“Can I ask you something?”
“Sure. What’s up?”
“Why do you always glare at that guy in class?”
“Huh? What guy?”
“You know what guy, Alanna.”
“He shouldn’t be here.”
“Hmmm, usually it’s them saying that about us.”
“Yea, well, things change.”
“I thought they had. Clearly, I was wrong.”
“What do you mean?”
“Here, there is no change; just a variation of the same old. We fought so fiercely for so long for de-segregation and here, on this campus, we impose it on ourselves.”
“This is totally different!”
“Is it really? There is a reason I would prefer to live downtown and not on-campus.”
“I don’t get it. If you hate the idea of going to an all-black university, why are you here?”
“My mom’s not a rich single parent like yours. They offered me a scholarship and still let me work off-campus to help my mom out.”
“That was nice of them.”
“Yup, it was. I gotta go, Lana. Where are you heading to?”
“It’s Wednesday. Ryan will be dropping my comics off in a little bit.”
“You are such a nerd,” Maria said with a grin.
“Hey, they got me through the last year of being stuck at home.”
“You were stuck at home for a year? Why?”
Alanna silently cursed herself for her stupidity as her light brown skin flushed a deep red.
“It’s…a long story. Aren’t you gonna be late for work?”
Maria glanced at her watch and muttered her own curse before saying, “You’re right! I gotta run! Think about what I said!”
“I would have if last year hadn’t happened,” Alanna whispered to herself as Maria, a varsity sprinter, disappeared into the distance.
She was shivering despite the unseasonable warmth and pulled her fall jacket tighter around her as she headed back to her dorm to await Ryan’s arrival. It was her favourite day of the week, Wednesday, and she considered it fate that she’d met Ryan during frosh week. They’d both been wearing their Justice League Converse All Stars and were soon chatting away like old friends. Alanna admitted that she’d only been reading comics for about a year and a half; and wasn’t as familiar with the older stuff. Ryan immediately offered to lend her anything from his collection that she was interested in reading. While he didn’t understand why she preferred Kyle Rayner to Hal Jordan, they at least both agreed that John Stewart was kind of a useless character (and the least interesting Green Lantern).
“I love getting my comics each week but I hate the bloody shipping fees,” she’d said
“Shipping fees? You know, I head downtown every Wednesday to my comics shop. I would be happy to grab your stuff for you.”
“Seriously? That would be amazing!”
“Yea, no problem.”
Ryan signed her up for a membership at the comic shop he’d been going to since he was twelve, Paradise Comics. She got the shipping list every week, responded with her pull list and Ryan picked her books up each week. He asked her once if she wanted to tag along. She’d declined and there was a sadness and finality to it that made him reluctant to ask again. Alanna had done her research and she knew that the guys there were well-respected and well liked, but they were white and that negated everything else. The guys at Paradise teased Ryan, saying he was spending a lot of money on this attempt to convince them that he had a girlfriend. They sounded like fun guys and they were always having fun events like artist signings; but Lana could never get up the courage to go. Ryan was nice enough to get her the sketches and signatures she wanted whenever he was going. But she’d missed out on a few signatures and sketches that she’d really wanted. She knew that the disappointment was her own fault though and tried not to dwell on it.
Ryan showed up at his usual time- five thirty on the dot.
“Here you go, pretty lady. And you’ll be happy to know, they finally got volume five of Girls with Slingshots back in stock; your copy is signed too.”
“Sweet! Thanks, Ryan,” she said as he settled down next to her with his pile of books. It was a ritual they had. He brought her books and then they’d both sit on her sofa and read through the ones they had in common. This week they both had Avengers Academy and Batman Beyond. She’d made Ryan give Academy a chance; he had assumed it was going to be teen soap opera (which in some ways it is) but the characters were well written, the premise sound and the cast had amazing chemistry. She had yet to convince him to give Runaways and Young Avengers a try (it didn’t help that the latter mentioned the fact that Allan Heinberg was a former writer for The O.C. on the cover). In turn, Ryan helped her navigate the confusing waters of DC history. Alanna still didn’t understand how Crisis on Infinite Earths was meant to simplify DC continuity. She was even more confused after reading it. But she decided she couldn’t hold it against them when they’d also given her Identity Crisis and Batman: The Long Halloween.
After their usual post-reading discussion, Ryan headed out to make deliveries at other dorms. The word had spread about his arrangement with Alanna and soon he had become the comic book delivery man for about twenty other students on campus. Alanna was the only person who he never charged for his services. Maria suspected that it was because he had a crush on Lana, although she never voiced this out loud. Alanna didn’t have a lot of friends on campus and Maria didn’t want to decrease the number by making things awkward between Ryan and her roomie, who seemed to have no interest in guys whatsoever. Maria couldn’t tell if her friend was a lesbian, asexual or just recovering from a bad breakup. Alanna never volunteered any real personal information about herself and experience had taught Maria not to ask.
Alanna settled in to read issue three of Marvel’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma. She loved Austen and John Knightley was one of her favourite characters of all time. His common sense, his compassion and his honesty had endeared him to her ever since she was ten years old and had read Emma for the first time. She sighed as she read, lamenting the fact that ‘they didn’t make them like that anymore’.