Spring semester is finished at Hubbard State University and Marcus Harnack is standing on the sidewalk outside the Chicago O’Hare airport terminal building. He received straight “A’s” in all of his chemistry, science, and math classes, but it looks like he will probably get a “B” in psychology. He just hasn’t been able to concentrate on psychology, largely because it requires a lot of rote memorization of terms and concepts of which he has no interest. What does interest Marcus is Subani De Silva, whom he’s been dating since February.
Subani is from Sri Lanka, where her parents are both medical doctors. She is a chemistry/pre-med major, a bit shy, and is incredibly well spoken. Probably the only thing she has in common with other girls on the Hubbard campus is her religion; she is a Christian. Subani isn’t very high maintenance. On many evenings she and Marcus are satisfied to sit around the kitchen table in Marcus’ apartment and study! However, these two are very much in love with each other. There are times when they look into each other’s eyes and ponder the incredible odds that they, born half a world apart, could have ever met. When he was eight years old, sledding down the snowy hill in his back yard, she was riding through humidity and haze in an oil-belching auto rickshaw on the way to her catholic girl’s school. He rode his bicycle to school. Her rickshaw driver would park under a banyan tree and wait the entire school day for her, just in case she got ill or had to leave school early.
Marcus was a bit nervous when he first took Subani home to meet his parents for Sunday dinner early last March. He wasn’t quite sure how his middle class Caucasian parents would react to this beautiful brown-skinned girl. It took about one minute to break the ice, as Subani’s big smile and polite demeanor won them over in a flash. Even Marcus’ middle school brother Timmy was unusually taken aback by Subani. Once, when Marcus went into the kitchen to get some more gravy, Timmy followed him and confided that he thought Subani was really “cute.” Since that first Sunday dinner, Marcus and Subani have visited his folks at least twice a week. On a couple of occasions Subani has cooked for the family, whipping up some tasty curry dishes.
While Ralph, Betty, and Timmy Harnack have gotten to know Subani well, her Sri-Lankan parents are clueless about Marcus. She has not spoken to her parents about meeting and dating Marcus, largely because she fears their criticism. She is, after all, supposed to marry someone of high social and economic standing, preferably a medical doctor. If Marcus were to finish his bachelor’s degree in metallurgical engineering, they would view him as an educated man, but his educational and social standing would not measure up to their expectations for Subani.
It is a typical O’Hare day, the roaring noise of arriving and departing airplanes overhead. On this bright, sunny afternoon Marcus holds Subani in a close embrace counting down the seconds until she enters the building, shows her ticket, and heads back home to Colombo for the summer. He doesn’t know what he is going to do for three months in the absence of her soft voice and magnetic smile. While she’s happy to go home and see her family again, she is miserable knowing that she will not be with Marcus. She walks a tight line as she heads home for the summer. Her parents will probably introduce her to suitors, presumably Sri-Lankan born medical students, home from Universities in the United States or the United Kingdom. She will politely refuse their offers and try to explain to her parents that she has met a handsome gentleman in Hubbard, Wisconsin. They will tell her of the impracticality of marrying a Caucasian, but she won’t be listening as she recalls the snowy moonlight night when she and Marcus first made love.
It will be a moral victory for Subani if she can return to Hubbard in the fall with even the tacit permission of her parents to continue dating Marcus. They would probably disown her if they knew the degree of her emotional involvement with this handsome ex-foundry worker. One last kiss and she walks through security with her ticket. He waits until she has cleared the inspection and is putting her shoes on again. She gathers her belongings and looks back at him, a brave smile on her face as she prepares to return to a culture, the depths and complications of which Marcus can’t even imagine.