Just Visiting Vol 1

Page 1


stories from places that aren’t home

just an introduction Here’s the challenge we put out to the world when we were looking for submissions:

“What the fuck am I doing?” The answer isn’t always clear, especially in times of transition. The time between Home for Now and Home Forever is filled with confused exploration. If you’ve ever felt this way, then you know what it’s like to be Just Visiting. The search for home in new places, careers and relationships is full of uncertainty. Each plane ticket, each signed lease and each leap of faith is another step on an obscure path, but all of those choices make for some of the best stories. That’s why we created this zine—to tell those stories. To try and make sense of our many pit stops, which ultimately shape and reveal who we are. So where have you been? Did you stay long? Who did you meet, and what did you learn? Were you happy there or the complete opposite? Did you find what you were looking for, or something else? Change is hard, and it takes tremendous courage—but we bet you’ll never regret any of it. Say it loud and proud with us: Why the fuck not?

about the cover

Alessandra Lopez is an artist living in Los Angeles. She took our cover photo on a trip to the Caribbean. Her next adventure? Moving to Mexico City to take more pictures.


Over in moments words by jenna staul


• photo by nick ross

he man sitting across the room masturbated outside a woman’s bedroom window, and I’m here to see him.

The magistrate’s office is small and windowless, and within minutes it’s packed with police officers. Some in uniform, others in plain clothes. Many balding, a few guts protruding. Gun holsters visible on all. They

visitor bio

Nick is a graphic designer originally from Ohio. Before moving to San Francisco he visited twice to make sure it was a good fit. This photo is from one of those trips.



are shuffling around among the case files and the public defenders in suits. It’s hearing day, and I’m the only reporter in the room. He’s your run-of-the-mill peeping Tom, I guess. The man prowled around an apartment complex, leering into ground-level windows, unbuttoning his pants and beating off outside to the sight of women who were strangers. A pane of glass separated him from them. When he was arrested he had lube in his pocket. It’s all over in moments. The public masturbator has waived this preliminary hearing; and the charges will proceed to common pleas court. His wife sits beside him the entire time, looking small. I wait for him outside of the magistrate’s office because he’s the focus of my day. If you’re found pleasuring yourself by the shrubs at an apartment building, a small-town reporter will probably come looking for you. This is the most notable thing he’s ever done. I want to ask him questions that I really have no intention of asking. Why did you jerk off outside the apartment window? Why did you do it in freezing


March? Did you come? But after a few minutes he’s still in there, and I realize I have other things to do. I no sooner get to my car across the street when the masturbator walks out of the yellow-brick court building, flanked by his wife and an older couple that I later learn are his in-laws. Humiliation is the theme of the morning. I’m suddenly determined. I sprint across the street to catch up with him. I think, “You piece of shit, a 24-yearold blonde in a red skirt is chasing you. You know you want to stop.” I yell out a question, something like, “Do you have any comment? Can you comment?” He stops and looks at me, blank-eyed. My stomach’s in a knot, but I want a quote for my story. When I quit journalism, I felt like a girl who had married too soon out of high school. I fell hard in love with the first thing I found and burned out in just three years. I got stuck in a small town, let down by my own hopefulness. There’s nothing extraordinary about this. Many people find journalism unsustainable. Too little money. Too many hours. Too much time concerned with public masturbation and other unseemly things. A week before this exchange, I had my first real, grown-up panic attack for no reason in particular. I cried and heaved on the floor of my apartment while my dog stared at me. “Why can’t you do this?” I often think to myself. The masturbator’s mother-in-law pursed her lips. “I’m just very sorry,” he said quietly. “I wish I could, but I can’t.”

visitor bio

Jenna is writing from Pittsburgh. After three years of scratching a life out as a journalist, she realized it wasn’t the life she wanted for herself. “In that regard, I suppose I am a failure,” she says. In the end, though, she’s grateful for her experience, masturbators and all. “Sometimes you have to fail.”


Things take time by jason ham

Toronto (above) awaits Jason’s return.



une 1st, 2013 is the day I moved to San Francisco. So, on Monday, I’ve been here for two years.

visitor bio

Jason hails from Toronto, and he’s not sure how long he’ll stay in the States. Since writing this he’s celebrated his second San Franniversary™.

Time passes quickly. The fog rolling down into the Castro was particularly breathtaking this afternoon. It’s a San Francisco thing I’d completely forgotten about now that I live in a neighborhood where fog is rare and doesn’t float over the rooftops in delicate wisps like it does just eight blocks farther west. I witnessed my very first afternoon fog, not unlike the one I saw this evening, while apartment hunting on my second day in The City.


My first apartment was a spacious, sunlit Castro apartment I shared with a chronically stressed-out British woman in her late twenties, and every summer afternoon the fog would descend from the Pacific Ocean, enveloping Twin Peaks in delicate tendrils, stopping just short of my bedroom window. The day I moved to the United States, I hugged Nick at the Ottawa airport security checkpoint and basically told him to have a nice life. I passed through the glass doors and stood there, crying in front of the security checkpoint guards for 20 minutes, until my blubbering was cut short because I had to request a work permit from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers. With puffy, teary eyes I smiled, spoke cordially at the immigration counter, paid the $50, became a “non-resident alien” and boarded a plane headed to California.

jurassic world by lisa sy

I moved to Oakland two years ago and completely fell in love with the city from my first day here, which was spent at the Grand Lake Farmer’s Market. When I drive by the marina in Oakland, I pass by large shipping cranes that resemble dinosaurs. I’ve always marvelled at them with childlike wonder — not unlike wonder I had as a toddler when I would watch Jurassic Park or play with dinosaur toys. Two years later, I still marvel at so many of the things I encounter in my life here— the people, the places, the foods, the moments, the vibrancy—all of it. My drawing takes place from my windowsill; it de-emphasizes the actual shipping crates and focuses on the suggestion of it in a pretty tacky way. I think that this tacky suggestion of the cranes speaks very much to my personality. And to how I feel Oakland embraces my weirdness.

On my first San Franniversary™, already living in my third apartment, I still wasn’t quite over it. As my two-year mark approaches, I still find it difficult to meet someone new. Maybe I fall for the wrong people, or the people I am drawn to here are more carefree, or the men who take a deep interest in me go about it in the wrong way. But for the first time in my life I completely have my shit together, but no boyfriend to share it with. My work permit expires October 9th, 2016. At the very least, I have another year and a half to try. That’s OK—things take time.


Search history words by esther perez-hackleman


• photos by ashli truchon

obody tells you that “finding yourself ” is basically the Santa Claus of your twenties. And I’ve outgrown fairy tales.

Mulling over my strengths and weaknesses and thrusting my fists upward in the bathroom stall, I worked on confidence-building poses that a 20-minute TedTalk guaranteed would make me more attractive as a new hire. visitor bio

Ashli grew up in a barn in Pennsylvania, before moving to Phoenix, where she liked hiking the surrounding deserts with her boyfriend. She just moved back up north to New York, but not before sending us some photos from her desert walks.

My jittery nerves painstakingly reminded me that downing a huge iced coffee on the way to the interview wasn’t my brightest idea. I brought my arms down to my hips in my best Wonder Woman impression. Considering the next nine hours of interviews with different departments at the newspaper were about to either doom me to more job hunting or solidify a spot on the copy desk, I prayed some deep breathing would bring the air of confidence I needed.

When I was young, it seemed my life’s goal was to uncover the mystery of what I wanted to be when I grew up. From 13 on, I thought the answer was becoming a journalist and using my words to be a force of good in the world. I stood in that stall and realized that the the hard work, long hours and accomplishments laid out on my resume might very well describe why I was qualified for the job, but they didn’t fully define who I am.


I never had that “aha, this is my destiny!” moment— not while hiking throughout the great state of Texas or crossing the finish line of a marathon or admiring a sunset from the top of a mountain. As incredible as each of those moments felt, they barely brushed the surface of my identity, much less created an epiphany of self-awareness. If my identity didn’t come from experiences, maybe it came from love.


Love was a synonym for disgusting to me from the day I watched Leo and Kate swap saliva in Titanic and bet my cousin $20 that I would never let a boy slobber all over me. The cliché commitment-fearing jerks who filled my college years affirmed that love was still repulsive, while some of my closest friends basked in their wife status. But three years ago, a beautiful boy came into my life and was willing to walk me through my emotional land mines, escape the friend zone I repeatedly threw him in and love me in my most unlovable state. I married that boy four months ago, and it has been an incredible

visitor bio

Esther is a proud Tejana who runs marathons like it’s her second job. She writes us from the Texas Gulf Coast, where she spends her days as a journalist and wife.

ride. There’s nothing like knowing you’re safe with the one who has stolen your heart. But as much as I love hearing the pride and tenderness in my husband’s voice when he calls me his wife, checking the “Mrs.” box on surveys isn’t the conclusion of my search for self. I’ve given up on finding myself in one simplistic answer—instead, I choose to embrace a lifetime of discovery that is sure to bring rich stories and smile lines.


Homecoming by christie sheppard


n North Texas, where I’m from, a lot of people identify as Hispanic or mixed. I’m Hispanic, Native American and white, so my appearance was pretty normal in my world. But when I was 12, we moved to a small town outside of Atlanta, Georgia, and all that changed. I walked into my classroom, and every single person was either white or black; there was nothing else, and no one was mixed. They just stared at me while asking all kinds of strange questions (Do you own a horse? Did you live on a farm? Where’s your cowboy hat?), then promptly stated that there was no way I was from Texas because I did not have an accent. They quickly gave me a nickname: Pocahontas, because it was the only Disney character they could identify me with. Tan and long black hair? Check! I was the only non-white player on my volleyball team. I had a middle school teacher who hated me, but after my Mexican stepmother confronted her and asked if she was racist, suddenly she was nice as could be. Then there were the thick, Scarlett O’Hara-like accents, cotillion balls for the “right” families and churches divided by race. Now I knew the meaning of culture shock. In high school, the race for homecoming queen took me further down the rabbit hole into this new, deep South world. The ballots were handed out, and the head principal came over the loudspeaker to say, “Each ninthgrade student is to nominate one black female homecoming queen and one white female homecoming queen. Each tenth grade student is to nominate two Black female homecoming queens and two white female homecoming queens, and so on.” I was astonished. I wasn’t so naïve to think that racism didn’t exist, but blatant segregation of the races? Whoa. No one else seemed at all surprised or visitor bio concerned, making me even more suspicious. Christie is still in Texas, now calling Austin home. She hasn’t been back to the deep South, but recently visited Tokyo and loved it.

My junior year, many more Hispanics came to my school and things began to change. But the school, didn’t stop designating only black and white homecoming queens till about 30 years after the practice began. By then I was long gone—back to Texas.


Same highway, different directions words and photos by kuan luo


A solo trip meant for two.


t was supposed to be my power move–to come to Gualala by myself and enjoy the cottage with a Japanese soaking tub for the weekend. Without him.

I rose early in the morning and stretched my legs out on the daybed by the window. They were sore from sitting on the plane from JFK to SFO the night before. I stared into the light gray sky, and the air smelled like sprinkles of rain. Behind the pines, the waves of the Pacific Ocean snuggled right up to the clouds, leaving no gap between their bodies — no horizon. I tried to make a fire in the fireplace, but somehow the wood couldn’t catch on.

Opposite page: The sound of the ocean was one of the reasons why Kuan decided to visit Gualala.



“Why am I even here?” I said to myself. There’s no cellphone signal in the cottage, and all I want to do is Instagram the king-size bed under the skylight with the caption, “Just fine on my own.” ---I met him in London a few months ago, and when he visited New York last week, I dove headfirst into the romance. I was soaking in the potential of love. The weekend before our trip to Gualala, California, he sat me down and told me that he was about to go on a two-week trip to Bhutan with his ex-girlfriend to properly close their relationship. They had broken up a month before. I tried to meet where he was, since the intention seemed legitimate and understandable. They had dated for five years, and now they were trying to be friends. The trip was planned a long time ago, and everything was paid for. The news pained me. As much as I wished I had known before jumping in, what hurt the most was the fact that he seemed just as enthusiastic about us. Yet, between the end with her and the beginning with me, he chose the end, risking all the delicateness we had built. -----


Gualala’s beauty wasn’t diminished even though Kuan’s trip didn’t go as planned.

We planned the trip to Gualala over Skype. Bordering wine country, the tiny village sits among the redwoods, firs and pines three hours north of San Francisco. In the summer swimmers, canoeists and birdwatchers gather where the Gualala (the locals say “wa-LA-la”) River meets the Pacific. We wanted to hike in the Gualala Point Regional Park and hopefully spot a sea lion or two. We planned to stomp some grapes in the local wineries since we read that Napa is overrated. We thought gulches and shoals sounded funny since we are both foreigners. The night before my flight to SFO, I told him I couldn’t do it. He made his decision, and that was mine. Until he figured out what he wanted, I couldn’t bear to be involved. Close friends patted me on the back for my choice because, for once, I stood up for myself in a relationship. He texted back that he respected the decision, and we could meet again when he was ready.


My best friend called and said that we would go to concerts, cook dinner and hang out during the weekend instead. I said yes but secretly imagined what that cottage looked like and longed to hear the sound of the ocean. “Fuck this,” I said to myself, upon receiving the flight check-in reminder. “Why am I the one who gets no boy and no vacation? I’m going on my own.” The flight was delayed for three hours, so I ate dinner — a ShackBurger and a Chicken Dog — at the terminal. When the plane finally took off, I checked the time: 6:39 p.m. “He’ll still be up when I land,” I thought. The sound of the wheels touching down on the runway woke me up, and I got a text from him saying good night and that he also got a burger for dinner.

visitor bio

Kuan is originally from Shanghai but is writing from Brooklyn. Of her reluctant travel partner she says: “We reconnected after his trip to Asia, and are now dating/taking a chance and seeing where the relationship takes us.”

The last time we traveled together, we went south on Highway 1 for hiking and beachcombing. Now I was on the same highway, going a different direction. And at 11:00 p.m., it was too dark to admire anything. ---I looked into the bathroom mirror. “What do I want?” I asked out loud. I wanted him to realize how stupid his decision was and apologize for how sad he made me feel. I wanted him to show me that I’m more important than her. I wanted to be in Gualala with him. But he left. In an intricate dance, we took one step forward and two steps back. He’s just not that into me—not yet anyways. I took that hike we planned, drank the wine (I skipped the stomping part) and sat by the ocean, letting thoughts get wrapped in waves and wash ashore. I put my feet up on the porch, pulled a blanket over them and watched the sun set. I bathed and wrote. I took up as much space as I could on the king-size bed and closed all the blinds. But some light still snuck in.


Furniture by elizabeth simins




visitor bio

Elizabeth Simins lives in Portland with a large collection of comics and a small collection of cats. She did eventually get a proper mattress but is still fond of the couch where she slept, quite comfortably, for four months.


Places by norma quintero


often don’t travel much, even though I love to see and learn about new and exciting places.

There is, however, this one particular place I seem to visit quite often. It’s not a tourist place or a place anyone would care to explore; it serves them no purpose. It doesn’t have much in the way of entertainment. In fact it can be quite gloomy and lonely at times. Its splendor is evident at nighttime, endless worn-out gray cobblestones leading everywhere, or nowhere at all. So why do I go there? Time after time, I go there. I work very hard to keep busy, to avoid visiting its attractions. I’d claw my way back if I could, but it’s just too hard, too painful, and too full of bad visitor bio Norma is a singer, memories. Still I find myself taking that onewriter, teacher and way ticket to that ominous place or, do I dare mother. She lives in say, the regions of hell, heavy baggage in tow. South Texas. “broken face portrait” by kenneth e. parris iii “Broken Face Portrait” is a self-portrait after being assaulted by a drug addict and dealer in the hallway of my apartment building. While multiple police reports for harassment and various pleas to the landlord were ignored, “Home” became a place of violence. This is a record of displacement.



graphic illustration by nick ross


Last Christmas by alexia quintero


have something to tell you,” my mom said. “Your father and I are getting a divorce.”

I was standing in my parent’s house in Laredo, Texas, where I had grown up. Just a few hours earlier I wondered why we no longer have our big yearly family Christmas party—it was a cherished tradition until my parents stopped throwing them a couple of years after I left for college. Now I had my answer. “But, you and dad never even fight.” I said, trying to wrap my head around it. How? Why? When? She tried to explain, the piano we’d gathered around during so many holiday parties sitting visitor bio behind her. How could I not see this coming? Alexia is writing from Fort Worth, Texas where she is a law student by day and mariachi singer by night.

My parents always raised me as a united front. They were both musicians who passed on their natural musicality to me—a familial passion I grew into rather than learned— and raised me to never give up what I truly wanted. They’d always been there for me—together.

That was our last Christmas together. All I really remember from that trip home is breaking the news to my friends outside of a night club, then walking past a resident drag queen, the bass in my walk. Otherwise, it’s a blur. Now, mom still lives in that house, and dad has a new home. My parents will always have my heart, but the fact is, they no longer have it together. It’s been a strange adjustment—a strange feeling where everything feels like a distant memory that I’m trying to recall but can’t quite remember. I didn’t know it at the time, but that Christmas was when home became somewhere new for me. Now, going “home for the holidays” feels more like visiting a foreign country. There’s no place like home anymore.


Alexia on tour with her mom in the ’90s.


Delta Air Lines Flight 210 by samantha stallard

An atheist’s last hurrah before life after college gets its start with divine intervention.


’m dizzy. I’m ill. I’m just trying to keep my glass of Chili’s chardonnay down.

Maybe it’s because I’m obsessing over any distraction from the fact that I’m on a one-way flight to Prague, or maybe it’s because this plane definitely smells like sulfur. I squirm in my aisle seat and make a half-assed attempt to reorganize the magazines I won’t have the clarity of mind to read. Then, through the crowd of hazy, emotionally defeated travelers, I see a priest.

Jesus and co. (opposite page) kept a watchful eye on Sam’s drunken nights.

I don’t worry he’ll sit next to me—I know he’ll sit next to me. As a quasi-guilty, Southern atheist, this is my punishment. Next thing I know, a 200-pound, balding, Midwestern man of the cloth is shimmying over me to get to the window. Look busy, act normal… “Traveling alone?” he asks me. “Yes, moving to Prague to teach English,” I reply politely. I may not believe in your God, but I believe in manners.




“Wow. You’re very brave.” Please, don’t call me brave. I feel like a sham every time I hear it, which has been a lot recently. I sure as hell don’t feel brave. The decision to move to eastern Europe in the weeks following my college graduation felt more like postponing reality than embarking on a millennial-esque soul search. I’m running from the cookiecutter life I know I could melt into given enough idle time and desperation, a life filled with unpaid internships, two-forone happy hours and finance bros in faded fraternity T-shirts. My future is a giant question mark, and I’m finally letting myself feel every negative thought I filed away in my “handle this later” folder. When the priest puts his hand on mine, a move that would set me off on a feminist-fueled personal boundaries rant in any other situation, I totally lose it. The words start to flow just as fast as the emotions. I’m telling him everything—a very public confessional in row 29. About the breakup that shattered my 50-year life plan, the bridges I’ve burned with high school and college friends, the boring, predictable existence in Atlanta I fear is my destiny, and the impulsive decision to move to Prague and deal with all that shit later. “What’s your name?” “Samantha.”

visitor bio

Sam hails from Atlanta but calls New York City home now. She was more than happy to provide pictures of her drunk stumbling out of a car in Prague.


Prague, destination of many post-college millennials seeking to postpone reality.

“Samantha, will you pray with me?” Fuck. I wipe my eyes, suck up my snot and shoot him a confused look. How dare you. Don’t exploit my mental state as a call to the cross. My mind races with a dozen reasons to be angry, to feel violated, to summon the stewardess and demand to switch seats. But the loudest voice of all is the one saying, “Just close your eyes and do it.” So I bow my head, and the atheist prays.


Independence Day by jillian anthony

Five years and counting, being somewhere new is the only tradition that stuck.



ive Fourth of Julys ago, I was in Europe with my family—Italy, to be specific. I don’t remember what we did to celebrate or if we did anything at all. I do remember dangling my legs over a Venice bridge, eating deer in Germany, the stifling heat of Rome, inhaling my very first cigarette in Dublin, getting so drunk with the cute bartender I had to talk myself down from vomiting in the hotel room as my parents slept, then drunk-dialing my boyfriend back home to leave him an aching message, and that the mountains of Austria are still the most glorious things I’ve ever seen.


Four Fourth of Julys ago, I was in Lake Powell, Utah, with my family, another boyfriend and four of my closest friends. Lake Powell is a familiar euphoria for me—all 15 of us sleep on top of the houseboat on air mattresses or big blue floats you throw in the water to lounge on during the day. We wake at 6 a.m. to the sun beating down on, already 90 degrees, and if that doesn’t wake us up, my mother blaring “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from Oklahoma—every morning—does. We spend the rest of the day eating, blending margaritas, playing card games, fishing and cooling off in the lake. On the Fourth, we all pulled Bi-yearly out boxes of fireworks and set them off, most of trips to the smaller, sparkler variety, but one was an illegal Lake behemoth. I went safely up to the top of the boat Powell are to watch it explode, but others weren’t so lucky. an Anthony family When it went off, it immediately toppled over. Death tradition. fireworks ricocheted in all directions. Chaos ensued, screaming people in the darkness running from screeching heat-seeking missiles. When it was over, the entire hillside of the national park was on fire. My boyfriend, who was in charge of the fire extinguisher, had thrown it in the air in his panic and knocked my father to the ground. My mother, oblivious, screamed over and over, “I lost a shoe! Where’s my shoe?” All of this is on video. No one was hurt. Three Fourth of Julys ago, I was boating on Lake Mead outside of Las Vegas, with many of the same best friends I had spent the last Fourth of July with, and an ex-boyfriend I had brought along, just because I’m a sadist. We climbed to the top of a cliff, took off our bikini tops and jumped into the waters 30 feet below, breasts


flailing all the way down. Maybe a day into the trip, it seemed pretty clear my ex was coming down from something. He was moody and removed. On the way home, he spit on another car on purpose, antagonizing the driver next to us and terrifying me, helpless in the pilot seat. If you assumed that’s the last time I saw him, you’d be wrong. Two Fourth of Julys ago, I was in Syracuse, New York, with my family. They were helping me move into my new apartment for grad school. We went to a Syracuse Chiefs game, my only one. The next day, they left, and one of the best years of my life began. Last year on Fourth of July, I was in Cleveland, Ohio, visiting yet another boyfriend. His friends and I watched the Angels play the Indians on TV, and when the Angels won, I gloated. I wore a turquoise strapless dress I adored, mostly because my boyfriend told me he loved how I looked in it. We walked to the lakefront to watch the fireworks. He stood a little in front of me with his two friends. I tugged on his shirt, pulled him into a kiss, felt his lips on mine as explosions crashed around us, and smiled into his mouth. Two days later, we moved to different states. This year on Fourth of July, I spent most of the day with the foster dog I got on Saturday. I marveled as she made other dog friends. I beamed when she went poop where she was supposed to. I wondered if, for the first year ever, I would spend the holiday by myself. But eventually I got on a train and then a shuttle bus to Weehawken, New Jersey, to see a friend from grad school we all called Jersey Glamour. We went to a small house party where I drank beers and ate homemade food and gawked at the very Jersey people around me. My friend eventually got so drunk that he and his girlfriend walked home before the fireworks even went off. I stayed to watch them, gazing out over the glittering New York City skyline and the Hudson River brimming with boats, surrounded by thousands of people, alone.

visitor bio

Jillian Anthony is a journalist in New York City. She is originally from Los Angeles and still spends a lot of time thinking about the beach. The rest of the time she’s doing improv and talking to her cat.


▲ Morristown, N.J.: I took this picture when I used to take walks with my ex around his town. If you could pan to the left you’d see an Army weapons base, and to the right would be a small produce stand run by a local farmer. It’s a strange area.

Notes from the field photo essay by bryan stevens


◄ Newport, R.I.: Away from the mansions, outside of the tourist spots, I found fields with a very small electric fence. A part of me was tempted to jump it, but I decided I’d rather not get killed.


◄ Right outside the edge of my town: This is an abandoned diner that’s been there since the ’60s, but it’s been closed for years now. It just sits there as a relic, slowly falling apart.

▲ Potter County, Pa.: My extended family has a house in the middle of nowhere past the Poconos—the kind of place where guns run rampant and bears can attack randomly. If you trudge through the woods, you’ll come upon a view that can make you forget you’re in hicktown.

◄ New Orleans, La.: While visiting with family I found an empty side street, save for some Vespas. It seemed strange for a summer day in the city, especially since Bourbon Street was only two blocks over.



Cherry Hill, N.J.: This is a route my dog enjoys that makes me feel like I’m not in my town anymore. It used to be a landfill, and now it’s a park. As a child I used to imagine that the hills were piles of garbage just covered up. As an adult, I’m still convinced that’s true.


The long drive by luis rendon

What do you do after you quit your job and break up with your boyfriend? A 1,000-mile trip home with your dad is a good start.


here do you want to live?”

I tried to think of an honest answer. “Somewhere there’s a good paper,” would’ve been my first response, but my one-track mind had splintered. I surprised myself when I almost said, “Wherever my boyfriend is.” I was embarrassed by both answers


so I punted. “I don’t know.”

The final moments before hitting the road, and an uneventful last day in the office, save for dessert sushi from a friendly copy editor.

We were at a karaoke bar giving our well wishes to a departing colleague. A lot of people were leaving the newsroom around that time. I didn’t get a karaoke party though—I wasn’t in the office long enough for anything like that. I never planned to live in Colorado. It wasn’t a dream or a goal. It was a job, the next logical step in a made-up plan I’d concocted about growing up. The idea was to stay for three years, build a great portfolio and then, once my work got noticed, a big-time newspaper would poach me to be their star designer. I didn’t even last six months. After surviving a brutal round of layoffs and getting the directive that the paper had no time for creativity, I had to recalibrate. This job wasn’t for me anymore.

The closest thing to a send-off I got was a piece of dessert sushi my favorite copy editor brought in for me in a tiny white box. “You weren’t even around long enough for us to miss you,” said one of the news editors when I told her I was leaving. She was a nice lady, but I couldn’t help but take it personally. I felt small and defeated—mostly, because she was right. I’d done nothing of significance in that newsroom. All I had gotten was a false start.


---The drive down the Rockies was treacherous. We left later than Dad wanted, which was my fault. He didn’t say anything about it though, which I was grateful for. He didn’t push me on anything that had happened. My basement apartment that my parents had helped me move into not even a year before was now empty, and the loading van I rented using my moving allowance was full. There was one box left, though. Its contents included borrowed Christmas lights, a jacket and maybe some underwear buried at the bottom. “I have to take this to a friend’s place and then we can leave,” I told my dad. I was such a coward. I was in love for the first time, and even on the precipice of heartbreak I was still too scared to talk to my dad about being gay. I held my boyfriend who smelled like cigarettes, and we cried. I almost collapsed as I walked down his porch steps for the last time. He gave me a letter that I read in my car. I sobbed and yelled at my steering wheel until I was exhausted and hoarse, like an inconsolable child. Then, I was done. My dad was waiting. I had to go. “Ya, Dad,” I said, waking him up from his nap in my empty apartment. I either did a really good job of keeping it together or my dad was being kind when he saw my face. We had over 1,000 miles to drive back to Texas. This was it. Whatever life I thought I was building with that job and that boyfriend was over. “Let’s go.” --It got dark fast. My iPod ran out of songs even faster. It was all starry skies and shadowy mountains for a while. We had already


stopped at a corner store for snacks and gum to chew as we drove down to the flatter states, and our small talk had dried up. I sat very still, trying my best to not let my emotions betray me. I buried my head into a pillow whenever I felt a tear coming. Mom had called a couple days before. She said the trip would be a good opportunity for me and Dad to talk and spend time together. We’d definitely have time together, but I hardly thought it qualified as a good anything. It wasn’t even a good drive. Guilted by my mother and desperate for a distraction from my failure, I mulled over topics for me and my dad to discuss. “I just broke up with my boyfriend, Dad.” “I feel like a loser, Dad.” “I hate all this moving and secretly wish I could just move home.” The first two were nonstarters—too emotional. So I went with the third. “Is my room still a mess?” “Psh, yup. You know your mama.” “I thought she said she was going to clean it out?” “Nambre, her and your sister keep putting more and more stuff in there.” “What stuff ?” “Christmas presents, decorations, your mom’s sewing machine. Hijole, it’s a mess in there.” He nodded his head, and we bonded over griping about the women at home, filling every corner with more and more stuff. “Hey Dad?”


visitor bio

I had a real question. “What were you doing when you were my age?” “Your age? I must’ve been living in Tennessee,” he said. I’m pretty sure I knew that, but I had no clue what he was doing there. It didn’t make sense with the timeline I had for him in my head. He was home. He had always been home. “I was with Dad, building houses,” he said. My dad still calls my grandpa “Dad,” which I really like. He told me they’d left home together and were handymen, staying where they could and doing odd jobs across Texas until they eventually found themselves in Tennessee.

Luis wants you to know that his room back home is still a mess thanks to his wonderful sister and beautiful mother. He’s from Texas, has lived in New York, Wisconsin and Colorado, but now lives in San Francisco.

“Yup, your grandpa and me,” he said. “We’d stay in people’s houses out back or wherever we were working.” They’d get a lead on another job, drive over, and then just keep going. When the work dried up, they headed back home. “I met your mom, she got pregnant and luckily I got the job at the plant,” he said. “We needed the insurance to help pay for the hospital.” He’s had that same job at the power plant ever since. That seemed so impossible to me. My first job hadn’t even lasted a year. I had spent so much time figuring out my insurance stuff at that job. For nothing. --My dad finally ceded the driver’s seat to me so he could get some sleep, three hours away from home. As I drove down the familiar highway, my mind wandered. It was hard leaving Colorado, but maybe it was hard for my dad to leave Tennessee, too. Maybe he also felt defeated, panicked his plan for life after school wasn’t working out. Maybe he had a similar long drive home with his dad. Maybe he even had a broken heart or had left someone behind, too. But then he came home. He found a job. He met my mom. And he was just fine.



Luis lived in the basement of this house in Colorado Springs.

just the details Jillian Anthony edited Luis Rendon designed Jillian Kremer copy edited Kathleen Kim helped Aileen Gallagher guided Countless friends supported

just our contact info Have a story to tell from a place that isn’t home? Want to stock us in your shop? Dying to let us know how cool this zine is? Shoot us a message or visit our tumblr at: jvzine.tumblr.com justvisitingzine@gmail.com

Š 2015 Just Visiting was printed in Elk Grove, California by RA Comics Direct. All rights reserved. No portion of this material may be used or reproduced in any manner wtihout permission from the writer and/or artist.


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