The summer passed by and vanished imperceptibly, and now Prov was preparing for college. He, after extensive conversations with his father, decided on studying abroad, in the United States. Prov did not land on the decision to study abroad easily or swiftly; he painstakingly and obsessively ruminated on the pros and cons of studying abroad: on the one hand, Prov reasoned, he would suffer from homesickness, loneliness, and unpleasant cultural shock. On the other hand, he would expand his intellectual horizons, enjoy complete freedom and independence, and garner all the benefits studying abroad would bring to bear. His college application, along with his eagerness and assiduousness to find a good college, proved impeccable, for he gained a generous scholarship at a prestigious liberal arts college in Massachusetts, Westman College.
What induced Prov to apply abroad were his father’s many stories about College in the U.S. Howard himself studied for almost 8 years in the U.S. to gain his PhD in philosophy and sociology. Also, Howard, had a unique perspective on college.
“What are universities really for?” Howard asked Prov rhetorically once. “The conventional wisdom posits that it is to equip the young to make a living: how to be doctors, engineers, and accountants. But there is a bigger, more ambitious goal, always appearing in ceremonial and commencement addresses, and that is: to teach students how to live and how to die.”
“What do you mean by how to live and how to die? that is pretty broad,” asked Prov enthusiastically, while walking his usual walk with his father at night.
“Well, as you know, religions were in precipitous decline in the middle of the nineteenth century, when Nietzsche famously observed, ‘God is dead,’ and what he meant by that is that religion-- which was the source of meaning, consultation, and sense of community to many people--was no longer the provider of all of that. Many of the questions that people had about this tragic and complex world, such as ‘what is the meaning of my life? How to live a more fulfilled and happy life? What is right and what is wrong?’ were answered by religion, mainly by churches, mosques, and synagogues.”
“Where do universities fit in all this?” Asked Prov, perplexed.
“Well, at that particular time, the mid-nineteenth century specifically, instead of churches answering many of the questions people posed, universities were then, in the secularized world, constructed in an attempt to replace the church. In other words, as Alain de Botton says, culture has replaced scripture.”
“Ha! Wait...does the fact that many of the universities I applied for were built at around the time you mentioned, the 1800s, relate to what you said?” Proposed Prov, his eyes beaming and his eyebrows hiking.
“Precisely!” exclaimed Howard. “To many educationalists, what people used to glean from the bible, were now found in the writings of socrates, the novels of dostoevsky, the paintings of vincent van gogh, and so on. However, don’t let universities’ original promise beguile you, for now, alas, universities are now failing students who are asking the big questions: ‘how can I reconcile my demand for money and my yearning for meaning? How can I be more compassionate? How to approach death?’ The world, as you will observe in Massachusetts is growing more technical and practical. There is simply not enough room for the big questions anymore. But I hope you will be one of the few who will be asking the big questions at Westman, and trust me, your professors will appreciate this.”
Conversations akin to this one were occasionally broached between the father and the son. Although Howard was egging on his son to study abroad, he was covertly languishing for letting his son go. But after many years on this earth, Howard learned that if you truly love someone, you have to learn how to let go.
Prov, although still depressed (he later learned that his depression is a genetic mental abnormality that he inherited from his father), was akin to an inquisitive toddler who just emerged from its mother’s womb, pondering its environment with fascination and awe. He was looking towards the future with exasperated impatience, for the limitless ambition that lies within his potential is vast. But of course, he is also cautious and a bit pessimistic; how can he not be without having a father whose favorite philosopher is Arthur Schopenhauer?
Prov’s mental condition, the depression and the endless negative ruminations, has improved. For when he became less concerned and apprehensive about his happiness, and more focused and determined on finding meaning, he became more joyful. Moreover, he is now saturated with ambivalent feelings: he is despondent that he is soon to leave his wise father and close friends, but he is also ecstatic that he will get to experience what the U.S. has to offer.
His final days in his country were serene:occasional visits to relatives, silly conversations with Demetri, profound conversations with his father, and more. But he devoted a great portion of his days painstakingly and elaborately detailing his future in Westman College. He read voraciously about the history of the college, its most valuable resources, its location and so on.
As a futuristic by nature, Prov spent countless hours thinking and preparing for his future. But there was one thing, one particular thing that he dreaded the most; something that despite his confidence and self-possessed nature, kept him frightfully awake at night, and that was: interacting with girls.
At Westman’s website, Prov read that 61 percent of the college comprises of women, and that is a number that caused Prov a great deal of anxiety. It should not be a shock, however, that Prov became alarmed by that statistic, for 99 percent of his interactions were with males--the 1 percent was his late mother and some relatives. He did not choose this minimal interaction with the opposite sex, for he spent more than 12 years at an all boys high school, were even female teachers were in shortage. The confident and self-assured Prov becomes awkwardly nervous every time he spoke to a girl, which is something he did not need to fix, but now 61 percent of the 3500 students at Westman are a potential threat to his psychological well being and composure, Prov thought.
In his trip to the airport, in his last day in his country, Prov decided to take advantage of his father’s astuteness to tackle his social anxiety around girls. “I could use some of my father’s pearls of wisdom at once,” Prov thought to himself, now sitting in the car and ready to embark on the one-hour trip to the airport.
“I’m mostly ecstatic about going to the States, dad, but there is one thing I can’t help but obsess about,” pronounced Prov, shooting a glance at his shoes.
“And what’s that?” asked Howard, knitting his eyebrows in extreme concentration.
“Well, how on earth am I supposed to thrive at college when 61 percent--2135 students, yes, yes I calculated it-- are females in Westman?” Prov blurted out nervously, complaining more than asking a question.
“Well, how much time do we have?” Asked Howard, laughing at his disturbed son.
“tell me! were you not shy when you yourself studied in the U.S.? I mean of course you did not grow up with all girls surrounding you before you traveled to the U.S.,” cried Prov, his hands trembling from embarrassment.
“Shyness, in essence, is about misconstruing the quentensial nature of human beings. The shy person, as you apparently are, isn’t particularly shy around all groups of people; he or she is shy around a particular subset of people: it could be the elders, the opposite sex, the intellectual, or the beautiful. The otherness that the shy feels towards specific people is what causes him to be awkwardly tongue-tied in their presence. Shyness is an over-attachment to one’s own experiences and attributes that inadvertently casts a specific set of people into a circle of incomprehensible and bizarre foreigners-- and in your case that happens to be people of the opposite sex,” said Howard, secretly reminiscing about his own past experience with shyness.
“hmmmm..” muttered Prov, wondering about his father’s breadth of knowledge about a myriad of subjects. “so what can one do about being shy?”
“Well, first, is to acknowledge that this abnormality--shyness--isn’t an ingrained part of your psychological make up; rather, it is the result of a set of ideas about the world you live in. One of them is that is that you are starkly different than a particular subset of people. You also have to realize that what people have in common is bigger than what they don’t, and through focusing on and magnifying these commonalities, I claim, seemingly very different people can get along with one another. A 35-year-old indian biochemist, might find that his passion for sport cars is shared with his neighbor’s 9-year-old son sweden son. In other words, what I’m attempting to demonstrate is that what you have in common with girls, is rather stupendously massive, compared to what you don’t have with them.”
“So how can I be less shy around girls?” asked Prov, as though his father’s answer is going to be an immediate panacea for his shyness.
Howard laughed at the question and said, “well, this is one of the few areas I advise you not to be a pessimist.”
“What do you mean?” Asked Prov, casting a stern glance at his father.
“Well, the shy, in essence, are usually pessimistic about the outcome of a conversation with the other. The lawyer from the respected firm, the shy presume, won’t be able to talk to the simple-minded truck driver; the ardent lefist won’t have much to share with the person from the far right; the fervent atheist won’t have much in common with an Imam.
These assumptions are erroneous in their essence. The sociable, on the other hand, is optimistic about the outcome of the conversation. He starts by recognizing that of course people hail from starkly different and diverse backgrounds, but that does not necessarily need to sabotage the wide range of similarities that these seemingly different people share. So in your case, after recognizing that girls did not hail from a different planet, and they share quite a lot with you as a human being, you will be able to incrementally break the ice with them-- however, you should also harness yourself with the determination that you will at times feel awkward and squeamish, for breaking a bad habit takes time and effort. So start off by first altering your perception about girls and then stir your behaviour to match that perception-- and that is we are all the same quentensially.”
After his father’s pearls of wisdom, Prov, did not cease to be shy around girls, of course, but he at least started considering that girls are not that different from boys in the end.
The drive came to an end, and Prov and Howard were standing next to each other looking at the flight information display system-- Prov’s plane is to depart in an hour and a half. Howard was stealing quick glances at his 18-year-old son; images of his precious child as a small toddler began emerging in Howard’s head. He witnessed his son grow from the moment of birth till now, with all the tantrums, the laughs, the cries, the fights, the nagging, the conversations, the advices in between. And now, it is finally the time to let the bird fly, thought Howard, now shedding tears profusely; it is time to let the bird literally fly to a different world, to an exotically different society and culture.
Prov was also dealing with an emotional turmoil; here is a father, a formidable mountain rather, weeping like a baby. Such a dichotomy, thought Prov. Prov could not help but cry his heart out, resting his head on his father’s shoulder, and now hugging and embracing him tightly and firmly. A minute passed. And the two were still weeping, for they knew that years might pass by without the two seeing one another.
Prov kissed his father’s hand, then his forehead, and told him, rather succinctly but passionately, “Thanks for everything.” Howard, the eloquent and the loquacious was now tongue-tied. His eyes were replete with tears, falling like a waterfall. He now stood before his son, squeezing his right shoulder firmly, and finally uttered, “take good care of yourself, big man.” Prov nodded and headed to the boarding gate, adamant about not looking back, for if he did, he will start weeping again.
As he was waiting for the flight, Prov pleasantly reminisced about his childhood. He thought about all the relationships he was solidifying throughout his years in his country. Now he is leaving them behind to start new ones. He thought about the Middle Eastern culture in which he grew, the culture that he both loved and hated; he also was leaving it behind for a new, exuberant culture. Before he indulged in his thoughts, Prov heard the pre-boarding announcement, “Good afternoon passengers. This is the pre-boarding announcement for flight 98b to the United States. We are now cordially inviting those passengers with small children, and any passengers requiring special assistance, to begin boarding at this time. Please have your boarding pass and identification ready. Regular boarding will begin in approximately ten minutes time. Thank you.”
Prov stood up to join the queue with alacrity, proudly stepping his steps towards it, then he looked back, and murmured, “good-bye, home.”
“ladies and gentlemen, welcome to JFK airport. Local time is 3 p.m. and the temperature is 77 fahrenheit.... I’d like to thank you for joining us on this trip and we are looking forward to seeing you on board again in the near future. Have a nice day!”
“ 77 Fahrenheit...not Celsius. well, that’s the first adjustment I have to make,” thought Prov, totally bemused, and still in shock that now he is all on his own.
Prov’s proficiency in English was supremely superlative, for most of the books his father recommended were in English, especially in the realms of philosophy and literature. But his colloquial style was extremely lacking, as he will soon be informed.
After claiming his bags and going through the security checks, Prov was finally out of the airport, searching for a bus.
“Are you looking for a bus honey?” a lady in her mid thirties approached Prov.
stupefied at the word ‘honey,’ Prov took his abundant time to answer, “Indeed I am. Have you any idea where I can find one that would take me to.... something authority?”
“Port Authority! Well, you can buy one from here. It will cost you 20 dollars honey.”
“Again, she called me honey; a woman calling me honey twice in thirty seconds. Am I in heaven?” thought Prov to himself, unable to hide his wide, childish grin.
Prov bought the ticket unhesitatingly, and now he was sitting in the bus heading to Port Authority, where he is supposed to get another bus and finally arrive to Westman. Prov bedazzled and in awe by the skyscrapers, was looking through the window with childish inquisitiveness. The view was paralyzingly electrifying; Prov’s eyes landed on the empire state building, and he couldn’t take them off for a full minute.
Prov finally arrived to Port Authority, but his ravenous appetite was so compelling that he had to grab a burger from a place called ‘Black Iron Burger’ before the bus to Massachusetts would depart at 6.p.m. Everything is fast-moving, noticed Prov; with his wandering eyes, he was almost staring at people passing by him, many who smiled at him. Although depressed, Prov could not help but exchange the smile. It was peculiar to Prov, no doubt, for where he came from nobody smiled in that casual manner. In fact, ‘Those who smile for no reason are morally flawed’ was a phrase Prov invariably heard back in Jordan. Prov observed, these smiles, much like his, did not denote comfortableness or sheer well-being; rather, it seemed merely a cultural tradition, to smile at strangers. “Well, I’m going to add this to the list of adjustments I have to make,” thought Prov about the smiles that he both received and reciprocated.
During all this time, the depression that Prov felt did not abate, not even for seconds. It was like a constant fog accompanying him, nagging and harassing him, depleting him from the enthusiasm and vigor that an 18-year-old ought to have. But he kept going on, for he kept rehearsing the conversations and the aphorisms he shared with his father. Prov kept, for many lengthy months now, clinging to a lucid sound, a wild hope, a mighty faith, that despite all this melancholy, despite this sheer vindictive weight and heaviness, something better awaits him, a brighter and a more promising future. It is a future in which, Prov hoped, he would look back at his suffering and cherish it, rather than discredit it as a mere random turbulent that obstructed his well-being.
Prov finally caught the bus, and at last, he was heading to where all the vaguely ambitious possibilities lie ahead of him, Westman College.
Westman was a small liberal arts college located in a small suburban town in western Massachusetts, where 95 percent of the town’s 35000 residents were caucasians. In his ride to the college, Prov never witnessed that many white people confided in such a small radius. In his 18 years on this earth, most of those whom Prov talked to were of his color, dark brown.
As instructed via the email, Prov picked up his room key from the campus police department, where he was greeted warmly by an amiable elder, and then he headed to Alden Hall, to his dorm room. As soon as Prov’s dorm room swung open, Prov sighed, as though he finally accomplished an arduous mission. The room was adequately spacious, 252 square feet exactly; it had two beds laying across from one another, with two tall bedside tables next to each bed. facing the average-size window were two closets, separated by a wall. On the other side of each bed was a desk, presumably for studying. The room was painted in Jade Green, like jewel-toned color that makes the room feel like a Caribbean oasis. In short, it is a room that Prov was content with.
Apparently, his choice of which bed to take was already taken, for one of the beds was already covered with a light brown blanket and two black pillows. Prov assumed, naturally, that his roommate has arrived before him.
As he was scrutinizing the room, Prov spotted a folder on one of the desks; it was the ‘international students orientation’ folder. He glanced at it and read ‘day 1: mandatory meeting at Cooper room in the library at 9a.m. on tuesday, september 2nd.’ Prov, who by now was extremely fatigued due to the jet lag, took a quick glance at his clock and figured he has plenty of time to sleep. So he, before unpacking his stuff, lay on the bed, tucked himself under the blanket, and dozed off like a baby.
Before he could be immersed in his sleep, Prov heard someone knocking on his door ear splittingly. Crestfallen and indignant that he lost his sleep, Prov opened the door frowning.
A teeny-weeny figure appeared with a wide, cheerful smile; he had thick eyebrows coupled with austere green eyes. The light illuminated his wheat blond hair. And for some reason, despite his small size, he striked Prov as a powerful character.
“You must be Provolone! I’m Brandon Myers, your roommate; sorry to wake you up buddy.”
“H--hello, pleasure to meet you Brandon…Don’t worry about it,” responded Prov, walking towards Brandon to shake his hand.
“Wooh, my roommate has an accent; tell me, where do you come from?” Exclaimed Brandon enthusiastically and jubilantly.
“No, Jordan. Jordan.”
“Where is that?”
“It Is bordered by Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria,Iraq, and Israel. It is in the Middle East.”
“Ha! Never knew that there is a country named after Michael Jordan!”
“I’m just kidding, and a bit drunk.”
Laughing lightly, prov said, “Don’t worry; I don’t blame you for not knowing where or what Jordan is-- it is a relatively minuscule country.”
Heretofore, Prov has never seen anyone under the influence of alcohol. Prov possessed a searing animosity towards alcohol, for the same reason he was repulsed by religion: for that both tend to numb pain. Prov inherited this hatred for alcohol from his father, and he often heard his father reciting Nietzsche's famous vociferous statement “‘There have been two great narcotics in European civilisation: Christianity and alcohol’.
Life is tragically complicated, but that should not incite us to be defetists by numbing our pain through alcohol or other drugs,” Howard told Prov once. “We all possess the concealed yet colossal strength to face our dilemmas and to find meaning in them; human beings are powerful beyond imagination.”
But despite his abhorrence for alcohol, Prov liked Brandon, for he seemed authentic, trustworthy, and a bit impulsive.
“Given that I’m drunk, and I’m able to be as frank as the day, let me lay out the rules, well, it is only one rule, that I hope both of us would adhere to during our time here.”
“sexiling should only take place on weekends,” said Brandon, now sitting comfortably on his bed, looking at Prov with a humorous look.
“It is when you banish your roommate out of the room, with the intention to fornicate.”
“Fornicate?” asked Prov wonderingly.
“Well, to fuck someone.”
Both laughed and the bond seemed potentially achievable with his roommate, who in subtle ways reminded him of Demetri, thought Prov.
“Don’t worry, I never kissed a girl, let alone sleep with one,” murmured Prov with mortification, looking at the ground, slightly embarrassed.
“NOOO SHIIT,” yelled Brandon. “ohh wait, are you gay?”
“No no, it is just that I seldom encountered with girls.”
Fired with enthusiasm Brandon said, “I’m going to get you laid my man! That should be my mission this semester.”
Feeling a weight pressing against his chest, Prov excused himself and decided to take a hot shower before going to sleep. In his way to the bathroom (where he later realized it will be shared with the whole hall) he saw a blonde girl talking with a seemingly friend of hers. Prov was dumbstruck, enchanted even, as if he saw the president of the United States before him. “This is a girl, with her thighs exposed, standing in our dorm! Westman is paradise, it must be,” thought Prov to himself, who was extremely bashful and retiring, for this was the very first time in his whole life to be near a woman with her thighs exposed. Prov, didn’t dare to stare, of course, but the image of this blonde girl standing indifferently could not escape his mind. As he later discovered, living in Jordan for eighteen years, a place where boys and girls are usually segregated in schools, afforded Prov with a heightened sensory perception when looking at girls. It was one of these things that Prov wasn’t aware of possessing, precisely because he thought everybody perceived the other sex with fascination and awe.
Moreover, if there were something that Prov’s life gravely lacked, it would be femininity. He did not have a sister; his cousins were mostly male; he studied in an all-boys school; and on top of all that he never had a girlfriend.
“Guess what I saw on my way to the shower,” Prov enthusiastically asked Brandon, when he came back from the warm shower.
“What?”Asked Brandon, who was in a well rested position, preparing to sleep.
“A girl! Apparently there are girls in our dorm.” Brandon wholeheartedly burst into roars of laughter.
“You have seen nothing my friend. Welcome to America.”
Prov had a hectic, queer day. A woman called him honey twice; an impetuous roommate asking to ‘sexile’ him on weekends; and a blonde girl with her thighs exposed stood just in the vicinity of Prov. “Now it is finally the time to hit the hay,” thought Prov.
On the other side of the ocean, 5,616 miles away, with a 7-hour-difference, woke up Howard, feeling despondent and despairing. Out of habit, he entered Prov’s room; it was vacant, giving an impression of bleak emptiness. With the door ajar, Howard stared at Prov’s bed; a minute passed, and he was still staring. The whole house was filled with grim air of gloominess.
Just about four years ago, Howard used to come into the house after work, just to find his affable, warm-hearted wife welcoming him with her beaming, wide smile. Equally satisfying, he used to enter Prov’s room, either to find him with one of his friends, reading a book, or playing one of his video games. Dinner was usually held at 7.p.m. everyday when the three, Prov and his parents, shared what was special or even silly about their days. That was Howard’s favorite part of his day. But alas, not anymore. From now on, he will come back from work into a house that is neither illuminated with the joyous smile of his wife nor adorned with the presence of a true-hearted son.
Prov woke up quite early, at 6 a.m., probably due to the jet lag that he was still under; the birds outside were a joyful choir, chirping and creating a sense of peacefulness in Prov’s mind. He had three hours to get ready and dressed for the mandatory meeting, where he will most likely meet the other new international students, who were 32 in total, as he counted them cc’d in the emails he received. Brandon was sleeping like a log; according to what he told Prov the day before, he arrived early to campus for the squash team training. Squash, a sport that Prov never even heard of. Prov leisurely took a shower, put on his Levi’s blue jeans, with a tight red Polo T-shirt (one that revealed and signified his muscular physique), and finally profusely sprayed his Private Blend Tobacco Vanille cologne. He tried to brush his hair, but in the end, it looked as it has always looked: amorphous.
Prov fetched the folder, inside which there was the campus map. Founded in 1829, Westman is a 462 acres in size. It had 12 resident halls in total, and 9 academic buildings and 5 other buildings, including the library, to which Prov paid his most attention. This morning, he spent 25 minutes indefatigably attempting to commit the map to memory, which he failed to do, for the names of the building were too exotic. Prov headed to the library, a little nervous, a little excited, and a little animated. Lately, after his depression and obsessive ruminations hijacked his consciousness, Prov could not hold a genuine smile, let alone socialize as vigorously as he always did. But now, he has to pull himself together in front of the other 32 international students (he could not figure out how many girls were there, for many of the chinese names did not give a direct indication to the gender of the name beholder).
Prov, after hastily scrambling across the campus, reached the library, and ascended the stairs to find Cooper room, in which he saw a diverse throng of people. He finally entered the room. It was spacious with six large tables; it had a large white board, and a projector screen set before a wide green wall. Right at the entrance were three tables attached, above each were some pizza, coffee, and Kashi Chocolate Almond Butter.
Prov was acutely cognizant of his violent heart-throbs, but despite the intense trepidation, he managed to keep his calm intact. He glanced at the room searchingly, then sat in one of the chairs, and finally checked the clock, It was 8:55 a.m.
The room was filled with chatterboxes, people who seemed both excited and nervous; they spoke with distinct accents that Prov could recognize. But mostly, it was the chinese accent, given that they comprised the majority of the group.
At 9:00 a.m. sharp, a medium-sized blonde and a black tall women entered the room authoritatively. They looked around genially, and then announced, “okay everybody, welcome to Westman! I’m Daisy Miller, Assistant Director of International Education, and here is my colleague Samantha Adams. We will be facilitating your transition to Westman and hopefully render your assimilation smooth and easy.” Prov noticed that there were Americans (he knew because of their accents) amongst the group, which he later learned they will be mentors for each group. “Please fetch the folders we gave each of you and look at the last page; you will find 5 groups, each consists of five or six students. Find your name and the group to which you belong. Each group will have a mentor, who is either a sophomore or a junior here at Westman; they will help you in your transition throughout the whole semester.”
Prov, as everybody promptly did, looked at his group. He looked at the folder and found his group-- group three: Four girls and two guys.
Daisy beckoned to each table and assigned the group numbers to each table. “Please have a seat at your table and we will commence with the orientation shortly.” Prov found himself to be amongst four girls: an American (the mentor), a Chinese, an Ethiopian, and a German; and a guy from Australia whose accent and way of speaking caught Prov’s attention.
Prov, wanting to break the ice with someone, spoke to the Australian, who sat right next to Prov.
“Hey! I’m Prov Booker, from Jordan.”
“Hey Mate. I’m Jack, from Australia. Nice to meet you.”
“So kindly allow me to possibly clarify a confusion that I have about Australia,”
“And what’s that mate?”
“Well, I was watching a famous Australian TV show, called Summer Heights High, and I noticed that there is a word that has a bad connotation here in America, but nevertheless it had positive one in the TV show.”
“What is it?”
“Cunt,” Said Prov, loudly and animated.
The American girl looked at Prov with perplexity and astonishment, as if he delivered her with the news of her mother’s death. Her name was Sophia, a thin, little figure--much like Brandon--but with an even friendlier, kinder face.
“You can’t say that here!! It’s an unacceptable word here!” She said indignantly, although trying to sound polite.
Abashed and blushed, Prov apologized and then sat quietly, not wanting to further embarrass himself.
“Now the first part of the orientation is the introduction. We will go around each table and let everyone introduce themselves: mention your name, say where you come from, and tell us an interesting thing about your country.”
Being in group three afforded Prov with great relief, for he knew that he will have some time to think about something interesting about Jordan and not embarrass himself--that was his main agenda for today: not embarrassing himself, and he thus far failed once.
Prov, while thinking about an interesting thing to say, heard a couple of good stories. Kim, an exchange japanese student, who striked Prov as an aloof and reserved character, shared, “Japan is made up of 6,852 islands.” “There are over 3,000 different varieties of potato grown in Peru,” exclaimed another peruvian student.
“Well, these are pretty damn interesting facts; what is sufficiently interesting about Jordan,” thought Prov to himself, while his anxiety skyrocketed.
Anxiety wasn’t a foreign emotion to Prov; if there were one thing Prov exceptionally excelled at, it would be worrying. And now that he is full of worry about making a fool of himself, he resorted to and reminisced about what his father told him once about anxiety. Howard believed that anxiety burgeons in the gap between what we fear may, and what we hope could, happen. The wider the gap, the more irksome our anxiety gets.
“To acquire serenity of the mind, my dear Prov, what we ought to do is aggressively and incessantly squash our wide hopes. And instead of forging and clinging to our wide hopes, we should courageously, as the Stoics proposed, come to terms with the worst possible scenarios--and make ourselves comfortable with them. When we gather ample courage, and look at our fears straight in the face, we eventually reach a crucial yet underestimated conclusion: that we can cope. We can cope if we wound up in jail; we can cope if we lost all our financial success; we can cope if our partners left us. To a friend besieged by worry that he might be sent to prison Seneca replied: ‘Prison can always be endured by someone who has correctly understood existence.’ So in short, what you ought to do, as Saneca put it: ‘to reduce your worry you must assume that what you fear may happen is certainly going to happen.’”
After Prov hastily remembered his father’s pearls of wisdom, he realized that even if he embarrassed himself, he will be just okay. Subsequently, his level of anxiety decreased, almost abbated.
Prov’s turn came, and as he stood up, he relentlessly squeezed his mind to come up with something interesting, but, all what he came up with was a weird, rather than interesting, fact. “Hello everyone, my name is Provolone Bokeer. People call me Prov. I’m from Jordan. And an interesting thing about Jordan...hmmm...well, if you spotted a beautiful girl in Jordan you wouldn’t shock call her a camel, sometimes a duck.”
The room was then filled with eyes marked by puzzlement and confusion. But after a moment’s silence across the whole room, people laughed, loudly. Prov sat down, half embarrassed that he could not find anything but that, and half proud that he incited laughter all around the room.
As the introductions came to a halt, Daisy prompted each group to talk amongst themselves for a while; and to address their questions to the American mentor in the table to start a discussion.
At the table, across from Prov, sat the American girl, the mentor. The room’s light illuminated her light-colored stained wood hair and her blue eyes beamed with audacity and rebelliousness. To say she was beautiful is an understatement. The short American girl, who wore a light blue dress with black boots, was gorgeous beyond imagination. She spoke with grace and poise. And although Blonde, something about her reminded Prov of home. Despite his shyness of girls, Prov could not resist talking to her. “Hey there! I’m Prov!”
“Are you going to call me a duck?”
“No! I mean yes because you are beautiful...well I don’t mean you are a duck. Sorry I don’t intend to demean you. It is just a stupid cultural thing,” stuttered Prov with each word, not wanting to appear a fool in front of this American beauty.
“I’m Sophia, from California.”
Wanting to sound knowledgeable, Prov asked, “what part of California?”
“What parts of California do you know,” asked Sophia sarcastically.
Embarrassed again, Prov said, “well I only know San Francisco.”
“I’m from Sacramento, it is not far from San Francisco”
Prov was entranced with her unique demeanor. She spoke with dignity and regality that rendered Prov captivated. It was the first girl with which he talked to since his arrival. “I spoke with a girl, a beautiful one, and I didn’t faint. That’s promising,” thought Prov to himself, now chit-chatting with the Australian, although half his attention was directed towards what Sophia was so elegantly and gracefully speaking about.
Two days have passed and the international students grew rapidly acquainted with one another, partly because they all shared the common theme: being foreigners. Moreover, the mentioning of a party at Campbell hall never ceased during those two days.
The concept of a party was nonexistent in Prov’s dictionary; he never went to one, let alone threw one.
“The party will be lit mate! You should definitely come!” announced the Jake in his thick Australian accent.
“Lit?” Asked Prov, his nose wrinkled and a crease between his eyebrows conveyed a sense of confusion and bewilderment.
“Well yeah, it is when a party is dope,” put Jack succinctly and humorously.
“Well just come over to Campbell Hall man and you will see for yourself.”
To garner some concrete ideas of what a party is, Prov resorted to Brandon, who apparently, as Prov grew to learn, is not only a wine connoisseur but a ‘party animal,’ as Brandon put it.
“You will run into a lot of clumsy drunks and sleazy potheads. You will also find low quality bear all around. It is a fun game man, I’ll come with you!” announced Brandon, speaking as though he were a well renowned expert in parties.
Feeling encouraged by Brandon’s vivacity and dynamism, Prov decided to go. But it would be positively unfair to say that Brandon was the deciding factor that convinced Prov to go, for Prov was mostly excited about encountering the American beauty, to whom he has been growing strong infatuation since the first day he spotted her. This infatuation did not only emerge due to Sophia appealing to Prov’s sense of aesthetic, but it stemmed from Prov’s romantic fatalism.
Prov walked towards Campbell hall brimful of hesitation, as if he was walking into the oblivion. As he hastily strode towards Campbell, which he learned is a fraternity house (yet another ambiguous term), the sound of the insane beat drops grew larger and larger, eventually matching the throbs of Prov’s heart. At the entrance stood two enthusiastic, seemingly zealous, buff young men who striked Prov as cult leaders.
“Suh dude! Welcome to Kappa Alpha Theta,” uttered one of the ebullient men.
Not knowing what the aggregate of these greek letters means, or how to respond, prov inaudibly said, “thanks man.”
“The brothers inside will show you around. Enjoy the party brah!”
Brandon walked, contrary to how prov did, with ease and smoothness, as though he was walking towards his own house.
Prior to travelling to the States, and in the process of reading and watching movies, Prov stumbled upon the idea of a party. A place in which there are a multitude of strangers, each holding a glass of wine, bantering and chatting cheerfully, with lights lower than they would normally be, and music louder than it usually is. Prov noticed, in a superficial level, that parties have become synonymous with sociability due to a number vague ideas. One of them is that sociability emerges when lots of strangers are aggregated together in a room, with the expectation for one to speak cheerfully about what’s been happening in one’s life, and of course with the occasional mentioning of rather funny and entertaining anecdotes.
But despite Prov being a truly gregarious and companioble person, he found himself vociferously at odds with the idea that sociability means having an affinity towards parties. Prov’s animosity towards parties originally emerged from a well-entrenched belief that true connection is not formed via sheer cheerfulness. Connection is rather built upon rendering ourselves exposed and vulnerable before the other, revealing the trickiest and most confusing sides of ourselves--most of which are sad, lost, neurotic, and lonely. Friendships are formed, Prov believes, as his father wisely taught him, when we feel comfortable enough to share our deepest and most troubling anxieties and agonies, and, when we lend our attentive ears to other people’s sad and confusing stories. In doing so, we console both ourselves and our conversation partner by cementing the fact that what binds us together is the universality, the ignored normality, of suffering, not the superficial and casual cheerfulness.
The moment Prov and Brandon walked in, another two enthusiastic young men greeted them, and of course, reiterated what the previous two guys said--the greek letters. The first floor was occupied by circles of young college students who were cheerfully (as Prov expected) exchanging some gossip and banter while holding a red cup filled with alcohol. As Prov was inquisitively glancing around the room, he spotted a rather bizarre--to say the least-- ritual. A table, usually used to play tennis, was being utilized for another exotic activity. At each end of the table, stood a bunch of guys, throwing a ping pong ball across the table with the intent of landing the ball in a cup of beer on the other end. Then as he was pondering the ‘brothers’ playing that bizarre game-- which, as he learned from Brandon, is called beer pong--someone was calling him with great avidity. It was the American beauty. Prov’s heart throbbed so violently that he looked at his chest to check if the beats were visible. Sophia’s grace and liveliness overwhelmed Prov, so much so that instead hugging her back, he extended his arm with a fistpump, as tacktick that he regretted instantly.
“You will find a lot of camels here,” started Sophia, with a sarcastic, witty smile.
“Well, with this dress, allow me to say you are the first one of them.”
“I have a lot to teach you about America, Prov, and one of them is to never call a woman a camel, even jokingly.”
“Just kidding big boy! Come with me to the dancefloor downstairs and show me your dancing abilities,” Sophia uttered, interrupting Prov.
“Dancing is a phenomenon that I rather observe than participate in”
“Ohh spare me the bullshit,” said Sophia, grabbing Prov’s hand and ushering him downstairs.
Brandon, the party animal, was watching Prov with immense pride like a teacher watching his favorite student solving a difficult formula.
The scene downstairs was unlike anything Prov ever witnessed. The dancing floor was filled with vigor and motion and flashes; and the music was ear splittingly loud. Moreover, there were girls, Prov noticed, who rubbed their butts on other guys’ dicks--something he’s only seen while watching T.V. at 11 p.m. when his dad used to go to sleep. Just before four days, Prov has never held a girl’s hand, and now, he was with the alluring Sophia witnessing girls’ giving their behinds to some horny dudes, so it seemed. ‘
Ironically, just a day before Prov had gone to the party, Howard was delivering a lecture about romanticism being the single and biggest enemy of love, and how, he argued, since around the end of the 18th century, we have been living in a distinctive era in the history of love romanticism emerged as an ideology in europe in the mid 18th century in the minds of poets, writers, and thinkers. “Romanticism is deeply hopeful about relationships and marriage, which was a practical and emotionally temperate union. It proposed that love must mean an end to all loneliness and suffering; our partner might understand us without us even uttering words,” lectured Howard, at the other end of the world, thinking about the deceiving promises that love seem to offer to many generations.
“romanticism has been a disater to relationships: an intellectual and spiritual movement which had a devestating effect on ordinary people leading an successful emotional life. It evoke many myths, most of which are destructive and unnessarsy. It beguiles us into believing we should meet a person with inner and outer beauty, have satisfying sex with them all the time, while never being attracted to others. Romantiscism compels us that we should raise a family with the expectation that sex is always practised. Our lover must be, romanticism contends, our soulmate, best friend, co-parent, co accountant, and so on. In order to lead a sane life, we have to be disloyal to romanticism and follow a psychologically mature vision of love, a vision that is not devoid of sheer understanding that life, no matter whom we are with, will be tricky, confusing, and lonely.