A man with no fingerprints

For many years, this character has dwelled inside the dark recesses of my mind. An older gentleman, of no particular race, ethnicity, or origin. He sits upon a bench, wearied hands resting upon a cane, as he overlooks a worn green lake, home to a few mallards drifting in and out of their evolutionary routine.

Essentially, a scene beckoning not much more than a passing glance from a stranger. Only upon closer examination does one come to understand that this figure of normality is far from it. Who is born without fingerprints? When much of human identity remains tied to these unique sketchings on our metacarpals, can a person truly exist in society with smoothy, untainted pads?

The question of identity – clearly a favorite among most in the literary sphere – intrigues me on multiple levels. First, the idea of self-identify (what am I to me?) seems that it can only be answered by asking the question (what am I to them?) where them can refer to one’s family, one’s colleagues, one’s social circle. Second, what parts of our identify are projected by us and in what settings do we shift those elements to cater to (ourselves/others/a higher power/nature)? One can argue that our identities continue to shift and adapt as we age, encounter new settings, but on the flip side, there must be elements of ourselves that remain forever unchanged.

Lacking fingerprints, to me, does not seem to fall on the same level as missing an appendage, an organ, or a sense. Those certainly can speak to one’s identity, if one so chooses to make them part (or is it a choice?).

Not surprisingly, you can be born without fingerprints. It’s a genetic condition called adermatoglyphia (a great article from the Smithsonian covering this topic).

Perhaps it’s not quite as special as I think, not that I type this out. It’s simple another abstention from what is considered the social norm. Dozens of other characteristics could fit this same mold.

Regardless, I think I’ll write this story some day. The ever-pressing yearning to be more on the inside, even if we already know in our hearts that it’s not the place we truly want – or should – be.

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