Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK.
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Til things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black.
This pretty much set the tone for my day.
As I came out of Assembly Language, I glanced down the hall of the Cathedral's stone archways and gothic structures where my class resides, and remembered a flash. Myself, as a young and innocent 18 year old, Pajman's arms around my waist after our summer Calculus class post-high school, both watching out the arched narrow window at the cars passing on Forbes below us, the heat blowing in yet we remained close.
My senior year Calculus class was something else. We were largely a group of people who had hailed from other countries (I was one of the few who hadn't) being taught by a brilliant and flamboyant teacher by the name of Mrs Meldon who'd invite us into her house for weekend study sessions and apple pie. We grew fairly close that year trying to work our hardest to get the best scores on the Calc BC AP. Our group had a few from China, notably Chi (now Mitch) and Jing, Sung Jin coming from South Korea, Pajman from Iran (his cousin was not in the class, but also a part of the group), and myself, the token American. Also joining us after class times were Ranju from India (and elsewhere), Colleen who was also American, but spent most of her childhood on a German military base, Helena from Moldavia, Pajman's cousin Hooman, and Olga from Poland. Ranju, Colleen, and Hooman had come to the school too late to get into the super-accelerated program the rest of us were in, and Helana and Olga were not math-inclined.
These were my friends upon graduation, I still have the photos of us together that year and the summer post-graduation. Pajman, Hooman, Chi, and I decided to continue our schooling through the summer at Pitt's "early start" program, Pajman, Chi and I in Calculus 3, Hooman and I in Chemistry. I worked with Ranju at the Oakland McDonald's that summer as well. It was a maddening time, wonderful with the newfound joy of good friendships (I'd never really experienced that among my peers before), and friendly competitive learning. Previous to my senior year, I had been an "underacheiver", everyone thinking me a performance major, so that was also the year I learned to show how much math and science talent I did have.
Because of the particular diversity of our crowd, Sung Jin would often draw cartoons of Pajman, Hooman, Chi, and himself as "Terrorists" and leave them up on the classroom wall for the rest of the school to see and wonder. Pajman and Chi would often joke in their chemistry class about finding the chemicals for a Nitroglycerin ... erm ... "experiment". It was, honestly, all play. This was a time when we could joke about such things, and the school would laugh with us. Even given the heritage of those making the jokes.
And boy did I have a crush on both Hooman and Pajman. I could never decide between them, Hooman was so boyish, so sweet, so innocent, so cute. Pajman was darker in his sense of humour, held more of the appearance of danger in his ways. I became friends with both over the course of the senior year, finally giving up Pajman as he dated Jing through graduation and talking more with Hooman.
And here is where I first heard the first hand accounts of war. You see, Hooman lived in Tehran with his mom during the Iran-Iraq war. He was a young boy at the time, and he described the bombs starting up, and he and his mom grabbing each other away from the breaking windows, huddling in the middle of the building, hoping they lived through this round. And when they did, they moved on like it was nothing, commonplace, because it was. It was then he'd lose a lot of the boyish looks around him, his eyes would take on a faraway stare like they were looking into a different world.
That summer I had the classes with them separately. The social triangles, quadrangles, pentangles, etc etc from that group were absolutely astonishing for a simple group of self-admitted full-blown nerds. Chi had a crush on Colleen, who knew it, but who had a crush on.. erg, I forget now. Ranju had a host of followers, but her eyes were set on "Justin Jerk" from Scheneley high school, and one other who still never returns her phone calls despite her marriage. I couldn't decide between Hooman or Pajman, but only let people know about Pajman, for he was taken with Jing and my heart, oh it was broken. We moved through the summer in this ecstatic wonder of being newly-minted adults, our eyes always knowing we were about to split and go our separate ways to our own universities.
It was during this time Pajman was the one who had the arrogance enough (for at that age, it is never self-esteem, but only ego) to catch onto my crush and make his move on me. I was entranced, and we grew closer and closer for the whole of our class, and then the class was done. But, he was going to CMU, and my University of Utah was not starting for another month (quarter system), and he lived 3 blocks from my mother's home, so we continued to see each other. Three days before I finally left, we were making out at the bottom of Flagstaff Hill behind CMU campus on a sunny day with the birds showering us in song. The glorious three days, we acted as a couple, and I thought I was in love.
And then I had to move 2000 miles away. A choice I'd made before I'd really gotten to know the social circle I'd come to love in that year, and one which I suddenly regretted. And Pajman called the first few days, or I called him. But then, nothing. I contacted Ranju, and cried out, "What's going on!" Ranju sadly replied, "Oh Wendy, I'm so sorry, but Chi told me. Pajman never broke up with Jing."
And such was the affairs of my heart, crushed in one fell swoop. A pattern repeated so many times in my life, I've grown hard against it. I apologize to all of you on my list who've had to come up against that.
But I remembered all this, as I walked through the bitter cold in today's overcast grey, going from Assembly to Cultural Anthropology. And I realize that it is because of that story that Hooman shared of his wartime in Iran that I do feel every time someone tells a story of a bomb being dropped in the Middle East. I get terrified for Ranju's folks near the border of Pakistan when I hear of their threats of nuking India. I think of Sung Jin when people talk about Korea. Chi's stories of the oppression he faced in China, and why his family fled. Not part of that group, but also a friend from high school (who I ran into in San Francisco) was Arshod fro m Iraq -- he was at the Dead Milkmen concert with me when I was 14. These are people to me, people coming out of a magical time in my life, people who I didn't really care about their heritage beyond our jokings then, but now I can't see the places they come from as being anonymous.
Quite the contrary, I get very clenched in my stomach, and feel physically ill. And this is why I am so active in my protestations against this war. Because we are planning to bomb the families of friends of mine.
Anyway, this all passes through my mind while we learn of the terrors that have happened in Colombia, and how our War on Drugs only created more of a dependence in their land for making cocaine rather than deterring it. We got mad they didn't do the impossible tasks we presented them with, so taxed coffee imports, textiles, etc to the point that the peasants just couldn't grow them anymore and stay afloat without growing Coca as well; also we turned down a chance to give Amnesty to the two top drug lords when they were still being generous and Robin Hood like, simply because we demanded extradiction for the sins they never committed on American soil -- they started a terror campaign of horrendous violence that continues in retaliation. At the end of the film documenting this with pictures of the dead, I nearly cried.
And so I went home, broken, exhausted, and napped for three more hours before work. Take this piece as the ramblings of someone well into sleep deprivation, but also realize that this is a rare glimpse I'm giving out of the things inside of me, only offered in such states of mind.