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Short story

By Nooneh
June 4, 2001
The Iranian

Separations are a fact of life. I've come to accept that. As frequent as falling in love, and as natural. When you walked out of my life I realized that no matter how logical or natural leaving is -- it sure as hell breaks your heart. One day you're sharing your life with someone, making all sorts of optimistic promises and the next day, you're not, and they're not. And you're alone, and they're not. And you cry and they don't. Or even if they do and they are lonely too just like you or even worse than you, it doesn't change the fact that you've lost something you once thought of as beautiful and everlasting.

You've been gone for over six months now. I sleep alone, eat alone and watch Jeopardy alone. Life goes on. The bleeding of my heart has stopped but the tears roll freely as they choose. I've taken up smoking. To make up for the absence of your smoke, I suppose. To be able to smell you, still. Sometimes when I sit by myself I see you sitting across from me, inhaling deeply and thoughtfully forming smoke rings in the air. Each ring representing a new thought, a new idea, or a dead one you're discarding. I watch your smoke rings and as they disappear I am reminded that you too have disappeared.

I miss you. You whose conversation was my stimulant, whose curious curve of the eyebrow gave me courage to elaborate on my thoughts. You, whose anger I feared, and whose indifference I despised. You gave my life meaning and now you are gone but somehow my life seems to be around still, although I can't be too sure of that. My heart beats, my brain operates my body, my lungs take air in and out but somehow it all seems rather futile. I'm never ready for a separation even if I initiate it. The end always takes me by surprise. But then so does the beginning.

I was not moved when I first met you. It happens very rarely that someone moves me in the first encounter. When it does happen, I usually walk away quickly fearing the passion that might follow. I hold on to the illusion of being in control of my feelings. Not understanding them, just being in control. After you I swore never to let another man into my life, into my heart. After you, I doubted that I'd ever want anyone again.

Tonight, in this cool autumn drizzle, I walk pretending to be whole. Pretending to be in control. Pulling up my coat collar, I further hide inside my raincoat. Yes, that same raincoat you hate. The one an old lover gave me. He wasn't old, only our love is, today. The deep pockets shelter my cold finger tips and I feel a familiar form in my left pocket. A cigarette. Aha! This is perfect weather for smoking, for being you, or the old lover. He too smoked. He too made smoke rings in the air. He too played the guitar. The continuum of my love life. At least I follow a familiar trend. Not too complicated. No, not I. The question now becomes how to light the damn thing. Do you remember how desperate you'd get when you couldn't find any matches? It was like the enemy was poised to fire and you couldn't find the red button. I search my pockets, nothing. Look around, no stores.

Then I see her. Standing across the street staring at me. I must be talking to myself again. She is fascinated. But does she have a light? You'd like her. She's tall and slim, long blond hair protected by the hood of her soft light green raincoat. When I was a teenager in Tehran I took pride in being a tough, mean little bitch. Hanging out with the guys, whistling at the female passers by. It gave me great pleasure to shout a nasty remark to some babe and watch her turn around and slap one of the guys in the face. I'd roll around in laughter. The other guys would join me too, silently hoping this would never happen to them. That I would never do this to them. I did. I liked it.

I also liked kicking them in the knee during a soccer game. Playing half back was the perfect position for kicking people around. And since I was a girl after all, they wouldn't dare touch me. I miss those days. The days of having free reign. The days when the biggest pain one experienced was a kick in the knee.

My favorite nasty remark was JUNE. You see, june in Persian is a very interesting word. It can be used in multitudes of ways. Its literal form is jaan, pronounced John, and it translates to body, life, soul. June can be used as a term of endearment, as in Dear Peter, or Peter june. You could also use it to express excitement the way we use Hooray, or Yippee! in English. For example you could say "June! We have cake."

It is perhaps in this context that june is also thrown at women on the streets of Tehran, or any other city in Iran. When you yell june at a woman it basically means she's delicious enough to eat. Or let's say this is my understanding of it. All of you specialists in near eastern languages out there, please keep in mind that my knowledge of Persian is limited to my own experience as an Iranian who utilizes the language on a daily basis. I have no formal education in the language past 8th grade. I hope that one day someone with a Ph.D. following their name, probably a male, would write an entire chapter on the epistemology of june.

Okay then, back to me. Hello, this is my story. Thank you. Yes, I loved yelling june at female passers by, or male ones for that matter. Of course with men, you had to be careful. I never yelled june at any guy who looked tougher than me. Luckily, there were quite a few sissies or soosool(s) as we called them. Soosool meaning untough, one who is rather fragile and easily hurt. Most of the guys who grew up in upper middle class families were considered to be soosool. They typically wore more Westernized clothes, drove a car not a motorcycle, and listened to Demis Rousous, the Greek super star of the 70's.

My family belonged to the margins of society. We were Armenians, my father owned a nightclub and my mother was a movie star. Basically we belonged to a class of our own and even though by the time I was thirteen only the first fact in the previously laid out list was still true, I always felt like I did not belong to any particular echelon of society. Now that I think of it, this is still the case here in the United States. For as long as I can remember I have not belonged anywhere. I think I like it this way, or maybe I just don't know any other way.

The summer of my 13th year, I felt like I was on top of the world. It was as if I ruled the city, nothing could go wrong in my universe of swimming, dancing and flirting. This was the summer of 1978. The Friday they announced martial law in Tehran my cousin and I followed our usual Friday schedule and went to the Oil Ministry employee's sports club. When I entered I ran into a guy I had had a crush on the previous summer . At the time he had considered me too young and had ignored my conspicuous presence whereever he was. He was seventeen then, and I was twelve. Evaluating him from behind the Friday of martial law my cousin and I exchanged an approving look and together whispered. "June..." He turned around surprised. We recognized each other. "Oh, it's you!" he said, thrilled. I smiled and walked away not interested. I was thirteen then and had my eye on the twenty-five-year-old swimming coach at the club pool. He must be married now. Happily, I hope.

I remember a time when in a moment of ecstasy you whispered june in my ear. It was a hot summer afternoon and we had just returned from the swimming pool. I was still greased up and hot in desperate need of a shower. You were in the kitchen drinking glass after glass of ice cold water. I approached you from behind running my hands over your back, shoulders and arms. You relaxed immediately in my arms. I drew you close letting our two greasy bodies join like two drops of water. You filled your glass again, raised it above our heads and poured out the contents. I screamed. You laughed, turned around and kissed me.

You were hungry too. You lifted me up and put me on the counter top. The knife stand behind me, murder scenes ran through my mind: knife-holding arm rising, blood all over, screams "Hey!" you brought me back. "Kiss me, you fool." was your way of expressing love. I jumped off the counter and pulled you down to the floor. You liked it. Your pants were stuck and you were getting restless. I gently kissed you to calm you down; played with your hairless chest and kissed your beautiful eyes. Your pants came off easily once you gave up control and I continued to explore your body. You so needed to be loved, you almost growled with pleasure. I held you close and you made us roll, all the way to the living room with you ending up on top looking triumphant. "Oh, whatever" I thought. A moment later you were inside me. You lifted your torso while keeping mine down. Your stare was drunk with ecstasy. I wrapped my legs around you and lifted my middle up a little. Perfect fit. That's when you whispered in the most natural drawl "June..." Just the way I had said it to women passers by almost twenty years ago. The instant connection. You and me as teenagers in the crowded streets of Tehran. I saw us as children playing in the fields or building sand castles by the Caspian Sea. Two drops of water joined together. How does a drop split back in two? Only memories left now. A magical encounter, an incredible union. We were invincible together. But apart, we're just two lonely people like so many others in search of meaning, in search of a home.

The rain has slowed down and I still haven't found a light for the singular cigarette swimming in my pocket. The blond is looking at me. Or is she eyeing me? Whatever. I walk to her nonchalantly and ask for a light. She obliges. I produce a restrained smile of gratitude and walk away. Is it my perfume drawing her, or the new color of my hair? Do not know. She follows. A lover to be. Laughing underneath my coat collar, my exhales color the air white around me and I feel content. I feel wanted. The memory of my past conquests makes me feel secure. It has been a long time since I felt all of these emotions in one neat convenient package. My suburban comfort-loving side is pleased. My inner-city excitement yearning side is intrigued but still waiting. She approaches nearer and I feel the force of her fingers around my left wrist. The burned one. She pulls my arm back. I free it without looking back and continue walking. She hesitates for a moment but catches up quickly.

It brings back memories of a lazy afternoon sitting by some stream with you. You, playing your guitar and I watching, tasting our love in every note. You needed my approval, required it didn't you? As I did yours. My life depended on it. We were alive though, weren't we? We were hungry to taste every single morsel of life.

The dregs, not for us, no. We created as we went along and we felt deeply. You'd look at some insect crawling on some leaf and weave his life story awed and inspired by his effort, the tenacity, so many lack it in our world. I felt inspired by the sunflowers, never giving up on the sun. I'd never give up on you. I did. Some years later I did and here I am now with this woman following me wanting a piece of me a piece of what once belonged to you or so I believed and now, now? What do I have left? Of me?

You'd sing your song by the stream then casually lay down the guitar on the ground and draw me near, your lips parting as you approached, I'd feel the wetness between my legs, my breath getting heavier, your hand in my hair forcing my neck back, your tongue exploring the grooves and veins and the eager pulse not easily hidden. Direct to my heart, it was beating, beating harder as you got harder and my hand searched for you unbuttoning your pants. You'd breathe deeply and I knew, I knew then that it was going to happen that you were ready and I was ready and the stream was cool and the air light. How long did it take? It could have lasted an eternity and I wouldn't know the difference. I lived for every second. It was the thought that excited me not the action.

Funny, no? The thought of you inside me still has the same effect. We fitted each other perfectly. Every gentle press and shift made a difference. And the thought of those gentle shifts and sighs is enough to make me wet. Neck hanging back my hair dancing in the stream, your hands parting my legs, one arm anchoring you while the other hand searches my body and ultimately rests on my breast preparing the nipple for your hungry tongue. My hands? Searching in between your buttocks for the mysterious orgasmic spot. (If it was the actual ass hole, I never dared finger you. An ex-lover once asked me to do it and I did and he cried the loudest orgasmic cry I've ever heard. But I think this was unique to him.)

I loved your tongue on my breast. You covered the it all, not just the nipple and I loved it. You licked underneath my breast down over my stomach and the belly button but never lower. Once, a long time ago, I forced a partner lower and that was the last time for us. I didn't want that to happen again. Although it did, eventually.

It was the thought of us together that kept me going those last few months. Those months of you forgetting me, me forgetting me. Those months of love being a stranger in the house. It was all in my head after all, wasn't it? Your promises, your confident words laying out our future. I believed, and in the end all that was left was my belief and with every hurt, with every pain you inflicted on my soul you scratched away that belief. There I was, raw with pain, bleeding, viscera exposed, and you could not see me. You were blind. My belief gone, there was nothing to hold on to. Nothing to keep us together. Your love, was it ever there? I now doubted us from the beginning; if ever there, was no longer. I was taken by surprise. The end was staring me in the eye, yet again. I walked away. You? You...

She was right beside me now. I turned and looked at her in my usual what-the-hell-do-you-want attitude. "You," she said not really smiling. "Well it ain't gonna happen, Okay?" "Oh, no?" she spewed out and jumped me right there on the sidewalk lips locking mine her body pressing me down and what? The cigarette broke in my hand but not because I was struggling. I wasn't. The sidewalk was wet. I could feel it on the skin of my hands. Public? Private? Lines so easily blurred. Man, woman... a body on top of mine. Cold and wet sidewalk. My raincoat kept the water from touching my back sandwiched between this stranger's body and the cobblestones.

Why was she unzipping my pants? Was she going to magically evoke an organ and insert it in me? Fingers and tongue. That was her specialty and she certainly did take them below the belly button. Right there on the side walk in the rain. I breathe deeply, she pauses, raises her head and looks at me, she smiles, I smile, my juice mixing with the raindrops on my thighs. Amazing how easy it is. How naturally my body responds. Her long blond hair is getting wet. She resembles a lion hunting in a wetland. But I feel more like the hunter than the hunt. I feel as if all these months I've been preparing for this moment.

Then I refocus my eyes. I see the blond across the street. She's still looking in my direction. I walk to her and ask for a light. She offers one but we find the cigarette between my fingers is completely broken and useless. She smiles and takes out two cigarettes from the silver box in her pocket. She lights them both and offers one to me. I take it with an appreciative smile. Then I notice the engraving on the box, "To June With Love".

"Your name is June?" I ask. "Yes," she replies mischievously, "Why?"

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