Section II: Chapter 12

“Someone farted.”

“What it smells like?”

“Can’t you sense it? It’s overwhelming.”

“I thought it was the fumes.”

“Oh my god, did you do it?”

“What the fuck. No! I’m telling you. It’s the smoke from outside. We’re passing through Elizabeth.”

“Liar. You had some bean dip and now you’re letting it loose!”

Subhash laughed. “Bean dip? That’s the most generic thing to eat when you’re about to pass gas.”

Houses and trees morphed into high-rises. Shopping malls expanded across the horizon.

Naima motioned to one of the other passengers, a man wearing a drab suit.

“I bet it was him,” she whispered, “He’s probably tired and his butt muscles gave way.”

“Butt muscles? Is that a medical term?”

“Of course. Straight from the latest journals. As you can see, the man is disheveled, probably having a shitty day, and after eating a big meal to satiate the soul, he no longer paid attention to his butt’s actions.”

“Satiate the soul…wow…that’s powerful.”

“Yes. After engorging himself, his muscles were weakened and we are left with the toxicity of his innards.”

Subhash cut his eyes at Naima, but Naima insisted she wasn’t being mean.

“These are the facts at hand,” she said.

“Such a nerd.”

“Says the man who watches cartoons.”

“You know I stopped a while ago.”

“A year isn’t that long.”

“I’m just saying it’s been exactly 366 days since I’ve watched an episode of Adventure Time.”

“That’s cause they haven’t made any new ones.”

“Tomato. Potato.”

“It’s Tomaato.”

“Your suspect is escaping.”

“Where are we? Linden?”

“This looks more like Newark.”

“They’re all the same.”

“Woah. That’s not true.”

“You’re just being facetious.”

“Damn. What is up with all these fancy words?”

“I’m being cultured and whatnot.”

“Funny. Facetious and then whatnot.”

“Same level of meaning to me.”

“Definitely. We should go to Paterson.”

“No.”

“Why not? We had fun last time.”

“No. You had fun. I just killed time.”

“That’s also not true. Remember we went to that Arab neighborhood and got falafels.”

“You do realize that we can go and get falafels anywhere.”

“Now, you’re the one being facetious.”

“Ouch.”

“Yep! How does it feel? When the tables are turned?”

“I am at a loss of words. All I’m let with is innards and engorge.”

“That’s a shame. How will we ever have a deep conversation?”

“I know. Since that’s all we ever do.”

“Exactly. No fluff. No stuff. No potatoes.”

“You know what? I think I was wrong. That man is gone but the stench remains.”

“Ignore it.”

“That’s like saying don’t pay attention to Satan in the corner.”

“What. The. Fuck. Did you just say?”

“I don’t know. I’m probably poisoned and my words don’t belong to me.”

Subhash burst out laughing, causing others to turn. Naima flashed a smile, and squeezed his hand.

 

 

. . .

 

 

They went to the bookstore by City Hall, and after eating Pakistani food at a nearby restaurant, they ended up at the waterfront.

“That lamb wasn’t spicy.”

“It was. And sour too.”

“Weird. I thought it was bland.”

“You added hot sauce though.”

“I had to. I wasn’t getting any flavor.”

“Seriously, you’ve got to calm down on the sauce.”

“It wasn’t even  that much.”

“I had an aunt who only made spicy Indian food at home and ate it every day until she started feeling dizzy and doctors told her she had acid reflux. Now, she’s always super careful about what’s on her plate.”

“So?”

“It can fuck you up.”

“I eat in moderation.”

“You add ketchup to even pizza.”

“It adds flavor! Plus, you literally had chocolate for breakfast.”

“Cheerios.”

“Chocolate Cheerios.”

“They’re healthy.”

“That’s not possible.”

“Dark chocolate is good for you.”

“Yea, and Chocolate Cheerios is cereal with extra sugar.”

“You can’t get acid reflux from eating too much chocolate.”

“But you can become bloated and fat.”

“I’ll run more.”

“Running to class doesn’t count.”

“Okay. That was funny.”

“Thank you,” Naima bowed, “I’ll be here all night.”

“You ruined it.”

Naima continued to bow. “Fuck you,” she said while smiling and pretending to wave at an audience.

 

                        . . .

 

 

In the afternoon, they returned to the train station and waited in line.

“When was the last  time we watched a movie?”

“A month ago. It was that documentary.”

“That doesn’t count.”

“You didn’t like it?”

“I loved it, but that’s not something I would call entertainment.”

“So, only Hollywood is fun?”

“That’s not what I’m saying.”

“I didn’t know you liked the mainstream.”

“Oh come on. You like that ish too.”

“Damn. Are we going to watch Independence Day on our honeymoon?”

“All day. All night.”

“How long?”

“A month.”

“I’ve never heard of honeymoons lasting that long.”

“Me neither. Then again, I don’t know anyone who’s getting married.”

“Where would you want to go?”

“Hmm. Somewhere different. Historical.”

“Tropical?”

“Actually, the weather doesn’t matter. It could be raining. I don’t care.”

“I guess in some places it wouldn’t be a big deal. Like Paris.”

“Ew. I don’t like French people.”

“Have you met any?”

“That kid in our high school. Remember? He used to always talk in that dumb faux accent.”

“He was Belgian.”

“Whatever. He was European and always had bad breath.”

“You attract a lot of stinky people I’ve noticed.”

“Are you seriously trying to make this easy on purpose?”

“Dude, no. I shower like five times a day.”

“Three.”

“That’s still a lot.”

“It is. And if you’re self-conscious, I don’t think you’re stinky. Just irritating.”

“Aw. How sweet.”

“I’m like a Hallmark card.”

“Clearly. Also, you’re perfectly facetious.”

“Step aside.”

“What?”

“I’m not going to ask you again.”

Subhash glowered as he went to the wall. Naima was a few feet away and wasn’t allowed any closer.

“Show me I.D.” the officer said and Subhash handed it to him.

Subhash waited.

The officer asked where Subhash was going.

“New Brunswick.”

“Have you been to Jersey City before?”

“Yes.”

“How many times?”

“I can’t remember.”

“More than a couple?”

“Yea.”

“Have you met anyone in the area?”

“I just come here with my girlfriend.”

“To do what?”

“We hang out.”

“Where are you from?”

“East Brunswick.”

“Where are your parents from?”

“India.”

“Hmm. Which part?”

“The east side.”

“Is that near Pakistan?”

“What is this for?” Naima interrupted. The other officer blocked her as she tried to move in.

They returned Subhash his I.D. and he plodded away. Naima grabbed his hand and they boarded the next train. At each stop, the train swelled with bodies. People crammed themselves into the aisle.

In New Brunswick, Naima and Subhash waited but no one moved. The conductor announced that everyone had to be patient. Passengers grumbled. Some expressed anger at those at the front who were taking too long to step onto the platform. A briefcase knocked against Naima’s head.

Subhash stood up.

“What the fuck is your problem?” he said to the man.

“You talking to me?”

“Yea. You just hit my girlfriend.”

“She should’ve been more aware of her surroundings.”

“Apologize.”

“I don’t have time for this.”

“I’m not going to ask you again.”

“Or what? Are you going to call your mom?”

“Do you think you’re special? Just cause you’re wearing a cheap ass suit and have a Bluetooth? You’re like everybody else.”

“At least I got a job.”

Naima quickly got up, and slipped under the man’s arm, pulling Subhash along, who kept jawing.

“Fuck you.”

“Fuck you too! You fat piece of shit!”

The man cackled.

Without hesitation, Subhash spat.

A few gasped and Naima turned to see the man’s face bright red. She rushed to the front, mixing in with the crowd.

At the dorms, Naima turned on her laptop and wore her headphones. Subhash sat on her bed and asked if she wanted to get food. She kept working instead.

He asked if she wanted to grab coffee.

Again, Naima didn’t respond.

A few minutes later, Subhash told her the restaurants were going to close soon.

She took a deep breath.

“If you ever do shit like that again,” she said, “I’m going to move on. I’m not playing.”

“But he hurt you.”

“You could’ve gotten us into big trouble.”

“What was I suppose to do? Pretend nothing happened?”

Naima resumed typing.

“Are you finishing your presentation?”

“Yea.”

“Are you almost done?”

“Kind of.”

“Can I see it?”

“It hasn’t changed much since last time.”

“I still want to hear it.”

“The whole thing?”

“Yep. Start to finish.”

Naima went through the slideshow and Subhash loved the quotes she pulled from her interviews.

“They make the issue so personal,” he said.

“Thanks.”

“I’m serious. I’m glad someone like you is doing what you are. Providing people a voice.”

“I try.”

Subhash ordered pizza and they ate it in the room.

“I’m glad we went out today.”

“Yea, it was nice.”

There was a knock on the door and the sound of keys jangling.

Subhash ran and gripped the knob.

“Occupied.”

“Were you guys in there the whole day? You guys missed everything!”

“Come back tomorrow.”

“What the fuck?”

Subhash pressed his back against the door until the banging stopped.

“I’ll be back in an hour!”

“Okay, cool, see you in 24 hours!”

“An hour!”

Naima grinned.

She helped pushed a shelf to block the door, and they resumed.

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