Oh what a sweet balm of relief. The study break is a gift from the heavens! My daily routine goes from working eight-to-eight to having a part-time job and a lot of free time. I actually retake reading for pleasure, something I hadn’t done since my time with mother, what now seems an eternity ago. At first, when I try to read, my mind becomes clouded with memories of that time. Thinking about my my little sister and what I could’ve done different often makes it impossible for me to read.
Still, there’s something wicked about that break. I know it’s bound to end, and that thought keeps me from enjoying it. For a brief moment after waking up I forget about everything: who I am, where I am. Then it all comes crumbling down on me. And eventually, I return to my old routine. Exams, projects, deadlines, reports…
I nearly drown in so much work, but working sixteen hours a day throughout my finals I manage to get through. During summer, as I try to rest before the next year, I hear news about tolerance demonstrations being held all over the country. They are protests trying to disrupt white supremacist rallies. Eventually one of them is scheduled to take place only a few hours away from my college, and I decide to attend out of curiosity.
I take a bus to get there. A few minutes into the trip, after nearly falling asleep, loud shouts awake me. “Hey, you,” some guy commands threateningly in the bus. “Didn’t you hear me?” he continues. I turn around to see two white guys hunching over a skinny arab guy who is holding up his hands to protect himself. I recognize the arab guy from one of my college classes. He receives a punch. “Hey, none of that on my bus,” says the driver. “Oh shut up you f…” wait, I haven’t introduced this. It’s an f-word, but it’s not the f-word. It’s “f a g g o t.” I will use “fa-word” for it. As I was saying, “Oh shut up, you fa-word,” says one of the bullies, the taller one.
“I asked, were you involved in what happened yesterday?” asks the tall bully again before punching the arab. I stand up. “Stop,” I command. “B-word, mind your own business,” says the other guy. “No!” I shout, standing my ground. “Of, f-word off you—” he manages to say before I kick his crotch. Everyone in the bus is watching the other bully now. “Oh, you are so done, b-word,” he mutters coming toward me. I start walking back toward the front door, scared.
Suddenly the bus stops. The driver stands between me and the white guy. “What, are you going to hit a girl too? Get out! Both of you! Out of my bus! And don’t come back!” The driver grabs the tall bully by the shirt and throws him out. His friend follows. “It’s not over, b-word!” the bully says before the door closes and I sigh with relief. “Are you ok?” asks the driver. I nod and thank him. As I return to my seat, I hear clapping, and I involuntarily smile. Shortly afterwards we’re on the road again. The arab guy comes to my seat. “I… I wanted to thank you. Those bullies were harassing me because of the bombing…”
Oh right, I neglected to mention there was a bombing yesterday in some country with over sixteen casualties. The perfect way to warm up a white supremacist rally. “… and they thought,” he continues, “well, because I’m brown, you know, that I had something to do with it. It’s so racist. It’s like every muslim thought the west is crawling with infidels.” I look at him with pity. “Anyway, thank you again,” he mutters before standing up. “Wait, you don’t have to leave,” I stop him. “Are you going to the rally as well?” He nods. “Ok, then sit please. I’m going there myself but have no clue of how-what to do there.”
He sits by my side. During the ride I ask him questions about his life. His parents are still living abroad. Like me, he has a scholarship, though his is a “diversity scholarship” given out in raffles. He also works as a bartender to pay for food and stuff. He sends his parents any surplus money he has. He explains this is not the first time people have behaved toward him that way. In fact, every time there is a notorious terrorist attack, he gets the same kind of grief.
“And, see, the funny thing is,” he explains excitedly, “it doesn’t even make sense to hate people for the country they come from! Like, you know, it’s not like what shoes you buy—That’s a perfectly fine reason to discriminate.” I notice he fidgets with his hands as he talks. “We, like, we don’t choose where we’re born, and it doesn’t matter; not today at least, with global politics and… globalization and global warming.” I smile at him. “But, you know, some people judge me like I belong to some group. What group? I wouldn’t like any group that would accept me as their member!”