Even Nick started getting bored with the college life. “If I have to play another video game I’m going to shoot myself. Did we really waste this much time with those things?”
“Sad, isn’t it?” said Joe, not looking up from The Great Gatsby, the assigned reading from that afternoon’s English class.“All the things we could have done with that time . . .”
“Learn an instrument, another language, date girls . . .”
Joe brandished his book. “Read, maybe?”
“That too.” Nick sat on the couch, wiggling his fingers. “My eyeballs are starting to bleed from all of it. My fingers, too. They feel like . . .”
“They should be holding a books?”
“Alright, alright!” Nick stood, pacing around the room. “I can take a hint. I’m not a total moron you know.”
Joe turned a page, his highlighter at the ready. “Never said you were.”
“No, but you implied it. We all know how powerful implications can be.” Nick picked up a textbook from his desk. “Take education, for example.”
“That’s what I’m trying to do.”
“I’m feeling philosophical tonight; hear me out.”
Joe, knowing he had no choice, closed his book.
“Remember the implication when we were kids? ‘Boys are dumb, girls are smart.’ Remember all of that?”
“Nobody said it,” Nick said, “but it was there. How many times was a boy the top of the class growing up? Any class? Like, once, maybe, and that was a Chinese exchange student.”
“Okay,” said Joe. “But how many girls were captain of the football team?”
“Apples and oranges. Geez, you’re really bad at this argument stuff. Are you sure you’re a lawyer?”
“My bar license is as gone as my tattoo.”
“It was in the air, on TV, in movies. All of that. Boys are stupid. Girls can do anything.” The book dangled between Nick’s long fingers, threatening to fly corner-first towards Joe’s eye. “No wonder we were such colossal screw-ups.”
Nick had a point, but Joe wasn’t in the mood for debate. He had actually never read The Great Gatsby–the first time through college he just read the Cliff Notes–and found that he quite liked it. “Where is this coming from?”
“Oh, you know. Just thinking about why we couldn’t get it right the first time. I’m looking for a reason . . . reaching for a reason might be more appropriate, but still. You know I’m right.”
“Here’s the counterpoint,” said Joe. “Stop looking for a reason and just take this for what it is, the opportunity to control your destiny and stop blaming outside forces for all your problems.”
“Yes,” said Nick slowly, a smile blooming on his face. “Yes! Very philosophical.”
“Thank you. I’m a regular Aristotle.”
“That’s cultural appropriation,” said Nick.
“That hasn’t been invented yet,” said Joe, smiling. He returned to his book, hoping for no more interruptions.
It’s not that Nick was wrong, but his musings didn’t matter. The only thing that did was getting that four-point-oh, going to Harvard Law, and meeting Sandra. With fifteen years’ extra experience and knowledge, he knew he could ace his classes, all of them. He had already emailed his adviser for an appointment to transfer to some more difficult classes that looked better on paper. Enough passivity! He would finally do things right. Academically, at least. There was still that whole terrorism issue to deal with . . .
The book, finally free of Nick’s constraining grasp, flew forward with the velocity of a discus, slicing end-over-end through the air to hit Joe on the back of his head. He fell forward on his desk, smashing his nose in the middle of poor Gatsby and leaving a nice red stain somewhere in the masterpiece.
“Oh my God!” said Nick. “You alright man?”
Joe shook his head, trying to stop the room from spinning. “Aside from the concussion?”
“Yeah, aside from that. Wait, concussion?”
Joe flung Gatsby sidearm. It hit Nick in the mouth with a satisfying thunk
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