BREATH OF CITIES: American cities make me feel lonely. I shed my sense of isolation whenever I enter the metropolises of Asia, whether Bangkok, Beijing, Chengdu, or one of the many seaport cities in the Shandong Province. It doesn’t matter what time, what day. There’s always pedestrians walking, running, and dancing through the streets. The comforts of privacy are obliterated in favor of forced proximity. Every congregation is painted a different shade of humanity; eclectic joy, nonplussed curiosity, vivid ire, nauseating alienation. Loneliness has a way of amplifying with separation. Sorrow transmutes into frustration, regret dissolves into rage. Lost among the throngs, it’s easy to ponder the philosophical tap dance of social ineptitude, connections forged by accidental occlusion. Scooters abound, subways are packed, parks are filled. I feel like an ant who wants to learn how to swim. Los Angeles has permitted me to build hundreds of walls around myself. Emotional fortifications, psychological barricades—I drive thousands of miles inside a mechanical box that safely partitions me off from thousands of strangers. I empathize and weep when I read a tragic piece of news, then go back inside my maze and flip off my cell phone so I can rue a day full of social idiocies. In Asia, I have no place to hide. I walk whenever I feel burdened by trivialities, laving away pettiness in the baptism of large crowds.