Nonfiction—Mendengar Saya Menguam


Sumatra, Indonesia

We couldn’t afford color blinds on our windows, not with kids in Disney shirts waving from the roadside, young women stooped over rubber trees, old men smiling with malachite teeth. There was the International conglomerate and the poor indigenous and all that separated us were barbed-wire fences and fat bank accounts. I spent my day learning U.S. History; my nights playing soccer with a ball of teak root. Some locals dropped a hornet nest on my head. I thought 9/11 occurred in Kuala Lampur.


Tianjin, China

The skies were gray. There were no pigeons but deadly chemicals disguised as bread crumbs and iron spikes on rooftops. We couldn’t let the pets outside – I wondered if it was because of the poison or the markets where vendors lined their stalls with freshly-gutted dogs. The Chinese saw us less as bourgeois and more as barges. Strangers would call their friends over to laugh at our large feet. A business man wanted my picture by a bull statue’s testicles. Poverty had been swept behind smiling skyscrapers and the endless ranks of cranes. Our U.S. passports could only get us so far. From there on it was knowing which barbershops cut your hair and which were fronts for brothels.


Lecheria, Venezuela

We lived in rich man prison – a network of mansions connected by a network of canals. Transport included travel-by-yacht. I’d take the boat to the Mall, tie her up, watch a film with English subtitles. Or take her to open water and fish like Ernest Hemingway. We said what we wanted about Hugo Chavez. The taxi drivers never agreed with us. Nothing could stop our wanton – not the insurgents, not the kidnappers who took our neighbors, not the pirates asking for agua with pistols behind their backs, not the man who collapsed in the Wendy’s drive-through with a bullet in his shoulder.


Santa Barbara, California

I’m idling incognito, an exclusive ooze, wasting away with a cynical smile. There are scars on my legs from jungle hornets, a little red book full of Mao. I think in languages I never use. I walk along landing strips and thumb airplanes and would never play tricks on Gimpel the Fool. I don’t belong.

I am expatriate, both brahmin and untouchable.