Recently by Emily Maloney:

 

The woman was decked out in a black one-piece bathing suit, her face matte and her body shiny. She wore gold bangles, gold platform heels, and a gold belt with a Miss Venezuela crown belt buckle so large that it looked like a rodeo or boxing trophy. And her pose — she wasn’t smiling, but with an acrylic nailed hand on one jutting hip, she was looking at the viewer as if she was destined for better things than the present moment.

This photo of the Miss Venezuela contestant had been ironed onto the matching oversized T-shirts of the group of people standing in front of me in line to get into the Miss Venezuela pageant. So here the contestant was: powerful, cold and unattached looking, but in a picture that was rippling over the normal drooping breasts… More…

 

Page one of my scrapbooking-weekend scrapbook would contain a cardstock minivan pasted onto a gray chalk outline of a Virginia highway. A photo of my face would be slipped into the driver’s window, and my hands would be cut out and pasted to a cardstock wheel at a sturdy 10 and two.

Renting a minivan to get to the Chantilly, Virginia, convention had been an inside joke with myself about going undercover as a scrapbooker for a story on the scrapbooking phenomenon. But the joke turned on me (as inside jokes with yourself usually do) when I ended up finding the van on the way to the convention to be a comfy and spacious drive with enough bass to make it sound like Jay-Z himself was carpooling with me to the convention. By the time I arrived at… More…

The National Museum of Crime and Punishment opened in Washington, D.C., two weeks ago with McGruff the Crime Dog greeting guests outside the entrance. The museum (which was financed by an Orlando lawyer and produced in conjunction with the Fox TV show America’s Most Wanted) strives to bring interactivity and entertainment to a museum about crime. I visited on a soft opening day, and then again the next day for the grand opening, the major difference between these days being that on grand opening day, McGruff high-fived me at the door, John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted was rumored to be in the building, and entrance was free for all law enforcement officers.

 

Both days, though, were united by the strange tonal shifts one experiences when one engages in silly fun, reads random factoids, and is then… More…

 

In Japan, most of us in the dorm honestly preferred to meet and talk in the communal shower rather than have people over to our rooms because the shower was more spacious and less intimate than our rooms. The dorms were narrow, and they took on the smell of our trash, our dirty laundry, our angst, and most of us were of the opinion that it was best not to bring too many people into that.

I let my neighbor Miyuki into my room one late fall night, though, because I was tired of holding the door open and talking to her in the hallway, which was cold and had florescent light. Miyuki was blinky, scratchy, frizzy-haired, and a little bit darker than most girls. Once she was in my room sitting on my futon —looking wide-eyed… More…

 

At the Lancaster Heritage Museum I read a standard Amish school assignment that said, “As dead leaves ruin a lawn, so bad habits ruin a life.”  On the page there was a simple drawing of a tree with leaves falling to a lawn. Underneath the lawn the instructions read, “Write a bad habit on top of each leaf.” Three of the leaves on the ground had already been filled in with “Poor Grammar,” “Pride,” and “Carelessness,” all bad habits I could probably attribute to myself. I took a seat on a wooden school bench in the museum with the notebook of assignments and got to work on thinking about how I should fill in the rest of the ditto. I would definitely have to include “Aimlessness” on one leaf, “Compulsive Sarcasm” on another, as well as “Distrust of… More…

 

“I have a car,” he whispered in my ear while we danced, and for a moment I was tempted to whisper back, “Me too. It’s a Corolla. Do you know anything about how to fix window seals?”

For the last six months I danced every week at a place with a $3 cover called Andrea’s Cha Cha Cha. On voice mail messages I left for friends in Portland, meant to entice them into coming out and dancing with me, I called it Andrea’s Chach or Andrea’s Cha Cha, and my friends rarely called or even texted back to say they couldn’t make it. So I started to go alone after work. I paid my $3 cover and made my way down to the basement where I hopped onto a bar stool in my work clothes and waited to… More…

 

At one point on a bus trip in Japan, I heard two foreigners wondering aloud about how best to prepare some Japanese root vegetables they had seen in the supermarket, and it took everything in me not to interject the answer, which I knew. That’s when I realized, to my amazement, that I had somehow become an expert on Japan. I had never met one of those I liked, and had never set out to become one.

I am not sure how it happened. I guess first I learned the language, which I blame on my addiction to the Japanese women’s magazines in the back of my high school classroom. I was a sucker for their elegant craft ideas, crazy fashion photos, and dirty cartoons. But the major appeal of the language was that foreign words written in… More…

 

The first time I traveled around Japan I came across a capsule hotel with a live video feed outside that was broadcasting the guests inside relaxing in towels in a steam room. It seemed like a weird invasion of privacy. In real time I could see the sweat puddling up in the crease between one salary-man’s breasts and gut. Other men were walking around in towels and rubbing their own shoulders seemingly oblivious to the video camera that was broadcasting their image onto the street, yet I imagined it was that very live feed that had enticed them into checking in in the first place. They knew that people outside on the street were watching them relax in the semi-nude, but they seemed too warm and clean to care.

I wanted to check in. This capsule was just… More…

At the bouldering gym my instructor was wearing a shell-and-nut necklace. A choker, really. He was ripped and humble like most climbers, with the defined veiny forearms of a heroin addict, but the good nature and good looks of someone who gets high the natural way: from climbing rocks and walls.

I hadn’t been at all sure about even moving from my futon to the floor in the morning. But when I feel that way, sometimes I make myself leave my bed, get out of my house, and pursue some activity anyway, just to make things better. I left, the morning faded, and by late afternoon I was at the bouldering gym deciding that a sport like this, something done by healthy, hip people who probably love to get out of bed in the morning, sounded promising, so I decided to take a beginner’s lesson.

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I pulled a packaged alfajor that I bought for breakfast at the bus station out of my backpack and got into my new hotel room hide-a-bed. The photo on the foil packet of two sugar cookies held together by a thick layer of dulce de leche and coated in shiny chocolate promised a good time, but what the actual snack delivered, to my amazement, was a sensation that felt like 400 calories of pure, uncritical love. I spent some time in bed smelling the package.

When I offered the wrapper to my Israeli friend Hadar for her to smell, she turned me down from her bed, where she was examining the split ends of her curly blond bangs while she smoked.

“Disgusting,” she said. “Sweets are disgusting.” She pronounced the second syllable in a throaty way, but the amount of time and spit she spent on the… More…