“Well,” says Mustafa, frowning deeply, “that sure was a semester.”
Yusuf blinks up from the conference table, where he and MH have spread out playmats, newly determined to complete a match before the girls finally arrive. “That’s putting it mildly, ya akhi.”
“Look,” says Mustafa, then breathes audibly, a relaxation technique identifiable from December’s pre-finals de-stressing event. “I’m trying this new thing where I only highlight positivity, alright?”
Muhammad snorts and dispassionately sets two cards face-down, gaze shuffling between Yusuf’s field, Mustafa’s erratic pacing, and his own hand of Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. “Donald Trump is going to be President of the United States in, like, three weeks,” he says. “It’s not like the coming of the Hour is news.”
“Oh, my God,” Mustafa says, and stares with saucer-eyes at nothing, like he’s seeing the idea manifest in front of him. “I need to sit down.”
He pulls out a leather office chair and does so, arms folded tightly on the table. Then he rolls himself out and stands; paces the length of the tiny library conference room again, rapidly muttering a medley of du’a under his breath, black hands contorted in an effort to strangle an invisible struggle.
Seeing Mustafa’s panic in his peripheral is enough for Yusuf to feel his own heart waver from the game, too, as a lurking anxiety takes its chance to whisper evil thoughts of future uncertainties: healthcare, it says, and forget ever getting a job, you squinty-eyed freak, but I guess it’s not like you were going to get one anyway, since you’ll be in a Moslem ghetto—
Lā ḥawla wa lā quwwata illā billāh, Yusuf reminds the gremlins in his brain. Having shaken the spell of misery, he turns to his opponent and accuses, “Why you gotta be such a ray of sunshine, MH?”
“No point hiding from the Truth,” Muhammad says, scowling. He’s always been sharp and obstinate about his beliefs. “Make your move, bro.”
Yusuf draws a card. He squints, halfheartedly calculates the odds of his defeat, and prepares to cut his losses. “I end my turn.”
A squirmy growl erupts from Mustafa’s stomach. They all pause to check the time on the analog above the door, reminded of their hunger and their task. The MSA’s pre-semester meeting was meant to start a full hour ago; more than half the eBoard has yet to arrive, with their agenda originally meant to stretch from Dhur to Maghrib.
“Where are they?” Muhammad demands, and having declared victory, collects his cards.
Yusuf does the same, then snatches his phone from their haphazard pile of coats. There are no new notifications from the group—a blessèd rarity. Also, mildly concerning.
“I think they said they were getting donuts,” Mustafa says, hopefully. “Didn’t Sobia say something about comfort food?”
“Sister Sobia,” corrects Muhammad, who, ever-resourceful, apparently stashed a Nature Valley in his pocket. He dusts the crumbs from his beard. “It doesn’t take 45 minutes to stand in line at a Dunkin’ Donuts. If you guys would just eat at normal human times and our president”—he nods at Mustafa—”would enforce normal meeting rules this really wouldn’t be a problem every single—”
The door swings open.
The girls have finally arrived, bearing donuts—and coffee.
All is forgiven.