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When it was finally Babak's turn to see Big Dane, he stepped up very close to the body. Upon seeing the man, he forgot everything that he had heard while in line. He noticed the giant size of the body, three times in girth that of Babak. And the man was not just fat—soft all over, his wide cheeks like plush pillows—but built fundamentally on a larger scale than most. The two hands clasped together over the dead man's chest made a shape roughly equivalent in size to Babak's skull. Until this point, Babak had always imagined the ideal American male as something more akin to himself—the wiry, suave businessman who could slip quickly between the desk and the chair, bend elegantly behind the steering wheel of a car, and move in person as the taxis did, in sharp, fast jolts and gestures. But this guy, this Big Dane, who was not any of that, seemed so much superior to Babak, dead or alive.
While Babak was pushed along past the coffin and into one of the rows of benches, his mind drifted to the memory of the residents he had once evicted from a building in Brownsville. In a flash it came to him: they were the ones, not Navid, with posters of Big Dane on the walls. For some reason, perhaps out of laziness, perhaps because they had no place to store frivolous belongings, the residents had left them behind. Babak had ripped the posters down himself, vowing to sue. The tenants: Melody Cano, a slender, short, Colombian brunette, and that oldest son Hamster, and his wisecracking sister Esperanza. Babak could not forget meeting the three of them for the first time over a plate of rice and beans, telling Melody that he would take a chance on them. They had set up an alternate payment plan, but he had limits. When it was clear he could never rent the apartment to anyone again without expensive repairs, Babak had evicted them. They had called him a slumlord to his face. He had been the only person to enter the condemned house before the demolition crews came.
Within minutes, the viewing ended, and the reverend invited a man by the name of Mo' Bizness to speak. Mo' Bizness came to the podium and, in a booming voice that belied his diminutive stature, began to talk: "His name was Dane Rodriguez Washington, his earliest years in the Dominican Republic were full of setbacks, his father had been shot in a case of mistaken identity. Dane's struggles in the Bronx as a twelve-year-old who overcame persistent learning disabilities are well documented, his mother's support unending, his literacy campaign in the 90s inspiring. Musical genius unprecedented. Nobody did more with pauses than Big Dane," he said. "You'd hear the brother wheezing," Mo' Bizness continued, eliciting low mm-hmm's from the crowd. "He was who he was, he didn't deny anything."
Babak remembered the songs that had been playing outside, how there were intervals of audible wheezing, places where the music just stopped and then restarted with a percussive gunshot. Two rows ahead of Babak, a beautiful black woman nodded along vigorously. She was on the cusp of bursting into tears. An ex-lover, Babak thought, or a musician Big Dane had worked with, or just a friend or a lifelong fan. As opposed to Babak, she probably felt some personal tie to the man inside of the coffin. Babak felt only—what?—not much for Big Dane but a longing, maybe, to be loved as people loved Big Dane. But the sudden desire for fame was soon replaced by the recognition that he lacked those qualities that could make swarms of people admire him. His own wife had told him once, soon after Navid's birth, that he was not a very lovable guy. She had meant to tease him only, but still the words had stung.