It is early May and I am sitting with my best friend in an outdoor cafe in Cartagena, Colombia. I’ve dreamt of traveling to this city for years. It is hot and humid and even the 5pm sun can still bake the plaza bricks and deepen the color of our flesh. A disheveled hippie woman with an honest face approaches our table and asks if I would like a psychic reading. I am in South America, I am 26 and I am totally open to everything, so of course I reply with an enthusiastic “Sí.” The reading begins and almost immediately she becomes visibly upset. I am worried about my translation skills and what I might be missing when she explains in Spanish “Be careful! You are going to be terribly harmed by a man!” then runs away into the boisterous crowd. I don’t even remember if I paid her and I certainly cannot comprehend how to interpret her comments. How could I?
One week later I am back in the neighboring Andean country where I live and I have finalized a decision to place a tattoo on my sacrum representing my connection to and experience of the lush, green land I had lived in for nearly 3 years. Its texture and color held my developing identity as a woman, an explorer, a daughter, a sister and a lover of nature. It is beautiful and it is powerful, and one of my dearest friends will apply it. It is a Friday and this moment marks my continual merging with my adopted home and the incredible community I have connected with in this international city.
Two weeks later, the large tattoo is still very much a wound when I am attacked while running in a park, held at knifepoint and taken deep into the woods where I am raped by a stranger whose body, scent, hands – even the shape of his teeth – may never be forgotten. My identity is thrown into a state of limbo. My questioning of everything and everyone around me keeps me constantly dizzy, while the energetic and physical ache in my lower back now pulses in pain. My tattoo, however personally affirming the intentions behind it, soon becomes a daily reminder – a forced and remorseful pause in the mirror – of this tragic and life-altering event. These two separate wounds somehow fuse.
Read more here.