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Girls, Girls, Girl

The girls looked bored. They slouched in plastic chairs, picked at their nails, crossed and uncrossed their toothpick legs. Neon shadows slashed their skin, deepened the dark places, made their bones look sharper than they really were. Men filtered through the open-air patio, Western guys in flip-flops and shorts. They wore the efficient expressions of informed ... [Continue Reading]

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The Goat Slaughter

My first thought was, I never thought blood was really so red. It looked like red paint, a Hollywood prop, thick and gloopy and nearly fluorescent. It looked so bright and alive that I struggled to believe it actually ran through human veins all the time; it seemed to possess too much energy to be contained. Whereas the eyes of the goats were instantly dead, pale and ... [Continue Reading]

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Remembering Jane

I’d known Jane less than 24 hours when she told me a secret she’d been carrying around for months. She was driving me to see her Swiss doctor to take care of a bladder infection I'd had since I came to Europe six weeks prior. I was backpacking with three 18-year-old guys, and I was thirsting to speak to a woman—something, at 17, I had been too naïve to know I’d ... [Continue Reading]

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“God Bless Big Oil”: Field Notes from the Land of Industrial Tourism

“You want to know why they always name a blast furnace after a woman?” asked a stout woman in dark sunglasses and a hardhat. “Because they’re hot, fiery, and temperamental.” A few in the gathered crowd laughed. It was a joke that both the overt tourists with their expensive cameras and the men who’d come together in their work boots and camouflaged caps, ... [Continue Reading]

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On the Rails in Phnom Penh

We called him Eat Pray Paul. Because there were two Pauls and they were more or less indistinguishable — both red-faced old dudes who’d been kicking out Cambodia for years, smoking ice, shagging prostitutes and losing teeth until there wasn’t a whole lot left. Both Pauls would wash up at George’s house from time to time, when shit got bad enough and they’d ... [Continue Reading]

Photo: Sarah Menkedickhttp://www.velamag.com

Refuge in Shroom Country

When Ella was 14, she asked her Lutheran pastor if he believed in God. Ella’s skepticism of organized religion had been growing, and after her confirmation she decided to confront her pastor about it directly. Ella has a direct, penetrating and at times unearthly gaze. She seems to possess the capacity to see into a person, into the squirming insides. His response ... [Continue Reading]

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The Air-Conditioned Traveler

It was December 2001. I was visiting Malaysia – more specifically, on this particular afternoon I was visiting the covered Central Market building in Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown – for the first time. My dad and my stepmom were three months into a three-year expat residency in KL, and I was a fresh-faced, jet-lagged rookie traveler, ready to take on Asia. My dad had ... [Continue Reading]

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Summer People

They arrive as the first dogwood trees are flowering. They trickle in at first, so few you don’t even notice. They come for the trees, the wide-open spaces, for the first hints of fresh spring air billowing down from the hilltops. You might notice one on the roadside snapping a photo, or another stopped dead in the middle of the road observing wild turkeys scratching at ... [Continue Reading]

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Confessions of the Hamam Non-Sisterhood

She flung the plastic bucket in my supine direction. The warm water leapt out, arched through the steaming black room and landed with a slap across my face. I gasped. I lay on my back, sopping wet and stripped down to my panties. I blinked the water from my eyes and stared up at the cement ceiling. There was a single hole where the daylight shot through like a laser or ... [Continue Reading]

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A Letter to My Thirties

Dear Thirties, You are a centrifugal force to be reckoned with: this, I concede from the outset. My twenties, inaugurated at a Madison bar with a fake ID, a naïve rapture at the eloquence of History PhD students, and nary a headache following quantities of alcohol that would now waylay me for days, have nothing on you. I have felt your steady creep, your spreading ... [Continue Reading]