FYI: When a full chapter is italicized, it means the perspective is changed to Tristan’s perspective. This chapter, for example, is Tristan’s perspective.
May 15, 1996
I startled awake at the funniest sound. The sound was unique, but not really in the good way. Jenna. I got up and changed as quickly as I could because otherwise, it would be like last time. When the fire department came and she almost hid in the closet to hide from the complaints. I bet it would’ve hit a world record for how many times you could apologize in five minutes. She was on fire. Pun 110% intended.
I leaned over her shoulder to see a burnt egg on a pan and I sighed and startled her by saying, “Jenna, just let me cook breakfast,” I muttered.
“I’m sorry… I– attempted making an omelette,” Jenna said, putting on the most innocent face she could pull off. Not very innocent.
“Ok, now leave before the fire department burns you again. I’ll make food ASAP.”
“Haha, get it? Burn and fire depa–“
“Stop! Get some help!” I exclaimed before turning to the pan and asking the world how she could manage to burn eggs this bad. I had to wash the pan for five minutes before the final pieces of the “omelette” came off. What did she put in the eggs? Super glue? I started with a new batch of eggs and started cutting up some onions, jalapeños, and some cherry tomatoes. When I heard Jenna walk in, the next thing I heard was a pleasured sigh and, of course, she thanked me for cooking her food. I smirked and put on the best Frank Sinatra voice I could and I said, “You’re welcome, hon. What do I get in return?”
“Ew! Shut up!” she said as she shoved me playfully. I snickered and I quickly plated the omelette. She took a picture, as always, and then she started gorging the food. I watched in wonder as to how she put all that food into her mouth and how she doesn’t choke on it. What an enigma… As I started, she finished and thanked me again and left for Bio. I wasn’t gonna be late so it was fine… Cause I had no classes!
I finished my omelette and started towards the library. I was feeling good about the day, like I was going to get progress done. Hopefully I would! When I finally got there through the traffic of Manhattan, I was also met with a busy library. In the morning. On Tuesday. Jeez, what is happening for there to be such a packed room in the morning. I asked one of the staff and they said that today was just busy. He seemed just about as confused as I was. I thanked him and turned in my books and left for the “quieter” section of the library. When I got there, I sat at the quietest corner I could find and got out my textbooks and, all of a sudden, veered off the course of thought and zoned out.
“Hello? Are you okay? You’ve been asleep for 30 minutes.” The voice that hovered above my voice was from a woman and when I opened my eyes, I met her face. Her skin color was very light and her hair was covered by a exotic headscarf that was embroidered to look like a beautiful flower that I hadn’t known the name of. She had teal eyes that looked adventurous. She noticed I was staring a little bit and looked like she was biting her lip so she wouldn’t laugh. I quickly apologized and I started towards my textbook as she said, “My name is Mahala. Yours?”
“Oh… I-I’m Tristan,” I stuttered as she giggled, “Do you want to sit down?” She took a seat next to me and we started talking. I thought it was a good time to start on my textbook, so I opened it and pretended to read while she talked.
“Do you go to NYU?” she asked, her voice mesmerizing in its own right, stealing my attention away from the lines on the page.
“Yep. I’m a Junior.”
“Oh, same!” she exclaimed, before remembering that so was in a library. “Do you live on campus?”
“No, East Village. Why?” I whispered.
“I live in Gramercy Park. I just wanted to know. It seemed like it’d be nice to know people from the college.” Mahala started for a paper and a book and I guessed she had a report to do and I got my earbuds and turned on some classical music and I got focused, though I must’ve fallen asleep again.
About half an hour later, when I came to, I saw Mahala with her hands to her face with her eyes closed. I kind of got worried that something happened and she was on the verge of throwing up, so I hurried over and was about to ask her if she was okay before I saw her whispering things. Ok, so is she not doing the best or is she praying in a way I haven’t seen before? She then wiped her face with her hands and said something on the lines of, “La ilaha” and I can’t interpret the rest. Yep. Prayer that I didn’t know. I asked her, “What did you just do now?” She tried suppressing her laugh and failed and started laughing out loud, while I was really confused and didn’t know what to say, so I just waited.
When she calmed herself down, she said, “That was a prayer. I’m Muslim. It’s why I’m wearing a hijab,” she said as she pointed to the scarf on her head, “Sorry I laughed. It was just really funny because usually I don’t do it in front of people, so when you asked, I just couldn’t control myself.”
“Wait a second. All Muslims wear hijabs? I have Muslim friends that don’t wear hijabs,” I said.
“I choose to wear it, but there are women who choose to do otherwise. It doesn’t mean that they’re any less religious than I am, though – it’s just a difference in faith and practice,” she replied. I was learning so much about Islam in that moment and I was embarrassed of my own ignorance. I got my bag and was about to leave when I turned around and asked, “Can I have your number? I kind of want to meet sometime and talk. Maybe become a little less ignorant?” She was surprised by the sudden question, and I expected a no, but her face broke out into a grin. “At least you’re self aware,” she said, laughing before typing in her number on my cell. I waved her goodbye and started towards the apartment.
I got bored and ended up falling asleep again. Whoops. When I next woke up, it was already noon, so started making a chicken salad. I heard the door open and I yelled, “Hi, Jenna!” which scared her half to death.
“Oh, Jesus!” she yelped, jumping a little “When did you come back? I thought you were coming back later!”
“Came back at around 10. You want food?”
“Of course! What’d you expect me to say?” I gave her a plate of salad and praised myself for making her food. Honestly, the only reason Jenna even stays around is because she’d starve otherwise. I started eating and when I finished, I got a call. It was a number I didn’t know, but I picked it up. “Hello?” I asked.
“Hi, Tristan! It’s Mahala,” said the same bold but soft voice I remembered from the library.
“Oh, hey Mahala. How are you?”
“Bored but good. I was wondering if we could meet next week for lunch. On the 22nd.”
“Oh,” I asked Jenna if she was planning anything with me and she shook her head and started smirking and raised her eyebrows, drawing a heart in the air. I punched her playfully on the arm and replied, “I’ll go. 12:30?”
“Ok! We’ll meet at Haandi, this nice restaurant. It’ll teach you more about me.” she stated. Mahala gave me the address and exclaimed, “Bye! See you soon!”
“Ooh. What happened when I was gone? You’re already on a first date! I have to teach you how to have a good first date to leave a good impression!” Jenna said when I hung up. I shoved her and she chuckled. I never dated anyone before and Jenna did, so she had a point. I wasn’t even sure if this was necessarily a date, but I accepted it. I went through the whole day with a big question in my head: Did she just ask me out?