Memories

Memories are like tattoos. They’re a permanent stain on our person, staying with us for life. Some visible to others, some not, they may change our perception of the world, or how the word perceives us. Indelible as they may be, no matter how many layers of skin the ink penetrates, no matter how deeply our thoughts alter our present, they do change.

Slowly, imperceptibly over the years, lines begin to blur. Colors become muddy. Once vibrant, sharp, crystalline pictures fade into confusion and darkness. Can you trust your own mind? Can you understand the symbols painted on your body? Does it all still make sense?

Memories can be painful, seared into our consciousness through traumatic events. Once they’re there, it’s almost impossible to remove their lingering outlines entirely, forever tracing around wrists and ankles like ghostly shackles. Cover-ups are like bandages with weak adhesive at best. No matter how many solid color blocks you add or intricate geometric designs, they’re still there, lurking beneath it all.

Sometimes our memories are tattoos, literally, and vice versa. If you could go back, would you change them? Would you paint a new picture? Would it even make a difference? The body underneath is always the same. It only matters what you do with it.

Portraits of and artwork by Squiggle Tats.

Luka Love


My beautiful baby boy, do you remember the first day we met? It’s hard to imagine life without you, but it’s true, we had no idea the other existed when you entered the world. Where did you come from, really? Not a parking lot in Hercules, CA where you leapt into my arms without looking back, that much is sure. I’ll never know what came before that, though. What became of your original home, and why did you first mama disappear without a trace? Who could surrender such a sweet child to a complete stranger?

My beautiful baby boy, did you know that they first called you, “Max”? Yes, short for Maximilian, or perhaps the Roman family name Maximus. Barely tipping the scales at 6 pounds, you were more like Mini than Max. Do you like being called “Luka” better, or is it too much like Loki, the God of mischief? I was worried about that myself, but you seem to have taken to it, and it’s grown to suit you, my little troublemaker.

My beautiful baby boy, how is it that four years have passed since that fateful moment when you adopted me? Do you recall that rough start, with so many sleepless nights, ruined rugs, and frantic vet visits? You’ve certainly trained me well since then. Now I’m a treat-dispensing, belly-rubbing, walking pro, just like you always wanted.

My beautiful baby boy, Happy Gotcha Day. I don’t know how I ever got so lucky, but I got you. Through the good days and the bad, that’s all I really need.

Discomfort Food

Don’t get too comfortable. Don’t make yourself at home. This won’t be a nice, soothing, easy read. No; this is the opposite of soup for the soul. Sorry to spoil it for you, but isn’t a classic happy ending either.

There is no foolproof recipe for success. Don’t be fooled by the ratings or praise; sometimes, even the most sound advice, the easiest path, the most obvious choice, is doomed to fail. It’s not you. It’s not even the recipe. I don’t know what it is- Bad luck? Destiny, or fate? Some things can’t be explained away by science or reasoning. Life is unpredictable like that, both infuriatingly incomprehensible and exhilaratingly changeable.

Even presumed constants are forever in flux. That’s to say nothing of the random accidents, the drops, drips, splashes, and spills. The bumps and bruises, the cuts and burns. Everything that can go wrong, at some point or another, will, and sometimes all at once.

Things fall apart. The center cannot hold. Dishes blow up in the oven like a volcano in a pressure cooker. Stews overflow their stockpots to leave impermeable stains on the countertop.

Shit happens, and shit happens to all of us. At least, when it comes to food, you can clean up to try again another day… Or just order takeout.

Take solace in this heaping serving of discomfort food; you’re not alone.

Thunder Lullaby

Thunder rolls ponderously, ominously overhead. Unseen but felt, like a heavy weight it rumbles and shakes, groans and snaps, sounding off on pain that mere mortals fail to comprehend. Speaking a language we can’t translate, it is unreachable, inconsolable. On and on it wails into the dark of night, interrupting the continuous staccato of rain bouncing of asphalt shingles and aluminum siding. For what, for whom does the thunder grieve so achingly? There is no soothing this profound pain. The thunder suffers alone, but with all the world in attendance, until it cries itself to sleep.

Be the Light

When the sun doesn’t shine, be your own light.

Until you can’t.

If that time comes, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It doesn’t mean you’re broken.

It just means you’re human.

When the light goes out, there’s still a flicker of hope burning. Maybe it’s so small, smaller than a castoff spark, threatening to fade away. So small that you can’t feel its warmth. Not even a pinprick brightens your view.

But it’s there.

When you can’t be your own light, someone else can. Someone else can hold that flame and keep it safe, even when it seems to slip right through your fingers. Someone else cares, even if it feels like they don’t.

You are not alone.

There is still light, even if it’s not visible.

Try to believe, in the face of tremendous doubt, or fear, or despair, that it will come roaring back to life. Maybe not now, maybe not tomorrow, but it’s there, and it will.

I promise.

If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline Network is available 24/7 across the United States. Please call 1-800-273-8255 immediately.

Hummus

Hummus is smeared across my shoes, embedded into the breathable synthetic fiber, clinging tenaciously inside the vents. It’s as much a part of me as it is my footwear now, inextricably melded into the very foundation of existence.

In Israel, hummus is not an appetizer or a condiment; hummus is a meal. Thick swirls of silken chickpea puree undulate behind lashings of fiery red or green schug, mountains of minced garlic and onions, whole beans, and a flurry of smoked paprika, to be scooped up in warm, soft, pillowy pita bread, all in one fell swoop. Mind you, that’s only the most basic preparation, the bare minimum for admission.

Generous pools of toasted sesame tahini and grassy olive oil meet and mingle, blending, harmonizing together. Tiny rafts of minced parsley float on top, pushed along by the lively desert air. A few heavenly bites in, and small dish of fresh chopped tomatoes and cucumbers suddenly arrives at the table, unannounced. Are they complimentary? Did I order them and forget? This is best left unquestioned, because their brightness is an indispensable part of the party now.

More people pull up chairs, dropping mashed eggplant and strings of pickled red cabbage as they land. Roasted mushrooms sparkling in the midday sun, teasing umami flavor across every bite. A pinch of za’atar here, a sprinkle of sumac there, herbaceous, tangy, tart; no two tastes are ever quite the same. Chasing the same high becomes maddening, an impossible pursuit, yet never once does the endeavor disappoint.

Temperatures begin to fall as the sky glows orange, slowly fading to deeper and darker shades of red. Still, the central bowl remains as bountiful as the conversation, changing shape and color as friends filter in and out, adding their own flavors into the mix. Sometimes spicier, sometimes saltier, the unique blend always seems to suit the personalities gathering around.

Should the bottomless platter of pita travel too far out of reach, outstretched forks and spoons dart out like heat-seeking missiles, locked on to the central schmear. For all intents and purposes, it’s a creamy salad at this point, so why not skip the formalities and go straight for the good stuff?

When the moon trades shifts with the sun, stars blaze ahead, never once allowing darkness to descend. Alley cats cautiously emerge to scavenge for scraps; perhaps an errant chickpea that escaped, a messy dollop of baba ganoush splattered on the sidewalk below. The day continues on heedless of time, interrupted only by the intermittent silence of chewing. Only when the spread is fully demolished, dishes wiped clean, does the party finally pack it in.

Hummus is not just a type of food. Hummus is a way of life.

Lest I leave you hungry for more, here are a few of my favorite hummus recipes:

Broccoli and “Cheese” Hummus
Curry in a Hurry Hummus
Hummiki (Hummus-Tzatziki)
Hummus Primavera
Nacho Hummus