I got this ink in two parts back in 2017. It was part of the process of becoming who I am today. First came the Eiffel Tower and then the watercolor.
Danny Lucero, a kid from Nogales did the first part in February. I’d been sitting in my backyard, listening to The 1975 and thinking about how much my life had changed in the course of a year. I knew I wanted to mark the time and put a permanent reminder on my body somewhere I could always see.
The idea came from staying at Palo Verde mental hospital for over a week the previous year. When you’re in a hospital, everything is done to make sure your identity is gone. No one wants to acknowledge you as a person. But everyone in there has a backstory. You can do whatever you want to dehumanize us, but it isn’t going to work. The people who were in there with me weren’t dangerous. They were hurting. But no one was allowed to touch.
I was afraid to share my story…attempting suicide on Christmas 2015. I must have looked so bougie to everyone. My outward appearance was not my own.
When I got out, I had to figure out who me was. I had a clean slate. Music…The 1975…brought me back from the dead. By December 2016, I’d found a reason to live and found myself in Paris after seeing The 1975 live at The O2 in London. That year was a time for meteoric change. From the ages of 35 to 36 I’d honestly been reborn. And I had to honor that somehow.
I got the idea from one of The 1975’s songs, Paris.
She said hello, she was letting me know
We share friends in Soho
She’s a pain in the nose
I’m a pain in women’s clothes
You’re a walking overdose in a great coat
And so she wrote a plan for it on the back of a fag packet
She had to leave because she couldn’t hack it
Not enough noise and too much racket
I think I’ve spent all my money and your friends, oh
But how I’d love to go to Paris again
And how I’d love to go to Paris again
Scrolling through Instagram, I saw that a kid I’d went to high school with had open tattoo slots that day. I called in and asked if he had time. He did, within the next half hour. I got in my CR-V, drove to Fourth Ave, and walked into a tattoo parlor for the first time in my life. Danny, the tattoo artist, welcomed me like he knew me, even if I didn’t remember him. He asked me if I wanted to smoke weed. We walked to the back of the shop and into the alley. We talked a bit. I wasn’t nervous. And then we walked back inside and he went through the methodical act of tattooing me. It felt like a religious rite…like when a priest blesses the Eucharist. It didn’t hurt. And when he was done, I was emblazoned with a reminder of my best self, who could always be found in Paris.
You forget you have tattoos after they heal. At least, I did. And then, from time to time, I see the ink and remember the gifts I brought to my past self so she could eventually become me. The trick worked. Only it isn’t about who I was in Paris that I thought of anymore, but that tender girl, shedding her pain and making bold decisions she knew would displease her mother and maybe scare her friends. She wasn’t there to please anyone anymore. That kind of thinking had put her in the hospital in the first place.
I never had a master plan for recovering my life and evolving into what I am now. It’s someone I have fought tooth and nail for on a daily basis with no goal in sight. I just wanted to be taken seriously. I’m someone I had to find the courage to share with the world.
It’s rare now that I have to prove anything. Most people catch on that none of this is an act and I’m someone to be reckoned with. But if they had known the Vene that existed in 2015, there was a lot of proving that went down. It was almost as though I was trying to convince myself with all that bravado.
I have to pinch myself sometimes. I walk into my fourth floor bedroom in Bed-Stuy and realize that I’m doing it. I’m living here, not just visiting temporarily the way in 2017 and 2018. What started out as a bluff became the winning hand because I was willing to go all in. I need to remind myself of that. It might be time for some new ink.