A moon of our own
I walk closer, almost without thinking, and sit on the bed
by her side
By Hossein Samiei
December 1, 1999
It is late afternoon. Not particularly hot for a day in July. The year
Dad is sitting in the veranda, reading the afternoon papers. Mom is
in the garden, picking the last of the yellow jasmines, which this year,
amazingly, have lasted way past the spring. I'm standing by the pond, as
is Niloofar. In our hands we hold bamboo stalks that we pulled out of the
old window shades on the other side of the house. We push the stalks into
the water, watch them make rings, and follow the rings as they get larger
and larger and then disappear. Outside the pond, we count the number of
ants that we kill with our small but cruel little feet.
A butterfly lands on my arm, looking lost. Its wings glittering in the
sunshine. Niloofar gets excited, makes an attempt to catch it, but only
manages to slap hard on my arm. The butterfly escapes and I cry out loud.
Niloofar laughs mischievously, as she often does. Then fearing revenge,
runs away screaming. I run after her. On the way I crash into mom. Mom
almost loses her balance, yells at me, not harshly, but gently and lovingly.
Niloofar is now in the veranda, hiding behind dad. I cannot touch her there.
I sit opposite dad, on the white chair with red cushions. Niloofar pulls
faces from behind dad, knowing that my dad cannot tell her off. Only her
own parents can. I cannot return the facial insults and my arm is still
hurting. I busy myself with the newspapers, waiting for an opportunity.
The headlines are all about the moon and the Apollo project. Round about
now, on July 20, 1969, man will be making history, as Apollo 11 lands on
the moon, and with it the first man ever, a man by the name of Neil Armstrong.
I search for the moon in the sky but am unable to find it. Niloofar is
still pulling faces, occasionally moving closer slyly, trying to provoke
a reaction. I enjoy her attention very much. I also enjoy pretending to
ignore her. The papers say in 10 to 15 years everybody could travel to
the moon. I think I will like that very much. We could then spend the summer
on the moon, rather than at grandma's house. But I keep that thought to
myself. I know mom would prefer to be with grandma. The papers also say
if it hadn't been for a man by the name of von Braun, who moved from Germany
to the U.S. after World War II, moon travel would have remained a dream.
I decide that I will grow up to be a scientist and an astronaut and move
to this place called NASA in the U.S. Again I keep the thought to myself.
Niloofar is getting restless and is now openly pestering me. She pinches
my arm. I pull her hair. She screams and dad looks at me sternly, but not
at her. Niloofar runs away inside, straight to my room. I fear for my books.
I follow her. She is sitting on the edge of the bed, holding in her hand
(and casually flicking through) my only grown-ups' book, History of
Science, which, I own to show off rather than read. If I get any closer
the book will have a lot fewer pages and, as a result, science a much shorter
history. I just stand and stare at her, trying to look unconfrontational.
A few silent moments pass. Finally she throws the book away unharmed and
announces that I am a nerd and a bore reading a book like that. I feel
relieved, but also a little saddened that she feels that way about me.
I want to say that girls have no brains, but, not knowing for sure that
this is true and also fearing more violent reactions, I just keep quiet.
She's now half lying on the bed, her skinny arms supporting the top
part of her body, her legs dangling by the side of the bed, her feet not
reaching the floor. At the age of 9-and-a-half she's a few months more
of a child than I am. She's wearing a loose sleeveless pale olive dress
with tiny little white flowers on it. Her hair is tied on the sides, making
the outline of her neck visible, and her eye lashes partially cover the
gleam in her eyes.
It puzzles me that I'm thinking these things in the midst of our battle.
Something strange is happening, something I haven't experienced before.
I feel confused, even a little bashful looking in her direction. Something
is very different today, something in her smile perhaps. I walk closer
to her, almost without thinking, and in spite of myself, sit on the bed
by her side. My heart is beating fast. Little creatures enter my belly
from nowhere and move about hurriedly. She pinches my arm. I pinch hers.
She kicks me in the leg. I kick back. She laughs. I laugh. She pulls my
hair. I pull hers. We wrestle and struggle, like children do, like she
and I often do, except that this time it has a different, quite unfamiliar
thrill to it. And when we stop, after many twists and turns, none of us
claims victory, like we normally do.
We lie silently on our sides. She watches my fingers as they make little
circles on the palm of her hand. I think of the moon. And the man on the
moon. Far away, Neil Armstrong is making history, taking "one small
step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." Over here on earth, Niloofar
and I are on a little moon of our own, making a little history of our own,
taking little steps into a world that we will later learn is called adulthood