ISSUE 122

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​ You are known by many names: The Man of the Ugly Sweater, another goddamn tourist, Wally, Valdo, Greg… for whatever reason. But most know you as Waldo, the pale Englishman who travels the world, effortlessly melding into crowds and striding jauntily through calamity.
 It all started with your daily walks. Walks to the beach and the town, the airport and the museum, the mall and the construction site. The people you met were inquisitive and ready to make conversation. You need to leave, they said. You can’t operate heavy machinery without a license, they said. Stop pointing the nail gun at Ricardo, they said.  
 Then, as things go, you were traveling in time, popping around like a beach ball at a Rusted Root concert. Eventually, you ended up in a land where everyone walked, dressed, and talked exactly like you. And that’s when you decided to stop taking so much LSD.
 The urge to travel really started in school. People asked, “What do want to do after graduation?” and you said, “See the Aztecs sacrifice someone to their war god Huitzilopochtli.” And eventually people stopped asking.
 You were an outcast back then: mute, blind without your glasses, and the only fifteen-year-old who used a cane. Even then, people noticed your strange habits. Not only were you in every sports team photo in the yearbook, but you were in every photo in the yearbook.
 People would find you in the oddest places, their lockers, under the bleachers, inside the ceiling tiles. And you were almost expelled simply because teachers could never find you for attendance, though your opinion was they didn’t look hard enough.
 In a world of square blocks, you are a rectangle. See, some people wear the local dress. Some people wear weather-appropriate clothing. You wear a wool sweater and jeans. Sure, the sweater is itchy, it smells, and you’ve been mugged more times than you can count. But to you, it’s a refuge. It’s your pillow on long train rides. It got you a job as a Christmas elf and distracted those rabid monkeys. And most importantly, it goes with your hat.
You’ve witnessed a lot on your travels: disasters, triumphs, incompetence, a giant squid, an exploding volcano, naked people, death, life, free burritos... And you’ve learned a few life lessons. Bidets are not primarily for washing feet. Give up sooner rather than later. Never question an Italian, especially one with a gun. 
 Somewhere along the way you triggered a mass manhunt. Its goal: to find you, pin you down, and circle your location with a permanent marker. At one point, the CIA, the police, and Ms. Kellen’s first grade class were all looking for you. They wanted to ask about the suspicious phone calls, where you were on April 16th, and what your favorite ice cream flavor is, respectively.
 Yes, you’ve seen a lot, but in the end, you left people with more questions than answers, a man with a camera who never took any photos, an empty backpack, a pair of blue jeans. But who is the man behind the glasses? Why is he always around? How is he over there? Isn’t that where they dumped all that nuclear waste? 
 Some took you as a sign of an increasingly globalized society, a rumor of the inexorable approach of the west, one more backpacker in oversized glasses. Others took kindly to you, viewing your quiet nature as the better side of modern society. Some just thought you were weird.
 Everyone is trying to find you, but the truth is you’ve been trying to find yourself. Throughout your travels, it’s been lonely, a life of far more goodbyes than you thought. And with time, you realized that your true self may not be out on the road.
 You’ve been a man forever passing through, a perpetual wanderer with no destination, your world full of acquaintances and stories but no true friends. And now you feel the steady tug of home and a desire to see your family, have a little solitude, reconnect with old friends, maybe even buy a new sweater.
   
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