“Hidden in Central Asia” by Steve Berman from Second Thoughts: More Queer and Weird Stories (Lethe Press, 2008).

This isn’t a short story, it’s a brand new genre: the horror essay, wherein our hero—close to succumbing to crushing loneliness—contemplates self-immolation.

Well, okay. That may be a tad hyperbolic. Or not. This is the recounting of a two-week trip the author made to China during graduate school, and how his fear of unfamiliar situations caused him to assume the persona of a straight man and flirt (and more) with a female, to the point where she assumed, not incorrectly, that he’d become her boyfriend.

My need for companionship, he writes, had overcome gender.  

See what I mean? It’s the freakin’ Twilight Zone. No, worse. It’s TLC’s My Husband’s Not Gay.

Thankfully, on a side trip to Mongolia (would that be up to Geisha Minor, do you suppose?), he joined a group who went in search of a club with a dance floor, and they wandered into a bar with an all-male clientele, which woke him from the evil spell he was under.

And now there’s really only one thing left to say: Then again, incidentally, if you’re that way inclined…you’re perfect just the way you are.

Except for the loneliness. That’s gotta go.

The author’s note following this entry is a must-read for anyone who has read his young adult novel Vintage.