FIVE BLOCKS FROM BERKELEY GATE
It was raw, irritating and urgent as ever to be Iranian with iranian.com filling
our tortured need for friendship, affection and acceptance
March 22, 2002
We are alone again. You and I. You and I. Alone again. We are sitting in the
Julia Morgan Theater. Freezing. It is cold. It is 16 March in the year 2002. The
Iranians with one American couple have gathered to celebrate and laugh. Son can you
Whether I went home or stayed there would be a price to pay. The wooden theater was
dark like the inside of a Japanese Temple. You could just barely see the spirits
that had been there before us - Americans in Berkeley, California.
Be good while I'm gone I said to no one. I looked everywhere but couldn't see anyone.
So many Springs had passed. I was in the front seat covered in red velvet. Warhol
was there with a torn shoe and red socks. He loved Matisse and Mao. Who was the king
of kings? Elvis in black and silver. Marilyn was in blue and white with hot air blowing
between her legs.
When nobody was looking I sneaked in Aafaq Ahmad Shah from Srinagar. He had had enough
of the curiously narrow streets with houses that were a pile of rubble. Aafaq was
eighteen and Warhol liked him and painted him in a serial silk-screen in cerise,
citron, burnt orange and apple-green.
The road in Srinagar was lined with tall poplars. His home was surrounded with fields
of saffron with purple flowers. The root of all evil was being a Moslem buried in
martyr's cemeteries. Dal lake was a memory.
I loved Aafaq. We had been together in Srinagar under a blanket. His mother had brought
us chai in our houseboat and lit the fire baskets. Some of the inscriptions on the
gravestones were in green Arabic calligraphy with the single word AZAD.
After Aafaq tried to ram his car through a gate his car exploded. Aafaq was blown
to pieces. I read about his death in The New Yorker. I invited him to come
to Berkeley to attend the iranian.com NoRuz azad celebration. He sat next to me.
We laughed together at Peyvand Khorsandi who was a martyr in London inaugurating
new phases for us to laugh and cry about. Mixed marriages had become common place
which captured the discordant character of a tragic war. With his boyishly handsome
features he took off his tennis shoes and danced. We were drooling voyeurs.
It was not Custer's last stand as Elham Jazeb walked into the spotlight with her
Iranian eyes darting this way and that. Erotic, squeamish and giggly she took us
to ourselves. I'm ready if you are I said to Aafaq while solemnizing sacrifice and
death. "We'll be landing under fire," I said. Refusing to leave the field
until everyone is either dead or safely removed.
It was dark now. Saman had drawn his last cartoon of me in a black chador. I drove
through the rapidly emptying streets of Berkeley with Warhol and Aafaq by my side.
It took a while for our masks to fall off, to focus on the loss of my cow. It was
raw, irritating and urgent as ever to be Iranian with iranian.com filling our tortured
need for friendship, affection and acceptance in America.