Written by Chelsea Marie Hicks

“Why am I here?” I harshly inquired to the tightly crammed room full of chain-smoking Egyptian officials.

Ashes smudged their desktops, which were covered in a mess of documents—the unorganized details of bodies moving in, out, and around their borders. This private office, occupying the innards of the terminal authority in the Cairo International Airport, mimicked a boys’ club—a swamp of officers keen on flexing their might and taking full advantage of their positions within a regime bent on suppressing protestations and requiring lagniappe from whomever.

After Oliver was waved through the passport check, the official behind the counter ordered me to step aside and wait as other male travelers continued to be quickly examined. Holding on to my passport, my captor guided me across lines of travelers to a small airport staff room.

“150 pounds,” one stout man demanded flatly without explanation.

“For what, exactly?” I asked in search of a justification.

My passport was likely one of many that would be taken hostage over the course of the day for violations unnamed or imagined out of smoke-choked air. The serious man who brought me to this back room, after examining stamp laden pages of my passport, stood behind a table among his comrades and lit a cigarette. His momentary grin a break from character brought on by the relief of nicotine, the company of tired fellows, the satisfaction of power, or any combination of factors. Whatever brought on this brief baring of teeth scratched at my core sense of justice as my eyes glared at my passport gripped in his grasp.

“150 pounds.”

“I’m not paying you until you tell me what this payment is for,” I firmly stated to the impassive and bored looking official sitting before me, his affiliates staring in annoyance at the interaction already exceeding the allotment of time for this cash exchange.

“You overstay. 150 pounds,” he announced again with only the slightest detectable emotion beginning to show its presence.

Though from the moment I entered the room, I knew I would exit with a lighter wallet, I refused to do so without some show of resistance. Thinking, perhaps, that this man could be caught in a lie.

“No, I did not overstay. How long is a visa valid?”

This question gave him pause and, comically, he turned it back on me.

“What do you think?”

“How long is a visa valid?” I reiterated, in a display of cat and mouse.

The intense lethargy of his stare asserted that he would speak of nothing until I spoke and perhaps assumed a disproportion between our values of time in this current situation; I had a flight to catch and a seized passport; he had another day in the office.

“The visa is for 90 days, is it not?” I asked.

An admission of defeat, each male present witnessing another back and forth that would end in their favor. These days, and perhaps throughout their entire exhausting careers, the resulting outcome always went this way.

“Visa is for 45 days. You overstay. 150 pounds.”

He commanded this statement plainly without eye contact or feeling, but there was a familiarity in his voice as though only the numerical values changed from day to day in this default.

“Fine. I require a receipt for my boss,” I replied sharply, thrusting three 50 pound notes into the outstretched palm of my extorter.

This demand simultaneously irritated and entertained the men in the room. Their chests puffed out, heads held high, blazers emblazoned with medals of some sort of honor, stacks of cash aplenty on the table. The power belonged to them and we all knew it. And the power continues to belong to them and most of us, myself included, are powerless to cease any of it from them. At least not on our own.


Five years and then some

I’ve traveled to many places in the recent past, but I haven’t been here.

Not in a long time.

I make no promises in regards to the content that will fill this space tomorrow and ever-onward though in this moment I’m biased towards action in resurrecting the writer.

In the five years and then some since my last post I became an educator, met and married the love of my life, and continued exploring our weird and wondrous world, meeting talented, passionate humans everywhere I’ve gone.

There are, and will always be, countless stories to weave into words. May I commit more of my waking life to their creation.


Written by Chelsea Marie Hicks

Sometimes I dream of burning metal,
an aneurism smelling stains, staining smells into the nostrils of my nightmares,
places daydreams go to visit, rare to return.
This is a place speckled blue and bright,
dark matter, rays of fire, swirling in a phosphorescent haze.
Our mind’s made up of galaxies, battling and bending,
breaking when we fall out of

Romance of the Typewriter

Written by Chelsea Marie Hicks

There’s something so elegant about the typewriter. It’s clicks clacking, paper reeling, disappearing, reappearing with stamps, our words tattooed onto white skin. I miss the pleasure of punching keys; the tragedy of mistakes, the beauty of perfect lettering and alignment. I miss that commotion that typewriters bring to writing, a symphony lacking from my pen. My typewriter remains on its shrine of silk scarves from Bohemia, awaiting the oil of my fingers to beat it back to life. If only my Corona could come with me to whatever seas my diver directs me to.

Searching For Salt and Finding the Bearded Woman

Written by Chelsea Marie Hicks

I sought the taste of neon in the morning, its glow an apparent absence only present in the irises of night crawlers dripping pale, waiting for the sun.

I searched my skin for treasure troves and salt quarries, only ever finding pieces of paper torn and folded into creases and scars.

I hunted through dreams to days too cold for the scent of tangerines to wet my fingers, or apricots to taint my tongue with sweetness.
There’s no luck for senses seeking fruits in the winter.

When the ice cracked and dripped through drainpipes, I came to find the circus, folding origami flowers out of a field’s colors, somewhere, not here.
The bearded woman grabbed my hand, she said I was an acrobat and not to bend to break. She taught me how to do both.

Whatever rope line led to reality was neither real nor rope nor strands of thickly braided hair, though it resembled all three.
And then, somehow, came the sun.

Sheets That Smell Just Like A Day At The Beach

Written by Chelsea Marie Hicks

At first she only tasted the faint smell of salt seasoning the air, unaccompanied by any sight or sound. Her view was enveloped in a darkness so consuming she was momentarily convinced that salt had forever been painted black–that her memory of its whiteness was flawed, likely misinformed by a strange dream, a wrong deja vu. She could feel the rough grains of salt between her toes and would only realize what rubbed her skin when the light bent open her eyes. There brown, grey sand slipped through her and the sensory flood swelled as sea foam left its fading bubbles clinging above her ankle; limbs instantly washed over by the wet chill of an unforgiving sea, its crashing whistle ringing in her ears; the bath of warm sunlight dripping from her taut white bodice.

This was just like a day at the beach except that it wasn’t. Wherever Claire had just awoken was nowhere within the realm of the familiar despite the seething sensation that she’d done this all before.

List Season : : Books Read in 2011

1. Americana by Don DeLillo
2. Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick
3. Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim
4. Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis
5. You Shall Know Our Velocity! by Dave Eggers
6. The Subterraneans by Jack Kerouac
7. Hot Water Music by Charles Bukowski
8. Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond
9. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
10. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
11. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
12. Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nobokov
13. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
14. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell
15. Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami
16. Breakfast At Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
17. 1984 by George Orwell
18. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
19. The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson
20. Collapse by Jarrod Diamond
21. Between Parentheses by Roberto Bolaño
22. Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
23. Miss Lonelyhearts/The Year of the Loccust by Nathaneal West
24. The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
25. A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
26. The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
27. The Pale King by David Foster Wallace
28. Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
29. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
30. Point Omega by Don DeLillo
31. Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku

Ten days

Though I seem to be constantly in a state of self-reflection, I have yet to put into words what this past year has been, what I’ve experienced, how it has changed me, what it’s meant to me, the people I’ve met and the sights that I’ve seen, and perhaps I won’t really be able to fully  articulate such reflections until some unknown point in the future. The strange, exciting, sort of sad (all right, quite sad) and a bit frightening thing is that I’m leaving Korea in ten days and I have no idea what I’m doing.

These last few months I’ve spent flip-flopping between staying and going, and there’s this never-ending dialogue occuring between my inner beings arguing over the legitimate reasons to make an attempt at creating a life and career for myself in America and the adventurer begging me not to go anywhere too familiar, to continue the journey to foreign territories with languages indecipherable and cultures unknown. I have a very loose plan for my not-so-distant future and I’m thrilled by the numerous prospects and oddly as ease with the uncertainty of what’s to come; it’s entirely possible that in a few months I’ll be en-route to Seoul for round two, but the possibilities also include various other Asian cities, locations in America and maybe even a return to eastern Europe. As I’ve mentioned, I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m confident, a bit strangely so, that everything will work itself out as it should.

Figuring out the future is not, however, the point of this post. Tonight likely isn’t the night to get down deep into it, but I’m seriously so astonished to realize that I’ve spent a whole year living in Korea and when I think back to my first days here and the person I was then, it feels so bizarre because I recognize how much I’ve grown. When I moved to Seoul I was in dire need and want for an unfamiliar land and despite my rapture for the adventure I was embarking on, I came to this country torn apart with a broken heart desperate to mend. Whatever love I had to give, I gave it to this city and now I find myself preparing to pack my bags to leave my love behind. Seoul is a magical place that I’ve become so attached to and even with ten days to go, I know it’s going to tear a bit of me apart to fly away. My life here is a wonderful and exciting one that I very well may kick myself for leaving behind, but I suppose the thing that’s helping me to maintain my composure is that little grain of an imagined future that has me coming back here–an imagination that very well might become a reality.

I don’t have it in me this evening to review my year and share the tales that have yet to find themselves surviving infinitely in the interwebs, but I couldn’t keep quiet the excitement and anxiety wriggling all about me. In ten days I’ll be back in America and for all I know I may fall back in love with my motherland, but regardless of where I decide to call home for the next however long, I must note that I’ll be leaving a piece of myself behind in Seoul-land that someday I must retrieve. Ten days from now is not goodbye for me and this place, it’s simply a see you later.

A month of stories… Day #?

Well, it was a good idea, but forcing myself to write a story everyday took on a feeling that too closely resembled force feeding when I simply wasn’t hungry. The stories created from my failed project are ones I’m surprisingly fond of and hope to expand and edit further. It wouldda couldda been an excellent exercise, but some days I just don’t feel that necessary spark to hit the pavement.