I’ve got your number

(Excerpt from Keeping Score, the precursor story to Capturing Captain America)

Kaja first pegged Ronan as a man looking to make himself a legend after seeing the 1995 film Dangerous Minds with Michelle Pfeiffer. Kaja noticed him at the theater with his girlfriend, the then reigning Miss Orange County, sitting in a corner. She was sure she heard him say that the Louanne Johnson character could be him someday. How cliché she thought. Her intention since high school was to enter education because her ultimate purpose in life was to study learning and cognition. Ronan just wanted to be famous.

The second they had met in the first day of statistics class Kaja felt her had Ronan’s number pegged. He was the epitome of Southern California privilege. Perhaps a trust fund victim who nursed some latent guilt over his good fortune. Kaja didn’t resent him for this relaxed life. An ancestor did well for his descendant and in Kaja’s logic, Ronan just happened to be one of them. No it was really simple why Kaja wasn’t so keen on Ronan. He thought he knew her by just one look. Ronan judged her the way country club boys say they don’t judge when subtly they are a harsher critic than a nasty gossip columnist. It was the posture, expressions, mannerism that established hierarchy and rank. Like a pack of wolves and the pecking order Ronan was the kind who said to stay away. No matter what Kaja did it was people like Ronan who were ready to shoot them down.

Kaja had learned as a child in Sarajevo that it took too much energy to be something else. Her younger sister Zhara used to say that being the genuine article was not an option when life was short. When the former Yugoslavia plunged into civil war that lesson was all too real. Kaja and her extended family were able to plot their escape just before the war broke out. Despite their efforts the family found themselves in a UNHCR camp in Italy for weeks while they waited for official permission to go to America. It was during this time that the six year old Kaja learned English from a UN volunteer. She also learned that in a matter of seconds and entire life and its treasures could be gone. Ronan and his sense of public service were admirable but he had never tasted the emptiness of nihilism. The kind of nihilism that dispossession brings. How could he ever reach students who represented the harsher side of America?

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