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December 28, 2002
The Iranian

Part 12

January 24
10:07 a.m.

I still can't decide if last night was real or one of my horrific nightmares.

When I saw Ali at Shohreh's party (it seems like centuries ago), it was the confirmation of my worst fears. Not just of my anxieties about my relationship with Ali but of a more universal truth. The perception I have had since my most tender years that I do not deserve happiness... That it will never be within my grasp... That God (if she does exist at all) takes pleasure in making me momentarily happy only to pull the rug violently from under me.

All my happiest moments in life had always been marred with the underlying nagging feeling that the house of cards wasn't just going to fall apart, it was going to explode in a huge pig's blood/roaring fire/flying-human-limbs carnage similar to the Carrie-prom scene.

Maybe all my insecurities stemmed from my mother's constant criticism of me. I was never good enough for her. The consequence became, The prototype of the Iranian maamaan, always comparing me to someone "better": a smarter cousin, a prettier neighbour, a more athletic friend. So that to this day, whenever something good happens to me, I feel like an impostor, a fraud that has reaped the fruit of someone else's labor, even if I have worked hard for it and everybody else tells me I deserve it. I am always waiting for that enigmatic faceless peon to ring my doorbell and hand me the letter that states: "We regret to inform you that a clerical error has resulted in you mistakenly receiving the Grand Prize known as happiness and fulfillment. You have 16 days to refund our company upon which we will be more than glad to restore to you your shattered self-esteem, pessimism and general restlessness, which we have been keeping in storage for you."

Last night, the letter came. And Ali was the one carrying it.

The weird thing is, he looked even more shocked than I was at finding him here, at his ex-wife's party, instead of the public library, doing "research."

Ali had scarcely had a chance to ask "Nazanin, what are you doing here?" before I quipped back:

-- "Hmmm... So this is what you meant by doing research for your memoirs? I didn't realize you were going to bypass the library and come straight to the horse's mouth!"

I looked pointedly at Shohreh when I uttered those last words. Incredibly, she was making her way towards us, all smiles, as if she had seen old friends.

-- "I guess that makes me the horse's ass."

-- "Oh that's right Ali, make a joke. It's really funny..."

-- "Nazanin... It's just that... This is so ridiculous. I have to explain it to you...

-- "You know what Ali? I'm sure you have a perfect explanation. But that's just the problem you see. I am tired of explanations. I wish you were the kind of guy who didn't need to explain all the time..."

Sami and Behn, who had been standing motionless, their jaws somewhere down on the basement floor collecting cobwebs, managed to hem and haw an excuse before slipping out. I was about to follow them when suddenly I felt an ice cold hand on mine.

-- "Oh la la... Children, children... What is this whole thing about? You have my guests all in a ... hummm... how do you say? Tizzy?"

I turned around exasperated to face Shohreh. I was so agitated by this point that I forgot how intimidated I was by this woman.

-- "Oh. Come. On. Why don't you just drop the whole French act? We all know you lived in Iran until you were 21. If you're French, then I'm Jean-Paul Sartre!"

For the first time, I sensed that Shohreh was taken aback. But she quickly recovered.

-- "Hehehehe... doosstett kheili baanamakeh." She cooed "Did you ever think of taking your act on the road darling?" She added with a sudden injection of venom in her voice.

-- "You know what Shohreh?" I sighed "That is the best suggestion I've heard all night. I AM going to hit the road. Have fun you two"

Before I could walk out the door, Ali grabbed my elbow and whispered:

-- "Naz, I'll see you at home. We'll talk then okay?"

I didn't say anything. Just kept walking. For the first time in weeks, I knew exactly what I had to do.

After the uneasy ride home, I finally broke my silence to apologize profusely to my cousin and her husband for dragging them into this nightmare.

Sami put her arms around me. It took every inch of self-control not to melt into tears.

-- "Are you sure you don't want to come back home with us Naz? Or we can stay with you til Ali comes back."

-- "Sami" I whispered "I think I have embarrassed myself enough for one evening. I love you and thank you for being here for me... I just... I need to be by myself right now."

Sami kissed me on the cheeks and she and Behn were off.

I breathed a sigh of relief. I only had a few minutes to spare.

I ran into my bedroom, and started ransacking through my drawers and closets. I didn't discriminate. Every piece of my clothing I could get my hands were stuffed into my gym bag. Every time I heard the sound of a car under the window, my heart jumped 6 feet, and I increased my speed. I had to get out of here before Ali came back. Running away was the one goal in my mind.

Finally, I was done. The rest of my meager possessions would have to wait for some other day. Right now, I had the basics to survive.

I jumped into my car and floored the gas pedal. It had been long since I felt this good. I felt free. I was leaving all my problems, all my mess behind. I rolled down the window and the icy night air hit my face, blowing my hair in every direction. I cranked the volume of my stereo all the way up. Bono's voice blasted out. Yesss!!! It was perfect. I lit a cigarette. Then another. I kept on like this until I reached my destination.

The door opened to reveal Chloe in her pink bunny pajamas and matching slippers. I could hear Artie singing "Hey, big spender!" from the kitchen, and the sound of pots and pans clanking together.

One look at my face and my bag, and Chloe understood everything.

-- "Come on in, hon" she said matter-of-factly "Artie is making some vodka jello shots. We're gonna watch Mommy Dearest and down a shot every time Faye Dunawaye grabs a coat hanger. It'll be a hoot."

That's when I finally burst into tears.

Artie and Chloe stayed up the whole night with me. I felt like I was with family.

Ali and Shohreh could both go to hell and reproduce numerous little devilish children for all I cared. It was over, really over.


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