They say a tiger never changes its stripes.
And I'm drawn to tigers. They are, after all, one of the charismatic megafauna: enticing, alluring, the largest of its species. Cool cats.
Tigers are predatory--they kill more than they are killed. As far as defense mechanisms go, that sounds like a pretty good strategy to me.
In Buddhism, the tiger represents anger. Which makes sense too, since I am so angry, the pink blotches on my face are striped in an effort to wash them away. When my voice wavers, in conversations, it is usually followed by a question: "What are you so angry about?"
I don't want to talk about it. Instead, let's talk about tigers.
When Sigfried bit Roy's neck, in an iconic onstage injury, everyone had something to say about it. As though he should have known better--and perhaps he should have. We do not all know, when we put our heads in the tiger's mouth, that it will be bitten, not until it is too late. Although someone else always seems to, with warnings that fall on deaf ears.
Roy attempted to return to the stage, years after, albeit still paralyzed--but hopeful--but it was too much pressure, then. Once the tiger bites, you know that he has the power to bite again.
I imagine returning to that stage took more strength than what was found in the tiger's jowls, but people are resilient. Resilient and afraid. Like Roy, we are innately willing to go through the ringer to prove that we were not wrong for our faith, blind as it may be.
I imagine critics had spent years beseeching smarter men than Roy to keep his head away from hungry predators but he didn't listen.
Friends spent years beseeching me to keep my heart away from hands striped with red. But I didn't listen, either. If I had, I would have seen that nothing would have changed who we were. Who we are.
It's amazing how we fill in the blanks, based on what we want our story to be. I'm not pretty enough, not fun enough, not good enough, not fast enough...In the litany of who-and how-to blame.
Going over half-finished poems, lines that litter the boxes I hadn't been ready to open, I can finally accept that they will remain unfinished (no matter how much I like them) because that girl who wrote them; who forgot herself to appease the person who could never put her first, is gone. That feverish hope, that manic desire, that broken spirit has transformed into--now, an overwhelming sadness. But later (I hope) an understanding.
Like Roy, whose injury was a lesson to all who toy with the tiger, I hate that the person who comes after me will reap the benefits of my heartbreak. But I guess that is the price we pay, for coming before the tiger stops chomping and after you think the lesson has already been learned.
I still get a pang in my chest, on the thirteenth of every month. At two thirty in the morning, when my hand brushes to the other side of the bed and it's still barren (now it's always barren). I try to quantify feelings I can't name, sadness I can't accept...and when it's quiet enough to hear myself think, I am unconsolable.
Moving on completely and not at all.
They say a tiger never changes its stripes, that--like the core of a person--a tiger's stripes are imperfect and permanent. But there is no way of knowing what a tiger's stripes say about him, until you are close enough to be accidental-dinner. Snakes are different: red touches yellow, you're a dead fellow--red touches black, you're okay, Jack--or whatever that rhyme is. I can handle it.
I wish we had roadmaps for tigers...or better yet, for people, even when their stripes are harder to identify. But, even with all the information, we still put our heads in the lions mouth--we would still put our hands out, as if to say bite me, anyway. Maybe it won't hurt in the end.
This is Me:
My name's Melissa. I'm the girl with her hands in her journal.