Select Page

“I’d never get a tattoo. There’s nothing I’d want on my body forever — I’d change my mind after a week. Plus, I don’t like pain.”

I’ve said that at least a few times in my life, and it was absolutely true. Until it wasn’t.

Yes, I got a tattoo today. I didn’t exactly tell anyone about it because I didn’t want to invite advice or judgment, however well-meaning. I’d sat on the idea for months and knew it was right for me.

When I couldn’t imagine wanting a tattoo, I also couldn’t imagine life without my brother. I take comfort in the idea that he’ll always be a part of me and I realized I wanted the comfort of a literal representation of that idea. A robot was the obvious choice.

His most common movie or television review was that it would have been better with robots. I first remember him saying that when I made the odd choice of renting Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan when he was visiting me — also the first time I remember him marvelling that my preferred genre wasn’t drama or comedy, it was boring.

I could have chosen any robot, really, but I’d bought him Omnibot and it was his Twitter avatar. One of the worst times of the worst three months of my life was helping him move shortly after his diagnosis. It was less an exercise in packing than in getting rid of the accumulation of a lifetime, knowing that life was about to end. Anything too painful for him to throw out — piles of photos of his son, for example — I took for “safekeeping” in the event of a miracle, and he encouraged me to take mementos. Omnibot was one, and he’s looked over me from my bedroom bookshelf since then.

Ryan at Funhouse drew up a likeness of Omnibot and got me through the ordeal with kindness, good humour, and his own enthusiasm for the robot. It’s above my right ankle, hide-able if I want it to be hidden but visible to me without using mirrors or advanced yoga poses.

The not liking pain part remains true. But it turns out owning cats most of my life was perfect preparation, since the pain was roughly equivalent to a cat scratch. Granted I wouldn’t normally let little Siamese Molly scratch me for two hours. Unless she was being really cute about it.

So I have a tattoo, and it is truly just for me — Steve would probably think I was nuts. On the other hand, he was the one who taught me everything’s better with robots. I feel better already.

photo 2