I have, like, a thousand things I need to be doing right now that do not involve dinking around on the Internet, so obviously this is the optimal time to tell a story.
My best friend in high school was a quiet, unassuming Muslim girl who made good grades; said “yes, ma’am” and “no, sir” at appropriate times; and basically did whatever she wanted, because adults always assumed that whatever Saadia was doing at any given moment was precisely what Saadia was supposed to be doing at that moment.
Saadia and I were pretty good kids, but by November of our senior year, we figured we had some comp time coming for all the extra hours we’d put in writing papers for honors classes and doing extracurricular activities while the cool kids were out getting drunk and pregnant and stuff, so we started cutting class and going out for coffee whenever we could think up an excuse. We always took the backroads to the coffeehouse, and if we hit a pothole too hard on the way, the glovebox in my 1985 Nissan Pulsar would pop open, and a box of Dramamine would fly out and land in Saadia’s lap. Which in no way should be construed as a reflection on my driving skills. But I digress.
This story isn’t about Dramamine or our senior year or the many ways one can traverse Southern Illinois on county roads to avoid being busted for truancy. It’s about our sophomore year, when we hadn’t yet figured out we could get away with cutting class, so we settled for blasting the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack on my parents’ stereo and making outrageously inappropriate sexual innuendoes about Michael Crawford while we did our homework. As one does.
We had biology together that year, and let me tell you: We were amazing at dissecting things. And by “amazing,” I mean we sucked. Which may or may not have been* my fault, because the day we dissected a shark, I inadvertently disconnected every vein and artery in its body with one ill-advised swipe of the scalpel.
We obviously performed very well on the practical exam for that unit.
We squeaked through the next unit by the skin of our teeth, and by the time we got to the final project in the cutting-up-dead-animals series — a fetal pig — I was starting to worry. I was on a field trip the day our irascible but hilarious biology teacher handed out the pigs, but when I returned, Saadia knew everything there was to know about porcine anatomy.
I later learned the following exchange had occurred in my absence:
COLLINS: (Puts pig in front of Saadia)
SAADIA: (Stares at pig)
COLLINS: What’s the matter with you?
SAADIA: That’s a pig.
SAADIA: I’m Muslim.
SAADIA: That’s a pig. I can’t touch it.
COLLINS: Your brother touched one. He didn’t have any problem with it.
SAADIA: (Shrugs) Yeah, well, he’s probably going to hell.**
So Collins ended up dissecting the pig for Saadia and showing her what all the parts were, which she then showed me.
And that, kids, is the story of how Saadia and Emily passed sophomore biology.
**Last I knew, Saadia’s brother was a neurosurgeon at Cedars-Sinai. In retrospect, I probably should have been more careful with that shark.