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Part 39
New York, Monday September 4

7:35 p.m.
Today is my birthday. From my old room, I hear the guests downstairs as well as mAmAn's shrill voice ordering everyone around.

-- "SafourrA khAnoom, Pollo ro lotfan bekeshin... Hamid!!! Beh toot-farhangiA dasst nazan! EshtehAtt koor misheh mAmAn jAn!

I feel so peaceful here, sitting at my table, applying the last touches of my make-up. I have become quite an expert at it, thanks to the low budget production of my play. I have had to become my own personal make-up artist. No more make-up accidents. I think of Hossein's birthday party last year and laugh.

I stand up and take one more look at the aptly-named vanity mirror. I am wearing a simple blue dress that I really like. I bought it in Paris. In August. Before taking the plane back to New York.

As I prepare to turn the doorknob of my old room and proceed downstairs, I think how lucky I am that I will find downstairs, waiting for me, my bAbA joon healthy and happy, alongside mAmAni, and all my friends and loved ones: Manny, who will come and kiss me on both cheeks; Bruce and Fabrice, who will give me the card and gift they picked together for me; Nance and Hossein, who will come toward me but their children Layal and Hamid will outrun then and fight over which one gets to sit next to me and blow all the birthday candles; The Clan of Ladies, an assortment of my mom's distant female relatives and friends, who will cackle their helloes and continue running around like chickens with their head cut off, and their husbands, who will get up from their seats where they have been lazily watching the football game (foot ball, not soccer got it!) all day. This year, there will be additional space for the entire cast and crew of my play, from the director Derrick, to all the Actors and Understudies and technical crew, and their loved ones.

MAmAn could not be happier: She hasn't had a big party like this to plan in ages. Impeccably coiffed and dressed as always, she seems to fit more the part of the Birthday Girl than me, with my simple summer dress, my hair falling on my shoulders with a simple barrette at the side. As soon as I go downstairs, MAmAni will scream: "Naaaazzzeeeeeee... Oomadi mAmAn jAn, Tah-dig ke soukht! Zood bAsh biyA beshin, hameh montazeran." BAbA will smile at me and send me a wink from across the room.

But before I see all those people, before I turn the doorknob and proceed downstairs, I will turn around and kiss my sweet love, who has been patiently sitting on my bed looking through my photo albums, while I get ready for the party.

-- "Ready to go and face the music azizam?"

Instead of a response, Ali just smiles and kisses me again.

Yes... Ali... The same one... The one I went to get in Paris... The one I brought back home with me that very night.

You see the monk was right: Once I realized I had to stop searching and simply start living, Nirvana did automatically find its way to me.

My eyes still closed, my hands leaning against the railings of the Eiffel Tower, my lips whispering the monk's mantra, I felt a hand on my shoulder.

-- "Nazanin... Aziz... What are you doing here?

Ali had never left for the week-end in Spain. He had been on the verge to go but had come back to the office about an hour after I had been to see Sally, in order to pick up some papers he could work on while in Spain. When he came in, Sally didn't even look up from her computer. But on his way out, in the elevator, Sally was there, going out for her smoke break. She looked at him with those cow eyes of hers all the way from the Sixth Floor to the Lobby. Finally, as they were stepping outside the doors and going in different direction, some wheels were fatefully set in motion in her cow brain and a flash of recognition made her cry out:

-- "Hey!... Dude!... Are you Ali?"

To which Ali turned around.

-- "Yes...Why?"

-- "Oh nothing (chew, chew)... Just some chick was looking for you..."

-- "Who?... I don't know anyone here... Was it a real estate agent?

-- "Umm... Nooo...(chew, chew)... She was American..."

-- "What was her name?..."

-- "(chew, chew)...Beats me... She didn't leave any name... Seemed pretty upset... That you weren't here I mean... I though you had gone to Spain?..."

-- "Yes I did... I mean I was... Anyway, the point is, I have no idea who you are talking about...Was it an executive of Time ?"

-- "(Snort) Oh Hooo... No way dude... unless the big brass has taken to carrying big fluffly pink and black appointment books around!"

Ali 's eyes widened and he grabbed Sally at the arms. He knew only one person in the whole wide world who dared prance around cosmopolitan cities with a pink and black fluffy diary in her hands.

-- "Tell me this isn't a joke!"

-- "No duuude..(chew, chew)... Who is she anyway, your psycho ex-girlfriend?"

-- "Where is she?"

-- "Beats me... Told ya she seemed pretty upset...(chew, chew)... about you leaving for Spain I mean... Told me this was the only address she had in all of Paris."

-- "Well did she say where she was going after? If she was staying at a hotel?"

-- "(chew, chew) I think she may have gone to the Eiffel Tower."

Ali looked at Sally like she was crazy. To which she just shrugged her shoulders, spat out her gum and stuck a Marlborough in her mouth.

It was based on this information, that Ali, against all odds, made his way to the top of the Eiffel Tower to find me.

"As soon as I saw you standing there in your pink pumas, with your matching pink diary in your hand", He later whispered in my ear in the plane, "I knew nothing mattered except I had to be with you."

So you see, it did not take much convincing to get him on that plane with me that very night.

Today, as I hold his hand in mind, and I am getting ready to march downstairs, the only thing that puzzles me is what could I possibly wish for when I blow out my birthday candles?

Oh well, guess I'll have to think of something. I always do...


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