The man with blue and green
Ancient and modern man
By Maryam Kazemieh
June 27, 2001
We were holding hands when he died. That was three years ago. I keep
going over that night. You could gauge his excitement or calm by the change
in the color of his eyes. They were both blue that night.
We met in a London subway twenty years ago. His briefcase was jammed
in the train door when it was closing. He was carrying a bag of groceries
with his other hand, the train started moving, I caught myself staring and
laughing, but then I jumped out of my seat, pulling the door open, I helped
him get into the train. We sought each others' eyes; I dove into his blue
eye that was not letting me go. The green one looked scared or concerned.
We didn't exchange any words except to say goodbye. I saw him again a few
years later in San Francisco.
Money was tight and working in London was almost impossible. I was still
struggling with English even though I had gone beyond pointing to the picture
of fish and chips in a restaurant when ordering from a menu. My roommate
had found me a job through her Maltese friend in a clothing store. My days
were spent at college and language school and at night I worked in the clothing
store and struggled with serving the rich Arab women shoppers on Oxford
They would leave their stretch limousine and walk in to the stores resembling
black Arabian horses, their faces covered before a race. In the dressing
room, their anger nearly shattered the mirror reflecting their image. Covered
in gold and precious gems they would try on provocative items of clothing
and then, looking at themselves they would say something under their breath
and throw the items on the floor for me to collect. I was glad I could not
understand Arabic, but guessed that they cursed their luck for their caged
lives. The Arab women in London were aggressive, angry, rich and my best
Some nights after work, I would go out to a Pub or two with my Swedish
girl friend from my language school. I don't recall her name now, but I
never forget her capacity for drinking. I could hardly drink a glass of
wine and she would put away five or six glasses of beer. She was younger
and happier than I was and my little episodes with the Arab women fascinated
her. London was closing in on me. That was about the time I met Jack.
Jack and I met at a wine bar on Kings Road. He was agile, fast with
words and a good dancer. He was from San Francisco, and was living in London
to finish a project for some chemical company. After our first meeting we
were inseparable. I was quiet but wild inside knocking out the boundaries
that had been built around me through my teenage years by my parents.
We really didn't have much in common except that we were both lonely.
He listened and kissed the tears off my face as I wept telling him all that
was happening in Iran. His compassion for my pain turned into a comforting
love. Jack never talked about his past or family, and I never pressed him
to do so, as if now that we had found each other nothing else mattered.
When Jack asked me to marry him, I was relieved, yet anxious. I was ready
for a new country, a new home but was not sure how much it would hurt my
parents for me to marry an American and make my home even further from their
world. My only news from Iran was the executions of my father's friends
by the Iranian government, listed in the Iran Times newspaper.
The war with Iraq had escalated, the phone lines were cut off, and my
letters to my family were unanswered. I threw my self at loving Jack and
getting on with my life, closing the door to the idea of seeing my family
ever again. I had to survive amidst the nightmares that woke me up sweating
and shouting every night. True to his favorite country western song Jack
held me tight, not letting go. Jack was a cowboy, a gentleman, and a kind
adoring lover. He was my opium.
We married and decided to move to San Francisco. London's chill kept
crawling under my skin, never leaving space for the blood to flow. I missed
my occasional winter refuge in the perfect semi-tropical whether by the
Caspian Sea. I hoped to make San Francisco my new home but a vague and unsettling
doubt lingered in the bottom of my heart.
Jack and I happily settled in our little apartment in Richamond on San
Francisco's East Bay. I got a job at an art gallery and we spent most of
our evenings with Peter, Jack's entertaining friend. Peter was an alcoholic
artist who experimented with his art medium and women at the same level,
never really recognizing the depth of either. He never-the- less thought
himself a great modern artist and like any artist alive he used to say "my
work will become more valuable after I die". He died a few years later
from alcoholism and his art was burned by his surviving dancer girlfriend
on the beach.
Jack and I grew closer over the years and the habit of being together
when possible filled us with joy. Until one day I met the man with the blue
and green eyes and my whole life changed again.
It was a Monday in July and I had just left work. My gallery was on fisherman's
wharf. I could smell jasmine perfume as I walked by the park in the rare
warm San Francisco evening. The smell was enticing me to come closer and
find the jasmine vine that perfumed the air. I took my shoes off and with
bare feet walked on the grass in the park. The bright sun was turning into
an orange fire in the horizon, I moved across the park and sat on the grass,
watching the sailboats coming in, at the end of a beautiful day.
I thought about Jack sitting there next to me watching the sun set, but
for a moment I cherished being alone while taking all this in. Stretching
my body on the warm grass, I closed my eyes and all I could see was his
face, the man with blue and green eyes. The vision gave me a jolt. I could
not understand why I could see his face in front of me, so clearly. It had
been several years since I had saved him from the iron jaws of the train
and said goodbye as if we would meet again. I was shaken by this experience
and unable to explain it in any logical fashion. By the time I got into
the apartment and saw Jack cooking in the kitchen, I relaxed and shot the
whole incident like a bullet in the back of my mind.
Three months later, we had an art opening at the gallery for a new bay
area artist. The turn out for viewing the kitschy blue and green canvases
of this young artist overwhelmed and repulsed me. I felt like a used car
sales man pitching to sell broken down old Buick cars to new immigrants.
The dolphins jumping the high waves in the velvety blue waters fascinated
my customers from Ohio. "It goes with their furniture," they
I was writing up their order for two paintings when I felt something
was going to happen. I stopped writing for a second and the woman who was
anxious to hand me her Visa card asked if there was something wrong. I looked
at her frozen, not knowing what to say and after a long moment went back
to finishing up their orders and putting giant "sold" signs next
to their paintings.
My eyes searched the room for whoever I felt was watching me and I was
curious to find out who it was. My body started trembling as my eyes locked
into his eyes, the man with the blue and green eyes. There he stood looking
at me, staring at me as if he wanted to lead me in flight away from this
crowd and this world, into the clouds. The sensation was exalted and frightening
at the same time.
I walked toward him in a trance, never looking away. I heard my name
a couple of times but my tongue was too heavy to respond to the voices.
My eyes, or was it his eyes, were floating me around the room toward him.
He grabbed my hand and we walked out of the gallery. I did not think
about Jack, Iran or my parents. I was not concerned about the future or
any plans that Jack and I had made about buying a house and starting a family.
But the strange fear that had enveloped me when I saw him never left me.
I was with him, as if I was now finally had become whole and could not let
go of him or this moment. Our minds and words floated and danced harmoniously
into late hours of the night.
We drifted from one neighborhood to another, at times stopping to for
a drink or food. The daylight swept across us with an unusual heavy rain.
We were walking on Haight, rushing across the street in search of a shelter
from the rain. I let go of his hand. When I turned around, searching for
the comfort of his fingers in my hand again, a fast moving car was lifting
him up and throwing him on the side walk. I rushed to his side and that's
the last time I saw the man with the blue and green eyes alive. His eyes
turned blue as he smiled at me.
I left a vague note for Jack, telling him that I was in love with another
man and that he should never look for me. Then I packed my bags and left
the apartment never sure of where I was going. Some nights I put on my
dress that I had on that night and wonder around San Francisco, retracing
the memories of the man with the blue eyes.