The engineers of Planet Earth laid the tracks back to front and this caused a great deal of confusion—we’d think we were on the train to New York, but find ourselves lost in Istanbul. If we missed our stop, we could take the train past Sydney and sling-shot around back to the park’s entrance in twenty minutes, but it was still a point of concern for the managerial staff.
The day the trains shut off, we sat bored at the daily 11 a.m. huddle, next to a group of big bearded men who played tsars in Moscow.
“Can’t you just change the signs?” we asked, but no one listened. They were waiting for the day’s parts to be assigned.
It didn’t matter—we were twenty-three-year-old girls and this job was nothing serious. We were busy printing out graduate school applications that we never finished, taking shots of cinnamon-flavored whiskey at dive bars, making out with boys who sang in Weezer cover bands. We were just workers in Planet Earth, not guests.
Daisy was assigned the main performance, a tea ceremony in Tokyo. She was always your favorite—the only one who never forgot to put a spoon in the freezer before bed so that in the morning, she could press the metal against her eyelid to make a crease.
“Daisy Double-Eyelid,” we teased and kissed her hard on the cheek.
In the locker room, we stripped out of our cut-off shorts and muscle tanks and stepped into red and yellow kimonos.
Today you were all men: VIPs in ties and cufflinks on a corporate retreat. It didn’t matter to you if we were really Japanese or not. Most of us were born in America, second-generation, but for you, we pretended we barely spoke English. Our accents changed depending on the parts we were given: one day we staged Kabuki theater, the next we served pho in Vietnam.
Though we’d seen it a hundred times, when Daisy poured tea for you, we watched closely. We were proud of the straightness of her spine and her steady hands. How the tea’s steam brushed her chin.
“You’re so beautiful,” you said when it was over. You touched her white powdered cheek with the back of your hand.
Daisy smiled without teeth and bowed like she was supposed to. When she turned back to the kitchen, she didn’t know that the ends of her hair were clenched in your fist and after a few steps, her head jerked back.
You kept her there for a moment and it looked like a dance to us, the long black strands stretched across the open space, taut as a kite string.
“Such fine hair,” you said, before you finally let her go.
In the kitchen, we thought she’d cry pretty, but instead her thin eyebrows shook and her cheeks caved in on themselves. She smashed the teacups to the floor. She tore at her kimono until the seams gave way and she stood before us in nothing but black cotton underwear.
“Calm down,” we said, but our hands shook, too.
Daisy stopped and stared at us. On the other side of the door, we could hear your deep-throated laughter, the sound of glasses clinking.
“Where the fuck are we?” she asked.
“Tokyo,” we said. She shook her head and left us there with her mess.
By noon the trains had broken down, so Daisy must have walked half-naked through the streets of Planet Earth for a few hours before she reached the entrance, before she found herself spit back onto American streets. But she must’ve known then what we didn’t; that really we’d been in the same place the whole time.
We wanted to quit too, to walk straight back to our studio apartments or, hell, maybe play tourist for a few hours—gape at the monkeys in Bangladesh or explore the mini-Congo River with the muscled men who played Pygmies. But instead we cleaned up the kitchen and smiled at you and after that, we were tired, so we waited for the train.

Turkish Girls

“Before I left for Istanbul, my mother said taste the rose jam. She said, taste the rose jam, jam-e-jam...”


For some women, taking the higab—that permanent oath, that fabric tattoo—can be seen as a form of sacrifice but, for my sister Soraya, one of the most fashionable women of Cairo, if not Egypt, even the world, this would be the ultimate sacrifice.


“It’s blowjob never blow job. ATM is not where you take money out of a machine.”