Eat your last meal, Hallie replies.
Full Harmony's last meal: a double burger, chicken nuggets, french fries and a chocolate chip cookie, to the din of a pounding rain in his girlfriend's car in a McDonald's parking lot at 10:30 p.m. on a Sunday in February. Gone in 4½ minutes—he's never been one for ceremony. He balls up the wrappers, his excitement rising as the grease settles. He's your crème-de-la-crème college student, carrying a 3.43 GPA in one of his university's most selective and challenging majors, Political and Social Thought, while doing volunteer work at a Charlottesville Boys & Girls Club, mentoring Charlottesville teenagers in the Collegiate 100 Society, teaching English as a second language to a refugee from Burundi in UVA's Visas program, raising funds for the homeless as part of his fraternity's untiring community service and, oh, yeah, playing on an ACC football team. Doing this, though—true activism for a greater cause—is what he dreamed college would be back when he signed up for it, but he has barely seen a trace of it in his three years on campus.
At 9 a.m. the next morning he enters the anthropology building, Brooks Hall, and joins the gaunt gang of protestors. Perhaps he's naive. Perhaps they are too. Nobody, especially Full Harmony, regards him as anything more than Hunger Striker Number 13 ... except for one woman. Emily Filler's a UVA grad student and an adjunct instructor at nearby University of Mary Washington who's serving as the Living Wage Campaign's publicist during the strike, and when Hallie casually mentions Full Harmony's extracurricular activity to her, she knows at once: a handsome, high-cheekboned, square-jawed, ever-smiling, humble football player hunger-striking against his university administration's wage policy for thousands of mostly African-American campus workers. Yahtzee!
She calls Frankie Jupiter, reporter for CBS affiliate WCAV, and by the time the hunger strikers have gathered on the steps of the Rotunda for their daily noon rally, Jupiter's got a camera rolling and a microphone under Full Harmony's jaw. Capturing his vow that he won't eat until UVA, the biggest employer in town, does what 17 of the other 22 elite universities considered to be its peers have done and agrees to pay its service-sector workers a "living wage." That's a sum that the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute, calculating the cost of living on a city-by-city basis, has determined for Charlottesville to be $13 an hour, which is anywhere from $2.35 to $5.75 more than the starting wage for UVA service workers.
Full Harmony finishes the interview, hoists a sign—WORKERS ARE PEOPLE TOO!—and becomes the loudest chanter of all: One! Two! Three! Four! No one should be working poor! Five! Six! Seven! Eight! UVA! Living wage!
A hundred students, a handful of them his friends, stop and gawk, then hurry away. Damn. Full Harmony, empty stomach, watches them all head off to lunch.
He awakens on Day 2 to a discovery: Nothing's harder to ignore than a hollow belly. Get up, he tells himself. Get moving. He crosses campus and slips into the football trainer's room, bracing for the tap on the shoulder and the nod toward the coaches' offices. He begins banging out his hour and a half of rehab work: underwater treadmill, calf raises, balancing exercises, stretches, crunching towels and picking up marbles with his toes, cold and hot whirlpools. It hits him halfway through: He's operating a Maserati on an empty tank. He drags himself into the locker room, pouring his last few volts into that high-beam smile, the everything's-hunky-dory look, just in case. The football facility's crawling with assistant coaches and athletic department staffers. Either they still don't know....
... or just don't care. Yeah, maybe he can get away with this because of the scarlet W he wears. Walk-on. He's accustomed to feeling like a penny in a gold mine, dressing over here in Walk-On Corner, a.k.a. the Hood. Because in the Hood you don't get your own locker, sharing one with another walk-on, and you're not even just a number—you share that with someone far above you on the depth chart—and you're not allowed to take out your frustration on the starters or the second-stringers in practice because We gotta get them to the game, son! Just wrap 'em up and keep 'em vertical! And still Full Harmony loves it, approaching every practice as if it's the ACC championship game in front of 73,675 screamers, bent on being a weekday superstar.
He has found himself on the field for only a handful of kickoffs in the second halves of games that the Cavaliers have salted away ... but his teammates, they know Joe-Joe. That's what they call him, because no one named Wonman or even Joseph—that's the name his nonfootball friends call him—could possibly be as hyper and happy, as earsplitting and ever-ready as Joe-Joe. Quickest on the scout team to suss out the first-stringers' offense and call out the appropriate defense, to call aside Cavaliers wide receivers and warn them about what they're tipping off, to clap and bellow, "Give that boy a scholarship!" when one of his fellow scout-teamers makes a play.
He exits the locker room and surveys the facilities where football players pump their iron, do their cardio, eat their meals and attend their study halls, all far from the rest of the student body. He gazes at the two state-of-the-art synthetic practice fields, with a third one, a $13 million indoor facility, about to get green-lighted by the school's trustees, the Board of Visitors, because, well, what if it rains? Green-lighted at a budget meeting during this very hunger strike, even as administrators are insisting to the strikers that budget constraints prevent them from paying a living wage! That's like food to Joseph. It fills his empty tank with fury.