The Victim

Chapter Two: Friends

Charity case

In less than a day, the video gathers two million views. The comment section is filled with hateful remarks and political arguments. My roommate posted the video using tol’s main social account this morning, along with a link to donate money. And it works incredibly well.

The first day alone brings in thousands of donations. By the second day, we have set up a donation goal of sixteen thousand three hundred and eighty-four dollars, to pay for my arab friend’s medical bills. We explain that he’s in a coma, without medical insurance and his parents out of the country because of our restrictive immigration policy. Luckily, there’s enough generous folks around the world to quickly donate the amount. I write a post where I proudly announce that “… the goal has been overfulfilled within two days. The party is very proud. Thank you very much to all who helped make it happen,” and receive messages of support from a lot of different people.

I stay at the hospital with him during his coma. He’s a pitiful sight: swollen face, bruises all over his body, especially around the abdomen and arms. But my roommate is more concerned about me. When she saw me after the attack, at my arab friend’s room, she lifted my shirt to see the bruises and gently put her hand over them. Then she hugged me like it was my last day on earth.

She’s staying with me at the hospital, and we post updates regularly about our friend’s status. We deny interviews to most news channels and offer information straight from the source instead. That drives up the number of subscribers to tol’s social networks considerably. The second day, a man pays us a visit at my friend’s room. He’s a deputy secretary of some libertarian subcommittee, as my roommate explains to me. We sit in chairs by my arab friend’s bed when he comes in. He introduces himself and shakes our hands, then pulls up a chair and sits in front of us. “We have been following these events closely, and have discussed with your uncle,” he says looking at her. “We would like to run you as mayor of—” “Thanks,” she quickly interrupts him.

“He told me,” she continues, “but I would like to think about it,” my roommate says, looking away. “Well, I’ll be here a few more days. I can speak for all the committee when I say you’re a rising star. We know you would just steamroll the election,” he goes on. “I…” she starts, but I take her left hand with my right before she turns him down. “I-I’ll give it a lot of thought,” she concludes. The man walks out of the room. “Take it,” I say to her. “But the work I’m doing now…” she says. “I need to make sure—” “Take it,” I insist. She smiles. “Do you really want me to?”

I put my hand on her cheek. “You’ll make a difference there,” I say. “Isn’t that what you want? I’ve been coordinating protests and pumping out propaganda for over four months now. And you’ve been there well over a year. Don’t you wish to make decisions that actually affect people’s lives? Besides, that would only be a stepping stone to even greater things…” She looks at me and pulls back. “You’re beginning to sound like my uncle.” I smile. “Maybe your uncle is right. Maybe power is the way to achieve your goals.” She looks down. “But I’m way too young to be mayor…” she sighs. I turn her face to look at me.

“Who cares about age when you are kind and just?” I say. “Besides, if it’s age you worry about, add my age to yours. Add my wisdom to yours. You’re not stupid, and you will have plenty of help. The only thing that matters is how you are deep down.” I say, poking where her heart should be with my finger. She smiles and hugs me, taking me by surprise. “Thank you… I-I,” she whispers. We stare at each other, our faces barely touching. I put my right hand on her neck. I can feel her pulse getting faster. I come closer and our lips touch. She kisses me, at first timidly, then almost throwing herself on top of me, grabbing my—

My arab friend coughs, interrupting us. “Look, he’s awake!” I say to her. His eyes are still closed, so he hasn’t seen our little moment. “Water… please,” he gasps. My roommate pours him a glass. I exit the room to find the nurse. Once he is well enough to speak normally, we show him some of the comments of support. “While you were asleep,” I explain, “we raised thousands for the medical bills and also funds for the movement. Here, take a look.”

He carefully reads some of the comments and sheds a tear or two, excited to see so many people who care about him. “Have you thanked them?” he asks. “Well, yes, but not properly,” my roommate says. “Only with text.” “We should record a video!” he says as though it was his idea. “If that’s what you want,” I say. “Yes, when I feel better,” he says.

After a few moments in silence, I speak again, “Well, why not do it now?” He looks at me, puzzled. “But, I’m not… Now I’m… indisposed,” he answers. “Precisely,” I say. “That way they will see the extent of the damage done by unfounded racism.” “If you say so,” he concedes. I set up the camera, facing the bed. My roommate and I sit in two chairs at his right side, so that all of us are in the shot. She holds my right hand.

“Dear supporters,” she begins, looking concerned at the camera. “We wanted to thank you dearly for your caring words and donations. You have been truly helpful through this awful, inhumane situation. What’s more, you have shown once more that in this country, people are united against injustice. You are courageous and strong, and like her,” she looks at me. “… you are fighters. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.”

She stops, looking aside from the camera for a moment. “Now I want you to listen to my dear friend, who refuses to be another faceless victim of the bully machinery that operates in our nation.” I look at him. He’s impressed by the passion with which she delivers the speech. He stutters in front of the camera. “Th-thank, you all, f-from the bottom of my heart.”

I shut down the camera and upload the video. The response is very good, so much that my roommate receives a call asking if we want to appear at a safe tv interview about the attack. They want to do a special report on it. We, of course, agree. That afternoon, we return home to rest. She barely says anything on the way back. I enter my room and start changing into more comfortable clothes. Suddenly, my roommate enters wearing only a nightgown and sits on top of me. She whispers in my ear “You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting for this.”