Section II: Chapter 11

Everyone was silent, as Subhash and Naima entered the conference room and took their seats.

Nathuram grinned once Subhash gazed across the table. Instantly, Subhash jumped to his feet.

“What the fuck is he doing here?” Subhash exclaimed.

“This is only temporary,” Nathuram explained but Subhash repeated the question while pointing at the extra person between Emiliano and David.

Naima calmed him down, and Nathuram informed the group that their newest member, who smiled at everyone, was from the student body and therefore, promised them more access into networking events in order to grow UF.

Subhash rushed into the hallway, and Naima found him splashing water on his face in the kitchen sink.

“I can’t believe that fucker!”

“Lower your voice…”

“You all remember what that monster did to us right? How he made high-school a living hell!”

Naima took a step forward and Subhash’s breathing slowly returned to normal.

“Let’s finish the meeting.”

“I can’t.”

“Please. This is not helping.”

Subhash turned around and opened the back door that led into the parking lot. Naima paused before returning to the conference room to write notes.

 

            . . .

 

Grace was lying in bed. Maria and Naima shared the floor, typing on their laptops and listening to music.

“Did you know that Irish people weren’t always considered white?” Grace said while flipping through a book.

Maria lowered her headphones. “What are you reading?”

Grace showed her the cover. “It’s by these sociologists at Temple,” she said.

“Aren’t your finals starting early?” Maria asked.

“Yea, so?”

“Are you changing majors?”

“Meh. We’ll see. Why? Are you banking on having a lawyer friend?”

“No. We have enough in our family. I’m concerned you’ll be repeating what happened last semester.”

“Jeez. It’s okay. I’m not the type to plan for tests months ahead.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being diligent.”

“I didn’t say there was. But you never step out of your lane.”

“Not true. I’m taking psychology next semester.”

“Really? Why?”

“Naima told me it could help with being a doctor.”

“Naima,” Grace said, “Did you actually say that?”

Naima heard their muffled voices, and turned off the music.

“Said what?”

“That psychology is important.”

“Why? It’s not?”

“No. I’m just curious. What are you working on anyway? You haven’t stopped all morning.”

“It’s her presentation.”

“Ohhhh. Wow. I thought you were done with all the interviews.”

“I was. I’m still putting it together.”

“You don’t usually take this long.”

“Did something happen?”

“I’m trying to make it perfect.”

“Did your professor say something?”

“Is that the dude with the gray beard, the one who looks like Gandalf? I fucking hate that guy.”

“That’s another one. This one is much younger but he did have some criticisms for my previous assignment.”

“He didn’t like you using ‘I’?”

“He thought it made me sound biased.”

“But did you tell him about Collins?”

“Wait, let her finish. What did he exactly tell you?”

“I’m okay,” Naima told them, and grabbed an iced coffee from their fridge. Her chest felt tight. The Raritan River was outside their window, carrying branches and leaves.

“You need to study,” Maria said.

“Oh my god! You’re worse than my brother!” Grace exclaimed.

 

 

. . .

 

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            Muslims must learn how to be American, said the Congressman at a press conference this morning.

            Subhash bolded letters on the posters in red marker as the voices from the TVs in the nearby rooms snuck into the center’s main lounge.

Subhash assumed no one else from UF would’ve been there since it was the afternoon. But Nathuram and David appeared in the corner of his eye. Subhash gripped the marker tighter. Nathuram whispered into David’s ear and David chuckled.

Subhash’s neck turned hot.

David laughed, and Subhash marched upto them.

“What’s so fucking funny?”

“Nothing. We were just sharing a joke.”

“Yea. Well, tell me then. I like jokes.”

“Oh wow. Is this you being hard right now?”

“I like that choice of color by the way,” David interjected, “Do you plan on buying nail polish with that shade?”

Subhash glared. “Did he tell you that?” he demanded.

Nathuram and David continued to laugh.

“What did that asshole tell you?” Subhash persisted, until Emiliano grabbed and pulled him away.

“You’re making shit worse,” Emiliano said as they were in the parking lot and Subhash had finally stopped pacing.

“What did he tell all of you?” Subhash said, “And fucking be honest.”

Emiliano explained that during an earlier discussion some details from the past emerged.

Subhash balled his hands into fists and caught the next bus to the main campus even as Emiliano pleaded for him to stay. Subhash’s heart was pounding against his chest as everyone else around him were laughing and texting their friends.

 

. . .

 

 

            Naima went with Grace and Maria to the student-run supermarket for microwavable lunches but once there, she hovered around the magazines before heading back. A car honked, and she kept her head down. Men were heard laughing. She entered her building and went to her room and continued typing.

Subhash took her to Easton Avenue for pad Thai and after, they explored more of French Street, strolling under Mexican flags hanging from storefronts. When it was dark, they went to Highland Park for Peruvian chicken and ice cream.

“I don’t understand why people are so obsessed with Batman,” she said as they ate their ice cream on a bench, “He’s some grumpy guy who beats people up and acts like the world is always falling apart.”

Subhash nodded and continued licking.

“Have you heard of The Watchman?” Naima asked.

Subhash shook his head no, even though Naima had told him a year ago what it was.

“Alan Moore is a genius!” Naima exclaimed, “He imagines super heroes as people, not as myths. If someone like a Batman would’ve been around our time, he would’ve stood for fascism because that’s what super heroes represent: a buttoned up conservative ideology. It’s a belief that we need someone to lead us and be our savior.”

They continued talking at Naima’s dorm, as she played Guitar Hero in the floor lounge. Occasionally, someone would walk by but the hallways were mostly quiet.

With the plastic guitar slung around her shoulder, she played songs from the Beatles’ playlist.

“All I’m saying is that they’re overrated,” Naima said.

“What about Lucy in the Sky of Diamonds?” Subhash asked as he watched from the couch.

“Trash,” she said while punching in the keys and scoring points.

“They should come out with a Guitar Hero for rap music.”

“How would that work? Do you earn points by singing the lyrics?”

“I think they have one. It’s like a DJ turntable.”

“Shit. Shit. Shit.”

“You’re fucking up big time!”

“You’re distracting me!”

Naima and Subhash went to bed as the sun peeked over the horizon. Naima pulled the sheets over their heads and they held on.

 

              . . .

 

 

Sunlight needled his face. Naima slipped on pants. Subhash groaned and dug his head into their pillow.

As she washed her face with a wet towel, Subhash, his head groggy, slowly picked up his shirt and socks from the carpet. He sat up, eyelids barely open.

Naima asked Subhash if he was feeling sick.

He shrugged, and she placed a hand on his forehead.

He cleared his throat and said, “Let’s do something before finals.”

Naima told him they were already late.

Subhash kissed her.

“The next train is in 45 minutes,” he said.

“Princeton?”

“That’s for pretentious fucks.”

“I like pretentious fucks.”

“Are they your type?”

“Of course,” She said, her lips shining, “Can’t you tell?”

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