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Gohar and her moon
She was prepared for big things and deep things, like tragedy

November 12, 2001
The Iranian

She rode the bus to Shiraz every week to see him... I wish you wouldn't say these things, she said... He had been imprisoned by the Shah for anti-government activities. She was very much in love with him. They had met at Tehran University... How do you know, she said. You don't know, and you have no right to say anything... in the Art Department.

In three months after I am buried you'll have somebody else, and I will be forgotten, he said. And that's your love!

He was a dissatisfied sculptor. There was a battle between them. She was an artist and certainly never saw herself living through a lifetime with him without romance, flowers, books, a high rosewood piano.

No one wanted her to marry him. Matters were becoming desperate. He didn't have any money. He was feverish; he seemed unnatural and intense. Nasturtiums ringed the garden and she saw tragedy, sorrow and sacrifice ahead.

Sometimes he was exaggeratedly happy, usually he was flat and bitter. Her heart beat furiously when she saw him. She could not leave him. He wanted to come home and there was a haggard look in his eyes. But it would be two years before he would go home.

In Tehran it was a beautiful winter day and the ice melted slowly in the sunshine of a soft blue sky. They decided to go to America. She had some money from the sale of her father's house and they could use the money to buy an apartment in Washington, D.C. She was prepared for big things and deep things, like tragedy.

They might as well have gone to hell. A ghastly sickly feeling of dissolution in the unknown land overflowed into an unconscious flare with struggle like madness. She lit a cigarette and drank her tea. Someone had brought them a pot of pink and white azaleas and she painted them. She started painting herself. She stood before the mirror pinning on her hat, posing for her portrait with Monet -- Persian splendor and Turkish delight.

Her beauty, that of a shy, wild Bakhtiari, seemed nothing to her. Even her soul like the moon was misty showing lost dreams in her deep black eyes which she lined in black kohl. A fallen flower in the summer grasses. She felt different from other people. She was a Bakhtiari Princess, Bibi Gohar, named after her grandmother, the daughter of Il Khan Bakhtiari.

As soon as the plum blossoms were out, her husband got a job as an assistant in a frame shop. They climbed the hill slowly as white clouds drifted away. It was a new, glamorous world where they were at the bottom with the morning glory.

Her treatment was decided by a three-way phone call between her sister in Albuquerque who thought everyone in the family was bi-polar and her brother in West Virginia who had diagnosed her as schizophrenic. They were both psychiatrists.

They decided to give her two shots and then weekly drugs to control her fears of cardboard square pack of cards of lace, little boxes of pins, raveled cotton and spring rain. Her throat and arms were covered and she wore a scarf covering her hair in the Moslem tradition. She was a Japanese Zen Haiku.

The black crow that I always despised

And yet, against the snowy dawn . . .


After two sons were born, her marriage began to unravel, revealing nothing. There was never a chance of her ever being given a choice. After tea, she started brooding, twisting her wedding ring all the time.

Even if the cherry blossoms bloom

Ours is a world of suffering


She worked in the meat section of the grocery store wearing a white coat splattered with blood. She stood in the glassed-in room with the stainless steel cutter slicing and wrapping meat wincing till nothing remained.

The thought of her mother nowhere to be found and her father, Dr. Bakhtiar in his office, scared and shocked her. Her childhood in Abadan, a land without time, was spent in the oil company pool. Blown by wind and sun. Her mother was in Tehran buying and selling property leaving her father and servants to manage eventually ten children who became crows with dark startled eyes. There was a silence in childhood that lasted forever. Never to be a butterfly...

I shall come home when I want, said her mother and went to bed leaving the door unlocked. The house was dark and remained tangled. Just a shell. A dog barked furiously. Come, he said, let me help you. No, go away. I will do it in my own way...

She had come from Iran after 10 years with a tourist visa and her husband had already sold the apartment and kept the money. Resentful of losing her children and all love and security, she disappeared into smoke and tea then economy sized cokes. Drifting away into her own darkness she became isolated. She had no money and could not work. Her sons were grown and her husband owned two frame shops: Picasso's Gallery in Bethesda, Maryland. Her life was a heap of coal and it fell over her. She drew back quickly with a cry but it was too late.

She was being dragged away. If she had had a green card, she would have been institutionalized. A piece of apple-blossom hung low on a swinging bough. A fine mess of a marriage. Have you got warm under things on? No. They are cotton. Everyone said they wouldn't mind giving the money if they had any...

She never got beyond the second page. She could understand nothing but love-making and saying she was Picasso. She was at the center of conflict and despair. Two wrongs don't make a right.

She wore a large cream hat covered with roses, mostly white. She was going back to Tehran to find a sweet place with care and her family would send her $300 a month for the only thing she asked for: cigarettes and tea. Smoking cut tobacco leaves wrapped in thin white paper.

The envelop was sealed. Beyond the trees I could see her, All in shadow, my sister, Gohar and the moon disappeared under a cloud.

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