I don’t have any tattoos. My concept of a tattoo is a deliberate permanent marking to symbolize, commemorate, or advertise an idea. I have one in mind, but I don’t have the motivation or boldness to get it. However, I do have two slit-shaped scars on my pelvic area from the hernia operation that I had when I was three years old. I was born with it, and my mom noticed the little bump of the hernia when I was in the bathtub. I obviously had no idea the severity or seriousness of the situation; I just went to the pediatrician’s office a few times and knew that I had to go to the surgeon in February, and he would fix me. The morning of my surgery I was calm. My parents both drove me to Einstein Hospital in the Bronx, and I only remember clutching my Tiger stuffed animal. The anesthesiologist told me that he would put me to sleep and made me count to ten, but I don’t remember making it to ten. The next thing I knew there were lights and a clamp that tracked my pulse on my big toe that I kept kicking off. I was wheeled into the recovery room where I watched my favorite movie, Sleeping Beauty, and the boy in the bed next to me played video games. I was surprisingly calm, accepting, and compliant throughout the whole process so far, but of course at this point I was growing either restless or irritated; I remember sitting there crying—sobbing—to my mother to take me home. Please just take me home. She would try to calm me down, but I was just so insistent. I remember the anxiety crawling up my throat, exiting me through my shouts and tears. When I returned home, my grandparents and aunts and uncles were waiting at my house with gifts and balloons. I was happy to be home because everything was going to go back to normal—except for the bandage covering my stitches right under my belly button. My mother is a nurse, and in true medical fashion she was inspecting it all the time, nagging me that the bandage needed to come off soon. One day that day came, and the bandage came off, revealing my Siamese-cat-eye slanted scars that I have until this day. That is my only tattoo.
A very small passing aspect of Maus II is the reference to the Auschitz prisoners’ tattoo they received when they first arrive at the concentration camp. Similar to my scar from the surgery, they did not choose their permanent marking, but they were coerced to get it. The experience was also terrible and painful in which the room smelled like burning rubber and fat. The sight of it brings back the vivid story of how it got there in the first place. Vladek can retell the story as if it had happened a few days ago; he illustrates the in depth essence of the experience at the camp. The tattoo, just like my scar, evokes a detailed stream of consciousness back to the exact moments. We are transported back to the experience and are able to retell our story.
These memorable marks are not limited to my personal account and the plot of Maus II but rather extend throughout the string of all of the works that we have studied throughout the semester. Though each work does not explicitly employ “tattoo,” the common theme is that there is a connection to the past and there are pieces of the past that are permanent and progress with the characters. Whether it is tangible or intangible, there are ideas that are carried with the characters that force them to hold on to something in their past and affect how they handle the future.