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All trees start somewhere
Short story


May 13, 2006

I looked down at the white sheet of drawing paper that seemed to stare right back at me. Start your family-trees she had said. 

Everyone had started moving about getting their crayons out.  I could see all the commotion from the corner of my eyes. But I remained still, as if concentrating on the task, begging my heart to stop beating so fast. I was bargaining with my eyes to hold off on the tears. 

Start your family-trees she had said. 

Something about a family tree also being a foundation.  Only two generations back.  Only back to your grandparents she had said. 

Simple enough I guess. 

But how did I tell a class full of nine-year-olds that my family tree did not even go one generation back, let alone only two.

Whoever said honesty was the best policy has never had to tell a group of nine-year-olds about being left at a hospital door when a few days old.

Whoever said honesty was the best policy must not have had a horrendous secret to hide in the first place.

I remained still begging my heart to stop beating so fast.

I knew some would ignore me, some would become nicer. Either way everyone would change.

I always saw the words that went through people's minds when they found out.

Everyone thinks they can hide their thoughts, but the words cross people's eyes and I read every one of them.

Unwanted. Left behind. Unlucky. Sad. Alone. Futureless. Unloved. 

I always wondered if they could read mine.

Unloved. Unwanted. Alone.

I heard some of the others as they went in front of the class. I could hear the nervousness in some, and the excitement in others. I heard their voices, but not their words. I heard my own heartbeat above it all. People talking behind me, more voices, no words.

I knew sooner or later my turn would come. 

Do not cry I told myself. 

Do not cry.



I heard my name in a haze. My turn. My turn.

The sound of my own heartbeat was deafening.

I felt my body turn, my legs move. I could hear the clicking of my own shoes on the ground, but like a noise from far away, I could not place it.

Before I knew it my feet had stopped. The sheet of drawing paper in my hands, and I turned to face my jury.

My body faced them, but my eyes could not look up. They were too ashamed. Too ashamed. My eyes, and theirs.

Somehow I forced myself to look up.

I do not remember looking or reading a single face.

My eyes were blurred by the tears that filled them.

I turned the sheet of paper, and looked down at my own tree, a dot in red and under it my name Lilly with a circle around it.

My eyes were blurred by the tears that filled them, but I forced myself to look up.

I looked at everyone, but I was not seeing them anymore.

I felt my lips moving, I heard my own voice. 

I heard my own soul.

Well my tree is really not a tree yet, it's a seed. I guess all trees have to start somewhere, and this is where mine starts.

I heard the clicking of my shoes on the floor. I felt my body sliding back into my seat.

My heartbeats were still as loud but they were slowing down.

I looked down at my red dot in the middle of the white paper and wondered if one day it'll be on top of someone else's tree.

For letters section
To Baharak Sedigh

Baharak Sedigh


Book of the day

Stories From Iran
A Chicago Anthology 1921-1991
edited by Heshmat Moayyad

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