Study Guide

A Hologram for the King Chapter 32

By Dave Eggers

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Chapter 32

  • Dr. Hakem (that's Zahra to Alan now) arrives to pick him up for their date. A chauffeur drives her, because women aren't allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.
  • It's a bit awkward in the car, but Alan understands that Zahra, too, is skeptical about KAEC's survival. It gives them a place to start conversation.
  • They talk about everything on the hour-long drive to her brother's house. Alan learns about her stellar international career, which makes him feel even more insignificant.
  • Alan tells her about the presentation for King Abdullah. Zahra wonders out loud if the Chinese buying more of Abdullah's oil will figure into who'll win the IT contract for KAEC.
  • Alan feels uncomfortable. He didn't know about this. Zahra immediately feels bad for freaking him out.
  • Zahra tells him that she likes Abdullah more than his predecessor. Alan, who has a really fuzzy idea of international politics, comments inappropriately.
  • We learn that Zahra has two teenage children and that she'd like Alan's advice to keep her son from turning out like his father.
  • Alan recommends camping. Zahra practically snorts at him.
  • Alan wonders how he and Zahra have hooked up. They're so culturally different. But Zahra tells him that he's got it wrong: humans are barely separated from each other at all.
  • They arrive at the posh house. Alan continues to make stupid assumptions based on her ethnicity (he wonders if she's seen snow, even though he knows she went to school in Switzerland).
  • Zahra invites him to go swimming. Alan is very excited at the prospect of seeing Zahra in a bathing suit. So much for his numbness.
  • Alan snorkels around the coral reefs while he waits for Zahra. She appears out of nowhere and scares the bejeebers out of him.
  • She has dressed in men's swim trunks (no top) just in case the neighbors see them from afar. Will they mistake her for a man? Depends on how nearsighted they are.
  • Alan is blown away by her topless figure swimming in the water. He feels like an adolescent who wants to accidentally rub up against his crush.
  • They briefly make out under water—which sounds pretty improbable. But Alan's into it, for sure. Zahra leaves the water first, just to keep up appearances.
  • When she signals the all-clear from the house, Alan meets her inside. Unfortunately, his fragile excitement has died. Oh noes.
  • Suddenly, Alan finds himself unable to act like a lover. He knows what he's supposed to do, but he doesn't make a move.
  • Still, he's going to give it the old college try. At least, he'll go through the motions.
  • He worries that he'll be physically repulsive to her—he feels like he's falling apart. A mirror in the room tells him that he's not really gross. He's encouraged.
  • Then Alan makes a fatal mistake: he thinks of his failures with Ruby. Bucket o' cold water on the whole proceedings.
  • He finds himself unable to make love with Zahra, even though he kinda wants to. They fumble around for a bit, but it's clear that they both have too much emotional baggage.
  • Zahra empathizes with all of Alan's problems (which he tells her by way of apology). Alan wants to kick himself for not being able to enjoy himself with an amazing woman.

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