Saturday, July 11, 2009

Another Excerpt

Samir didn’t schedule a meeting with me, but he invites me to hang around while he meets with everyone else. I’m organizing his office, he explains to each person who enters. A special favor. I’m going through some old music.

I’m trying to help him decide what to teach the chorus next semester, actually. He’s worked here for six years—since he graduated—and he still can’t make a single decision independently. I wonder who chose music for him before I came around. I assume there was another girl.

He finishes conferencing with a freshman and steps out of the theater and back into his office. He sits on the couch—an old prop, everything in here is an old prop—and pushes his sleeves up to his elbows. He rubs his forehead and the wrinkles he’s starting to get. “Well?”

“Vivaldi for the classical. It sounds beautiful if we can get any kind of wind instrument for accompaniment.”

“We’ll have to hire someone,” he says. “All we have is that sophomore who butchers the tuba.” He pulls at his knuckles. “The sopranos go high in Vivaldi. Can any of the girls really handle it, do you think?”

“There has to be someone.”

“Carly, maybe. Tyla probably could. I don’t know. I’m rapidly losing faith in the sopranos.”

I leaf through the music I’ve examined, rejected, examined again. “We still need a medley.”

“Everyone hated Bye Bye Birdie last year.”

“Bye Bye Birdie is trash. I was thinking The Sound of Music, maybe? Edlewiess…”

He winces. “You’ll make me a laughingstock.”

“I like Sound of Music.”

“Everyone likes Sound of Music, Bianca, but no one but you would ever admit it.” He looks at me strangely then looks down at his lap. He’s smiling in that funny way that wrinkles the skin between his eyes. He isn’t even thirty, and parts of him look so old.

“I don’t see the problem with Sound of Music.”

“It’s an influenza musical.”


“The thing you watch on a sick day.”

“Fine.” I flip to the next piece of music. “The Fiddler on the Roof?”

He sighs.

“You can’t hate Fiddler on the Roof.”

“I don’t hate it…” He gestures. “It’s just so slow. The story speeds it up, I’ll grant you that, but can you imagine singing Sunrise Sunset, then Far From the Home I Love, then Anatevka…really, they’re all the same song with different words, they all elicit the same emotional response, they’re all tugging at the same heartstrings with the same harmonies and chord progressions.”


“Oh, God, Rent.”

I cross my arms. “Come on, shut up. Everyone loves Rent.”

“Rent is very…”

“Overwrought?” I’ll admit this, even though it hurts my singer’s soul.



“Yes.” He waves his hand towards me. “Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything wrong with—”

“Rent is not white. Collins and Angel and Mimi, Joanne, that guy who sings Christmas Bells—”

“That’s exactly what makes it so white. The racial diversity in the cast is one of the most blatant examples of white construction I’ve seen in ten years in the United States. It’s practically one of those advertisements for a hospital.”


“Oh, you know. One black boy, one white boy. Maybe even an Indian boy. A girl with glasses and a wheelchair. An East Asian. It’s white guilt amplified.”

“You should talk.”


I mumble under my breath.

He says, “I’m sorry?”

I breathe out through my teeth. “You are a white construction, Mr. Malik. The Arabic man unsatisfied with the artificial rule of the U.S. You are possibly the most blatant white construction I’ve seen in eighteen years in the United States.”

He smiles again.

I don’t know what possessed me to say that. I do that sometimes—snap at him with something completely inappropriate. Ever since sophomore year, when he gave the alto solo to a girl with half my voice, I suppose I’ve made a point to make sure I will not be overlooked.

He stands up. “I suppose you’ll be trying for those Maureen solos, then, hmm?”

“We’re doing Rent?”

“I daresay you made a valid point. Plus, I love the beautiful irony of a Muslim choral director teaching a show that flaunts every race but the Middle Eastern. Have I mentioned I love irony? It really is beautiful.”


Emilia said...

Oh my god I have thought this about Rent so many times. It's crazy. :) LOVE!

Anonymous said...

Your characters are always so amazingly well developed. I can hear them, see them, picture them perfectly in my mind. Nice job.

hannah said...

You guys are sweet, thanks.

And Emilia, I ADORE Rent, but...yeah. haha