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Shahin & Sepehr

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I ran from Eye-ran

By Pejman Mosleh
April 20, 1999
The Iranian


I knew the officer had asked me a question and was now expecting an answer. But what could he be asking me? Where are your parents? When did you leave Iran? Do you speak English?

"Yes." I confidently replied.

The Lester B. Pearson International Airport immigration officer looked deeply into my eyes. His lips did not move but his eyes were telling. "I've seen your type." He picked up the phone and rang out a request. The word "translator" echoed in his pronouncement. A minute or so later, a slouching man with a lifeless expression appeared. He cast a dead glance at me and waited.

"Country of origin?" This time, I understood the foreign tongue and did not wait for the defunct newcomer.

"E-run." I said gingerly.

"Where did he say?" I felt slighted.

"He says he's from Eye-ran." The translator's morbid accent unsettled me.

"Age?" I didn't allow the translator to say anything.

"Eighteen." I said in Persian and to the translator this time.

The officer began filling in form after form. I talked about the desert I had crossed, the scorching heat, the small pond near the border, the fish inside the pond and the silence of the sands sullied only by the farting camels.

The officer looked up listlessly from his paper work: "Anybody's waiting for him outside?"

I moved to Woodbridge, a predominately Italian town, north-west of Toronto. I had one resolution: to learn the new language as fast as I could. My practice began from the moment I left home in the morning to go to school. I would greet the jogging senior citizens:

"Buon giorno!"

"Come sta?"


"Dove vai?"

"La scuola."

" ..... ?"


I would stride down the Pine Valley Drive. Grand Highway 407, the first bar coded highway ever, was still under construction in those days. The scenery that only a week earlier sported an emerald glint was gradually being tarnished. I made several friends at school almost instantly.

"Hey Page! Where are you bombing next?"

"Tell us about your wives back home."

Every afternoon, I came home with a bag full of new words: drag, snag, toke, scum, lackey, tapped with a wealth of novel F words.

I can still remember one late afternoon on my way home after school, finding myself being watched by a fox at the site of the future highway. It was a rude fox:

"Filthy two-legged. See what you've done to our habitat."

"Don't blame me for this. I'm fairly new around here."

"Shut up! You disgust me." And he dwindled back into the construction mess behind him.

School year was half finished when I met Carla. I was working on a project with a group of students in the school cafeteria. I casually turned to a group member and asked for a "rubber". Everyone burst out laughing except for her. She was passing by, but tarried to politely correct me: "An eraser you mean." And she gave me hers.

I had more than enough reasons to fall for her right then and there. Carla and I saw each other from time to time. I helped her with her math and she corrected my writing. More importantly, she understood my half-baked English better than everyone else. I only sought a good opportunity to talk to her about us. I did not know what I was going to tell her but when she invited me to her birthday party, I felt the proper venue had finally come.

I treaded my way home that day on clouds. Below me, the unfinished highway lay naked under Pine Valley Drive. I noticed a protesting deer, yelling as loud as she could:

"Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame."

"You hang out with the fox, do you not?" I shouted.

At Carla's, everyone was happy to see me:

"Hey Page!"




There she was. Accommodating as usual. She introduced me to her parents, her arching nonna and to Tony. I leered at him with suspicion. With his long hair and pair of ear rings, he actually resembled Carla. I scowled. Carla hit me on my shoulder and took me for a tour of the house. She showed me all the rooms, the basement with its jars of tomato sauce and the backyard where the tomatoes were grown in the summer. I was elated once again. When I felt the right moment had arrived, I didn't falter.

"Tiamo." I whispered into her left ear.

"Thanks." She was serene.

"You're welcome."

I don't think she heard me though. Her nonna had called her out of nowhere and she was gone. I joined the rest of the party.

"Hey Page! Where did you park your flying carpet tonight?"

"Next to your snowmobile." And I muttered my first string of F words: "Freak face."

The party went on but Carla had been missing for a long time. I looked around the house, checked the basement and asked her nonna if she had seen her.

"Che bello!" She replied as she pinched my cheek.

"Yeah, whatever."

I went to the backyard. The moon was a cauldron of bubbling pasta sauce. Knowing two languages is like being two people at the same time. I had read this somewhere before. At the end of the backyard, I saw Carla's ghost. She seemed to be two people already. I strained my eyes and recognized Tony's long hair. I could see his arms and legs and those of Carla's, all flailing like a panting octopus. The sight of the heaving marine beast inundated my mind with a nocturnal image from the past; the fish I had seen swimming in the distant desert.

A few days later, I saw an unsuspecting worker by the highway, urinating behind a piece of Caterpillar equipment. The afternoon sun was doing a mediocre job trying to heat the earth. Approaching him, I asked: "Have you seen a fox around?"

"A fox?! No."

"How about a deer?" He gave me a suspicious look and said nothing.

"I ran from Eye-ran" was first published by the UC review of the University of Toronto.

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