Fly to Iran

Amazon Honor System

Diary * Support
* Write for
* Editorial policy

November 22, 2002
The Iranian

Part 8

January 3
5:36 a.m.

Woody Allen is gazing lovingly at Mariel Hemingway, a weary smile on his face.

The screen goes black, making way for the credits of "Manhattan." I reach out for a kleenex to wipe my tears and blow my nose. Maybe sitting through a marathon of Woody Allen films wasn't the best way to cheer myself up. Usually, it has been the sure cure for all emotional crisis of mine. But this time, it's different. I am so far away from home and I miss it. Looking at Woody's romantic and nostalgic take on my native city only deepens that feeling. I know, rationally, Manhattan has never looked as good in real life as it does through Allen's misty eyes. But just as he says in "Radio Days", another favorite of mine: Although my neighborhood never looked so windswept, rainy and romantic, that's the way I like to remember it.

And the music... If heaven existed, the elevator ride to the divine heights would play Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. That melody doesn't just serve as background for those amazing tableaux of the City displayed in the first and last few moments of "Manhattan". It translates their visual beauty into a musical narrative. Woody's lovingly orchestrated shots of New York make the actual plot of "Manhattan" almost trivial. The real love story here is between the director and his town. God, was it just a horrible mistake to leave home? These days, it seems more and more that way.

I get up from the couch, where I have been buried under a blanket for almost 12 hours and walk out to the balcony to light up my gazillionth cigarette. There are two ashtrays out here filled to the brim with all the butts of my previous cigarettes. Gro-oss! Really must quit this nasty habit. Was doing so well, too, until... well... until New Year's of course.

The first moment I caught sight of Ali and ... Oh I can't bring myself to say her name... that WOMAN... I knew immediately something was amiss. But I didn't want to believe it. Not my Ali... He couldn't be mistrusted. He was different from all other men, from those smiling Romeos with their Casanova hearts.

So I walked up to them resolutely, despite my passive-aggressive instincts screaming at me to turn in the other direction. I replay that New Year's Eve scene in my head over and over again. It is stuck there like an annoying 80's tune. Except in my memory, I am viewing the three of us from a distance, as if my spirit had left my body and was floating above us, eavesdropping on our little third-rate melodrama.

"I am Ali's wife" She said. With such chilling calm. She struck me as smoothly as a serpent slithering in the grass for hours, then finally springing on its prey for the fatal sting. As she looked at me with those gleeful, hypnotic green eyes, I abruptly felt the first stomach pangs that soon had me running into a crowded public restroom. I spent the next hour bent over a ceramic bowl, trying to purge myself from her poisonous words. (Though I am sure the dirty martinis I had ingested so carelessly throughout the night had a "little" part in my demise!)

It was horrible. Ali had rushed after me into the ladies' room. Fortunately, everyone was too drunk to object. He kept wanting to help me and I kept pushing him away. Finally, when I felt that I was about to faint, I let him pull me up to him. He half carried me out of the ship and towards our car. What a scene! The last thing I remember from that night was seeing the beautiful tiger lily he had given me floating inside the toilet bowl. It had fallen from my hair while I was bent in two, welcoming the New Year in my own special way. Ali didn't notice it. So he couldn't understand why I started laughing hysterically and continued to do so all the way back to our car.

I don't even remember how I walked the steps up to our apartment, or got into bed. The next morning, my head felt as if it had been crushed by a raging bull in the middle of his frenzied escape down the streets of a dusty Spanish village.

Then little by little, my memories came back. Along with very unpleasant feelings: Outrage, anger, then sadness and misery.

Ali was nowhere in sight. The only sign that he had even spent the night here was a crumpled blanket on the couch. I pulled the blanket up and suddenly I started crying. The first night Ali and I had spent apart ever since we fell in love.

What was happening to me? To us? I couldn't believe that the nightmare of New Year's Eve could be true. It had to be a lie. Oh, how I wished it to be!

Just then, I felt two arms around me. Ali had magically reappeared.

-- "Naz, I'm so sorry... I thought I would have time to go grab us some coffee and breakfast before you woke up."

I quickly dried my tears. I opened my mouth to say something but I couldn't find the words. Ali gently led me to our kitchen table, where he set our breakfast.

After alternating sips of coffee and orange juice, I started to feel better. Physically at least. It wasn't a bull stomping on my brains in an arid ghost town anymore. Merely a gentle cow lazily strolling across the remains of my brains scattered across a humid English meadow.

Before I could mention anything, Ali said:

-- "We have a lot to talk about."

I felt the timid beginning of something close to joy in my heart. This was the explanation I had been waiting for. The words that would make all the hurt go away.

Ali's next words seemed to confirm my newfound optimism.

-- "First of all, I want you to know, Shohreh is not my wife."

Already, I felt a lightness in my heart and the corners of my mouth even tentatively moved upwards, almost forming a smile.

Then Ali added:

-- "Actually, she was my wife. We were married... but it was a long time ago."

BAAAMMMMMMMM!!!! The bull returned with fury, and this time, it was going to have the rest of me for lunch. Its heavy legs were digging into my heart, its hot, angry breath on my face, suffocating me. I couldn't breathe. I wanted to get up and run out of here. But instead, I was pinned helplessly to my chair. The bull wasn't letting me go.

For an eternity, Ali talked and I listened. He told me all about Sh... Shohreh... (There, I can say it!).

He started long ago, back to his teen-age years, when he was studying at Le Rosay. His younger sister was visiting him from Iran. She was under his care. His responsibility. Then one day, he walked in and found her lying on the bed, so still. She had killed herself.

After that, Ali's smooth and easy life came to an end. He left school and abruptly ceased contact with his family. With nothing more in his backpack than a few beloved books and some clothes, he started wandering around Europe, the eptiomy of the angry, misunderstood youth. Rome, Florence, Nice, Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, Frankfurt, and countless obscure little towns and villages in between.

He did odd jobs here and there to survive, and mostly stayed at youth shelters and churches, sometimes farms. In rare instances, a generous household in one of countless urban slums would take him in for the night, and shared with him the little they had, which was already divided among a multitude of family members. The poorer his companions, the more generous they were usually.

Through it all, he got acquainted with a whole other segment of society that he had never experienced in his privileged life: Teens who had run away from abusive homes; Once brilliant and successful careermen who had succumbed to merciless addictions and were now old, disheveled shadows of their former selves; Countless children born to mothers who sold their bodies day and night; Hard-working immigrants who would talk or sing nostalgically of their far off homelands... He met as many artists as he did drug-dealers, geniuses as simpletons, generous hearts as corrupt souls.

-- "I kind of felt like Candide" Ali explained to me, staring out at the sea, "Except I had no Pangloss at my side. The only solace I had was to write... I didn't think anything of it. It was just a journal of my everyday life. It wasn't meant for an audience. Just sometimes, I felt I would go crazy because I had no one to share my real thoughts with. This journal kind of became my companion."

In the midst of this bohemian journey, he met Shohreh. She was five years older than him. Beautiful and sophisticated. And the first Iranian soul he had encountered in months.

He let her read his stories. Before the first line had ended, she had already deciphered his heart. She told him he had a raw talent. She was the first person to believe in him.

-- "She was everything to me in those days... when I had nothing and no one." Ali said wistfully, "She was my best friend, my lover, my mentor... Eventually, she also became my wife."

They were married in Paris, in a quick civil ceremony, and moved into a decrepit small apartment where a mattress served as bed, and food was scarce. With her help and connections, he managed to publish some of his articles. And started working on some more.

He would have been content to make her his entire world. But she was restless. She had a large circle of friends, and they became part of a clique of emigres artists and writers, actors and journalists who ate, drank, debated, chain-smoked, danced, and of course all slept together in a kind of incestuous snake's nest. The new temptations that floated enticingly around them never affected him. But as for her....

One night, she just didn't come home.

-- "I was so scared that night..." Ali recounted to me, pain still fresh in his voice. "I had already been through the loss of someone so dear to me. And she was my life. I wandered the streets of Paris that night, shuddering every time the sound of an ambulance siren shattered the obscurity..."

In the morning, she finally appeared at their apartment, still laughing from the gaggle of parties she claimed to have attended. Her reaction to his pain was laugh and ridicule.

-- "That morning, I saw her for who she really was..." Ali explained, taking long drags from his cigarette, "A beautiful ornament and nothing else. She was too empty to feel anything... real. I was an amusement... for a while. And she was done with me."

After a pause, he continued.

-- "After all that happened...well... My life changed a lot you know. I reconciled with my family. I went back to Iran for a while. Then I started getting serious about this journalist thing. I went away to the U.S. for school, graduated, worked for a couple of local newspapers... Then I got my break ... Assignment followed assignment. I didn't think of her anymore. I mean, I was 19 when we were married!... More than ten years had passed since then. Our marriage seemed trivial... irrelevant...Like it had happened to another person, a stranger... It wasn't me."

-- "Then...Why did she say she was your wife Ali?" I cried out, feeling my eyes moistening again, "Seems she feels differently than you do."

-- "She hurt you a lot. And for that, I am sorry!" Ali murmured, "I don't know what possessed her to make such a poor joke... All I can say is I'm sorry. I should have reacted faster. But... I guess I was still in shock from having seen her after all these years..."

I was struggling hard to hold back my tears. God I hated for him to see me this weak. I wanted to scream out at him, to beat him with my fists.

-- "Why did you leave me alone Ali? What were you doing with her close to midnight on New Year's Eve while I was running around like an idiot trying to find you? She must mean a lot more to you than you are willing to say... Tell me the truth Ali... Tell me! Do you still love her? You must! Otherwise, why would you hide this from me? Because you did hide it Ali... I don't believe you... If it was so trivial to you, you wouldn't have let me find out this way. I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!"

These words reverberated from my heart to my head and back again. But they never made it out of my mouth. I had lost enough of my dignity for one day. I wasn't about to let him see how hurt I was. My passive-aggressive instincts were in full gear. I could literally see walls of iron slowly but surely erecting themselves around me, cutting me off from Ali. Yes, I would never let him see the power he had over me. I would protect myself. Push all my hurt and pain, all my questions and issues, deep deep down where Ali would never find them.

Later on that evening, Ali and I took our usual walk on the beach, which I used to look forward to as my favorite part of the day. But this time, I was only going through the motions. On the surface, I was holding hands, smiling, even kissing. Inside, I was frozen. Numb.

-- "We're going to be all right, Naz" Ali kept whispering to me, his arms tightly around my shoulders, "I promise."

But I couldn't believe in his promises anymore.


Email your comments for The Iranian letters section
Send an email to Nazanin

By Nazanin

Search for Nirvana



Book of the day

Fly to Iran

Copyright © All Rights Reserved. Legal Terms for more information contact:
Web design by Bcubed
Internet server Global Publishing Group