November 16, 2002
God I am so hot... and thirsty. I've been walking for hours in the sand. How did
I end up here? There's nothing in sight. No water, no roads, no sign of civilization
anywhere. Never mind, for now, the important thing is to keep dragging my feet until
I find some help. My throat is so parched and I keep licking my lips to keep them
moist. But I swear I am so dehydrated I am going to turn into a cactus. Oh never
mind, cactus hold water!!! Or is it cactai?... Grrr... Mind can't think under
Oh wait! I see something in the horizon. Please don't let it be a mirage! Could
it be??? I rub my eyes to make sure this isn't a dream. Wow! Like something out
of Lawrence of Arabia, I have arrived at an oasis. Gratefully, I seek refuge under
the cool shade of giant palm trees. It takes me but a few seconds to arrive at a
clearing where, magically, a magnificent table has been set, as if it was expecting
me. There's food, drinks, everything you could ever want. Already I am eyeing that
big, icy bottle of Seven-Up. Only a few more steps and...
Maamaan! What are you doing here? Come on, this isn't the time to chit chat. Can
you just give me a second to get a drink and then we can discuss whether or not I
have kept my hands properly manicured? Oh god... Maamaan, please get out of my
way, I am dying here. I need to drink. Why won't you let me pass... Please... Pleeaaaasseeee...
I have landed head first onto the bedroom floor. (Really have to stop this nasty
habit!) For a split second, I wonder where it all went... the desert... the oasis...
Maamaan... But the only thing left from my nightmare is my unbearable thirst.
I drag myself to the fridge where only a dubious looking carton of milk serves as
refreshment... Damn, guess I'll have to settle for that carcinogenic tap water...
Sigh... . I just don't have the strength to fight my demonic fate. Head feels like
giant egg that a sadistic inhuman cook has spent the better part of the night banging
on the side of a frying pan, hoping to make an omelette...
I had promised myself to break my longstanding tradition of starting the New Year
with a hangover but oh well... Given that my body has turned into a giant vodka
container, I am lucky to even have made it to this new year... Or am I? How I wish
I could go back in time.
It started out well enough when, about a week ago, Sami and Behn invited us to go
to the Queen Mary for New Year's. Excited at the prospect of partying in this luxurious
ship turned hotel with a breathtaking view of Long Beach harbor, we said yes. Or
rather I said yes, and Ali just said "Yeah, yeah sure, if that's what you want."
As much as I have been happy playing house with Ali for the past few months, I was
looking forward to getting out and seeing some people, having some fun. Ali has been
a bit grumpy lately on account of his novel which has not been going that great according
to him. I think he has writer's block. I told him, as long as he doesn't start
typing "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy", I wouldn't worry.
But I don't think he laughed.
January 31st came around and we all got dressed up in our fancy-schmancy get-ups.
I was wearing a strapless black gown with tiny crystal beads. My hair was swept
up, with a few strands hanging down here and there. In guise of any accessories,
I simply sprayed on some Pear Glace, which I know Ali likes. When I came out of
the bedroom, he was standing there awkwardly, hiding something behind his back.
I playfully tried to get at it but he kept teasing me. Finally, I brought out the
invincible weapons: Ali is a tickling maniac. That's when he relented.
-- "Okay... Okay... Naz... .You got me kid, you got me... "
Laughing, I took the mysterious object from his hand. It was a single tiger lily
corsage. I started laughing and hugging him.
-- "Oh... Ali... This almost makes up for going to the prom without you... "
-- "I know it is a bit old-fashioned but... I don't know... I was walking
by myself, missing you... And as if by magic, in the same instant, I saw it smiling
at me from the store window... A little Nazanin in spirit... You don't have to
wear it or anything... "
-- "Oh... but I will"
I ran back to the bedroom, hiding my moist eyes, and scrambled to find some hair
pins. Finally, I found some and managed to secure the beautiful tiger lily behind
my right ear.
-- "Voila!" I exclaimed to Ali triumphantly.
He kissed me on the shoulder and told me I looked beautiful, which had me beaming
like a little kid.
The evening started out great. The Queen Mary and its temporary inhabitants both
looked equally fabulous, and there were so many different parties to hop to in various
levels and wings of the huge ship. Ali and I met up with my cousin and her husband,
who in turn, introduced us to various friends, acquaintances and co-workers. Everyone
was warm, friendly, and ready to boogie. We were all having a fantastic time: the
sumptuous decorations, the unending cascade of champagne, and all the beautiful people
were something right out of the Great Gatsby.
At some point in the night though, things started to take another turn. After dizzily
dancing with one partner after the other, I looked around and couldn't find Ali anymore.
At first, I thought he had just gone to the restroom, so I waited for him by the
bar. After a couple of martinis, still no sign of him. As the clock neared twelve,
I began to frantically look for my sweetheart among the maze of halls, decks, and
salons in the ship. Soon, I found myself alone, more than a little tipsy and on
the verge of tears. I didn't recognize anyone around me anymore. And I couldn't
believe I was going to let the arrow strike 12 without Ali by my side.
That's when I saw them. Ali was smoking, which I hadn't seen him do in months.
His face looked contrite. As for her, she had her back to me. All I could see
at first was some flame-red hair, cut in a short pixie cut at the very top, and a
pair of very sexy high heeled shoes on the bottom. The rest of her body was wrapped
in a long black mink coat.
They were standing outside on the deck, leaning against the railing. My stomach
turned into knots. I had a bad feeling. It just looked conspicuous. Everyone else
was inside dancing. Why were they standing out there alone, in the cold? Unless
they had a good reason.
I made my way through the frenzied dance floor, as people started counting down:
"10... 9... "
I opened the doors to the deck outside and stumbled towards them. Ali's expression
when he saw me made her turn around. She was ravishing, an absolutely stunning specimen
draped in gorgeous emeralds that matched her sparkling, mischievous eyes. Milky
white skin, so flawless she looked like one of those antique wax dolls. She was
the kind of woman who took the trouble to match her lipstick to the shade of her
hair. And on her, it looked good.
-- "8... 7... "
She looked me up and down, her eyes piercing my own with icy precision.
-- "Hello... " She said in a raspy, breathless voice that kind of sounded
like Kathleen Turner with a French accent.
-- "6... 5... "
just kept staring, without saying any words, so finally I replied hesitantly.
-- "Hi... I'm Nazanin... "
-- "Ooohhh... ", she cooed, "It was about time we meet... My name
is Shohreh... "
-- "4... 3... "
The mystery woman then smiled widely, showing off a set of perfect white pearly teeth.
But her smile was somehow all wrong, like whiskey in a cereal bowl.
And then she added:
-- "I am Ali's wife."
At that moment, an explosion of cheers from the inside of the ship deafened my ears.
-- "Happy New Year!", The crowd chanted.
TO BE CONTINUED.