These past two weeks have been a whirlwind. There are some fun and very privileged opportunities that I’ve been able to secure, and I’m very excited to share those here in the next coming weeks; but one of those things I can share right now is my StoryCorps session with the inimitable S. Elizabeth of Unquiet Things, Haute Macabre and, of course, Skeletor is Love fame.
But more than that, Sarah is an incredible friend and ally to me, to our local death community, and to our intersecting communities, which is exactly why I invited her to be my proctor for our local public radio station’s call for persons looking to share their stories about the wake of Pulse; this was cheekily called ‘Taking Your Pulse,’ which is a much more affable moniker than ‘Death in the Gay Den’ is, but I think it hits the same tone in terms of being reflective while still feeling the aftershocks of disbelief.
It’s been 9 months, but it may as well have been 9 days or 9 years. As I spoke, I realized that there’s still so much that feels like it was all just last week, but just as much that feels like it’s been nearly a decade, and there’s so much that feels like it’s never happened at all or as if it’s happened somewhere else. In some respects, it feels like it’s still happening. Although the assault was a unique and singular incident, Pulse is an event that I realize now is not locked in time, per Wordsworth’s “Prelude”:
There are in our existence spots of time, That with distinct pre-eminence retain A renovating virtue, whence--depressed By false opinion and contentious thought, Or aught of heavier or more deadly weight, In trivial occupations, and the round Of ordinary intercourse--our minds Are nourished and invisibly repaired;
Shortly after the interview, I accompanied my partner for his lengthy tattoo sit at Studio XIII and was lucky enough to catch their newest apprentice, Ian, still working on pieces from his apprentice flash sheet. Luck would have it, the piece I was most interested in was the piece he was dying to do: the pig’s foot amulet.
Let me provide some context (and a disclaimer): I grew up in a subtropical island community; my paternal grandparents and their relatives resided in another Caribbean island community. While some of those relatives married into latinx families, my paternal grandmother did not. All together, the paternal family I did have access to inherited me into their latinidad through their language, humor, customs, cuisine, etc., although I myself am not latinx, and nor do I (nor do I have the right to) claim to share the unique racial experiences of being identified as such.
Pig’s feet have been immortalized in nautical culture in two contexts: one, the American Traditional tattoos of chickens and pigs on sailors’ feet in order to affirm that they wouldn’t drown. (Note, this is also the same logic behind Moana’s animal companions, Pua and Heihei, in Moana.) The second nods to the Gothic magical realism of Carlos Acosta in his historical fiction novel.
Pig’s Foot is about a young man, the last of his family line, who attempts to backtrace his heritage in order to find the significance of a pig’s foot heirloom that seems to hum with magical properties. The novel covers the violent history and the euphoric spirituality of the indigenous and Afrocaribbean persons of Cuba. The book is angry and resentful as it is sober and humbled, which adequately resonates with any surviving descendent of a culturally traumatic heritage. The symbol of a pig on the foot (or a pig’s foot itself) as an icon of protection from destruction is exactly the perfect visual moniker that I want to affiliate my grief with.