Nicolo Sertorio

Journey Well: A Short Story Inspired by Nicolò Sertorio’s Photographic Series, 'Peregrinations'

Originally posted August 16, 2012

The greatest explorer on this earth never takes voyages as long as those of the man who descends to the depth of his heart.  ~Julien Green

I’ve been on this journey for what…five…six hours now…may as well be five or six hundred years, judging by the exhaustion. My head is heavy. I feel bloated.

Yet despite my duress, I am clear that were I to attempt to shut my eyes at this moment, my mind would not allow me the gift of slumber. Lights talk to me (or is it the mountains?). Red skies paint themselves across the inside of my eyelids, while the outside view is of sands shifting into mazes I can’t seem to navigate.

Yup. It’s official.

I’m tripping balls.

Why the fuck did I do this to myself? Did I actually think I’m going to get some sort of mega download from the cosmos? Like the answers to all my questions would suddenly pour into my skull via some multi-colored, amorphous goo of consciousness? I can’t even tell which direction my camp is located, let alone navigate my life right now. The moment I think I’ve oriented myself, it’s suddenly two hours later and I’m nowhere near where I thought I was. I’m like a Heisenberg, psychedelic farce.

I feel like a fool. The last time I saw Alex and her friends, they were pedaling away from me as I screamed at them for their unwillingness to surrender their limiting egoic identities.

Jesus Christ, I’ve even picked up their vernacular.

Who does this? Really? Who spends a thousand bucks buying a bunch of food and camping gear and costumes and useless crap to hang out in the desert for a week? I could be home right now, in the comfort of my living room, a lot warmer, hydrated and able to pay my rent.

And yet…here I am. Why? Eh…why doesn’t really matter at this point. All I’ve got to do is park my ass in this sculpture-thing, wrap my sparkle cape around me and wait it out.

Wait it out…

I miss my mother. I miss her smell. Fried bacon and roses. I haven’t seen her in years. Haven’t seen most of my family in years for that matter, which was part of the reason why when my crazy-ass sister insisted I come to this thing with her, I couldn’t say no. I was propelled more by sibling guilt than by any real desire to be here…

I’m used to being by myself. I prefer it. I can do what I want, when I want and don’t have to deal with anyone else’s bullshit. And yet…

Jesus, I’m crying. Seriously?

Maybe it’s just the drugs. A bad trip. Although…it’s so weird…but right now I feel utterly hopeless. I have no idea which way is up or down and there’s this pain…in my chest…it’s this ache of…hollow…fuck I hate to admit it...


And the thing is, I don’t even have it so bad. A roof over my head, food on my plate, water in the tap.

But my heart…my heart feels…empty. Hurting. Cracked. Which may not be a bad thing, since most of the time I just feel numb and tired.

I wake up.

I hit the treadmill.

I go to the office.

I enter numbers in a computer for eight hours.

I come home.

I order dinner.

I catch up on TiVo.

I go to sleep.

People like me do not end up covered in purple glitter and wearing furry underwear while huddling for heat next to a neon mushroom.

And yet, maybe they should. Or at least, they should have a moment of some kind of magical catastrophe that shakes up their world.

I have to pee. Man…I really have to pee…nobody’s going to see me pee on the ground this far out here, right?

I shouldn’t though. I mean, it’s not right. They tell us not to.

Fuck that. I’m tired of being told what to do. This whole thing is about breaking the rules, right?

Ugh! I’m so confused. And angry. And my nose is running and I don’t have tissues and I have to pee and I’m cold and exhausted and I don’t want to be high anymore and I’m pissed at my sister for abandoning me in the middle of this place (what were we fighting about? Did she really call me the angel of death?), and most of all, all I want is…


What do I want?



I don’t even know.

Man. OK. I need help.

God, I know we haven’t chatted in a while (feels like centuries), but I could really use some guidance right now. With everything. I feel lost and lonely. I have no clue what I am doing here. What I want. What I need. I feel stuck and stupid and I hate my job I hate my life I hate the treadmill I hate the TV I hate my ex I hate I hate I hate










Whoa. I can breathe. Like a real breath. And that breath…it’s wide. And cool. And fresh.

Thank you. No really. Thank you. Whatever that freak-out was, I needed it.

Peace. If only for a moment. But right now, this moment is worth the fighting and exhaustion and snot and tears cementing my palms as my fingers clench together.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry Alex for yelling at you. I’m sorry mom for avoiding your calls. I know you just want the best for me—even if it comes off as intrusive and micro-manage-y. I’m sorry Billy for throwing your Mac out the window. Yeah, you cheated on me, but really, we knew it was over two years before that happened.

I’m sorry life, for taking you for granted. I’m sorry for wasting my days and blaming everyone for my problems and I’m sorry for not saying ‘I Love You’ often enough.

I love you.


OK, that’s a little scary.

I can do this.

It’s OK.

I love you.

I love you.

I love you…


Oh man. Something just hit me. I’m slipping under. I feel like I could sleep for ages. I can barely keep my head up. Thank. God.

Alex, I’m sorry. And thank you. Wherever you are tonight, thank you. The next time I see you, I’ll make sure to tell you that. Also, I love you.

It’s so simple. I’ll just walk up, take your hands and say:




Friar Ramón Pane jerked from his catatonic bliss with a sharp intake of panicked breath. Despite the fluorescent green glow humming on the edges of the trees, the known world instantaneously reassembled into his mind: the ship that brought him here, the dark woman, the powder she fed him.

As if by divine manifestation, the dark woman appeared beside him, holding him, cradling his head and muttering something in her Taíno tongue. Although Pane could speak her language, his mind was still too concentrated with the powder to take in her words.

Her hands were firm, but warm. Calloused, but inviting. He leaned his head into her palms and gazed into her empty, black eyes. An endless void.

And yet, there was something in the nothing. Light? Reflection? Himself?

He began to cry. Too much. Too much for him to understand right now. All he could fathom was that either this woman had shown him God or had taken God away from him (which may have been one and the same thing).

Her breath—wide, cool, fresh—whispered across his face.

Peace. If only for a moment. But right then, that moment was worth the fighting and exhaustion and snot and tears cementing his palms as his fingers clenched together.

And as he surrendered to her embrace, a single, sweet name exhaled from his lips: