Category Archives: Life is…..

Inkstory

Grandma says “ You know what? It’s not my issue anymore, if you can’t find a job because of this it’s not my fault.”

Mom says “Well I can’t tell you what to do with your life.”

Grandpa says “Women like that are so ugly.”


Tattoos. That’s the subject. Currently I have eight. All beautifully placed and pretty well done. Here’s the rundown.

Serendipity on my arm. Meaning, the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way, also a happy accident. I see much of my life as a happy accident so it was a fitting word, plus saying it is fun, go ahead try it.

There’s a Lotus outline on my ribs which is my first tattoo, I got it matching with my mother and that’s about it. The traditional symbolism of lotus flowers is purity and harmony but it was just really a design I liked.

Feather on my left rib cage. Feather has somehow ended up being one of my lifetime nicknames. My grandmother used to give me feathers to play with and it ended up transferring to my nickname. Much later in life a dear friend of mine went to Canada and brought home a pair of earring for me, they were feathers. She had a matching pair only hers were bigger causing me to laugh and say “big feather and little feather!” So there it is, my nickname is feather and I have it on me for life.

Under my feather I have the words “Send me on my way” this being a Rusted Roots song, it always makes me happy for some reason and carries on with my life theme of always being on the move. I like to think that life will always be sending me on my way.

On my left thigh is one of my biggest tattoos, a raven framed with a victorian outline. My raven is standing on a heart, the meaning for this one is Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven and The Tell-Tale Heart. For the Raven tattoo, the entire driving force behind it is woeful insanity, the psychotic breaks, and depression. The negative aspects of absolutely losing your mind. This tattoo is meant to have a sister on the other leg, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. But I’m planning on getting the Mad Hatter and his tea party on the right leg to show the fun side of being entirely bonkers.

Next is my Warpaint tattoo, I got this one the day it was announced that Trump would be president.Which was for me, as it was with many a very emotional day. In a way I felt defeated, because how could such an awful human being get put into a position such as that, especially after we had such an accepting and clean-cut President beforehand. The design itself is a rose with a case of lipstick and the word Warpaint written across. The idea behind this is to say that my femininity is never a weakness but it is my strength, and everyday when I get ready I put on my warpaint and take on the day.Finally the last two have simple themes, Frida Kahlo. I have a minimalist tattoo of her unibrow, flowers, and hair on my back. It was a spontaneous tattoo done with my best friend. Then the next one is another one I got done with my mother. Her’s is a long quote from Frida, mine says “I am Simply I am” meaning to me, what I am is what I am, no tricks, no gimmicks, just me.

Tattoos are art, they are stories, they are memories that we carry for life. Yes, someday I will sag and they will look nothing like they do now. But for now they are here and I love telling people all about them. Of course people say negative things, but the best answer for them is “If you don’t like tattoos, don’t get them”.

They call the wind Maria.

I knew one day my view from work wouldn’t be the ocean. I knew someday I’d be doing a nine to five or working in some kind of office or closed environment. A place where the surfers aren’t. A place where the salty air and sand doesn’t invade my senses as well as the building I call work. It would be a matter of time. I just didn’t expect it to be so sudden. What was my life before Maria hit? I just finished college and was getting ready to start my masters. Perhaps in psychology or business. I have a travel bug so I was looking at international business. My university offered a program that would allow me to live in South America so that was a good goal. But I came into work one day and was warned about Irma. Prep had to be done. I did what I thought was important. Picked up my cat, grabbed some food, water, filled the car with gasoline. I mean Irma was a category five hurricane, she wasn’t supposed to be nice. But she passed. My coworkers and I joked about how she wasn’t as bad as we thought. But Maria was coming too. I’ve explained this many times since moving. If a storm comes from the north the Bermuda Triangle does some kind of magic and it usually doesn’t hit Puerto Rico bad. If it comes from the south. Well hold on to your caña and hope for the best. But we did it again. Prepped and joked around saying Ave Maria. But all the Ave Maria’s in the world wouldn’t stop her from being a rotten bitch. She came at around 3am. Immediately took the electricity. Immediately took the storm shutters off one window. Immediately destroyed the garage. That day was full of immediately. Nothing seemed to happen slowly. It just happened. When she passed. I walked out of my house. I walked out to a new island. One I didn’t recognize. I imagine it’s how buzz aldrin felt on the moon. All the green I was accustomed to was replaced with grays and black. Grass was replaced with mud and debris. The trees looked as though they were toothpick for giants. Cracked in half and distorted. Even my home had the paint stripped off it, revealing its murky concrete walls. My grandpa and I got to work clearing out what we could, we honestly didn’t even know where to start. But machetes in hand we tore down and paved a way for trucks that we hoped would come soon to handle the bigger pieces. Days passed, we heard nothing from the outside. We eventually set out to see my uncle and my work. This would be one of the big influences on if I would have to leave home. When we arrived my work was missing pieces of the patio and the roof. I commiserated with my coworkers and the sorrow hit like a truck. Some were left without homes. Others couldn’t contact family. The streets were deserted. No songs. No chatter. Nothing. I walked to the town square. And still nothing. The silence spoke the loudest. I walked back to my grandpa and he said “It’ll be best that you stay with your mom. Just for the winter”. His words were coated with a forced, false optimism. I went home and started trying to figure out what to do. There was no cell signal. I couldn’t even figure out how to get a ticket out. Our plan was just to go to the airport and hope for a ticket. I packed my backpack with five shirts and three pants, a skirt, a dress, and my work apron. I had five copies of my resume ready and could only hope for things to work out. Days passed. I gave my room a good cleaning and on my last I took all the meat and sorted the good from the bad and made a small fire and cooked what was left, hoping it would be enough for my Grampa to last until the power came back. After that he called me to the truck and dropped me off with my grandma in San Juan. I spent a week there. In and out of contact with my stateside family. They were struggling to get me a ticket out, but when they did it was a blessing. I landed in Pennsylvania after a couple of close calls and delays. I settled in to my room, at my mothers house. Two days later I had a job. Four days later my reality struck and I sobbed. There are days where I think I’m doing good and I see this move as a happy accident. But then there are days where I long for home. I want to hear the coqui’s. I want the waves crashing as my background noise at work. I want the reggae, the Bomba y plena. I want to smell cafe bustelo or pilón in the morning. I miss the warmth of my people. The buen provecho and buen día y ay benditos. But I am in the states now and I have to make due. Granted I am fortunate. Much more than other. I have work, I had a home to go to, I have my life. Maria has taught me that try as I might I can’t control everything. I can only control my reaction to it. At work many customers try to pity me. I am no ones sob story nor am I someone’s feel good story. I remind people that Island life is not just piña coladas and dancing in the waves. It’s hurricanes, it’s struggles, it’s being able to adjust to the rising tides. As I write this I’m at work hiding my phone, with my view being a mall parking lot, 80’s music blaring from the bar and mariachi music from the dining room. I’m hosting in the morning and bartending at night. Doing a fair hustle. I have hope for my future what I worry about is my Island. I hope that with the current government my Island doesn’t get swept under the rug. I hope I can return soon and see my Island thrive again.

Neysha Monique Pagan Sabino

Neysha Monique Pagan Sabino. This is the name of my muse, my Venus De Milo, my Marilyn and Diana. This woman is one you could look at a million times and always notice something new and meaningful, whether it be brought unto her body intentionally or by accident. The scars, the tattoos, the dreads. They all tell the most wonderful story of a most wonderful person. The day I met her, I felt inadequate. Because at that time I had yet to make any story for myself, and yet in front of me stood a woman of similar age whose story radiated from her. I treated her with my typical treatment of newcomers, indifference. She never saw it as such. She saw some nice-ness in me. She’s always been good at seeing the hidden gems within each person.

I don’t remember how long it took or who initiated the first real contact. But something happened and now I can’t remember a moment in which we weren’t friends. I couldn’t remember it even if I tried. Probably because I don’t want to remember a time where I didn’t have my better half. Four years have passed and I still get the twinge of jealousy whenever she calls someone else her best friend, but I believe all of her friends have a piece of her complex personality within themselves and this is what draws her to them and vice versa. The broken pieces from old spirits that are drawn to one another to become whole again.

And to say we bonded on normal things would be an understatement. We are the weirdos, the outcasts. Death would bring us together while ironically life pulls us apart. We don’t do normal. She’s never been normal. Even the most unique and unusual words couldn’t describe her. For this I love her. 

There are many songs that have lyrics that remind me of this enigmatic person. But only one full song that I believe best describe our relationship, oddly it’s from the musical Wicked, about two witches similar to the kind we often believe we are. The song is called For Good. As she leaves for an undetermined amount of time in Southeast Asia I find one part of the song to nail my feelings on the head.

-It well may be, that we will never meet again in this lifetime, so let me say before we part. So much of me is made of what I learned from you. You’ll be with me like a handprint on my heart. And now whatever way our stories end, I know you have rewritten mine by being my friend-

It continues saying Who can say I’ve been changed for the better, but because I knew you, I have been changed for good. 

I don’t like going into individual times, or experiences simply because it puts people in awkward positions to explain themselves and often my memory falters in recalling some events. But try as I might I would never describe any moment with Neysha as bad. All were learning experiences. I don’t think she ever learned much from me, I don’t have much to offer. But from her I learned independence, strength, acceptance, patience, and trying to see past the exterior of a person. 

In the past months before she leaves I’ve made jokes of how I won’t be able to function when she leaves but I know I’ll be okay. I forget sometimes that she’s leaving and then when I remember suddenly I’m in a puddle of my own tears but I work it out. In a nerdy way she reminds me of the little fairy or animal that pops up in the beginning of every video game and aids you until you can function on your own, through the vast world on a journey through your own adventure. Neysha is/was my fairy. She pushed me through experiences that I otherwise wouldn’t go for. She made it so I would be okay by myself, I know she didn’t know that she was doing this but I want her to know. 

She’s going on the adventure of a lifetime. But she is the adventure of a lifetime. A one in a million kind of person who brings light into others lives. I’ve told people in Portugal, Spain, France, and Germany about my best friend. I’ve told people who will most likely never meet her. I’ll tell anyone who will listen of this mystifying individual as if she’s some kind of ominous conspiracy theory. But truly I hope the world gets to meet her and appreciate her the way she deserves. The thing about meeting Neysha is you have to be prepared for change. You yourself will change. You may not notice it at first but it will be there and one day you will smile at someone you wouldn’t typically or step or jump or leap out of your comfort zone. And when you tell her she will smile from ear to ear and every beautiful feature on her face will light up as she tells you the words that you have unconsciously been searching for from the moment you met, “I am so proud of you”.

I hope for nothing but the world for my best friend. I hope we cross paths again, but not soon, and not on the island we call home. I want her to see everything, to fill her mind with stories and her heart with otherworldly love. With the love of everyone she meets. With the love for the strange and distant lands she will explore. On her little island called home she will leave behind people who love her so dearly that even when she’s away she will be brought up in every conversation. She will be leaving people who wouldn’t have been friends without her. People who have nothing in common but the denominator that is her. 

And with this best friend, I will never say bye. Just until next time.