"I know. Especially when I'm excited. I'll try to speak. . .more.
. .slowly." She winks at him.
Ushman smiles. It is true that she speaks quickly, but he has
understood everything she's said to him. He wants to prove this.
"There must be something that lasts. Something that is
indelible," Ushman says.
"Not that I know of. But I will let you know if there's anything
in the next lecture to give us hope."
"Please do. Now," Ushman says with authority, "let's get some
take-out food and watch the eclipse in Queens."
"Take-out Fantastic. Can we get Chinese?"
Ushman nods. She's like an exuberant child. If she weren't so
charming, so wide-eyed and genuine, he'd be suspicious of such
"In the little white cartons? I love that. My parents aren't fans
of Chinese food, so we never got take-out when I lived at home.
This- you, here, Chinese- is the beauty of leaving home," she says
with genuine affection.
"Indeed," Ushman says, imagining the freedom she must feel.
Ushman never left his parents' home. Not until he came to America.
He never lived in Iran without the dread of his mother around every
corner. Even when he was a newlywed, when his mother was confined to
her bed, she was still there. Her smell, her voice coming at them
through the dark, her hair that had to be brushed. "I never. . ." He
starts to tell Stella this and then changes his mind. "I never ate
Chinese food until I came to New York."
Stella looks at him. He senses that she knows it is not what he
was going to say. She looks away from him, out her window, as if she
isn't interested in anything inauthentic.
"It's true. Okay, one time in Istanbul there was an old man
selling egg rolls from a cart. I was with my father and he bought us
each one." He recalls eating the exotic treat out of waxed paper as
together they watched oil barges lumber down the Bosporus.
"A little greasy, but good."
"There's a Chinese place on the corner across from my dorm."
"I know," Ushman says, remembering her face through the big glass
window and the boy she had hugged. "I mean, I saw it when I picked
"The crazy thing is that they also have fried chicken,
hamburgers, and club sandwiches on the menu. Who goes to a Chinese
restaurant for a burger and fries?"
"I find it very suspicious. There should be a police
investigation. Maybe sociopaths are identifiable as those people who
order burgers at a Chinese restaurant."
Ushman laughs. "But the proprietor puts it on the menu. They
shouldn't make the offer."
Stella raises her eyebrows. "Now you're onto something. We can
blame it on insecure restaurateurs. They are the sociopaths."
Ushman laughs. "Maybe. It is worthy of study, right?"
"Absolutely. Does your Chinese place serve American food?"
"No," Ushman says. "Not even soda. Only tea."
"I like the tea you made. With sugar cubes between our teeth."
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