Alley of fate
March 31, 2005
I had written this story last May but finished
the last chapter recently. I had planned to publish it in the
book which one of these days I will get around publishing but
because I have had so many e-mails from readers asking me for
stories of my college days I decided to sent it to the site.
I do not like to make my stories short for the sake of some readers
because my readers are not interested in short stories but the
The summer semester for the 1976 classes had begun the previous
week. The weather had been very unpleasant and even the elders
were saying that they had never experienced such stifling dry and
hot summer days. There were no air-conditions or fans used by the
residents since the town was surrounded by mountains and valleys
with many villages close and far.
Arezoo had managed to find a small fan and had kept the two big
doors of her apartment opened the entire week. At night the air
would become breezy and comfortable again.
The class she was going to today would be conducted by one of
her favorite professors. He was in his 70s and spoke with a thick
Turkish accent, which reflected his birthplace Tabriz the capital
city of Azerbaijan.
He had caused quite a stir last semester because he had only
granted two As to two students one to Arezoo and another to a boy
who was a very good poet.
Nobody had complained about the poet having an A, but a few argued
that Arezoo never studied and unlike some of the classmates did
not memorize all the subject matters in the Literature class.
This day those demanding an explanation would bombard the professor.
Arezoo had felt she was going to battle and she was ready. She
went to her class early and noticed the large opened windows. She
sat near the windows so she could see the activities in the courtyard
and feel the breeze. A handful of students were already seated.
There was a well-known rule about Arezoo which required for others
to let her sit alone unless there was no other place to sit.
She heard a cough and turned around only to see a bearded and
backward boy she despised. He hated the idea of girls socializing
with boys and once she had heard him say that lipsticks were made
form donkey’s blood. She had said really loud “actually,
they are made from the blood of fat and bearded cows with ugly
sweaters”! That had silenced him but his distaste was evident
in his eyes.
As he sat down, Arezoo seized the opportunity and pulled out
a tube of lipstick and her perfume, which she applied and then
turned around and made a face at him.
She was thinking about her upcoming weekend trip but her thoughts
were interrupted by a whiff of her favorite men’s cologne
Pour Homme by Caron. She turned around and saw a very handsome
face with big brown eyes looking at her. He said in a rushed tone:
Hi , my name is Akbar and I know the rule but please let me sit
here. I have heard that classes are usually a lot of fun if you
are in them because of the endless debates with the teachers and
the classmates. I have heard so much about you and the amazing
thing is that they are totally conflicting so I want to observe
She looked at him and said with a sarcastic tone “so how
much is the bet”?
He seemed baffled as he said “pardon me, what do you mean”?
Well you better not play games if you are going to sit here.
Every semester a good looking boy comes along and those few drug
addict miserable seniors that have been here for so long, coach
him and have bets to see if I can be charmed.
He smiled and said “listen I am happily married and have
two kids. And as a matter of fact my wife has seen you in few places
and admires the way you dress and loves your hair color. She has
asked me to invite you to our house”.
Arezoo was puzzled so she asked why?
His voice was normal as he answered: well, she and I have been
in love since we were teen-agers. She is outgoing, funny and tells
people what is on her mind. We were married before she finished
high school but she loves to read so I kept the kids at night and
she finished high school. She had seen you in few shops and heard
you talking so she thought she would love to be friends with someone
like you since you have similar personalities. She had also heard
some of your female classmates talk about you and how you always
argue with the professors about women issues. Those subjects are
very close to her heart.
I love the fact that she is opinionated and discusses issues
with me and does not rely on me to make all the decisions.
I want her to pursue her dreams with my support.
We would love to have you and she will make your favorite the
dilled rice with Lima beans.
Arezoo laughed and said, “How do you know that”?
He said, well you are an outsiders so people watch your every
step and everyone in town knows you eat at the restaurant which
is near my house and some of your classmates said that you only
eat at school’s cafeteria when they serve that dish and the
old cook “Mashti” keeps the tope of the rice without
any oil for you and everyone teases him about that.
Arezoo smiled and said you are an unusual man; there are not
many men who prefer an intelligent and independent partner and
not just a housekeeper.
She was really impressed and curious she wanted to meet his family.
How about I call your wife and if she were okay with my schedule?
I would have lunch with her on Thursday before I leave for Tehran.
He tore a sheet of paper and as he began to write as the door
opened and the professor stepped in.
He said hello to the student and his eyes rested on Arezoo and
The professor became serious as he said; before I begin the class,
I want to settle the scores because some students among you were
unhappy and protested the fact that I gave Arezoo an A. Well, you
were all wrong because none of you deserved it as she did.
The bearded boy said “but I memorized everything and know
so much more than she does about poetry.”
The professor stepped closer and looked directly into the sea
of students and very calmly said, you are like a parrot that repeats
everything without understanding. You have filled your head with
words without knowing or understanding their meaning and you have
no clue about true literature. She is literature. She feels what
she reads and if you had an ounce of emotion you would feel the
passion in her voice when she discusses poetry or literature in
general. She does not need to memorize anything. Most of my classes
are filled with people like you and very few like her.
He raised his hand and said; Sulmaz truly appreciates Persian
Literature. He usually referred to her as Sulmaz, which, he had
translated as a flower that never wilts.
He just looked at Arezoo and paused.
Akbar began to clap his hands and a few whistles and some cheered.
Then silence filled the room.
Arezoo felt such a tender appreciation for her old but feisty
professor. She did not deserve such praise.
The professor looked right at her and said, as our favorite poet
Who he has peace of mind and a beautiful beloved
Happiness has become his partner and good fortune has become
The tale of love is above the boundaries of logic
The one who is lucky enough to kiss the entrance door, is one
who wears his soul on his sleeve
Arezoo had this very poem on most of her notebooks along the
words in English “All we need is love” and “what
can not be found, I long for”.
She turned to the bearded boy and made a face to aggravate him.
The rest of the hour was quite lively as the professor indicated
that he would be paying close attention to individual’s innovative
analysis of literature rather than relying solely on what was in
the textbooks. That was music to her ears so she nodded her head
As the bell rang and the class disbursed she walked up to the
professor and thanked him with sincerity.
Akbar tagged along and asked if he could join her at the cafeteria
As she said good-bye to the professor she turned around and said
I like to drink my tea alone or with a few of my friends.
He said with such pleading in his voice “oh please let
me come and meet your friends”, that she decided to let him
join them. As they walked many heads turned because she usually
walked alone but she ignored the onlookers.
Two of her friends who were seniors were waiting for her and
as she took her seat she introduced Akbar to them.
He seemed fascinated that Homa and Sherry openly discussed their
boyfriends and when they were going to see them.
Arezoo could barely contain herself
from laughing because he seemed so innocent. She wanted to see
his reaction so she asked; has anyone told you that you look just
like my favorite singer Akbar Golpaygani”?
His handsome face turned red and he said yes except, I am taller!
They laughed and the time was up shortly so Arezoo told Sherry
that she would give her a call if she got a chance on Friday to
see if she wanted to meet her for lunch at Hatam’s restaurant,
which was on Zafar Street in Tehran where she was going to. She
then turned to Akbar and said I will call your wife.
She called the number the next day and a young and polite voice
answered. She introduced herself and the voice on the other end
of the receiver became fast and excited as she said, “salaam
Arezoo khanoum, I am Sima, nice to finally speak to you.
She sounded sincere and Arezoo loved it right away because she
always hated the exaggerated demonstration of one’s feeling
when it was not genuine.
They spoke briefly and the lunch date was set for Thursday.
Late Wednesday afternoon she stopped by the big cosmetic store
owned by one of her classmates. His rich family had bought it for
him to give him something to do. The poor soul did not know much
about make up but his handsome face and the fact that he was single
attracted plenty of hopeful girls.
Arezoo and him had become very good friends because he was gentle
and seemed genuinely looking for a friend. He was tired of being
looked upon as a “catch”. Arezoo felt sorry for him
because although he was tall, very handsome and rich he did not
have any real goals or interests in life.
She would often stop by at his huge and fashionable store in
one of the latest shopping centers, which was called Passage. These
were modern places modeled after western shopping strips.
Arezoo never liked modern buildings or architecture. She loved
the old stores. Each store was unique with its own characters and
She often had so much fun when the brides to be would come from
the countryside to his store with a big entourage. Their mostly
beautiful faces that had never worn make up would glow. Arezoo
took so much pleasure in teaching them how to apply make up just
to enhance their naturally beautiful features.
She often bought herself make up and he would update her on the
most recent gossip since she was often skipping classes she did
not like and she did not have much time for individual friendship
because she was involved in various projects the latest one was
to go with a group of boys to inspect the stores in the Bazaar
to make sure their materials had prices on them.
Their titles were Inspectors and the only reason she had agreed
to this task was the fact that she would be visiting the Bazaar.
She had always loved Bazaars everywhere because they had their
own unique characters and to her were full of mysteries.
She had felt really bad at the last visit because an old Hajji
had nearly suffered a heart attack because he was going to be fined
for not having prices on part of his merchandise. She had felt
really sorry for him but her three companions were tough and accused
the old man of faking his heart troubles.
That had infuriated her and she had raised her voice and forbade
them from issuing a fine. Her firm authoritative tone had persuaded
them to listen to her.
Hajji had smiled and invited them to tea, which she had accepted.
It was such a great adventure to sit on the bench covered with
magnificent Persian rugs and drink tea out of the gold gilded teacups.
A few neighboring merchant joined them and they told her how cool
they thought it was for a woman to speak her mind and not be pushed
Hajji even offered her to take yards of fabric she could use for
a dress free of charge. She thanked him and the other people for
offering presents. She left the Bazaar feeling good but at the
same time her anger inside had flared up at the thought of the
Crown Cannibal’s (shah of Iran) inspectors issuing fines
to poor ordinary merchants that may be illiterate and not capable
of writing but overlooking the rich people who owned fancy boutiques
all over Tehran and in most cities in Iran and that paid bribes.
She bought a perfume and a tube of lipstick because Akbar had
mentioned his wife had seen Arezoo in some stores and liked her
bright red lipstick.
She said good-bye to her friend and stopped by another store
and bought some toys for the two kids she would meet tomorrow.
She also bought some cherries from the fruit vendor and headed
When she reached home, her landlord was busy cooking in the small
kitchen outside and asked Arezoo if she would like to join them
for dinner. She was cooking chicken in pomegranate sauce (khoreshe
Fesenjan). She nodded her head in acceptances and went upstairs
to her room and changed. She pulled out her suitcase to pack the
clothes she would wear in Tehran. She read a few pages and then
When she entered her landlord’s eating room, the two boys,
their only sister Mahasti and their father were all chatting. Arezoo
found it so fascinating that her landlord was such a fun and sociable
lady who told jokes and was up-to-date on everything but her husband
Ahmad Agha was very handsome, mysterious looking who hardly smiled
or spoke but when he did it was a treat.
Her landlord who wanted her to get married and settle down always
lectured Arezoo but Arezoo always tease her and said, “I
want to marry someone like Ahmad Agha who is quiet and mysterious”!
That would make him blush and smile. Her landlord would burst into
laughter and say God help you because you would not see any affection
Ahmad Agha would protest and say; people, who are quiet, love
you in their hearts, but those that keep telling you they love
you, are not sincere.
As usual Arezoo had a good time and about 10:30 went up to her
room to read a bit and go to bed because she had to get up early.
It was strange to sleep with all the doors open. Her apartment
was upstairs and the doors opened to the balcony and a big tree
that housed what seemed like a million chirping birds in the spring
and summer. The heat had subsided and a gentle breeze brushed her
face. She read until her eyes felt heavy.The next morning she woke
up, got dressed and only stopped by downstairs to take some freshly
bread with butter and jam from her landlord and she then left.
Professor Hejazi, who was really tall, with a handsome face and
salt and pepper hair, would conduct the Thursday morning’s
class. His classes began at 7:30 am.
Arezoo attended all of his classes because she loved his style
He was very charming as well as a great professor. He was in
his forties and he would often say jokingly that in the next life
he would be a young and single man so he could marry a “wild
flower” which he often called her.
Her second class finished about 11:30 and she dashed out to drive
to Akbar’s house.
She arrived at the old part of town where Akbar lived. She loved
that area of town, which was not crowded and it housed the only
hotel with beautiful gardens and a very small neighborhood of big
homes with lovely gardens. She had attended two small parties there
with her landlady. She loved the big wooden doors with so much
charm and character.
Akbars’ house had metal doors with tasteful designs and
two huge doorknockers. She could hear children’s laughter.
She knocked and a very attractive petite lady opened the door.
The little boy ran to Arezoo and wanted to be picked up. She picked
him up and kissed his adorable face. He looked in her eyes and
said, auntie you smell good. What did you bring me?
She smiled and pulled the little truck out of her bag and handed
it to him.
His adorable face lit up and he tried to wiggle out of her arms
so he could go and play with the car.
The little girl was a bit shy and lowered her gaze as she said,
hi auntie I want a toy too.
Arezoo smiled and took the doll and the hair beret and gave her
She placed her hand under the little girl’s chin and she
was just as adorable with big brown eyes.
She bent to kiss the little girl’s face and turned around
to greet Sima who was standing there apologizing for the children’s
She hugged Arezoo and asked her to follow.
The walkway was paved with old stones and the little pond surrounded
by jasmine pots, which filled the surrounding area with the beautiful
fragrance. Arezoo loved the place.
There were several walnut trees, which she thought, were breathtaking
and mentioned it to her host.
Sima took pride in showing her the pretty rose bushes, which
she affectionately called “my other kids”.
There were a few steps and the big veranda with the beautifully
carved railings fascinated Arezoo.
The hostess had spread a carpet on the veranda with pillows pressed
against the wall. Arezoo was touched because she knew her hostess
had done this for her sake. She hated dining room tables and even
at home she loved sitting on the floor with big pillows.
The two kids were playing as she sat down and Sima asked her
to help herself to some fresh fruit so she could get her tea. Arezoo
complimented her on the house and how well behaved the children
Sima seemed really happy and content. She mentioned that she
really liked Arezoo’s hair color.
She went on to say that she was tired of the auburn color and
wanted to change.
Arezoo laughed as she said; actually this is my real hair color,
which I have inherited from my mother along with her skin color.
My big nose and husky voice are my dad’s gift. God works
in mysterious way because he could have let me have my mother’s
soft and sweet voice as well as her little nose!
Sima burst into laughter and they heard Akbar’s voice saying, “wait
for me because I want to know what is so funny”.
Sima’s face lit up as he came up and shook Arezoo’s
hand, kissed the kids and then told Sima, well how is my beautiful
This was the second couple in the past two years Arezoo had seen
so loving, which always filled her heart with joy. The other couple
was her best friend’s parents. They were in their sixties
yet they held hands even in the car and he always called her lady
and complimented her.
The old lady had her husband’s picture on her Samovar,
which she told Arezoo made her tea taste better while looking at
Akbar’s voice was excited as he told them that he had taken
the afternoon off to take his family to the countryside once Arezoo
The couple went inside to bring the food and forbade Arezoo to
She was truly impressed at how this busy lady with a big house
and two kids had managed to make such delicious food.
She was really touched when Sima told her that she loves poetry,
art and books. It turned out that she was reading one of Arezoo’s
recent favorite Saedi’s books.
Akbar seemed impatient and said; I want to hear some good gossip.
His wife affectionately chided him as she said; my dear that
stuff is women’s favorite.
Akbar just smiled and said I am dying to know how come you are
not interested in any of the good-looking boys?
Arezoo became serious as she said, well I have a lot of plans
so marriage would only get in my way, besides those handsome rich
boys are mostly drug addicts and sometimes they are so high they
stumble into things.
Akbar seemed pleased as he asked what about Farhad who is the
only one you seem to talk to often?
Well, he is my good friend that I like because despite his family’s
enormous wealth he is not a snub but he does join the boys in smoking
opium occasionally. I tried to talk him into marrying Minoo who
loves him desperately but he thinks she is not fun enough and too
conservative for his taste.
Akbar continued asking questions.
You know Arezoo; I am dying to know about Reza the rich artist
that has his little gallery in that quiet road. There is so much
mystery about him. The fact that he is so rich and handsome yet
he seems like a recluse. The beautiful paintings he does not sell
and the fact that he seems so different from his older brother
the doctor and the rest of his family.
One of my colleagues said that he had seen you there talking
to him and it seems you are one of the few people he talks to.
Akbar took a sip of his water and continued. Well, with his family
status and his looks he could have any girls but he seems totally
oblivion. What about you Arezoo? Doesn’t he interest you?
Arezoo sighed as she tried to sound cheerful.
It is amazing how presumptuous we Iranians are. We just assume
because someone is rich, educated, talented and good-looking then
they should be ecstatic.
Reza is a beautiful and troubled soul. He hates being from a
rich family and the fact that his family wants him to marry someone
with the same status where in fact he simply wants a girl who understands
him and his art. He is often depressed and withdrawn because the
material world bothers him.
He talks to me about his paintings, reads me his pomes and shares
his thoughts because I see the talent and the soul. We even laugh
at his stupid brother the doctor who had the audacity to ask me
to marry him.
Akbar’s eye widened as he said excitedly, that is why he
has built those two beautiful homes by the river with all the modern
wonders of the west.
Yes, that is exactly what I hate about him. The fact that he
does not care about the fact that I am 20 years younger, and he
thinks that his money and his status should be enough for me.
I embarrassed him a few weeks ago in a party in Tehran. He thought
he had insulted me by telling me that I should be with someone
Of course, I shot the insult right back and said; “I rather
be with a poor person with a soul than a rich and ignorant doctor
All the guests and even Zari’s dad who was the host smiled
in agreement. I was told by some of them later that they were proud
of me for putting the snub in his place.
Arezoo sighed and said frankly I fear that Reza may take his
life in one moment of loneliness and that is why I try to visit
him and talk to him and cheer him up. I do know that he is in love
with someone his family would never allow him to marry. That breaks
my heart and I hate his family for that.
She then looked at her watch and said I need to get going because
thanks to the tyrant the road to Tehran is really bad as you know
and I want to get there before dark.
Sima said; how does it feel to drive alone on the road filled
with male drivers and huge trucks?
Arezoo smiled as she answered well; I just blast my music and
look at the wild flowers on the side of the rocks and the mud houses
in the distant.
If the crown cannibal who calls himself king of kings spends
some of the money to build roads the distance should be much shorter
than several hours.
The south of Tehran is very crowded and really needs good roads.
Akbar interrupted her and said; that area is very conservative
and women usually do not venture there. Have you had any problems?
Arezoo nodded and said actually once I decide that Aramgah road
was too crowded and I ventured to find a way to get out and find
a shortcut. Somehow I ended up in Molavi Avenue, which I knew was
famous for its drug dealers.
I am never afraid so I was totally cool when I stopped by the
side of a small store where three men were standing. They seemed
pretty shocked by my appearance but I just smiled and said; I am
lost and I need to get back on the road so I can make it to Jadeh
Ghadim.The man standing in the middle was taller with a big mustache.
In his Jaheli accent he asked me where I was from and I explained
in a few words about being a college student and spending my time
off with my cousin in Tehran.
I was so touched when he said;” if I were educated and
rich, I would marry you!”
So I smiled and said; if I had time for a husband, I would marry
someone like you.
He said Chakerim and smiled. Then he told me how to find my way.
I shook all their hands, which seemed strange to them and I could
feel they were not used to shaking hands with women but that did
not bother me.
I actually liked the neighborhood and decided someday I will
spend time in south of Tehran exploring the unique architecture
and really enjoy myself seeing the reaction of the residents to
a girl wondering by herself.
Akbar burs into laughter and said; you must have made that man’s
day by being nice to him.
Arezoo answered with a serious tone "I was not being nice,
I meant what I said,” being a real men has nothing to do
with education or money”.
She then thanked her lovely hosts and the kids seemed sleepy
as they gave her kisses.
Akbar said; we must do this more often and I want you to meet
my sister who is just like you. As you can see I am used to being
around strong and independent women and you can be my other sister.
Sima touched his face and said; well she is my sister because
I asked her first.
Arezoo shook Akbar’s hand and kissed Sima’s face
Arezoo reflected as she drove the two-way road to Tehran. The
sun was bright but the breeze brushing her face was comforting.
She had to stop twice as the shepherds crossed the road with their
flock of sheep. She just sat and enjoyed herself because she had
always loved the sheep and hearing the bells around their necks
make sounds in harmony. The young boy walking at the end of the
flock smiled at her.
She did not drive too fast because she had just restored her
license after nearly running over the head of the police station
were he had camped to catch her with two of his officers three
She became convinced that day there was a force watching over
She had taken her uncle a retired army officer to Tehran to get
his paperwork for going to Mecca. The place had been on Shoosh
Avenue, which was crowded, and the office they went to was packed
with older men and women wanting to register to go to Mecca. Arezoo
had felt very uncomfortable because except for her, every woman
had headscarves and completely covered clothing. As usual she had
sleeveless t-shirt and felt naked with all those eyes staring at
her, some with scorn in their eyes.
After so many hours of waiting they had been served and driving
back she was tired and wanted to get home before the sunset.
The police in Hassan Abad had stopped her and gave her a warning.
She talked herself out of getting a ticket.
As she had passed the city of Qom and had tried to pass a big
trailer, the driver had motioned her with his hand to stay back
but she had ignored his warning and sped despite the fact that
this section of the road was uphill and she could not see ahead.
As soon as she passed the trailer and the big rock on the right
side, she saw the police Mercedes and the three men signaling her
In a panic she had slammed on her breaks and her car had pulled
on the side, spun around and stopped where she had closed her eyes
because she thought she had slammed into the Mercedes.
The screams of the older officer pointing at his heart and nearly
in tears shouting in his thick Turkish accent “she is crazy,
she almost killed me oh God my heart” filled the air.
She got out of the car and realized her car’s fender was
less then two inches away from the Mercedes, which she thought
a miracle but she could not stop laughing at this big and bald
man screaming at her and calling her crazy and dangerous to society.Trying
too hard to sound serious, she had instead aggravated him by imitating
his accent and saying, “why are you holding on to your heart
the car has stopped”?
He had grabbed her license and with a tiny whole puncher and
punched several holes in it. The other two officers were trying
hard not to laugh at this display of cowardice by their high-ranking
He kept badgering her “someone like you should be taken
off the road. You nearly destroyed this Mercedes”.
She became mad and said; that Mercedes is such an unnecessary
luxury. People die in this road everyday because there is no ambulance
or hospital nearby and your majesty thinks having a Mercedes for
a police car is sign of modernity.
The man’s face turned red as he said; so you are a trader
too! She wanted to kick him hard in his groins but she bit her
anger and replied; I am one of the most faithful children of this
land I love and I speak the truth.
Just this past spring I drove on this road where a serious car
accident had injured everyone and two were dying among the scattered
limbs and body parts. Where were you and your Mercedes?
Last summer I took my chances and I drove a man with his tongue
torn and his elbow cut in half to the hospital because there was
no ambulance to take him. Do you know that I was reprimanded for
The hospital staff said that if he had died in my car I would
have been accused of killing him.
She burst into tears as she looked him in the eye and said; the
people who die on this unsafe road everyday are our brother and
sisters. The traders are those who buy villas in Switzerland and
spend the revenues of this country on their lavish parties, not
Her uncle stepped in and said; officer as a retired army man
I understand your concerns. She was just tired and trying to get
home because we wasted so many hours in Tehran trying to get me
registered for Mecca.
The man said; we got radio message that she was speeding from
Hassan Abad. Then he handed her Driver’s license to her uncle
and said; I trust her with you.
She just looked at him and before she could say anything her
uncle grabbed her arm and pulled her to the car.
She would never forget that frightened and comical look on the
Her thoughts were interrupted as she reached Aramgah.
As usual it was packed with drivers
going only a few miles an hour due to the congestion of the road;.
To entertain herself she would periodically look to her left or
right and chuckle at the surprised look on the faces of men seeing
a girl by herself in that area.
It was nearly 6:00 p.m. when she reached he cousin’s home
on Zafar Street.
Her cousin came out to greet her and they immediately changed
clothes and went out to a Casba Restaurant which was very close
by so Arezoo could order fired shrimp and they could just giggle
because her cousin was very brash when it came to men. Poor men!
She had no mercy if one of these sorry souls paid a compliment.
She would say something really mean and rude. Arezoo would just
look apologetic and smile.
Two days later, she left Tehran in the afternoon. There was another
accident with fatality. She cursed the shah again for not spending
money on making the roads safer instead of buying F-14s and all
other modern military equipment from United States to boost his
little ego with was legendary.
The summer semester passed by quickly as she often met her friends
in Tehran on the weekend but she developed a great relationship
with Akbar and his wife. She really felt comfortable with them
and she was amazed at how politically knowledgeable Sima was.
They had endless discussion about politics, relationships and
Sima loved to hear about some of the funny situations that had
taken place in Arezoo’s classes.
There were two professors who did not like Arezoo’s aggressive
and sarcastic personality. She felt the reason they were hostile
towards her was because of the fact that she often joked about
bald and short men and these two fit those descriptions. One was
short and the other was tall, skinny and ugly.
Sima loved to hear about the bickering with this backward and
retarded professor as Arezoo called him.
He was a terrible dresser that seemed to own only two or three
old and wrinkled suits. He was married to an illiterate lady from
the countryside and he seemed to hate young people with dreams
and especially hated girls who were outspoken and wore colors.
He often spoke with words with double meanings, which were meant
to insult, and Arezoo would catch him and answer back.
Some of the boys loved those exchanges of words.
The latest discussion had caused Arezoo to end up in the dean’s
office because “she had made a mockery of the professor”.
She was told.
Mr. Gharib the dean was in his eighties and near retirement and
rarely seen. He wanted her to tell her side of the story.
She said; well the professor out of the blue and instead of analyzing
a poem we had in front of us, recited one about a Coyote that had
fallen in a big jar of paint and saw herself in the mirror and
thought all those colors were beautiful. He looked right at me
while reciting the words.
I waited until he was done and knew everyone is waiting for a
So, I smile and said in a very calm tone; professor it sounds
like the poet is the real Coyote who was an insecure man who lacked
class and not to mention all the essential tools that make a real
man to please a woman, so he wondered in the land of beautiful
and intelligent women in hopes of being noticed by an average female.
Well, everyone noticed that ugly, skinny body was a mass of bones
with a heart of stone so they ignored him. Finally realizing that
he is only a man in his own thoughts he became outraged and began
to label the beautiful and smart women with silly words. That is
okay because those women will always be noticed with or without “paint” but
he would continue to lead a bored and miserable life with his ugly
The professor just looked at me with contempt. That was it.
Dr. Gharib adjusted his glasses and in his serious tone said:
it amazes me that some of the professors think the world of you
and then there are the two who have problems with you.
Arezoo could not help it so she said, but Dr. Gharib only the
short and ugly professor of Economy did not like me because I was
going to run him over for giving me an F. Everybody agreed that
he had done it because the students always agreed with my vision
of how Capitalism really did not benefit the whole population.
In a serious tone Dr. Gharib said, “I want you to be a
bit more careful and remember the professor is much older than
you are so out of respect try and curtail your sarcastic remarks.
I have spoken to him as well and warned him that he is not to provoke
you because he will be on his own when it comes to dealing with
you.” Please go back and try.
She had thanked the dean and started taking bets from her classmates
whether the professor will remain quiet. He did not but he changed
tactics and would make remarks such as “why don’t you
marry and have some kids” and she would say, “Well
my prospective suitors are looking for a tall, skinny, frustrated
old man to hire as my servants.”
Eventually he got tired of these confrontations and gave up.
Sima had laughed and said “good for you”.
This day, it was dark when Arezoo reached Tehran.
There were few cars in the driveway and as usual her cousin’s
husband and a few of his friends had an opium party. Arezoo found
it sad that these educated and well off people resorted to this
bad habit for fun.
She spent a few days in Tehran going shopping with her cousin
and went out to dinner with her friend Sherry and her boyfriend.
When she went back to school everyone was busy registering for
the fall season.
Akbar had picked some classes and Arezoo and a few of her classmates
had become regular guests at his house.
It had just begun to snow when those heading for Mecca began
to get ready. Akbar’s dad was one of those and Arezoo kept
teasing him that he better not keep the souvenirs for himself.
She began to call him “Pesar Hajji” or Son of Hajji,
which made him laugh.
At this time she began to have strange dreams of snow and empty
roads. She knew that meant something because her dreams always
came through but this one she could not understand so she tried
to distract herself.
That fateful day, the weather was dreary. It had snowed all night
and everything was frozen. The afternoon class was packed with
students but Akbar was missing.
For some reason this day Arezoo sat at the first bench near the
The professor had just begun talking when the sound of knock
on the door stopped him. Akbar opened the door and apologized to
the teacher. Holding the door knob he looked at Arezoo and said,
beautiful lady I am going to pick up my dad from the airport in
Tehran, what do you want me to brink back?
She felt unwell and tried hard to smile as she said, “nothing,
just make sure you come back”. She wanted to say: please
do not go but she refrained. He smiled and said I will. The door
A hint of his cologne filled the air. When the class finished
she and a few of her class mates went to the cafeteria to drink
tea and discuss an upcoming party which they wanted Arezoo to go
to but she often refused because she did not care for some of the
students who attended them.
The howling wind and the snow had created a scene she normally
liked because it made her feel as though she was in a classical
horror film, which she loved, but she had an uneasy feeling. She
went home. Her landlord asked her if she wanted to join them for
dinner and she politely declined and said she was tired.
She went to her apartment and sat on her bed. Neither one of
the big doors had curtains because she wanted to see the changes
of seasons through the windows. She played music and tried to read
but she could not remember the content. She decided to re-arrange
her clothes instead to busy her mind. It was almost midnight when
she turned off the lights. The nightmares occurred again. There
was an unfamiliar place and everything was frozen. She woke up
a few times and went back to sleep again.
In the morning as she walked the steps into the yard, she heard
loud voices outside. She opened the door and walked out trying
not to slip on the snow. A group of locals who had lived in this
alley their entire lives were at the front of drycleaner. They
simply said hello and nothing else. She did not think anything
As she entered the school she saw some of the men she knew worked
with Akbar but they seem unfriendly and she found it very odd.
At lunchtime she decide to drive by Akbar’s house and surprise
As she drove she saw some small posters on the wall, which she
could not read. As she got closer she heard loud recitation of
Koran coming from some loud speakers and thought perhaps that was
in celebration of the many Hajjis who had returned.
She slowed down as she saw so many people dressed in black which
was the color she had hated since childhood with somber faces coming
out of the street she was about to turn.
She slammed her break and stopped. Her heart began to beat violently
as she heard screams coming from the other sides of the wall where
Akbar’s house was located.
She forgot everything and dashed into the house with sea of people
crying and beating at their faces. Akbar’s beautiful face
was everywhere on those huge posters.
The site of his wife would forever remain in Arezooz’s
mind. The tear washed face with the torn pieces of clothes and
her shrikes as she beat on her face and pulled her hair asking
everyone to bring him back was unbearable.
Arezoo stepped forward and there was a silence for a few second
as Sima recognized her and began to scream and say; Arezoo jaan
please talk to Akbar and tell him to come home. When he called
me form Tehran he said that he had bought me a red lipstick he
had seen you wearing and I have died my hair brown because he said
he liked that color.
These shameless people have brought someone’s body in a
bag and are telling me it is Akbar’s.
Arezoo’s heart was filled with so much sorrow. Her tears
flooded her face as she walked towards Sima and hugged her.
In desperate situations she could block the incident and once
she would be alone the enormity of the situation would hit her.
This could not be happening. It was all a bad dream and she would
wake up soon.
But she did not.
The funeral was that afternoon. She went home and for the first
time in her life she wore all black. Something she had never done
before. Her father hated black and would never let anyone wear
it even when a family member died. She loved her dad for agreeing
with her that black was such miserable color and was never forced
t wear it even when she wanted to at her favorite uncle’s
She picked up three of her friends who also loved Akbar.
Two of her friends had the name Nasrin, and then Minoo and Mehran
joined her. Arezoo’s car was the only one with a woman driver
and all female passengers. There were hundreds of cars in processions.
Neither one of her friends talked and left her to her sorrows.
When they finally made it to the burial site everyone began to
Arezoo lost it and began to shout as her tears drowned her face.
“ This is all crown cannibal’s fault. If he would
build safe roads and had bought snow plovers instead of spending
money accumulating F14s people would not die on these roads everyday.”
A few people surrounded her and said she was upset. She screamed
I am not upset. I am mad because lives are lost on these roads
We do not have any emergency phones on the roads and no nearby
hospitals or helicopters to take the critically injured but we
have money to donate to American museums and artists.
Her friends began to drag her into the car and the blue-eyed
Nasrin got behind the wheel.
That night would become one of the hardest and most miserable
nights of her life.
She could not comprehend the tragedy that had taken place.
She went to school the next day. One of the boys that she knew
was working for Savak the secret organization, which spied on everyone,
approached he. With malice in her voice, she said; I hope you told
your bosses what I said yesterday so I would be called in for a
He seemed genuinely remorseful as he sad; you may not believe
this but your words yesterday got to me and I realized that you
I had always agreed with what you said and despite what you think,
I normally did not report you and someone else did.
He came closer and said, the site of Akbar’s wife reminded
me that everyday many women become widows because we do not have
proper roads or medical technology. I have decided to leave the
country when I finish in the spring.
Once they find out that I am not useful they would either kill
me or let go of me as long as they know I would not revel my secrets.
I hope someday we meet under better circumstances and you would
forgive me for dishonoring my fellow students. She looked at him
carefully. He seemed sincere.
She smiled and said; I hope to live and see this country rid
of this murderer and despite everyone’s beliefs I truly know
in my heart that Iran will be rid of this family.
He smiled and said I hope so and walked away.
As she stepped out the school grounds she felt a sense of peace.
It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and the snow under her boots
crunched. An old man with a handsome face was coming in her direction.
As he came closer his scent filled her nostrils and it was the
same as the one Akbar used to wear. She felt a deep sadness and
tears flooded her face.
The old man smiled at her and said; beautiful lady, never be
sad, those eyes should only smile.
Her jaw dropped in astonishment as she looked at him intently.
He looked just like Akbar but older with wrinkles and gray hair.
Akbar was not dead because a beautiful soul like his belongs
to people who loved him.
She smiled as she looked into those warm big brown eyes.
Akbar was present in spirit.
She never found the courage to face Akbar’s wife or children
Decades later as she thinks of her mortality, she wonders whether
Sima ever recovered and those beautiful children probably now have
their own kids.
She longs for spending a warm summer afternoon talking to the
most loving couple she had ever known.