November 1, 2002
Ali and I both wake up abruptly from our deep slumber... What's happening? It's
the middle of the night practically...
God, what is this ringing in my ears? Have I hit my head somehow? Oh... It's just
the phone... Wait a minute... The phone?
Who could be calling us at this hour? And why? Immediately my Iranian woman genes
predict the worse. Is someone going to announce a death in the family? An accident?
A divorce announcement?
--"Hello" Ali whispers hoarsely.
Then his face freezes. Grimly, he hands me the phone.
--"Ali... who is it??? Ali???"
But instead of answering, he buries his head beneath his pillow.
Hesitantly, I take the receiver and utter a feeble "Hello?", expecting
--"Naazzzeeeeeeeee to-ee maamaan jaan?????"
Oh. My. God. It couldn't be.
--"Maamaan?" I exclaim incredulously.
Yup. I am right. Only one person in the world calls me by this much hated nickname.
--"Maamaan! In che vaghtiye baraaye telefon kardan... Kkalleye sohb!"
(What kind of timing is this, phoning us at the break of dawn?)
Instead of apologizing, Maamaan makes disapproving sounds:
--"Tssskkk....Tssskkk...Kalleye sohb? Khobeh khobeh... in masskhareh baziaayo
bezaar kenaar. Pashoo enghad tanbali nakon. Sa'at az zohr ham gozashteh!"
(Break of dawn? Come on, stop kidding around. Get up and don't be so lazy. It's
past noon already!)
Unbelievable! It's just like the old days when she used to torture me. She'd come
barging in at 7 am every Sunday and scream in my ear that it was "noon"
already. She considers anyone who dares to sleep past her own wake-up time as "tanbal."
--" Maamaan!" I retort, "It's not even morning in California, it's
goddamn night still!!! Don't you know the time difference?"
Amazing how Maaman can mentally calculate Tehran time from anywhere on the globe,
be it Timbuctu or Niagara Falls, but she refuses to subtract a simple 3 hours to
make up the (crucial) time difference from New York to California.
--"Khobeh khobeh Naazeee in masskhareh baazihaa ro bezaar kenaar hosseleh nadaaram..."
(Come on Naazee stop kidding around, I don't have the patience... )
Grrrrr... You wanna talk "hosseleh"?...
--"Maaman", I sigh, "What do you want?"
--"Khob. DIGEH che khabar?"
I love it. Not even "che khabar?" (What's new?) It's "digeh che
khabar" (What ELSE is new?) as if we have been chatting for hours and she is
trying to get the conversation going again.
While I am trying not to dislocate my jaws due to excessive yawning, Maamaan happily
chats away, jumping from one subject to the other, without bothering to make any
--"Bebinam... baalaaye sarett cheezee gozaashti?"
(Let's see... Have you put anything above your head?"
--"?????? ...Chi, Maamaan?..."
--"Deeehhh!!! Naazee mageh kar shodi? Migam nakoneh baalaaye sarett, baalaaye
takhtett, tableau mableau gozashte baashi.."
(Naazee have you gone deaf? I am wondering if god forbid you have put a frame above
your head... above your bed)
--"????... Maamaan... Aakheh manzourett chieh?"
(Mom, what do you mean?)
--"Manzouram hasst nakoneh ye vaghti vassatte shab ke khabidi, tableau biyofte
roo kallat, kallato beshkaneh!"
(I mean, what if in the middle of the night while you're sleeping, the frame falls
on your head, and breaks your head!)
I swear to god, I am not even exaggerating. This brilliant exchange continues for
a good 40 minutes. Other topics we discuss are: The possibility that I would get
kidnapped and murdered by a serial killer (She rented the movie "Kiss the Girls"
with my dad the night before); That Saffoura Khanoom, her neighbor, had heard it
from the wife of the nephew of her stylists's grocer that sometimes, carjackers in
California use fake police cars to lure their victims away from safety; That cell
phones would give me cancer (Yesss!!!! I gave in to the Cell Phone god after 27 years
of a "chossi-fon"-free life.); Whether I have found a decent job yet and
put aside this "ke-ray-zee acting"; And finally, last but not least, whether
I have bought a rice cooker yet.
--"No mom, I don't know how to cook rice and anyways... Ali and I can go out
if we feel like persian food. It takes way too long and is too messy to cook at
As soon as I mention Ali's name, I feel her cringe. That proves to be the
quickest way out of the conversation.
--"Khob... be baabaa-tt-am yek zangi bezan bad nisst. Khoda-haafez."
(Well... It'd be nice if you gave your dad a call too. Goodbye)
There! She said her piece and now all I am left with is a body that aches for sleep,
some muddled emotions, and an overwhelming need to bang my head against the wall.
Suddenly, two strong arms wrap themselves around me.
--"Ali! I thought you were asleep!"
--"Would have had more chance to fall asleep under attack by a hail of bullets
khoshkele man... You weren't exactly whispering."
--"Yeah well, what can I tell you? She has a knack for driving me crazy. For
making sure that I know she disapproves."
--"Everything... My life... My career... My moving away... (pause)... Of you."
--"Nazanin, it isn't exactly easy for her. You're her only daughter: It's hard
for her. She loves you and worries."
--"Is it love? Or is it just control?"
Ali laughs as he buries his head against my neck.
--"Earth to Nazanin! She's an Iranian mother. The line between love and control
are KIND OF blurry!"
Fortunately, Ali's laughter is contagious and my foul mood is finally dissipating.
I AM her only daughter and it's the first time I have made such a drastic decision.
Not to mention the whole "shacking up" situation with Ali. What a no-no
for a "traditional Iranian woman" like Maamaan. Not that she would ever
mention it directly to me. My parents and I have this whole weird thing going where
if there are things they don't like about my life, and which they can't control,
they just simply ignore it. Be rooye khodeshoon nemiyaaran. (They don't take it
to the surface). Which fits me fine because I hate confrontations. I swear, they
must have my picture in Webster's dictionary under the heading "passive-aggressive."
I guess it's not exactly healthy to bottle up all these emotions. I have always
been such an introvert believe it or not. When I am on stage, playing a part, it
is the only time when I feel free to loosen the rein on my emotions and let them
fly free. Although I am not any of the characters I play, I feel that each of these
characters does represent a little part of me.
Ali and I decide to make some coffee and sit out on the balcony, to take advantage
of the peaceful silence at this early hour. The sea looks ink black, almost sinister.
As I cuddle up in my love's arms, I suddenly feel so melancholy. No matter how
much I hate to admit it, Maamaan's words have a deep effect on me. A deep, negative
--"Ali... I'm scared... What if she's right? What if I am crazy for pursuing
this dream? What if I am kidding myself to think I have any talent and I am really
another Salieri, a "King of Mediocrity"?
Ali smiles at me, his soothing, comforting smile that feels like a caress on my restless
--"Eshghe man... It's normal to be scared. If you didn't have any fear, I
would be more worried for you. Do you think I'm not scared sometimes? That I don't
take a look at that typewriter and wonder what it is all worth?"
--"But... You always seem so strong. I always thought of you as fearless..."
--"Aakh, Nazanin... There is no pride in being fearless. What's important is
to feel that fear but to go on nevertheless... To learn to tame your fear... Don't
let it control you, but learn to control it..."
Ali and I were silent for a long time after that, as we continued to hold each other
under the blanket in the cool early hours of the day. The ink black waves continued
to stain the grayish beach until... little by little... a soft pinkish light began
to glow in the horizon. The sun was rising. But I had yet to figure out how to
"tame" my fear.
TO BE CONTINUED.