New novel (First draft completed) 8.29.2016

As mentioned, I am working on a new novel, titled “Unravel.”

A synopsis: 

 

Subhash and Naima are middle-class, suburban, white-collar professionals living in central New Jersey, who will do anything to maintain the life they’ve built. They are also young parents to their 6 year old daughter, Tulsi. Both want the best for her, but as they face off against obstacles, they begin to realize that choices must be made and consequences accepted.

 

The final chapters are the following:

Chapter 13 Click here to read.

Chapter 14 Click here to read.

Chapter 15 Click here to read.

Chapter 16 Click here to read.

Chapter 17 Click here to read.

I didn’t include excerpts this time because I think you as the reader will gain more by not knowing what’s to be expected.

Also, as I make clear in each chapter, these are very rough drafts. Unlike other chapters, Chapter 13-17 were left unedited due to life getting in the way and not finding the time or energy just yet.

Either way, the first draft of my novel is completed and I thank everyone for the encouragement and support!

PREVIOUS CHAPTERS

CHAPTER 1

Excerpt:

Naima held on. But once they stepped through, Tulsi squirmed free and ran.

Naima chased, as Subhash followed.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 2

Excerpt:

As the only black reporter, Naima usually relied on what she described to Subhash when they started dating, as her “Spidey sense.” Back then, it was cute, and even something to be proud of, an ability to be conscious of what was around her at almost all times, a skill perfect for her job. But after spending nearly seven years in the same newsroom, and trying her best to get to know everyone who’d come through, even the interns, she realized that her valued “Spidey sense” was tingling more and more often. Everyone was a possible enemy she concluded after a co-worker (who left to be an editor for The New York Times after only a year at the Tribune) complained about Naima’s “demeanor” to the others last summer, claiming that Naima was too “abrasive.” Naima learned her lesson to not let her guard down just yet. It was tiring of course. And on some mornings, she felt like staying in bed and closing her eyes, imagining she was someplace else, somewhere she could laugh as loud as she wanted, or even cry in public. At times like that, she’d tell herself that one day, it would all be worth it. One day, all this would be returned in full.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 3

Excerpt:

“I don’t know what to do,” Rhona said, gasping for breath. “They just came saying they needed to talk to me, and I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know who they were. I told you I wanted to be anonymous. I don’t want to be a part of this anymore.”

“Just stay calm, I’m on my way,” Naima said.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 4

Excerpt:

People fled, tripping and falling across the lawn.

For a moment, Subhash had the urge to jump into the crowd. He took a step forward. Tulsi wrapped her arms around his leg like it was a tree.

Subhash scooped her up into his arms and hustled to the opposite end, disappearing behind the art museum. He moved as fast as he could without losing his grip on Tulsi, as her arms were around his neck.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 5

Excerpt:

Blood trickled over his eyes.

He let the drops land on his shoes and carpet.

“Daddy, are you sick? Did you fall down?”

Soon, Naima arrived and dabbed the wounds, and they went upstairs. He laid in bed as she took off his shirt and wrapped his hands and feet with bandages.

Tulsi crept up the steps as well.

“What’s wrong with Daddy?”

“Nothing, honey. Daddy is just tired.”

“He looks hurt.”

“Just go back and watch your show.”

Naima applied pressure to Subhash’s side and Subhash grimaced.

Click here to read more.

CHAPTER 6

Excerpt:

 

After an assignment interviewing owners of a Italian/Thai fusion restaurant, which was opened in the neighborhood closest to the Holland Tunnel where most of the newer residents lived, the ones who wore sunglasses on cloudy days as well as khakis and sandals, Naima stopped at a C-Town in Journal Square. She was on her way to the office, but feeling thirsty, hungry and her contacts were irritating her eyes. The C-Town was next to a row of apartment buildings and convenience stores, and the aisles were filled with Caribbean and Indian spices. Naima grabbed a Snapple from the freezer and was ready to pop it open on the spot. However, she stepped aside, allowing a family and their shopping cart to get through, and caught a glimpse of a face in the corner of her eye. She quickly hid behind a column of Reese’s Puffs cereal and Ramen noodles.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 7

Excerpt:

Naima rushed down the stairs, her coat flying like a cape. She jumped off the last steps and grabbed the door knob.

“What are you doing?” Subhash said.

“I’m late,” she replied, gasping for breath.

Subhash was at the top landing.

“It’s still out there,” he said.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 8

Excerpt:

 

Suddenly, thunder rumbled, and a bright flash blinded. He collapsed. Struggling to breathe, he dug his nails into the asphalt, unable to break through. The sky was gray, clouds gliding like fumes.

Soon, the sound of tires screaming echoed. And the smell of freshly cut grass disappeared.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 9

Excerpt:

Naima snapped pictures and turned on the car. Suddenly, there was screaming and Tulsi bolted awake.

“What’s going on? Where’s Rhona?”

“Keep your head down.”

Naima picked up speed, finding the nearest entrance to the turnpike. Tulsi turned around, and Naima boomed, “Keep your head down!”

Click here to read more.

CHAPTER 10

Excerpt:

“He smelled like garlic,” Grace said as she grabbed a bag of weed from a drawer and stuffed it into her bra.

After she left, Subhash tickled Naima, until they both were under the sheets, while music and voices from the other rooms reverberated.

Click here to read more.

CHAPTER 11

Excerpt:

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.

Click here to read more.

CHAPTER 12

Excerpt:

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.

Click here to read more.

New novel (updated) 7.30.2016

As mentioned, I am working on a new novel, titled “Unravel.”

A synopsis: 

 

Subhash and Naima are middle-class, suburban, white-collar professionals living in central New Jersey, who will do anything to maintain the life they’ve built. They are also young parents to their 6 year old daughter, Tulsi. Both want the best for her, but as they face off against obstacles, they begin to realize that choices must be made and consequences accepted.

 

Chapters 10, 11, and 12 are the latest that I’ve added and are all from Section II. The first nine chapters are Section I. Section III, which I’ll be working on soon, is the final part.

CHAPTER 10

Excerpt:

“He smelled like garlic,” Grace said as she grabbed a bag of weed from a drawer and stuffed it into her bra.

After she left, Subhash tickled Naima, until they both were under the sheets, while music and voices from the other rooms reverberated.

Click here to read more.

CHAPTER 11

Excerpt:

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.

Click here to read more.

CHAPTER 12

Excerpt:

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.

Click here to read more.

 

PREVIOUS CHAPTERS

 

CHAPTER 1

Excerpt:

Naima held on. But once they stepped through, Tulsi squirmed free and ran.

Naima chased, as Subhash followed.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 2

Excerpt:

As the only black reporter, Naima usually relied on what she described to Subhash when they started dating, as her “Spidey sense.” Back then, it was cute, and even something to be proud of, an ability to be conscious of what was around her at almost all times, a skill perfect for her job. But after spending nearly seven years in the same newsroom, and trying her best to get to know everyone who’d come through, even the interns, she realized that her valued “Spidey sense” was tingling more and more often. Everyone was a possible enemy she concluded after a co-worker (who left to be an editor for The New York Times after only a year at the Tribune) complained about Naima’s “demeanor” to the others last summer, claiming that Naima was too “abrasive.” Naima learned her lesson to not let her guard down just yet. It was tiring of course. And on some mornings, she felt like staying in bed and closing her eyes, imagining she was someplace else, somewhere she could laugh as loud as she wanted, or even cry in public. At times like that, she’d tell herself that one day, it would all be worth it. One day, all this would be returned in full.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 3

Excerpt:

“I don’t know what to do,” Rhona said, gasping for breath. “They just came saying they needed to talk to me, and I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know who they were. I told you I wanted to be anonymous. I don’t want to be a part of this anymore.”

“Just stay calm, I’m on my way,” Naima said.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 4

Excerpt:

People fled, tripping and falling across the lawn.

For a moment, Subhash had the urge to jump into the crowd. He took a step forward. Tulsi wrapped her arms around his leg like it was a tree.

Subhash scooped her up into his arms and hustled to the opposite end, disappearing behind the art museum. He moved as fast as he could without losing his grip on Tulsi, as her arms were around his neck.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 5

Excerpt:

Blood trickled over his eyes.

He let the drops land on his shoes and carpet.

“Daddy, are you sick? Did you fall down?”

Soon, Naima arrived and dabbed the wounds, and they went upstairs. He laid in bed as she took off his shirt and wrapped his hands and feet with bandages.

Tulsi crept up the steps as well.

“What’s wrong with Daddy?”

“Nothing, honey. Daddy is just tired.”

“He looks hurt.”

“Just go back and watch your show.”

Naima applied pressure to Subhash’s side and Subhash grimaced.

Click here to read more.

CHAPTER 6

Excerpt:

 

After an assignment interviewing owners of a Italian/Thai fusion restaurant, which was opened in the neighborhood closest to the Holland Tunnel where most of the newer residents lived, the ones who wore sunglasses on cloudy days as well as khakis and sandals, Naima stopped at a C-Town in Journal Square. She was on her way to the office, but feeling thirsty, hungry and her contacts were irritating her eyes. The C-Town was next to a row of apartment buildings and convenience stores, and the aisles were filled with Caribbean and Indian spices. Naima grabbed a Snapple from the freezer and was ready to pop it open on the spot. However, she stepped aside, allowing a family and their shopping cart to get through, and caught a glimpse of a face in the corner of her eye. She quickly hid behind a column of Reese’s Puffs cereal and Ramen noodles.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 7

Excerpt:

Naima rushed down the stairs, her coat flying like a cape. She jumped off the last steps and grabbed the door knob.

“What are you doing?” Subhash said.

“I’m late,” she replied, gasping for breath.

Subhash was at the top landing.

“It’s still out there,” he said.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 8

Excerpt:

 

Suddenly, thunder rumbled, and a bright flash blinded. He collapsed. Struggling to breathe, he dug his nails into the asphalt, unable to break through. The sky was gray, clouds gliding like fumes.

Soon, the sound of tires screaming echoed. And the smell of freshly cut grass disappeared.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 9

Excerpt:

Naima snapped pictures and turned on the car. Suddenly, there was screaming and Tulsi bolted awake.

“What’s going on? Where’s Rhona?”

“Keep your head down.”

Naima picked up speed, finding the nearest entrance to the turnpike. Tulsi turned around, and Naima boomed, “Keep your head down!”

Click here to read more.

New novel (updated)6.26.2016

As mentioned, I am working on a new novel, titled “Unravel.”

A synopsis: 

Subhash and Naima are middle-class, suburban, white-collar professionals living in central New Jersey, who will do anything to maintain the life they’ve built. They are also young parents to their 6 year old daughter, Tulsi. Both want the best for her, but as they face off against obstacles, they begin to realize that choices must be made and consequences accepted.

Chapter 8 is the latest one that I wrote and added. The rest are below, if you are interested and want to check up.

 

CHAPTER 8

Excerpt:

 

Suddenly, thunder rumbled, and a bright flash blinded. He collapsed. Struggling to breathe, he dug his nails into the asphalt, unable to break through. The sky was gray, clouds gliding like fumes.

Soon, the sound of tires screaming echoed. And the smell of freshly cut grass disappeared.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 1

Excerpt:

Naima held on. But once they stepped through, Tulsi squirmed free and ran.

Naima chased, as Subhash followed.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 2

Excerpt:

As the only black reporter, Naima usually relied on what she described to Subhash when they started dating, as her “Spidey sense.” Back then, it was cute, and even something to be proud of, an ability to be conscious of what was around her at almost all times, a skill perfect for her job. But after spending nearly seven years in the same newsroom, and trying her best to get to know everyone who’d come through, even the interns, she realized that her valued “Spidey sense” was tingling more and more often. Everyone was a possible enemy she concluded after a co-worker (who left to be an editor for The New York Times after only a year at the Tribune) complained about Naima’s “demeanor” to the others last summer, claiming that Naima was too “abrasive.” Naima learned her lesson to not let her guard down just yet. It was tiring of course. And on some mornings, she felt like staying in bed and closing her eyes, imagining she was someplace else, somewhere she could laugh as loud as she wanted, or even cry in public. At times like that, she’d tell herself that one day, it would all be worth it. One day, all this would be returned in full.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 3

Excerpt:

“I don’t know what to do,” Rhona said, gasping for breath. “They just came saying they needed to talk to me, and I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know who they were. I told you I wanted to be anonymous. I don’t want to be a part of this anymore.”

“Just stay calm, I’m on my way,” Naima said.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 4

Excerpt:

People fled, tripping and falling across the lawn.

For a moment, Subhash had the urge to jump into the crowd. He took a step forward. Tulsi wrapped her arms around his leg like it was a tree.

Subhash scooped her up into his arms and hustled to the opposite end, disappearing behind the art museum. He moved as fast as he could without losing his grip on Tulsi, as her arms were around his neck.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 5

Excerpt:

Blood trickled over his eyes.

He let the drops land on his shoes and carpet.

“Daddy, are you sick? Did you fall down?”

Soon, Naima arrived and dabbed the wounds, and they went upstairs. He laid in bed as she took off his shirt and wrapped his hands and feet with bandages.

Tulsi crept up the steps as well.

“What’s wrong with Daddy?”

“Nothing, honey. Daddy is just tired.”

“He looks hurt.”

“Just go back and watch your show.”

Naima applied pressure to Subhash’s side and Subhash grimaced.

Click here to read more.

CHAPTER 6

Excerpt:

 

After an assignment interviewing owners of a Italian/Thai fusion restaurant, which was opened in the neighborhood closest to the Holland Tunnel where most of the newer residents lived, the ones who wore sunglasses on cloudy days as well as khakis and sandals, Naima stopped at a C-Town in Journal Square. She was on her way to the office, but feeling thirsty, hungry and her contacts were irritating her eyes. The C-Town was next to a row of apartment buildings and convenience stores, and the aisles were filled with Caribbean and Indian spices. Naima grabbed a Snapple from the freezer and was ready to pop it open on the spot. However, she stepped aside, allowing a family and their shopping cart to get through, and caught a glimpse of a face in the corner of her eye. She quickly hid behind a column of Reese’s Puffs cereal and Ramen noodles.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 7

Excerpt:

Naima rushed down the stairs, her coat flying like a cape. She jumped off the last steps and grabbed the door knob.

“What are you doing?” Subhash said.

“I’m late,” she replied, gasping for breath.

Subhash was at the top landing.

“It’s still out there,” he said.

Click here to read more.

New novel (updated)6.05.2016

As mentioned, I am working on a new novel, the title of which I’ve changed. Its former name was Tulsi. Now, I am calling it “Unravel.”

So far, I’ve posted the chapters I was able to complete on my other blog. But I figured to include links for you lovely people to check out as well, since this where I post my short stories and creative projects.

A synopsis: 

Subhash and Naima are middle-class, suburban, white-collar professionals living in central New Jersey, who will do anything to maintain the life they’ve built. They are also young parents to their 6 year old daughter, Tulsi. Both want the best for her, but as they face off against obstacles, they begin to realize that choices must be made and consequences accepted.

CHAPTER 1

Excerpt:

Naima held on. But once they stepped through, Tulsi squirmed free and ran.

Naima chased, as Subhash followed.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 2

Excerpt:

As the only black reporter, Naima usually relied on what she described to Subhash when they started dating, as her “Spidey sense.” Back then, it was cute, and even something to be proud of, an ability to be conscious of what was around her at almost all times, a skill perfect for her job. But after spending nearly seven years in the same newsroom, and trying her best to get to know everyone who’d come through, even the interns, she realized that her valued “Spidey sense” was tingling more and more often. Everyone was a possible enemy she concluded after a co-worker (who left to be an editor for The New York Times after only a year at the Tribune) complained about Naima’s “demeanor” to the others last summer, claiming that Naima was too “abrasive.” Naima learned her lesson to not let her guard down just yet. It was tiring of course. And on some mornings, she felt like staying in bed and closing her eyes, imagining she was someplace else, somewhere she could laugh as loud as she wanted, or even cry in public. At times like that, she’d tell herself that one day, it would all be worth it. One day, all this would be returned in full.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 3

Excerpt:

“I don’t know what to do,” Rhona said, gasping for breath. “They just came saying they needed to talk to me, and I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know who they were. I told you I wanted to be anonymous. I don’t want to be a part of this anymore.”

“Just stay calm, I’m on my way,” Naima said.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 4

Excerpt:

People fled, tripping and falling across the lawn.

For a moment, Subhash had the urge to jump into the crowd. He took a step forward. Tulsi wrapped her arms around his leg like it was a tree.

Subhash scooped her up into his arms and hustled to the opposite end, disappearing behind the art museum. He moved as fast as he could without losing his grip on Tulsi, as her arms were around his neck.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 5

Excerpt:

Blood trickled over his eyes.

He let the drops land on his shoes and carpet.

“Daddy, are you sick? Did you fall down?”

Soon, Naima arrived and dabbed the wounds, and they went upstairs. He laid in bed as she took off his shirt and wrapped his hands and feet with bandages.

Tulsi crept up the steps as well.

“What’s wrong with Daddy?”

“Nothing, honey. Daddy is just tired.”

“He looks hurt.”

“Just go back and watch your show.”

Naima applied pressure to Subhash’s side and Subhash grimaced.

Click here to read more.

New novel (updated)5.19.2016

As mentioned, I am working on a new novel, the title of which I’ve changed. Its former name was Tulsi. Now, I am calling it “Unravel.”

So far, I’ve posted the chapters I was able to complete on my other blog. But I figured to include links for you lovely people to check out as well, since this where I post my short stories and creative projects.

A synopsis: 

Subhash and Naima are middle-class, suburban, white-collar professionals living in central New Jersey, who will do anything to maintain the life they’ve built. They are also young parents to their 6 year old daughter, Tulsi. Both want the best for her, but as they face off against obstacles, they begin to realize that choices must be made and consequences accepted.

CHAPTER 1

Excerpt:

Naima held on. But once they stepped through, Tulsi squirmed free and ran.

Naima chased, as Subhash followed.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 2

Excerpt:

As the only black reporter, Naima usually relied on what she described to Subhash when they started dating, as her “Spidey sense.” Back then, it was cute, and even something to be proud of, an ability to be conscious of what was around her at almost all times, a skill perfect for her job. But after spending nearly seven years in the same newsroom, and trying her best to get to know everyone who’d come through, even the interns, she realized that her valued “Spidey sense” was tingling more and more often. Everyone was a possible enemy she concluded after a co-worker (who left to be an editor for The New York Times after only a year at the Tribune) complained about Naima’s “demeanor” to the others last summer, claiming that Naima was too “abrasive.” Naima learned her lesson to not let her guard down just yet. It was tiring of course. And on some mornings, she felt like staying in bed and closing her eyes, imagining she was someplace else, somewhere she could laugh as loud as she wanted, or even cry in public. At times like that, she’d tell herself that one day, it would all be worth it. One day, all this would be returned in full.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 3

Excerpt:

“I don’t know what to do,” Rhona said, gasping for breath. “They just came saying they needed to talk to me, and I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know who they were. I told you I wanted to be anonymous. I don’t want to be a part of this anymore.”

“Just stay calm, I’m on my way,” Naima said.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 4

Excerpt:

People fled, tripping and falling across the lawn.

For a moment, Subhash had the urge to jump into the crowd. He took a step forward. Tulsi wrapped her arms around his leg like it was a tree.

Subhash scooped her up into his arms and hustled to the opposite end, disappearing behind the art museum. He moved as fast as he could without losing his grip on Tulsi, as her arms were around his neck.

Click here to read more.

New novel: TULSI

I am working on a new novel, which I tentatively titled Tulsi.

So far, I’ve posted the chapters I was able to complete on my other blog. But I figured to include links for you lovely people to check out as well, since this where I post my short stories and creative projects.

A synopsis: 

Subhash and Naima are middle-class, suburban, white-collar professionals living in central New Jersey, who will do anything to maintain the life they’ve built. They are also young parents to their 6 year old daughter, Tulsi. Both want the best for her, but as they face off against obstacles, they begin to realize that choices must be made and consequences accepted.

CHAPTER 1

Excerpt:

Naima held on. But once they stepped through, Tulsi squirmed free and ran.

Naima chased, as Subhash followed.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 2

Excerpt:

As the only black reporter, Naima usually relied on what she described to Subhash when they started dating, as her “Spidey sense.” Back then, it was cute, and even something to be proud of, an ability to be conscious of what was around her at almost all times, a skill perfect for her job. But after spending nearly seven years in the same newsroom, and trying her best to get to know everyone who’d come through, even the interns, she realized that her valued “Spidey sense” was tingling more and more often. Everyone was a possible enemy she concluded after a co-worker (who left to be an editor for The New York Times after only a year at the Tribune) complained about Naima’s “demeanor” to the others last summer, claiming that Naima was too “abrasive.” Naima learned her lesson to not let her guard down just yet. It was tiring of course. And on some mornings, she felt like staying in bed and closing her eyes, imagining she was someplace else, somewhere she could laugh as loud as she wanted, or even cry in public. At times like that, she’d tell herself that one day, it would all be worth it. One day, all this would be returned in full.

Click here to read more.

 

The World As Is

 

At the end of this story, you will find two things:
The first will be someone pleading for help.
The second will be of someone having uncontrollable gas.
The order is not so important. Not yet at least. For now, let’s roll back the clock to the beginning scene:
Of me, impressionable Irfan, aged 16, somehow avoiding the devastation that is known as acne, but still trying to grow that awful moustache or whatever you want to call that dead caterpillar fuzz that was festering right above the upper lip.
It’s November in the early 2000s (post 9/11) and I was sitting in class at my school in Queens, and as the teacher did her best to show us the reason for why sine and cosine even exist (which was admittedly something I never thought about), all I really felt like doing was smiling and grinning and making faces with Fareena, who sat right across from me.
Fareena and I met at our parent’s mosque, where I eventually got the courage to ask her if she wanted to hang out. She told me to ask her again when I had a definite idea of where to go, what to do, and how much it would cost, and so, after a week of thinking, I told her we could meet at the movie theater, and a month after that, I had my first kiss, and a year later, I was making faces with her in the middle of class, and she was smiling back, and the world as I knew it was perfect.

. . .

Every day, we would find time to hang out after school, and at least once or twice a month we would go and watch a movie, something that we could laugh at together.
“Oh my god, Bruce Willis looks a giant penis!” she squealed, as others simply turned in their seats and stared at us.
I laughed, and as we left the movie theater, I stuck out my tongue at whoever was still glaring.
We bought hot chocolate at our favorite deli and explored the neighborhood, while also of course making fart noises for people walking ahead of us. It was the Bloomberg years I think. Honestly, I don’t really keep track of which white guy happens to be in power when, but it definitely was a unique time to be growing up in the city, especially in the outer boroughs, when it felt like every day there was another building being left abandoned and another liquor store opening up right across the street from it.
“Did you read this yet?” Fareena asked as we were at the library, in the back corner, rifling through a mix of graphic novels and books that we wouldn’t find on our summer reading lists.
“What is it?” I asked, as I just finished reading some pages of an encyclopedia on nature, which included the infamous Dodo bird. The pictures of it looked funny to me.
Fareena passed me the novel she was talking about, which was titled Giovanni’s Room. “Woah, check this guy out,” she said, holding up another book, this one with the title The Savage Detectives emblazoned across. “Honestly, it’s a little confusing,” she said, but looked down at the page, smiling wide. “But I like how the characters are all writers and poets and trying to find adventure.”
I didn’t say anything right then. But after a few moments, when it became too quiet, I showed her the picture of the bird. She read the paragraph and shook her head and kept smiling.

. . .

Rajeev asked me where Fareena was.

I shrugged and made sure not make any eye contact. Another school day had ended, and we were all in the main lot, either ready to go home or like Rajeev and his group of followers, to head toward the main avenue again, probably find people they could tease and easily tear apart. Fareena had run off to the principal’s office seconds before the bell rang, and so I waited and waited, and ignored Rajeev, who was the top student in school, but also knew way too much about how to jumpstart a car without the key. Rajeev said that he learned that trick from his father, but wherever it came from, I didn’t want to know.

“See you later buddy,” he said, as him and his group finally left. “Don’t forget to wear your tampon.”
I rolled my eyes. Soon after, Fareena stepped outside, with her eyebrows narrowed. I asked her what was wrong.
“Nothing really,” she said. “I asked the principal if I could take some of my tests early.”
“What? Why?”
“My family needs me at our restaurant more often now,” she explained. “Plus, I do need to save money for college.”
I didn’t say anything as we kept walking down the sloped streets. We watched a movie and laughed. We went to the deli afterwards, but Fareena told me she needed to go home and start studying. We kissed, and I finished my hot chocolate, and decided to go back too.

. . .

At first, not much was different. We would still hang out. We would still find ways to be ourselves and have fun. But one afternoon, she again met with the principal. I waited like before as Rajeev discussed plans with his group. He again looked over at me and smirked, but I would look away as casually as I could.
Fareena rushed back outside minutes later. I asked her what happened, and tried to keep up.
“I just needed to take more tests again,” she said.
“Wait, where are you going?” I asked.
“I have to go home,” she told me. “I have a shift later tonight.”
“But what about the movies?”
“Babe, I can’t…”
“But – – -”
Before I could finish, she turned to me and smiled and said, “Why don’t you study with me?”
I raised an eyebrow at her. “What?” I said. “Why?”
“Why not? It’s good.”
“But I’m already doing well,” I said. “What’s the reason for doing more? I don’t even like math.”
“That’s not the point though,” she said. “Don’t you want to go to college?”
“Yea, but that’s later,” I said. “You can’t be so serious about this.”
She sighed. “I have to go,” she said.
“Wait, you do realize this is way too much right now,” I told her.
She shook her head and continued walking.
I should’ve said something, but I didn’t.

. . .

I would still talk with Fareena at school and we would continue to eat our lunch together and walk to class side-by-side, but she was always too tired to do much afterwards. I would sometimes try to spark an actual conversation with her but I would quickly give up, and go to the main avenue by myself.
It was a few weeks before winter break when I decided to watch a movie without her. It was another Bruce Willis film and he still looked like a giant penis. But I watched the entire movie, understood the plot, memorized some lines, and once it was over, I made up my mind to just go back home. But as I exited the theater, I heard a voice.
“Hey man, found any tampons in there?” it said to me.
I sighed. Rajeev was by himself next to a payphone. He asked me where Fareena was.
I again ignored him and kept walking, but he followed. “Yo, guess what?” he said. “I have the answers to next week’s test.”
I didn’t reply. He chuckled. “Come on, man, I’m just trying to help a Desi out,” he said. “Don’t you want your girl to have it easy?”
I stopped. I turned to him, and looked him in the eye.

Rajeev was in his final year at high-school, and all of the school’s main officials, from the principal to his assistant’s assistant, would praise Rajeev and offer him chance after chance to speak before the entire student body. He was great at math. He was great at science. He even knew how to dunk. I once played soccer with him but never kept much in touch, never really knew where he lived or what he did once our games were over. When I entered his apartment, it was for the first time, and it was completely quiet, except for the muffled sounds of traffic that would seep in from the window. I asked him where his parents were. He said simply that his mom was working and his dad was out-of-town.
Rajeev took me to his room, where he sat down at his desk and immediately began rummaging through the drawers.
I, on the other hand, stood in one place and looked around, at the walls, at the floor even, at the stack of CDs he had. At first glance, it was like any other room, with posters of movie heroes and sports stars, of empty CD casings left on the carpet. But I soon realized that he not only had movie posters, but actual DVDs, and even a TV. Plus, his stack of CDs was probably the highest I’d ever seen.
“Here you go,” he said, and handed me a sheet of paper. I read it over, and recognized that the answers were different than what I expected.
“Wait a minute,” I said. ‘This is for the wrong test.”
He shrugged. “Dude, whatever, just take them. I don’t need them anymore,” he said, as he continued to look through his drawer.
I clenched my right fist, but I couldn’t stop myself from looking back at the movie posters and at the TV. I didn’t say anything for a while, as I tried to read the titles of each and every DVD.
“It’s from a business venture,” Rajeev said. He explained, with his hands still in the drawer, that he sold alcohol and cigarettes to students. “It costs a lot more for someone to get a fake I.D.” he said. “So I just hire some older guys, desperate ones especially, to buy the items for me.” He paused. “I’m always looking for friends to help out,” he said.
I looked at him.
He was smiling.
I glared, and I left. Fareena called me later that night, so we could work on our extra credit assignments over the phone. I was glad to hear her voice again, although as we went through answer after answer, I would also look through my bedroom window, at our backyard filled with weeds and the one next door and the one after that, as we went through answer, after answer, after answer.

. . .

“Gary Oldman is a walrus trying to be a man!”
I nervously chuckled.
“Gary Oldman looks like a fucking faggot!”
I held my breath, as the rest of the theater shifted in their seats and started murmuring to each other.
But that didn’t matter to Rajeev, who kept yelling at the screen, till we were asked to leave.
“That movie didn’t make any sense,” he said, as I led him to the corner deli where we bought hot chocolate, and sat and drank by the window since he didn’t want to go back outside just yet.
I sipped and sipped as neither of us said a word. I eventually decided to ask about his parents again.
“Mom works and works and works, not much else to say about her,” he said.
“And your dad?” I asked.
“Like I said, he’s out-of-town,” Rajeev answered, and took a sip from his own cup, as he looked out the window.
I wanted to go to the library afterwards although I probably should’ve guessed that wouldn’t be an option.
“Don’t worry, it’ll be quick,” he said, as he waited by the payphone at the corner.
When it rang, he picked up and whispered.
I stood a few steps away from him. I should leave, I thought. I was worried what Rajeev would do if I did however. Before I could make up my mind, he placed the phone back into the booth and smiled at me.
My stomach gurgled.

. . .

“Don’t worry,” he told me. “Nothing will happen.”
I didn’t say a word as he walked block after block, past the abandoned buildings and finally ending up at a street where there were no Stop signs or functioning traffic lights. At an empty staircase of a building were two large paper bags.
Rajeev looked through them, and I glanced, and noticed that there were bottles of beer and alcohol inside.
“No…” I said, and immediately turned around.
But Rajeev was quick to tell me that if I left, he would just tell the school it was all mine.
“Let’s be real here,” he said. “We might have had the same classes. But who has the brighter future. Who would the school want to protect?”
My stomach continued to gurgle and churn, as I took a deep breath and picked up one of the bags.
“I’ll give you 10 percent man,” he said.
“I don’t want it…” I murmured.
He laughed. “You’re crazy,” he said, as we retraced our steps and headed back to his block.
I dropped the bags off at the apartment, and left. Rajeev tried calling my name, but I just walked down the stairs as fast as I could without falling. It was cold that evening, but I walked all the way back home without my hood on, without my gloves. I didn’t even notice that my hands were turning red until I had to quickly crouch down and tie my shoelaces.

. . .

I tried to forget. I would call Fareena and try to find time to hang out. I would also go to the library and read snippets from books that Fareena had recommended, including parts of Giovanni’s Room.
Rajeev called me again, however, while I was supposed to be studying for a final exam but instead was staring through the window.
Our phone was in the kitchen but my mom was working an extra shift and so were my aunts and cousins.
“Hey man, I have a new job,” he said after I picked up. “Quick like last time. But I’ll even give you a free bottle if you’d like.”
“No,” I said.
He laughed, but after I didn’t respond, he stopped. “Are you serious?” he said. “Are you sure about this?”
“Yes,” I told him, and hung up, and went back to my room.
For days, I ignored phone calls at night, when no one else was home. Fareena and I would hang out when she could. Once, we skipped a movie and went straight to the deli. She couldn’t keep her eyelids open though.
“How can you do well on a test if you don’t get some sleep?” I told her.
She shrugged and yawned.
I rolled my eyes and finished my hot chocolate.

. . .

I was lying in bed, with my eyes closed, when the phone rang. I grumbled, rolled over to my side, but a few minutes later, the phone rang again. I still didn’t move, but every half-hour, it would ring, until finally, I rushed over, and snatched it up.
“Dude, I’m not hanging out with you anymore,” I yelled.
No one answered.
“I’m hanging up,” I said. “Don’t bother me again.”
Suddenly, a voice responded. It was a man’s voice. It wasn’t Rajeev’s.
“Who do you think you are?” the man said, and judging from his voice, I could tell he was older than me. “Who the fuck do you think you are?” he kept repeating.
“Who-who is this?” I managed to ask.
“You think you can fuck me over like that?” he said. “You think you can fuck me over like that and get away with it.”
I hung up and stared at the phone as if somehow it would explode. My shirt stuck to my skin, and even though I went back to my room, I sat up in bed, shivering.

. . .

The calls and threats continued, but I didn’t tell anyone, not even Fareena. I thought they would stop but then, the man started leaving me voicemails, telling me he would find me. I would delete the messages seconds after he would leave them behind.
“This sandwich tastes weird,” Fareena said, as we sat at the cafeteria.
I nodded, as I took tiny bites and looked out the window.
“Mr. Dyer said we can only use a certain amount of extra credit points for our next test,” she said, and again I nodded.
It was cloudy that day, and everyone was more subdued, even though it was a Friday afternoon and freedom was ticking closer and closer.
I was looking out the window and chewing slowly, not really thinking of much or trying not to. But just as I took another bite of whatever sandwich the school had given us, I saw a figure in the school lot. I squinted. It was a tall man standing right outside the gate.
“I don’t think it’s fair,” Fareena said. “I mean, we worked hard for those points. If we have hundred points, shouldn’t we be able to use all of them at one time? The semester is almost over anyway.”
I stopped chewing.
There was a pause.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
I snapped back to reality. I looked at her and told her “Nothing” and kept eating the sandwich, even though I wasn’t hungry but honestly, was just trying to keep myself preoccupied.
Fareena left school early, and Rajeev was nowhere in sight. As I walked home by myself, I would keep looking over my shoulder. At one point, I felt as if someone was following me. I decided to not walk home but to head straight to the theater instead, which I did, and still, I felt as if someone was right behind me. I glanced at the rearview mirrors of the parked cars, and again, saw the same tall man I had seen earlier, just a few yards away. I increased my pace but knew that wouldn’t work, so I headed for the shopping mall at the end of the block, and walked behind the crowd. I walked around and around the mall for an hour, as I pretended to look at the new video games on display, at whatever I could focus on. There were also kids I recognized from school, and so I walked in the opposite direction and finally went back outside.
“If you scream, I’m going to rip your fucking head off.” The voice echoed in my head, as hands grabbed me by the collar, and all I could do was look up at the man’s face, with his bangs and his furrowed brow.
He took me to the empty streets about a mile away, where the abandoned buildings looked like they would crumble at any moment.
He grabbed my collar and lifted me off the ground. My legs flailed as he pulled me close and glared.
“Where’s the money?” he said, his breath reeking of smoke.
“I-I-dunno,” I stammered.
“Don’t play dumb with me,” he said.
I was barely able to breathe and all I could manage to say was “I’m sorry, I’m sorry…” over and over again, as a rotten stench began to engulf us.
He covered his nose, and I dropped. I coughed and I coughed as I quickly tried to recover.
He looked at me, with his eyebrow raised, as I looked back at him, with my own face full of confusion.
He kept his hand over his nose, but I could tell tears were welling up in his eyes.
“Are you okay…?” I asked him.
“I needed that money,” he said. “My dad…my dad is going to throw me out…I needed that money…”
The tears ran down his cheeks.
I asked him who he was looking for. He told me he was looking for Rajeev.
“I keep buying him the alcohol and he pays me sometimes, but these past few weeks, man, I really need the money,” he said. “Rajeev told me you were the new guy. I didn’t know how that was possible since you looked so young, but what could I do? I just got thrown out of college, you know. I don’t know what to do.”
I did feel sorry for him. I really did. But as I watched him try and wipe the tears from his eyes, an idea had crept inside my head.
“I can help you” I told him.
He dabbed his eyes with his sleeve and looked at me.
“Here,” I handed him the answer sheet that I kept in my backpack. I told him to go to the school, tell them he was related to one of the students, and that his cousin or whomever got the sheet from Rajeev.
The man held it in his hands, and was smiling and beaming with joy. He thanked me over and over again. I told him no problem, and smiled too.

. . .

The winter holidays had arrived, and lights were strung up all over the neighborhood, even peeking through apartment windows.
I hadn’t seen Rajeev in weeks, and I didn’t know it then, but I would never see him again. His mother did come to school once. I saw her in the hallway talking with the principal. She was crying and pleading with him.
On the last day of school before winter break, I decided to surprise Fareena at her family’s restaurant. Before I left however, the phone rang, and I picked it up without thinking of who it might be.
It turned out to be the man who once worked for Rajeev.
“I still didn’t get my money…” he said. “You could’ve told me where he lived. Why didn’t you tell me where he lives?”
I waited till he stopped crying and I told him to get some rest and I hung up.
It was getting late and I wanted to see Fareena, with the sun still up. When I reached her at the restaurant, she was outside drinking some coffee.
“What are you doing here?” she said, smiling.
I gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, and asked her if she ate anything yet. She replied no, and so, we went to the theater, and I bought a huge bucket of popcorn. We sat down in our usual seats, all the way in the back.
During the trailers, she told me she also had some time to hang out tomorrow. “I need to study and be ready for next semester but I do think I need a break once in a while,” she said.
I smiled. ‘Well, we can study at the library if you want,” I replied.
She laughed, and rested her head on my shoulder.
I put my hand in hers.
The movie started.

les damnes de la terre

The coffee pot was empty. The office refrigerator was beginning to smell like feet. Charu took off his tie and tried to rub out the creases, when his co-worker, Ronald, laughing at the top of his lungs, entered the breakroom.
Charu kept his eyes low, as he pressed his tie against his leg. But Ronald’s voice grew louder and louder as he made jokes with his group who would follow him all around the office like it was high-school politics.
“So I was in New York this weekend and my god, all these fucking protestors took over the streets,” he said. “All that noise. I couldn’t take it. Me and my friends we got some whistles, you know, the really loud ones?” Already those around him were starting to laugh. Charu rolled his eyes, as Ronald continued with his story. “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,” Ronald mimicked the protestors. “Let’s be serious. That guy was a fat fuck. All this black stuff. Just garbage. Heck, even I had a run in with the police once, but you don’t see anyone rallying for white guys like me, do you?”
Charu took a deep breath. He glanced. Ai and Rajesh were part of the group, which wasn’t a surprise to Charu. They were also the ones laughing the loudest.
“Am I right?” Ronald said.
At first, Charu, who was focused again on his tie, assumed Ronald was looking for further affirmation from his crew of so-called friends. “Am I right or what, Chaaaruuuu?” Ronald said.
Charu kept his head down, as he wrapped his tie back around his neck, and began to do the necessary knots. “It’s too early for this…” he said.
“Too early? Too early for what? We’re just talking here,” Ronald said. Charu could feel him inching closer. “All I’m saying is that Eric Garner could’ve lost a few pounds, you know. That’s all. Am I right or wrong?”
Again, members of the group chuckled. Rajesh laughed.
Charu narrowed his eyebrows at his own shoes, as his hands continued to tie his tie around his neck, as tight as he could without it hurting.
But Ronald’s voice echoed. “Why do you have to take everything personally?” he said. “It’s not like you’re related to that fat fuck, are you?”
Charu punched him in the nose. There was an audible gasp. Ronald tumbled back, and then tripped and fell onto the floor. Blood dripped down his chin and onto his hands. Ronald, with wide eyes, looked at the blood and then looked back up at Charu, who simply raised an eyebrow at the mess and walked out. Once he was at his desk, he could see the others helping Ronald up to his feet and bringing him tissues. Charu watched for a bit more, till someone in the cubicle in front of his also stood up to get a good view of what was happening.

. . .

When Charu told his friend Khalil about what he did, Khalil sighed. Even though Khalil lived in New York City (technically Queens), Charu could sense Khalil also rolling his eyes.
“You’re lucky he didn’t file a complaint about you…” Khalil said, as he and Charu spoke on the phone that same day. Charu was in his apartment in New Brunswick, gazing out the window at the other buildings that were starting to light up. There was an empty scaffold hanging from a top floor.
“He has too much of an ego,” Charu said.
“Are you still going for that promotion?” Khalil asked.
“Of course I am,” Charu responded. “Look. I may have overreacted. But still, I know what this is all about.”
“Okay, just checking, cause I don’t need you punching anymore white guys in the face, even though in a way, it does feel like cosmic justice…”
“Does this mean I can punch them in the butt?”
“In the butt? What?” Khalil laughed. “That’s insane!”
“Give them one good whack in the butthole,” Charu said, causing Khalil to laugh and even cough. Once they settled back down, Khalil told Charu to visit him.
“My uncle’s place has more space now,” he told Charu. “We cleaned out a whole lot of stuff from the other room so you should come by anytime you want.”
Charu agreed he would but when the time was right. After ending the conversation, Charu ate some cereal and prayed to Ma Kali, and after that, he watched some TV and imagined he was in the show.

. . .

Charu, who was Bengali-Indian-American (born and raised in East Brunswick to Bengali Indian parents), was one of the few people of color at the company. He knew that if he was able to get a promotion he could be in a better position to perhaps hire and bring in more black and brown faces. He also understood that even though he was a top employee, the promotion still depended on key moments. His supervisor told him and a few others about the owner coming in next week to ask them about their long-term visions for the company. Charu already finished his powerpoint and was adding the finishing touches each and every day, whenever he could find time. On Monday, Charu arrived extra early to work so he could make some more changes to the presentation, but just as he was sitting down at his desk, he was hit with an awful stench. He instantly stood back up, and walked around, thinking it was coming from somewhere else like perhaps the elevator. No one was else was at the office yet, so he took his time tracing the stench, and he followed it back to his desk.
Charu found a brown bag in one of the desk drawers. With a hand over his face and with tissues, he opened the bag and found what looked to be dog shit inside. He threw it out in the restroom, and washed his hands, over and over again. By the time he was done, his co-workers were at their desks. He walked back to his own and saw Ronald and his “friends” smiling at him. Charu didn’t react. He simply sat down, poured some disinfectant into the desk drawer, and went back to work. The next day, the internet and power cords for his computer were gone. He spent the morning looking for new ones and finally found some on the floor above theirs. Like before, he could see Ronald smirking and sharing his joy with those around him. As the week dragged on, papers from Charu’s desk were found shredded. Books he borrowed were dipped in hot water. By Friday afternoon, Charu had formed a plan.

. . .

After finishing his main assignments, Charu left work a few minutes early, got his car, and parked it across the street from their building. He watched as employee after employee walked out. Rajesh was the last one to step outside, and once he got into his own car, Charu turned on his engine and followed.
Charu followed Rajesh along Route 18, past New Brunswick, and even Jamesburg. Rajesh eventually stopped his car in front of a large white house. The street lights were on, although the sidewalks were all empty. Rajesh parked the car in the driveway and walked upto the front door with a bouquet of flowers. Charu watched from a block away. He zoomed in with the camera on his phone as Rajesh knocked, and a woman appeared. She beamed and threw her arms around him, and before she pulled him inside, Charu took a quick picture.
After taking the picture, Charu parked his car at the very end of the street, alongside a dozen others. It was around midnight when Charu noticed car headlights beaming through the dark. Charu quickly recognized the car and followed once more, this time all the way back up to Monroe Township. Rajesh stopped again at another house, and knocked on the door with a box of chocolates in his hands. Another woman greeted him, and Charu snapped an image of her arms around Rajesh’s shoulders.
Charu drank whatever coffee was left in his thermos and waited. Bits of sunlight peeked through the clouds as Rajesh left the house. Charu honked once Rajesh’s car was passing his on the street. Immediately, Rajesh hit the brakes, and Charu smiled at him. Rajesh’s eyes grew wide.

. . .

“What do you want?” Rajesh asked after Charu sat next to him in his car.
“I know you’ve been working on Ronald’s presentation,” Charu said, as he would glance at the houses around them and also at Rajesh.
Rajesh remained silent, as looked down at his feet.
Charu smiled. “Let’s go to your place,” he said, “I’ll drive.”
Rajesh’s apartment was the same size as Charu’s, although it had fewer windows. Charu instructed Rajesh to turn on his computer, which Rajesh did, without saying a word.
Charu then told Rajesh to open up the file for Ronald’s presentation. He stood over Rajesh as Rajesh silently clicked on the correct one and waited for it to download.
Once it filled the screen, Charu leaned over Rajesh’s shoulder and quickly examined each powerpoint slide. He told Rajesh what he needed. Again, Rajesh didn’t respond, but Charu simply looked at him and reminded him about the photos.
Rajesh stared at the screen.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be here all night to give you some moral support,” Charu said and collapsed on the couch. The seconds and minutes ticked away. Cars began to fill up the streets again. But just as the buses roared to life, Rajesh placed his hands on the keyboard and typed.
“It’s done…” Rajesh murmured.
Charu yawned and inspected the work. He thanked Rajesh, asked him if he wanted some breakfast.
Rajesh shook his head. Charu shrugged, and left.

. . .

On the day of the owner’s visit, about a dozen employees stood in the main conference room. The owner himself, a balding man who looked a lot like an overweight Hugh Hefner, was the only one sitting down. After Charu’s presentation, Ronald was next.
“This is what I think will not only continue our company’s success but take it to the next level,” he said, as the owner squinted at the screen, as his assistants took turns whispering in his ear.
At the start, Ronald’s presentation went smoothly. In fact, his slides were full of color and buzz words that were very eye-catching. However, just as he was getting into the facts of his proposal, the slides went blank.
Ronald apologized and tried clicking onto the next slide, but those as well included no extra information.
“Uh, I uh don’t know what’s going on,” he said, with sweat trickling down his face. “I uh I promise you that I had things on here,” he said and glanced at the others.
The owner had his eyebrow raised. His assistants stopped whispering in his ear.
Ronald kept clicking but nothing was showing. He kept trying until one of the supervisors got up and showed him the door.
Ronald tried to explain but stuttered and as he left, he looked at everyone in the room. Once he looked at Charu, he glared. But before he could say anything, the supervisor nudged him back into the hallway and shut the door.
Charu stood with everyone else, and listened to the owner’s main assistant, the one standing closest to him, talk about the needs of the company and so forth. Charu paid attention of course. But he couldn’t help but also stare and stare, till everyone turned into blurs.

. . .

At the end of the week, Charu decided to visit Khalil. Charu himself rarely travelled to New York, even though to most New Jerseyans, the city (as it’s called) is the holy grail (and for most New Yorkers, New Jersey is a freakish offshoot like a mutant growing in your left shoulder). Still, Charu needed a break, and so, on Friday night, he stood on the train platform, with his backpack slung over his left shoulder, and some gloves to protect his hands from the growing cold.
He tried to focus on something other than work but his mind kept bringing him back to the conference room, when it was just him and the owner, and the owner’s main assistant.
“We would like to know more about your background,” the owner’s assistant said, as the owner himself remained seated and didn’t say a single word throughout the conversation.
While trying not to be rude, Charu did his best to make eye contact with the owner and the assistant, who was an American of East Asian descent.
“I graduated from Rutgers University four years ago,” Charu said. “I have since been working here. First as a paid intern, and now as a part-time employee.”
“Where do you see yourself in five years?” the assistant asked.
Again, Charu looked at the owner first. Charu had an answer that he believed in but he knew what he had to say.
“I see myself still working and being an asset for the company and still trying to bring in new clients,” he answered.
The owner stared, as Charu stood, and after a few seconds, the owner started to grin, and soon after, his assistant did as well.
“Where’s your camel, miss?” a group of drunk white men yelled and laughed at a woman wearing a hijab. The group of white men rushed through the train platform, laughing and yelling at whoever they could find. They also spat at the feet of an older man with a beard.
“Osama!” they yelled at Charu, “It’s my friend Osama!” One of them unzipped Charu’s bag from behind and just as he turned, another took out his notepad and pens and threw them against the wall. Charu rolled his eyes, and picked them up, and by the time they were gone, the train arrived.
Charu dusted off his notepad and found an empty seat by the window. The conductor made an announcement on what route the train would take.
“We will be stopping at Edison, Metropark, Rahway, Linden,” the conductor said through the loudspeaker inside the train, as Charu clenched his right fist. He looked out the window, as his nails dug into his skin and blood trickled down. “Elizabeth, North Elizabeth, Newark, and Secaucus, and finally, New York-Penn Station.”