David and Gray

David and Gray
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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

David: Mustafa Abubaker's Excerpt From His Upcoming Book, 'Intangibles'

Former President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf and Mustafa Abubaker
Here's a new excerpt from the homie Mustafa Abubaker's upcoming book, Intangibles. Check it out below:

This section describes Amir's first genuine romance with a photographer named Sofia and his unfailing ability to destroy the things he loves. He's an editor at the New Yorker...and he hates it.

It went on like that. Putting issues out, doing interviews and photo shoots together, waking up in each others' beds, cooking breakfast, going out at night for dinner. She told him about Boston, how she couldn't stand it, how she was a basketball fan and Kevin Garnett scared her little cousins when she was in college and since then, she burned his jersey.

Amir rummaged through his belongings, showing her old photographs and a certain letter he wrote when he was nine.

She shared stories of the awkward boys courting her during her puberty-stricken years, rambling phone calls on New Years Eve, ridiculous notes in her locker, expensive gifts for no real concrete reason. Amir shared something he wrote for an 'I Believe' assignment his senior year in high school.

"life isn’t about keeping score. its not about how many friends you have or how accepted you are. not about if you have plans this weekend or if you’re alone. it isn’t about who you’re dating, who you used to date, how many people you’ve dated, or if you haven’t been with anyone at all. it isn’t about who you have kissed. its not about sex. it isn’t about who your family is or how much money they have or what kind of car you drive or where you went to school. its not about how beautiful you are (EVERYBODY IS BEAUTIFUL) or what clothes you wear, what shoes you have on, or what kind of music you listen to. its not about if your hair is blonde, red, black, or brown or if your skin is too light or too dark. not about what grades you get, how smart you are, how smart everybody else thinks you are, or how smart standardized tests say you are. its not about what clubs you’re in or how good you are a sports. its not about representing your whole being on a piece of paper and seeing who will "accept the written you". life just isn’t about these things. but life IS about who you love and who you hurt. its about who you make happy or unhappy purposefully. its about keeping or betraying trust."

Hit read more to check out the rest of the excerpt!

Sofia outshone the sun while he read it to her, his singsongy cadence music to her ears. They basked in each other's insecurity, Amir confessing that he, too, was one of those awkward 14 year old kids attempting to convince everyone he was in love and was going to spend the rest of his life with a girl that didn't even bat her eyelashes at him, that didn't even wave at those weekend gatherings, that changed her entire persona in front of other people.

Sofia, growing up in a house where her father whisked her away to SAT math camps and silly programs at Duke during the summer, felt like she had been robbed of what she wanted. Sneaking in her Nikon, she would snap pictures of the rare scenic nature of it all in secret, drawing perplexed looks from others as they participated in group discussions outside. When she turned sixteen, her father had phoned Harvard, inquired about their application process and within a week, placed an application on her desk.

Hiding this from her parents, she went to the school putting on the notion that she was a ditz. All the brown girls that went to school with her never got along with her; maybe they would have in another world but, in this one, Sofia yearned acceptance and would dumb herself down, would purposely not perform to the best of her abilities so that the popular, soccer player Jared could come by and coax her into an afternoon study session at Caribou Coffee but Sofia knew the truth. She had always imagined she would be the first of her friends to bring a white boy home, clinging to his side as her mother narrowed her eagle-like pupils and her father question him about his parents.

She remembered Jared telling her that it wouldn't hurt, that it would be over in a second and in her mind - all those C's and B's, all those missed days of school, all those incomplete homework assignments - what's it really worth? A night of pure instinct?

So she decided to give the brown boys a chance, to let them prove their merit. Some were original, funny yet there was just this arrogance about all of them. This self-hatred; they all looked so depressed in her eyes, their shoulders with the permanent grip of their fathers.

Sofia occasionally admitted, in the dead of the night, where the only sounds were the thumps of their hearts, that her father’s intern was making money, driving a fast car. Amir took the small talk with a grain of salt; everybody has the occasional yearn. Yet, their love became stronger than a profession.

“I’ll never be a doctor,” Amir would say, wiping away her tears, blessing himself internally for being a fuck up a nice girl would fall for.

“I don’t want a doctor,” Sofia half-cried, half-laughed. “I only want you.”


“So Amir, what is it you do exactly?”

“I’m an editor at chief at the New Yorker. I have a MFA in Photography.”

“So does Sofia,” her father replies, over steak and rice Sofia’s mother had prepared. Persian cuisine was a regular at her household.

Amir had been blazed in front of parents before. Graduation parties, weddings, hell - even funerals. The feeling of death engulfed him entirely, an emotion that trapped him in a state of mind that promised longevity. He couldn’t sleep at night, coming up with various theories on what happens after you die? He could not fathom the concept of eternity yet he couldn’t grasp the idea of a set time on this Earth. Waking up in the middle of the night in cold sweat, grabbing his bowl and packing hurriedly, taking one puff at a time to relieve himself. What if hell was just a place where everything you deleted off your computer went, he thought to himself.

But it wasn’t hell. It was Sofia’s kitchen and her motioning him for to converse.

“What do you take photos of?”

“Usually people. I’m fascinated by how people act when no one is looking. The nature of humanity is very delicate and I try to expose some of the imperfections we have.”

“So you’re in the business of humiliating others?”

“I like think of it as keeping people grounded. iPods, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo - these things have taken over our lives.”

“And not yours?”

Amir knew this was going nowhere. He was arguing with the ghost of his past, flashing back to dinner parties at his parents’ colleagues’ houses, men too arrogant to let off their bravado, women too feeble to interject. It was no use, really; Sofia’s father was toying with him, trying to get him to say the wrong thing so when Amir gets up to go to the restroom or start the car, he can begin his analytical approach to his daughter’s romance. A collision with an ugly crash.

Thankfully, Sofia interrupted.

“Tea. Who wants some tea?”

Sipping out of what Amir figured must be the expensive china, he proclaimed himself a burden; such silverware must be normally reserved for Sofia’s father’s rich clients, men with hefty wallets and mustaches that gave off their wealth.

Amir didn’t have much to say. They had small talk, they laughed for the sake of conversation. Her mother asked about his, forcing Amir to dismantle his family unwillingly in front of complete strangers.

“She lives in California.”

“And your father?” Sofia’s mother wants to know, smiling sweetly. She looked as if she really meant it, someone genuine.

“He’s in Karachi,” Amir replied and Sofia’s dad grunted, stepped outside for a smoke.

When it was time to go, Sofia’s mother asked Amir for a moment. He agreed; the night could not get any worse.

Fluorescent lights shone above them as Sofia’s mother crossed her arms and tucked away a waft of hair hanging on the side of her cinnamon complexion.

“Ever since she was a child, Sofia has always been interested in destruction. Incomplete things, puzzles with missing pieces, etc. She has longed for something she can fix, something that shatters her perception of reality. Life is perfect on the surface, Amir. Just don’t let on too much.”

Amir wasn’t sure how to take this. Standing there, completely sober, he took it as Sofia’s mother’s subliminal disapproval. He just nodded and she put a hand on his shoulder, still smiling.

Sofia’s hand met his and it was time to go. Sofia’s father stood there briskly, clutching maybe his 5th cup of tea, grimacing. Sofia’s mother waved and smiled as Amir drove off back towards the city.

“So, what do you think?”

“Of what?”

“Of my parents.”

“They’re alright.”

Sofia was quiet, the humming sound of classic jazz leaking from the car speakers adding a soundtrack to the conversation they both were thankful for. She undid her hair and rested her head on his shoulder.

“Something wrong?”

Amir could have ended it there. He didn’t have to continue the internal torture, the humiliation of being utilized; he was a social experiment. A broken family, a fucked up career path, a pothead, etc. He was everything Sofia’s youth wasn’t. He used to want to be different, he loathed the idea of entering math competitions, of discussing SAT scores with overbearing adults eavesdropping. Now, he was just a pawn in her chess game.

“Why would anything ever be wrong?”


It was never like this. Amir didn’t have to try this hard to get Sofia’s attention; it would take a quick joke, a witty observation and she was yanked back into Amir’s world. Now, at dinner, he would eat quietly and she would flip through the latest issue of The New Yorker, offering some quips of advice here and there.

Conversation used to be fluent. At times, they wouldn’t even touch the food. It was a process they had, something Sofia had manufactured. They would show up to their very own Ritz Carlton every night; dress up properly, bring a small inexpensive gift. Amir would show up, suit and all, and pull Sofia’s chair out and pour out the finest wine. They would play a random record to accompany their dining yet mostly it was just laughing and smiling and drinking. They talked as if they hadn’t seen each other in weeks, Amir asking what was new in her life, Sofia asking what he liked to do with his free time even though she knew he loved music. It was as if those 40 minutes took place in another dimension, back to the night they first met.

So, Amir knew where this was headed. This life didn’t consist of choices only to be ignored; living in complacence never appealed to him. Instead, he was at a crossroads. End it with Sofia before she ends it with him, her subliminal disregard for his pondering quips getting to him late at night, disturbingly vivid portraits of Sofia burning his moleskine and laughing. He thought about quitting his job, disposing of his Blackberry and catching the next flight to Los Angeles, maybe he could find his mother again. He was lost and while Sofia spent less and less time around him, he didn’t notice. He was in his own world; solitude defines his life.

It’s the kind of ragged transition that most surround themselves with plenty of friends to have smoothed over. Yet, Amir is making a spectacle of it. Which is, in a way, brave. One of the central points of Amir’s art and career, as people in his life have read them, is that adolescence isn’t something we should look away from, a shameful churning of dirty hormones. It’s the crucible of our identity, the answer to everything that comes later, and we need to look long and hard at it, no matter how gross or painful it might sometimes feel.


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