am trying to get as honest as I can,” a direct quote from my brother as he spoke to his final victim, unaware that police were tapped into the line and recording the conversation.
I needed it to be in Deseret Alphabet because it is the alphabet that first made it seem possible to share my story. The very first words I wrote in it:
You see, Deseret Alphabet is phonetic. Translating my brother’s words into it felt like cosmic CPR, giving him the breath of life again.
1. express the sense of (words or text) in another language.
2. move from one place or condition to another.
Deseret Alphabet is not a foreign language; it is English represented by unfamiliar symbols. I was interested in definition #2: move from one condition to another. I wanted to make the transcript of his incriminating telephone call speak. I wanted to turn it into testimony.
Even though I am not Mormon, I also needed the language to be of this place, Utah, because I truly believe I had to come here, I needed to come here, that it was some kind of destiny. This is the place that set me free.
So how fitting that this tattoo sits just under my Salamander, a tattoo I chose partly for its alchemical symbolism and partly because it evokes Mark Hofmann, the man whose forgeries cracked my heart wide open in spite of his psychopathic intentions. (Weird. Yes, I know. It’s complicated.)
When I bend my arm, the salamander and my brother’s sentence touch but also become hidden, secret.
At the same time, my brother’s rose tattoo and the Doomsday clock meet: the end of time is resurrection; resurrection is the end of time.
My arm is a stampless cover.
My arm is a wish.
My arm is a mercury switch.
Literally a mercury switch, all that tainted red ink. In an MRI machine, it would become electric.
While I was getting the tattoo, people asked me what language it is and what it says.
“I’m going to be explaining it for the rest of my life,” I said to my tattoo artist, and he nodded.
Gives a whole new meaning to life sentence, I thought.
With my brother’s words branded into my arm, I will forever be giving him voice. I will forever be translating this secret alphabet. I will forever be moving my brother from one condition to another.
Maybe it’s a kind of redemption. Maybe it’s a kind of justice.