Factor VIII

A slightly different version of this story appears in issue 5 of Medium Chill. Buy it here. Before everything became so horrible, before the things that happened happened, there was a time when it was all actually pretty funny. Obviously, I’m not trying to make light of tragedy or the embarrassing international incident it became, but it was comical at first. At least in our little social circle of expat international school kids, it was. I mean, it was Trisha. Trisha had been eccentric anyway as long as we’d all known her, since her family had moved here from Canada, so … Continue reading Factor VIII


A slightly different version of this story appears in issue 5 of Medium Chill. Buy it here. It was when the river disappeared that we knew once and for all we’d lost. I remember how we all just stood there unbelieving with our bottles of chilled Prosecco and our fluted glass stemware, our foldable camping chairs and plastic coolers of ice and cans of beer, gaping at a muddy trench freshly scraped into the earth that had once been flowing water and our refuge from everyday urban malaise. Even the riverbank, on which we’d sat on so many Saturday afternoons … Continue reading Corrigendum

Flying East

In August 2009, I flew from New York to Cairo for the first time. I was headed east, and I traced the progress of my flight on my seat back monitor, following that little airplane icon across the Atlantic, through France and the lower part of Italy, just shy of the west coast of Greece, and over the Mediterranean to my endpoint in North Africa. During my two years in Egypt, I took the westbound flight home and then back east to Cairo a total of four times. In January 2011, as Cairo descended into chaos in the wake of … Continue reading Flying East

Carrying Capacity

The black sedan stops outside the gate of a large pastel- colored high rise, and Henry Carson’s phone buzzes in sync with a chiming sound from the front seat. Henry presses his right thumb to his phone and hears a receipt printing from a small electronic device mounted on the dashboard next to the driver. He then exits the car from its rear curbside door and fishes a small plastic fob from his front pocket, which he waves before an electronic sensor to buzz himself into the complex. He walks through a verdant central courtyard where flat monitors sprout up … Continue reading Carrying Capacity


It’s the easiest thing in the world to seem OK. People ask how are you doing and you answer, yeah, I’m fine; you know, some days are better than others, and they believe you and feel good that they remembered to ask. Which is fine because they’re not responsible for you and have better things to do than sit and listen to how you’re at an all-time low and how some days you can barely muster the motivation to leave the house. And how days you work are best because you’re too busy to dwell but weekends are worst because … Continue reading CNY

Never Tear Us Apart

We hired a new sales guy this month here at the Beijing office. Nice guy, a Kiwi, by the name of Michael Hitchins. Tom, the other lead developer, and I have taken to calling him INXS Frontman Michael Hutchence or, on one darkly funny occasion, The Late INXS Frontman Michael Hutchence, after the poor guy got held up for 45 minutes in the congested aftermath of a car accident on the Airport Expressway on his way to the office. Barring that single instance of comic serendipity, it’s always all four words Tom and I use: INXS Frontman Michael Hutchence. I … Continue reading Never Tear Us Apart

On Returning

The first time I returned, it was like I had never gone. It had been roughly a year at that point, a not-insignificant amount of time, but it might as well have been only a week or two. I still got all the inside jokes and cultural allusions littering people’s conversations. I still knew what mattered and what had become passé or obsolete. I could confidently express opinions about the state of things or, conversely, feign ignorance or detachment if I chose to without legitimately having no clue. And when I went away again, I felt assured that everything would … Continue reading On Returning

Watching Road House on Malaysian Cable

I’m seated at a small plastic table at a curbside pub on my third bottle of Saigon Export, and Belinda Carlisle’s 1987 smash hit “Heaven Is a Place on Earth” is blasting from the restaurant’s stereo system as my fellow backpackers and I drink and smoke shisha and pointedly ignore the vendors wandering along the street peddling cigarettes, sunglasses and stacks of poorly mimeographed Lonely Planet travel guides. I remark to my friend that this is not the first or even the second or third time I’ve heard this particular American pop culture relic in Southeast Asia. Just the other … Continue reading Watching Road House on Malaysian Cable


It didn’t hurt that the streets were already soaked in blood. Severed limbs and entrails lined the shores of drying scarlet pools, and the blood-red trails of carcasses dragged up and down alleyways were still visible at night. Sidewalks, fences and light posts were sticky with gore. All washed in the blood of the lamb. I cut the old man’s throat and let the life drain from him and blend with the viscera already littering the street. Then, grasping one of his legs and the collar of his blue denim work shirt, I pitched him into a pile of discarded … Continue reading Haraam-O-Rama

Flammable Girl Sets House on Fire

I It wasn’t actually all that long before Mark had started screwing around with local girls. Less than a year, she guessed. At least as far as she knew. She’d been warned about it ahead of time, of course. That living in Southeast Asia would wreck her marriage. That Western men were incapable of resisting all that flirtation and adoration. She guessed she shouldn’t have been surprised Mark had succumbed. And she guessed, when she really thought about it, she wasn’t. By this point, there was so much tension between the two of them anyway. There was mutual disdain that … Continue reading Flammable Girl Sets House on Fire

If Only in My Dreams

He likes melancholy Christmas songs best, ones that evoke the disappointment of kids having opened up all their presents and now having nothing left to look forward to or a mess of wrapping paper, tissue and ribbons strewn all around a living room that now needs to be cleaned up and thrown out with next week’s trash. Maybe the aftermath of a holiday party where the host sits alone amid the blinking lights and mistletoe sipping the lukewarm dregs of someone else’s eggnog and brandy. Where the treetops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow. How … Continue reading If Only in My Dreams

The Williams Maxim

It was one of those days of indignity where even the simplest tasks ended in failure. A trip to the bank became a bureaucratic farce of extra paperwork. An action performed successfully countless times like hailing a taxi or buying lunch on the street somewhere ended in failure. “This place won today,” one of our colleagues used to announce from time to time. “All I can say is that today I am defeated.” On this particular day of defeat, we sat commiserating in the office, laughing in that frustrated way that signals final surrender to a greater malign force. One … Continue reading The Williams Maxim