Friday, March 17, 2017

Freshman (Part 4)

     On the first day of class, Jane breezed across campus with a smile on her face.  She was heading to Soda Hall, up on Hearst St., for Computer Science 101.  After that, American Literature 101.  Get some lunch.  Then, the big one, Introduction to American Business at Haas.  Her day would end with Geology 101, a.k.a. "rocks for jocks."  It was a total dummy course (hence the nickname), but would fulfill one of her requirement courses and not take away energy or time from the courses she actually cared about.

     She had two concerns about the Comp. Sci. class.  There were no prerequisites, which meant they were starting at ground level.  Her first concern was that it would be very ground level, aimed at students whose technological experience was on par with the Amish.  That would be boring for a while.  The other concern was that the school made the assumption of, "Well, they're bright enough to have been enrolled here, so they must have some computer skills under their belt," and dive into things quickly, and a little too deep.  Well....  If the former, she could complete her work, then go over her Am. Lit. stuff.  If the latter, fine, she'd have a challenge, and a school like UC Berkeley is supposed to challenge you, right?
     Jane knew exactly where she was going.  She'd walked campus several times since arriving in Berkeley, so she'd know where things were.  Apparently not all her fellow students had done so.  It was easy to spot freshmen, they were either squinting at campus maps, or running, in hopes of not being late.  No class bells on a college campus: you're an adult now, so wear a damn watch and get your ass out the door in a timely manner.  Jane felt it was a given that professors would not have much grace for students bursting into the classroom or lecture hall five minutes late.  Come on, when going to Carlsbad High, she had to be up at 6:20 in the morning.  Now her first class didn't start until nine.
     Arriving at Soda Hall and finding the room was simple enough.  Her fellow geeks-in-training were a mixed bag.  Some were obviously there to kick off their majors, others just wanted some practical knowledge and wouldn't move beyond 101.  Her own arrival was greeted with open staring, as she was in her lucky blue leather bustier, her lucky alligator skin pants, and fourteen hole cherry red Doc Martens, the mohawk sprayed into place, and her makeup looking sharp.  The other students looked like they'd escaped from a high school home room in Fort Dodge, Iowa.  Okay, then.  Most students stared for a couple moments, then remembered their manners.  There was some East Indian students around, and they had no such reservations.  Jane wondered if some of them actually were foreign exchange students, any who were American-born couldn't be that shocked by her appearance.
     She found an empty work station and sat.  The monitor was positioned on the desk to one side, allowing a view of the instructor.  The tower proved to be a 486, waiting to be turned on.  Others had already fired up theirs, glancing over a couple shoulders showed the machines were running Windows 3.1.  A glance at the white board at the front of the room instructed, "Do NOT Turn PCs On Until I Say So."  She reached forward and tapped the girl in front of her, silently pointing at the white board.  The girl made an "oops" face and quickly went to the Start menu to power down.
     The little voice in her head said, "You're being stared at."  Looking to her right, Jane saw the Indian dude at the next station over was looking right at her, and his face didn't show curiosity or amazement, but fear.  Putting on her warmest smile, she stuck out her hand and said, "Jane."
      The Indian dude looked at the hand briefly, then gave it a split-second grasp and said, "I'm Nadir," in a standard California accent.
     "Where are you from?" Jane queried.
     "Irvine, in Orange County."
     "Oh!  My new roommate is from Irvine.  She went someplace, uh, Pacific Academy.  Do you know it?"
     Nadir stared at his blank screen and said, "Yes, it's a private school, a preparatory.  Most of the students are bound for the Ivy League colleges in the East."  He worked up his courage and, still staring at his monitor, asked, "Where are you from?"
     "A town called Encinitas, on the coast north of San Diego," Jane replied.  "Originally, I'm from Gainesville, Florida.  I left home when I was sixteen, and lived with friends when I go out here."
     "Why did you leave home?" asked Nadir, focusing on Jane again.
     "My parents kicked me out.  Long story.  But, I got out to SoCal, my friends invited me to live with them, they helped me get legally emancipated and enrolled back in high school.  California has been very good to me so far, and my friends have been even better."
     "Your parents.... threw you out?  And you were sixteen?" Nadir asked, looking horrified.  "Why?"
     Jane rolled her eyes and said, "Like I said, long story.  Tell you what, meet me at the Northside Cafe at one, I'll buy you lunch and give you the Cliff Notes version of my life.  Sound good?"
     Nadir reached into his book bag on the floor and extracted some paper.  He studied it, then gave Jane a shaky smile and said, "Yes, I should be out of my next class by then.  Where is the Northside Cafe?"
     "Just a couple doors down from here, actually, right on Hearst.  So, are you in the housing units, or...."
     Jane was cut off by a man's voice from the front of the room.  She looked up and saw what appeared to be a lump of suet poured into khakis and a short-sleeved shirt.  On top of the suet was a mass of hair, black framed glasses stuck in the center.  The suet lump announced, "Good morning.  I am Nelson Brach, I am your instructor, and I see that some of you don't pay much attention to written instructions."  He pointed at the missive on the white board, saying, "Clear and simple, and in a locally common language.  Power them down, now."  There was a brief flurry of mouse clicking.
     The suet lump continued, "This is Computer Science 101, a course which will provide a solid understanding of modern computers.  You will leave this course with enough comprehension to operate any computer running Windows, UNIX, or Linux.  This course is not a programming lab, a hacker's how-to guide, or an excuse to sit and read Usenet all day.  If you don't know what Usenet is, you will soon.  We'll also be exploring the vistas opened by the creation of the World Wide Web, and hope there's something there actually worth seeing.  Now then, how may of you have never used a computer other than an ATM?"
     About a third of the class put their hands up.  "How many of you have some experience with personal computers?"
     A large chunk of the class raised their hands, including Jane.  "And how may of you are expecting to catch up on your sleep, waiting for the rest of the class to catch up with you?"
     About six hands went up, including Nadir's.  Jane looked over and saw he had a rather defiant scowl on his face.
     Brach stated, "Okay then.  For those of you confused by the TV on your desks, you're going to have to pay attention and keep up, because I'm not going to dawdle.  For the majority of you, I'll be disabusing you of all the incorrect data you've picked up from your geeky cousin.  And for those who were planning to nap, guess what?  I'll be shanghai-ing you into service, you'll be assisting your fellow students."  He stepped forward into the stations and pointed directly at Nadir.  "You, sir.  Why are you in a 101 class, if you don't need to be?"
     Nadir responded, "Because the UC system has no facility to evaluate one's knowledge in computers, and place them correctly.  I didn't take any computer courses in high school, I am self-taught.  So the university says I have not met the prerequisites."
     "Self-taught, self-taught," Brach pondered.  "I've come to translate that description to, 'I owned a Tandy and managed to not screw it up too badly.'  Okay, you learned how to operate a PC by the seat of your pants.  Now you're going to learn how to operate one correctly."
     "Actually sir, my father and uncle operate and manage the mainframes used by Wells Fargo bank.  I have been around computers my entire life, using UNIX, MS-DOS, SunOS, and Microsoft Windows since version 2.0.  I'm not trying to be difficult, sir, but I'm afraid I will be very bored in your class this year."
     "So why didn't you take any computer classes in high school?"
     Nadir stated flatly, "There would have been no point, I would have learned nothing new.  My high school's computer lab was a room full of Commodore 64s, and the instructor was a man who normally coached football.  He had injured his back, and the district put him in the computer lab so he could remain employed.  He knew no more than his own students."
     "Huh."  Brach paused.  Then he said dismissively, "You should have taken the classes in high school.  You wouldn't be sitting here now."
     After a couple ticks went by, Nadir said, "Yes, well sir, as I mentioned, I had hoped the school would have some method of evaluating my knowledge, and placing me correctly.  I was not expecting a bureaucratic requirement to rule the day.  Especially at a school like Berkeley."
     Jane raised her hand and said, "Sir, it sounds like UCB and the computer science department would be better served to let him take some tests, or whatever, and place him where he belongs.  If he's here, he's not learning anything new, he's just occupying space someone else could use, you know?"
     Brach stared at Jane in silence for five seconds.  Then he said in a patronizing tone, "Excuse me, miss, you are aware auditing classes is not allowed in the computer science department?"
     "Okay.  What's your point?"
     "You are.... registered to be in this class?"
     "Bulls-eye," Jane responded.  "Jane Osborne.  O-S-B-O-R-N-E.  Check it, if you want.  Why would you think I shouldn't be here?"
     Brach ignored the question, simply turning and walking back to his desk.  Jane looked at Nadir and winked.  Nadir made a frightened face back, trying to communicate he didn't want to make waves, he'd sit through the year if need be.
     After leafing through some papers, Brach walked back towards Jane.  He gave what he hoped was a chilling grin, it looked like he was holding back a painful fart.  He said, "So, Ms. Osborne, what would your recommended plan of action be for Mr. Reddy here?"
     Jane shrugged and said, "Well, I'm assuming you're a professor, and not the world's oldest T.A...." The class began to chuckle.  ".... So I'm guessing you're on the ball.  Take some time during class, or in the afternoon or whatever. and sit down with Nadir at a machine.  Put him through his paces.  What the hell, pull some quizzes and last year's final exam, and let him take them.  If homeboy has the chops, put him where he belongs.  He'll be happier, and you'll be able to get someone on class standby in here while it's early in the semester.  Pretty damn simple, really."
     "So I should interrupt parts of my daily schedule to accommodate a single student?  Provide some personal service?"
     Jane grinned and said, "Considering what tuition is at UCB?  You're goddamn right.  I mean, Jesus Christ, is the computer science program here to educate, or blindly enforce a bureaucracy?  Shit, you're not the only binary bimbo in the building, farm out his evaluation to someone who has the time to spare.  Fuck the rules, make it work."
     A voice across the room said, "Sir?  If the guy won't get anything out of this class, it's kind of cruel to keep him here."
     "Yeah," said another voice.
     Brach eyes darted around the room.  They settled back on Jane for a few seconds, then moved over to Nadir.  He finally said, "Mr. Reddy, I'd like you to return to this classroom at five this afternoon.  Have a number two pencil with you.  If you wish, you may leave now."
     "It would be rude to leave before you lecture, sir," Nadir replied.
     "All right then."  Brach walked back up front.  "Let's get things going.  Grab your texts, and turn to page twelve....."

     At the end of class, Jane confirmed with Nadir he would meet her at the Northside Cafe at one.  "Yes, I will.  Ah....  Thank you for your help."
     "Don't sweat it," Jane smiled.  "And don't let Mr. Brach give you any shit, either."
     The students began filing out.  Jane grabber her book bag and angled up to the front of the room, where Brach was sitting at his desk.  He looked up at her, she leaned down on her hands.
     Jane said, "I apologize for the disruption earlier.  Also, I thank you for doing the right thing."  She paused.  "Uh, one thing, though.  Don't even think about taking any frustrations you have on Nadir.  Don't even dream about jamming him up."
     With a frown, Brach said, "Or..."
     "I will be very, very disappointed with you.  And that would be a bad thing.  Toodles, darling, I'm off to American lit."
     Jane skipped out of the room and down the hall.

     Jane was a few minutes early at the cafe, but Nadir was already there.  They went in and ordered, then stood and waited.  Nadir said, "I can't believe you did that this morning."
     "Did what?" asked Jane, a bit confused.
     "You picked a fight with an instructor on your very first day of class!  That's crazy!  You're going to have to deal with him until next May!"
     "Meh.  I didn't pick a fight, I stated a case.  I'm eighteen, single, and free, and if something needs to be said to somebody, I'll say it.  Go ahead, let him get his panties in a bunch.  He'll just be demonstrating his own insecurities if he does.... And you know what?  I'll shed a tear for him at a later date, like sometime after the universe goes through heat death."  Jane put a hand on Nadir's arm.  "Good luck this afternoon, knock 'em dead.  And don't worry, Mr. Brach isn't gonna try to pile on you."
     "I hope not," Nadir said glumly.
     "Naw, he won't.  He's a big boy.  So anyway, I never got an answer earlier.  Are you living in one of the units?"
     "Yes, the Clark Kerr campus to the south.  A nice room.  Which unit are you in?"
     "I'm not," Jane replied.  "I'm is private housing, although I do have a roommate.  We share a common area, a kitchenette, and a bathroom, but our actual sleeping quarters are private.  Next year, I'm gonna hunt for a place in Oakland, a studio or one bedroom, someplace with private parking.  I'll ride my motorcycle up, and get to school on that."
     "You have a motorcycle?" Nadir queried.  "Aren't they dangerous?"
     Jane started laughing.  "Oh, damn right they are!  That's why you wear a fuckin' helmet and a leather and boots.  I'm not worried about my own riding, I'm worried about getting smacked by some doofus in a minivan who's too busy jacking off to dog porn to pay attention to the road."  She whacked Nadir and continued, "C'mon, you're from SoCal, I know you've seen other drivers doing some major stupid shit at the wheel.  To me it's kinda funny.  When I'm on my putt, I sit higher than people in cars do, so I can see inside their cars.  You wouldn't believe the number of guys who insist on jacking off while they drive.  I'll ride up to my friend's place in Bel Air, and my God, I'm amazed the 405 doesn't reek of cum.  Traffic will be slow and go, I'll be lane-splitting but taking it easy. I'll look over, and the dude next to me is cranking his hog, not a care in the world.  I wonder what the vehicle code violation is for whackin' and drivin'?"
     Nadir was too dark to blush, so he made up for it by giving a nervous, shaky grin.  "Yes.... Many drivers in Southern California allow themselves to, uh, be distracted."
     "At least the jerky boys have one hand on the wheel.  It's the bims changing their kid's diaper on the passenger seat that bug me more.  Fuckin' A, lady, hit the damn shoulder for a minute.  Jesus.  Anyway, enough of that.  So what's your next class?"
     "Anthropology," Nadir replied.  "And you?"
     "Introduction to American Business, over at Haas," Jane answered.
     Nadir looked amazed.  "You're a Haas student?  Why?"
     Jane cocked an eyebrow.  "What do you mean, why?  What the hell sort of question is that?"
     "Pardon me, let me rephrase that.  What are your goals?"
     "Domination of large portions of the globe,"  Jane replied.  "I'm gonna make Warren Buffett look like a Three Card Monte dealer."
     Jane was surprised, Nadir actually smiled and chuckled.  "You will be attending the right school, from what I understand.  So, you are already familiar with the area?"
     "Sort of.  I've been up here a few times to visit and hang out, and me and the friends I live with in Encinitas came and did the walk-around tour last spring.  You know, where they pair up a prospective student and his parents with some goofball of a senior, who shows you around.  I wish the dude we got set up with had pulled the candy cane out of his ass beforehand.  Did you do that gig?"
     Nadir actually used his face to express a different feeling: annoyance.  "Yes, I did," he sighed.
     "What was the problem?"
     "My family.  Other students are there with their mother and father.   I had my mother, my father, three uncles, two aunts, and my paternal grandfather.  I'd told my parents this would be inappropriate, but they remained steadfast that much of our family should be there.  I am the first child in my family to attend an American college.  And Berkeley, at that.  All right, so there should be some pride taken.  But....  Showing up in a group of nine people is an imposition.  It was like my entire family had to be consulted on the decision to attend here.  We looked silly, we stuck out.  My mother and aunts still wear saris.  My grandfather still wears a burnoose."
     Jane couldn't help but chuckle.  "Damn.  I guess when you got your driver's license, the party didn't end for three days."
     Nadir tried to give Jane a mean look, but his face also fell into mirth.  "No, just two days," he replied.
     The two exchanged phone numbers.  Jane gave her street address.  Nadir said if she wished to stop by, she should go to the front office at Clark Kerr Campus, ring his room.... and be patient.  He would have to come and retrieve her, and Clark Kerr is spread way out.  "Let's hang out later in the week, we'll hook a few beers and compare notes on our classes," said Jane.
     At first Nadir's face registered shock, then he smiled.  "Yes, I would like that.  Thank you."
     "Later, sweetie," Jane said, and gave him a kiss on the cheek.  She grabbed her book bag and walked off.  Nadir watched her go.  After a couple moments of conflict, he gave in and reveled in the view of Jane's alligator-clad ass swinging up Hearst Ave.  He thought to himself, None of my friends will ever believe me if I tell them I met a girl like her.  Girls like that exist in superhero comics, not on UC campuses.

     The next morning, Nadir was not in the computer lab.  Class hadn't started yet, so she walked up to Brach and asked, "So, how did things go with Nadir yesterday?"
     Brach looked at Jane, then back down at his desk.  "Mr. Reddy will not be in this class.  I'm not sure what class he will be in.  Mr. Reddy was given the final exam from last spring.  He completed it with nearly an hour to spare, and got a 98.  This morning, he will be meeting with Professor Martin, to take the final exam for Computer Science 201.  And after that, I'm not sure."  He looked up at Jane and said, "You're about to hear something you never hear again in your life, even if you live to be a thousand years old."
     "What's that?" asked Jane.
     "You will hear a tenured instructor, employed by the University of California, say to a freshman, 'You were right.'  Ms. Osborne, you were right.  Nadir didn't belong here, he needs to be in a class which is on par with his knowledge.  You were right in insisting I take the time and make the effort to do get him where he should be.  And.... you were right to not back down.  I think I'll sleep a little better knowing I did the right thing, even if it took a girl with a blue mohawk to make me.  If you'd like, I'll let you know where Mr. Reddy is placed."
     "Thank you, I'd love to know.  And thank you for taking my words seriously, even if I am a freshman."
     Brach smiled at Jane and said, "Ms. Osborne, I have the feeling you and I are going to find other things to debate about over the school year.  And honestly?  I'm looking forward to them, my hunch is you'll keep me on my toes.  Please be seated, let's get this bus out of the station."
     Jane went to her workstation and pulled her text, along with fresh mini-discs.  She decided this was a class where she would always pay attention to the instructor.

     After dinner that night, Jane walked up to Clark Kerr and buzzed Nadir's room.  His roommate answered and handed over the phone.  "Congratulations!" Jane exclaimed.  "Have they placed you yet?"
     "Yes, They're moving me to a programming class, I'll be learning to program in C and C++, and get an overview of methodology in programming.... Sort of understanding the intellectual philosophy of programming in general, learning the mental discipline needed to be a good programmer.  Are you at the desk?"
      "Yeah, come on down."
     "Please be patient, it's about a four minute walk to the office," Nadir told her.
     When he arrived, Jane grabbed him in a hug and said, "Kick ass!  So you think they're putting you in where you belong?"
     "I believe so," Nadir replied.  "I have rudimentary understanding the C language, but that's it."
     They stepped outside so Jane could smoke.  Out front, Jane lit a Newport and frowned at Nadir.  "I thought you'd be in a more chipper mood," she noted.
     Nadir sighed.  "Well....  I spoke with my parents, to tell them of the events.  Now they're angry with me."
     Jane was shocked.  "What the fuck, Chuck?  Why are they pissed at you?"
     "They say....  I should have stayed in 101, even if it was of no use to me, and followed the normal course for the major.  They said it was disrespectful to demand I be placed at a higher level, I was not following the path everyone else takes.  I explained to my father that what was being taught in 101 was material he had taught me when I was in sixth grade, I would have gained nothing from the class.  He told me I was being disharmonious with how things are structured, and I should have just went along, even if I was bored.  Also, I was disrespectful to my instructor.  I should not have questioned his initial decision."
     Jane had installed her sharp, steel-crushing grin.  "Okay.  A couple of problems here.  First off, you weren't arguing with Mr. Brach, I was.  All you did was state your facts, I was the one to tell Brach he needed to get in gear.  And.... You were 'disharmonious?  Oh, please, this is college, not a coral reef.  You're not upsetting some natural balance of order by being put in the classes you belong it.  You --- or I --- weren't asking for preferential treatment, you just wanted the school to do what it's supposed to do, which is teach you shit you don't know yet."
     Jane seethed a moment, then asked, "Tell me, are your parents immigrants?  Are they natives of India?"
     "Yes.  I am an American citizen by birthright, but they are in the U.S. because they hold green cards."
     "They need a history lesson about this country.  The United States was founded by a bunch of dudes who were sick of doing what they were told, following the rules.  The founding fathers were a bunch of malcontents, shit-stirrers, noisy bastards with more balls than money.  The British were telling the colonies what the rules were, and the colonies started saying, 'No, fuck you, we know how to get things done here better than you do, so fuck off.'  An unwillingness to follow the rules is why this is a country, and the attitude has stuck around, believe me.  Do you always drive at the posted speed limit on the freeway?"
     "No...."  Nadir chuckled.  "My father and uncles do, though..... But that isn't due to any great fealty to the law, it's more of a mild paranoia they all have."
     "Oh?  What sort of paranoia?"
     "Remember, they are in the United States because they hold green cards.  Green cards can be taken away, regardless of who possesses them, or their career.  My father and uncles have constant low-level unease that if they break a law or a rule, even something minor like speeding, they will lose their green cards and be forced back to India.  Because of their knowledge and skills, they have become successful in this country.  Back in India, they wouldn't be able to apply their skills, much less enjoy the success they have here.  They worry any minor infraction --- or even just attracting attention to themselves, somehow --- will have them sent home."
     Jane pondered this, and finally said, "Huh.  Okay.  Now I kind of understand why your father was pissed at you.  If he's paranoid about getting kicked out of the country and thinks anything that make him or his brothers noticeable will start that ball rolling....  Yeah.  He's in a mindset of, 'Don't make waves, don't make waves, just go with the flow.'  And you were making waves.  Okay, I was making waves, but you were in the water with me.  My dime store psychology says he was projecting his own fears onto you.  He'd never argue with his instructor, he'd be afraid to be marked as a troublemaker.  And here you are --- okay, you and some dizzy bitch with blue hair --- stirring up shit.
     "Look, I don't know dick about INS policies.  But I do know a very big reason your dad has retained his green card for so long is he's, in the professional class in America.  Your dad and your uncle help turn the gears at one of the biggest banks in the country.  Guess what?  This country needs them there.  Your dad and your uncle are helping the American economy run.  They got their jobs with Wells Fargo because they were the most qualified, and replacing them would be a real bitch.  If the INS started making noise with your family, shit dude, I'll bet my left boob that Wells Fargo would be right next to your dad, paying for an immigration lawyer, and generally telling the INS to step the fuck off."
     "Yes...." Nadir said slowly.  "You're right.  I know you're correct, it would be difficult for the INS to deport my parents, unless they committed a major crime I suppose.  But still.... My family are obviously not Americans, so regardless of our prosperity, and even our loyalty, we will be foreigners."
     Jane couldn't help but snicker.  "Uh huh.  And in two more generations, nobody will give a shit.  Nadir, your grand-kids are gonna be as American as credit card debt and meth addiction.  The only people who with think they're 'foreigners' are racist sacks of shit, just because their skin is dark.  I mean, take you for example.  Your phrasing is a little stilted, but you have the same SoCal voice everyone at your school did.  You're a product of Orange County, not India.  Every immigrant group goes through the same bullshit.  The original immigrants show up.  They've got funny clothes or funny voices or dark skin or strange customs, so they get marginalized and picked on.  But their kids grow up immersed in American culture.  The kids don't have funny voices, and they dress like the other kids where they live.  The customs are lost, too.
     "And the kids marry outside of their original culture or ethnicity, so their kids are even more diluted by this country.  You know what happens?  Those kids go to visit grandma and grandpa, and spend the whole time totally confused by these weird old foreign people.  The connection to the old country gets broken, and the grandchildren of all those funny immigrants are just more Americans.
     "Okay, answer me this.  Do you know how to ride a skateboard?"
     "Well.... Of course," Nadir replied, looking confused.
     "Have you ever played air guitar, alone in your room, listening to rock and roll?" asked Jane.
     Nadir couldn't blush, but you could almost hear it happening anyway.  "Yes...."
     "Have you and your friends all agreed you're gonna go 'party' that weekend?"
     "Yes!" Nadir beamed.
     "Have you ever gone to the mall for no reason, just to hang out with your friends and scope on girls?"
     The beam continued.  "Yes."
     Jane grinned, "Okay, you've passed the test.  You're not East Indian, you're another dude from Southern California.  If you were scooped up, thrown on a plane, and dropped in Mumbai or Bangalore, you'd be pretty lost.  You probably have a medium grasp on speaking Hindi, but culturally, you would be up the creek.  There would be no commonality between you and everyone around you, other than the skin tone and dark hair.  Now, if someone scooped you up, threw you on a place, and dropped in Seattle, or Reno, or Phoenix, you'd be just fine.  You'd be able to communicate, you'd understand the customs.... And almost everyone you met wouldn't think, 'That dudes' from India.'  They'll think, 'I wonder where in SoCal he's from?'
     "So, you get me?  You're sort of the fuckin' vanguard for your family in being Americans. And better yet, being Californians.  Always keep in mind: your kids are gonna think their grandparents are really weird.  And be glad they think that."
     Nadir looked at Jane briefly, then began laughing.  "Jane, you are amazing!  That is probably the most convoluted explanation of how naturalization works I've ever heard.  It was also the most honest, and the most touching.  And thank you."  He paused.  "I am an American.  I feel proud --- and lucky --- to say that.  My parents, my aunts and uncles, they will return to India when they retire, they will have saved enough money, working here, that their lives in India will be very comfortable.  I'm sure I will visit them, but when I do, I will be in a foreign country.
      "I will try to communicate much of what you've said to my father."  Nadir chuckled.  "And when he and my mother come up here to visit, I hope they can meet you. Introducing you to my parents will be very fun for me, to be frank.  They will be startled by your appearance.  And ninety seconds of conversation with you.... Well.... I believe they will understand just how free one can be in America, if someone wants to be."
     With a big smile, Jane stepped up to Nadir, grabbed his head, and kissed him.  It took a couple seconds for Nadir to get over the shock, but then he allowed her tongue into his mouth, reciprocating.  They stayed like that for a little while.
     When they broke apart, Jane asked, "Tell me, are you a virgin?"
     Nadir looked at the ground and said,"Yes."  Then he frowned at Jane and asked, "Could you tell that by kissing me?"
     Jane laughed and said, "No, I was just guessing."  She paused, then said, "Look.  Um, I'm not looking for a boyfriend right now, I don't want you to think I'm offering any promises or bonds.  But, uh, how attached are you to your virginity?  Would you be bothered if it went away?"
     Smiling and wide-eyed, Nadir said, "Uh.... No, I don't think I would miss it.  Hindi culture doesn't place the value on virginity that Western cultures do.... And as a native of Orange County, I'm sure I wouldn't miss it at all."  He paused.  "Why?"
     "I'm sure you've always known you would lose your virginity someday, right?"
     "Today's the day!" Jane shouted.

     Four hours later in a room at the Berkeley Marina Marriott, Nadir looked at Jane and said, "I hope I was, uh, at least passable...."
     Jane kissed his cheek and said, "You were quite lovely.  I never fake it, not even for a novice."
     Nadir's smile stretched from ear to ear.  Jane sat up on the bed and said, "Hey, wanna order a pizza?  I could do with some food."
     "Oh dude, that sounds totally awesome," Nadir. replied.
     Jane looked at him, then started laughing and laughing and laughing.

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