The Neighbours

So I am holding up her hair while she throws up.

“Need more salt water”, she croaks, and I walk to the kitchen to fill up the glass.

“My diet starts tomorrow, I swear,” she knocks back another gulp of warm brine. I rush to bunch up her curly hair, streaks of Germanic blonde in that dark Kurdish gloriousness I have gently curled up in my fingers. She hates her hair. And her nose. And her skin. I know how she feels. But I love everything about her. I think she’s lovely, çök guzel.

We get drunk and smoke cigarettes while we dance around the house like strippers, in underwear and stilettos, except she always trips when she’s in stilettos, and we laugh our nineteen year old asses off.

It is summer in Western Australia, and the flies are abundant, when our living room is broken into and the dickheads have left the sliding glass door open. No common courtesy. Two laptops, a cellphone and they even took our favourite 50 Cent LP.

“Fuckin’ hell,” we say as the police showed up, two of them. They crack Perth boy smiles, take down our statements and dust the doors for fingerprints.

“Ninth one in a week, bloody wankers hey,” one of them, Alistair, the one writing things down and eyeing my skirt, especially the way Kader and I are stroking each other’s backs. We’re like cats overdosing on endorphins.

“I know hey,” I concur in that distinct West Coast Aussie drawl and light a cigarette, while Kader saunters indoors to chase out more flies. And of course Alistair and Jeremy take my number and say they would love to join us at Metros or the Church this weekend. Jeremy, the one like sunshine, recognizes my car, they say it’s always parked right in front of the Church, aren’t I afraid of the Vietnamese gangs?

Oh no, I tell them, they’re all friends of mine. I’m not Vietnamese but you know one Aussie Viet and they all stick up for you. We laugh when I tell them that it is Australia who has taught me how to drink beer, and then as a touch of patriotism, I bust out singing Advance Australia Fair. They almost piss themselves laughing. I am in love with Perth police officers.

Kader knows the entire Turkish community in Northbridge, the city centre for us young wandering fools. Everyone is from Istanbul. We go to late night doner kebab joints where I entertain everyone with my Turkish swear words and Kader throws everything up the moment we get home. But she isn’t losing weight, in fact, I am. I have simply stopped eating.

I never do drugs but the biggest drug dealer in Perth, Johnny owes me some money and his wife is in love with me, that’s why my car never gets roughed up and no one dares look me in the eye. Johnny is Vietnamese, and he escaped from California for something I never bothered to pry into. Everyone has a history. Angel, his wife, is from mainland China and her visa’s expired. But I don’t ever tell anyone.

They also have full access to my car and house when I am away. It has never occured to me to be careful of them, my mother raised me not to judge anyone or view people with contempt. So all my friends range from ambassadors’ kids with diplomatic immunity to Perth’s hoodrats. Even the homeless aboriginal down the street is my friend.

Kader and I, one rainy night when she tells me of the years of being her father’s plaything, whenever her mother was at the market, she was made to “suck on the candy”, or at least that’s the name of the game he played with her. But she’s still a virgin, she says, because he knew she still needed to get married one day, so the games never got that far. No Turkish guy would marry her if she weren’t a virgin. I tell her a too many men have the Madonna/Whore complex. The woman is either the virgin Mary or a complete utter slut. There’s no gray area. I don’t think we ever knew a day when we didn’t obsess about our hatred for our bodies, heartbroken over some guy, or fantasizing about killing ourselves. There’s nothing more beautiful than two broken girls being honest and angry, united in their suffering, yet desperately wanting to rescue their captors. I have never known a day I didn’t want to die. Americans call it depression, there’s a pill you can take for it. I call it being fucking honest about the state of the human condition. We are at war and no one gives a damn.

I tell Kader about the months I was kept locked up in a cell, humiliated, kicked senseless by my dad, and there was a vacuum cleaner and a couple of knives involved. After two months of being locked up I had resolved there was no God. And here we are, trying to die in a socially accepted way but so much fucking life in our youth.

Like the other night I went drifting at 120 km/hr drunk. Of course my car flew and landed in the roundabout and a foreign minister’s son took the rap for me. Indonesian royalty. While the whole time I was cheating on him. One day Kader touches my nipple out of the blue and I freeze her out. She moves back to Morley while I stay at my house in Karawarra, two more break-ins after that. I see a lot of Alistair and Jeremy, needless to say. They also helped me get my car out of that damn Kent Ridge roundabout.

I was the talk of the neighbours, so to speak.

Then I move to East Perth, partying way too hard, getting my heart broken all the time and fucking up my uni degree. I will never understand statistics. Kader doesn’t finish her molecular genetics research and goes back to Fethiye. We have a tearless goodbye at Perth International. We are used to sorrow and abandonment anyway. Is there anymore to cry about?

Johnny borrows more money from me and I will never end up seeing it back. It isn’t mine anyway, it’s Atonement Money, my aunt makes sure my parents wire me a shitload of money every few weeks for what they did to me. It is also uni money, but my mother makes it clear that I don’t deserve it. It depends on the day. Monday she alternates between crying with remorse and Tuesday she steely says she should have had that abortion back when she was 16, she wouldn’t have had to marry my dad, the neighbours had been gossiping. It was so embarrassing, she said, five months pregnant and showing in her shitty wedding dress, pretending to smile and be merry, when she knew what everyone was thinking and saying about her. Then she tells me methods she has thought of to end her life. I tell her I never asked to be born, if there were a fairy godmother to swap my life with hers, I would give anything. Then she starts crying again and asks me if I would ever forgive her. A few days later she will call me a dirty little whore, and asks me which strip club I am working at. I have learnt to be very tolerant at a young age. I tell her I should kill myself and that would solve the problem, she could be happy again. She says what would the neighbours think of her?

Then she asks me what the meaning of life was, as usual, in hysterics. I say that’s what I’ve been trying to find out. I have stopped eating during these years. One day I devour a whole box of oranges and have to go to the ER. My mother tells people I must have had an abortion. She doesn’t have to worry, I think Dad kicked the ovaries out of me. I am so skinny and so high, “high like a bird in the sky,” as Johnny says in his funny pidgin English, the adrenalin of starvation is making me the envy of my peers. I keep being asked if I have a portfolio, that I should be a catalogue model. I hate modeling, I refuse to watch commercials or read fashion magazines, to me they are the product of a patriarchal society trying to distract women, women who haveno idea they’re being subliminally manipulated into submission. But it is nice being skinny, everybody likes me, they like it when they see bones. Angel is skinny too. She only eats an apple a day and supplements the rest with alcohol. One night at the Church she slips half an ecstasy pill into my mouth and I pretend to down it with beer, but I spit all of it out on the floor when she isn’t looking, then I wash out my mouth in the restroom. I eat slightly more than apples but still no one asks me to eat more. I think my mom hates me even more for being skinny. She says the neighbours say I’m an immoral whore, that in Perth I sleep with a different guy every night, except whores are smarter, at least they get paid.

Every day I hate my skin, my eyes, my shoulders, my feet, nothing is good about me. I don’t deserve to live. I look like a freak in the mirror. I spend every cent of Atonement Money in my account, and charge up all my supplemental cards. The neighbours in East Perth either call me one of them or that spoilt brat princess with the sweet car. Weeks go by on a steady diet of booze and dancing, and going to lectures hungover.

My mother is a romance writer. Or erotica, whatever you wanna call it. Personally, I can’t stand romance, and anyone can write erotica. Anyone. Same goes for children’s books. It’s like if you wanted to make a shitload of money you’d write children’s fiction. Doesn’t make you a writer, just a good nose for the market. I’m way too obstinate though, I refuse to read something I can write. It’s like going to a restaurant and eating something you could have made for yourself at home, only you could have made it better. I have disdain for her romance novels and she thinks my poetry is bourgeois and pretentious.

When I was thirteen Mother bought me my first beer, or three. At some bar. I got so drunk this old man, a friend of hers, put his hand on my left breast and I didn’t know what to do. The whole time he was smiling and laughing, he looked like a weasel. Mother just ushered him away back into his chair and that was the end of it. Then I got home and threw up five times outside the front door. I think she was amused. She said she would rather have me drink with her and build up a resistance than to be naive and sheltered and then get date raped. Well Mum, I did get date raped.

That would probably amuse you too.

© 2012 Alicia Khoo

New York City

**Disclaimer for the real “neighbours”:

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


Love in the Time of Quantum Physics

So here I am sitting on my bed trying to use quantum physics and astronomy to cope with grief, that I couldn’t have possibly lost anything or made any mistakes or have any regrets if what we have are dimensions and a parallel timeline and the other “me”s made different choices and I now travel alongside “myselves” on a different course, never crashing, not worried about the finish line, only about the vastness of space and the magnitude of light years, galaxies, constellations, a billion suns. My best friend in Rome calls me and I tell her I am hurting. It is evening over there. She says, “It’s ok you’re hurting, it means something broke. If something broke, it means it still works.”


“Well, something works all right, everything, everything still works,” I shed tears into my morning coffee. “So fix it,” she says.


And suddenly I remember. Huddled in the corner is a backpack. I put down the coffee and buy a one way ticket to walk along the Silk Road, right where it started in China. It’s amazing how much gold and silver had been traded for thread that comes out of a worm; how many lives gained and lost and transformed by commerce, faith, winds of monsoons and thirsty camels. As I plot my route, I go into caves and taverns and speak with merchants and kiss strange men who are on the same journey, for different reasons. I sit on canoes and drink in waters of rivers, touch uncut diamonds and lose oxygen in high altitudes. I plunge into prehistoric forests and dance and shoot game and rub soil on my face. I steal honey from bees because I am hungry. I will fall and die and break all over again and learn to say goodbye elegantly. I find friends and family on the streets of India, Persia, hanging off rocks with my fingers.

Like the history of mankind and the migration of peoples, we are all seeking, searching, wandering– Mongolia; Kazakhstan; Istanbul, where you cross the Bosphurus River and one minute you’re in Europe, the next—Asia. As empires rise and fall and faces launch a thousand ships, dynasties overthrown by concubines and gypsies with dreams, I will get everything stolen from me and despair once again, but out of that despair, I will suddenly remember. I will remember. Then there will be a call. And I shall come home again.

Alicia Khoo,
Costa Mesa, CA
October 2013


On Forgiveness


I find forgiveness to be such an overused and worn out word. It has been said to be one of the expressions of love and kindness–some say the way of being perfected. If mercy means to not mete out the punishment deserved (justice), and forgiveness means to release someone from the debt (condemnation) that stems from the wrong done to your personhood (the boundaries of your mind, will, emotions, body, loved ones) or property, I think perhaps from now on I will say, “I release you from everything you have ever done, including humiliation, deceit and betrayal. You owe me nothing, no less, no longer.”

And if grace (unmerited favor) means to not only forgive (release), but to do good to them (Christ-like), then Christ help us all! I’m running on empty with grace.

I think practicing forgiveness might be all I can muster right now. Let’s not push it.


Pain and disease awaken us to convictions which are necessary to our moral condition.
– Samuel Johnson (a/k/a Dr. Johnson) (“The Great Cham of Literature”)

Exit Crimée and walk along Avenue de Flandre


Image © Alicia Khoo

Coffee, cigarettes and croissants, Parisian petit-dejeuner. Pickpockets not
optional but complimentary. You won’t see them coming until you get home

and realize your underwear is missing. I meet a curator from a museum in
Venezuela, she is here for a world conference on what to do with the

evolution and possible demise of a certain art form. I meet a young Dutch
girl and we spend many nights sipping licorice tea all
bundled up in H&M sweaters ranting about politics, sparkling by sunsets in

Chinese traiteurs moaning and grieving about lost love and how much we
adore an English chef who keeps serving us dessert and croutons he made

from pain tradition on top of Caesar salads drowned in melted grilled goat’s cheese;
a boy from Brazil who came here for two days from Barcelona and ended up

staying for three years sitting with me at night in front of the Eiffel Tower watching
it glitter and talking about the sand of São Paulo, and then we go off to Oberkampf

and meet an Australian boy who almost died of cancer five times and now just loves
to dance and be generally irreverent. We migrate in flocks to this city to find something

new or old to get addicted to and abandon, get so angry and feel so alive, cuss and say how
much we hate Paris and it smells like pee but we always come back to the métro

graffiti, racial wars, poetic violence, all trying to secretly overcome the grave by
becoming personal moveable feasts and inimitable livers. If you ever recognize me

again, I’ll meet you at Jacques Bonsergent where we pissed our skirts laughing
and whistling that bitter winter night, so many possibilities ago, before we both broke and

died and died and left hope and ideals laying in ashtrays, cafés and boulangeries where people
spit out coffee and exclaim how burnt and sour it is and it is not Sarkozy’s fault

this time but our own damn fault.

© Alicia Khoo

NaPoWriMo Day 22

Eblouie par la Nuit by ZAZ

Crimée est une station du métro de Paris sur la ligne 7, dans le 19e arrondissement de Paris.
La station est ouverte en 1910.

Cette station porte le nom de la guerre de Crimée (1855-1856), presquîle dUkraine sur la mer Noire, vit la coalition comprenant la Turquie, le Royaume-Uni, la France et le Piémont affronter la Russie qui fut vaincue, notamment avec la prise de Sébastopol. Le conflit se termina par le traité de Paris en 1856.
Bassin de la villette , Canal de l’Ourcq, Le quartier commerçant de l’avenue de Flandre ( Flandre, Monoprix, fleuriste, bars-tabac, restaurants)

Things I Need to Tell my Therapist

I'm Nuts

I think I am three or four days behind with NaPoWriMo…thanks all you lovely people for appreciating my pieces and being so encouraging. But before I catch up on poetry, I just wanted to express my outrage. I am so outraged my stomach hurts! So this should be cathartic. What am I outraged about…well….let me count the ways, in no particular order:

1) Boston;

2) Gang rapes in India;

3) The sex-grooming gang phenomenon in Europe (if the statistics show recent Pakistani immigrants, then publish those findings instead of sweeping it under the rug to be “politically correct”, FACTS ARE FACTS!! I have absolutely nothing against Pakistanis in general, but it has been observed that the educational system in Pakistan teaches and condones misogynistic behavior, and this correlates with the high percentage of sexual assault offenders in recent years having recently migrated from Pakistan!!! It is not about ethnicity, it is about the way a particular culture views human rights!!!);

4) People talking more about Psy’s Gentleman track than what is happening with our children and our environment;

5) We care more about guns and wars and finance than education or fighting sex-trafficking and domestic violence;

6) My stomach still hurts, I think it got worse.

7) We start wars over OIL???? Money?? Power??

8) Wars are profit-generating opportunities for those in the weapons industry, that’s where our TAXES are going, we work for money so that money will be used in a way that ensures our exploitation;

9) Industrialized nations trying to “civilize” the agrarian civilizations who never asked for any bloody help in the first place, what with their needles and steel and concrete, they were doing perfectly fine before imperialism/invasion!!! And if they allowed you to colonize them, be GRATEFUL instead of ENTITLED!!!

10) There’s such a thing as an “illegal” immigrant?? Then how the heck did anyone get anywhere in the first place??

11) The media fanning the whole North Korea nuclear crap when all it is doing (as the world powers know so well) is affecting the way people trade in commodities, fear is definitely a potent way of control.

And the list goes on. Thank you for listening. I shall commence writing more poetry and try to sleep tonight.

Peace and love,


NaPoWriMo Day 16

Image courtesy of

the very talented Macha spreads joy, at

(Thank you!)

Who Ate My Camel?


So I guess we’ve all heard the news of North Korea threatening to bomb America (and the crazy fluctuation of stocks and shares), China’s keeping it real cool, the single mother prostitute and drug issue in Afghanistan, people really regretting the Harlem Shake, and someone in Timbuktu ate Francois Hollande’s camel. I would like to come back in thirty years and revisit this piece, if a) I’m not dead by virtue of a nuclear meltdown; b) I’m not North Korean by then; or c) I’m eating international political gifts. Excuse me while I go to the store to buy more Spam.

© Alicia Khoo

NaPoWriMo Day 12

All You Can Eat

7 Train

Clanging chains that tie carriages together on the 7 train to Queens; we meander as stars crossing the dusk in a paralleled drifting, Biggie’s face on graffiti ten feet tall, snowed over. The guy next to me looks like Santa Claus who got robbed whilst asleep. His torn gloves wave as he shows me $4.50 in quarters and dimes.

All you can eat breakfast,
can you imagine?
Unlimited ham, toast, eggs
and coffee.

Oh he loves the coffee. All this fit for a king! For $4.50, somewhere in Forest Hills. He tells me of how the attorney took his inheritance of four million dollars; how his whole family had died after he returned from Vietnam. I pass him a business card, promising pro bono help. Tonight we are faceless, classless, one hoping the rent will be paid tomorrow, the other hoping to find a telephone booth that works; his obituary filled with euphemisms only I will write.

© Alicia Khoo

NaPoWriMo Day 10