I'm going to Iran. And I have a severe case of gastritis
By Parissa Sohie
January 8, 2003
My countdown has started once again. I have four days to take-off, then I will
be on my way to Iran. Thus, the emotional rollercoaster of the past month will slow
down, only to gain momentum again as my plane lands in Tehran. I'm sharing my little
ride with strangers, because four days before take-off, I find sleep more elusive
and thoughts more invasive.
About a month ago, I finally woke up tired of the sensation in my stomach. The constant
surplus of acid swishing around and piling up when I didn't need it. Swish.
For months, I had stabbing, burning pains in my stomach and chest. My previous doctor
had sucked scarce blood out of my veins on four different occasions, just to tell
me I'm fine. Swish.
So I had changed my doctor -- as an act of revenge -- and eventually made my way
to his office -- as proof to myself that I'm not a hypochondriac. He eventually diagnosed
me with a severe case of gastritis and looked baffled at how happy I was to hear
Prescriptions were written and taken when I remembered them and while they helped,
I still woke up some mornings feeling the pit of my stomach developing severe acid
burns. By the time I made it to the shower, I could feel the acid moving around my
stomach, like that much vinegar in too small a bowl being handled by an anxious child
headed to the haft-seen table. Swish.
Generally, I'm happy. Well, my thesis is hanging over my head and my motivation to
write it has escaped me and this fills me with guilt and shame at my own sudden lack
of determination. And my job doesn't fill me with joy -- nor my account with money
-- it just fills my days with people blinded by racism, fear, apathy or all of the
Of course there is the general state of affairs for all of the innocent Iranian gentlemen
who reside here in America. I had never dreamt of seating government agents on my
couch and making small talk with them. SWISH. But my husband makes it better
with his little jokes, and the time he spends with me and the gifts he gives to show
me he's paying attention -- even to my little whims...
I don't think he knows why I can't sleep though. He doesn't know that when I went
to Iran (my first trip after I moved to America) I stayed for twenty eight days.
He doesn't know that all of the chocolate I had bought as soughati melted before
the plane even took-off from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.
Nor does he know that the melted chocolate destroyed everything else I had take with
me on that trip, leaving me embarrassed once again in front of all of the Iranians
who had looked at me with amusement and polite disdain for years.
All of the gifts that I had painstakingly purchased on my student
budget were marred, all of the dresses were hopelessly stained. No one there appreciated
the Arizona summer heat and the effect it had on chocolate and lipstick.
My twenty eight days were shocking to me, because I had only been away for a year
and a half and in that time everything had changed. I had not burned any bridges
when I left, I just looked back and found that many were under construction and useless
That summer, no one looked at me as a strong and independant freshman, on my own
and able -- they looked at me as the girl who was "undeclared", unsupervised
and alone. Even chocolate didn't stand a chance with me.
The second time I went home, I was only there for twenty days. I was ill, had been
laid off, and I didn't know what was next. I wasn't ashamed, but I was at a crossroad
and horribly impatient with the pain in my back (it really was in my back).
It was on this trip that I realized why I could never live in Iran. It's the people.
I don't know taroof (seriously, if someone says they don't want something, I don't
ask twice) and I don't like lying about where and what I am in life.
I found my parents rushing to my rescue when I was telling
them that I got laid off and I wasn't sure what was next. One childhood acquaintance
called me three times after she came to see me to gush about her happiness, her wonderful
job and her most sincere hope that I would one day be as happy as she was.
But that is all superficial.
The hard part was seeing the changes in my family. My "baby" brother grown
up, a young man; my father suddenly old and vulnerable despite his steely strength;
and most of all my darling, darling grandfather who didn't recognize me any more.
He would push me away when they teased him that he had found a young girlfriend,
blaming me for kissing an innocent old man. He would look at me impatiently and ask
if we had met before, only to be more frustrated when I said yes. On my last day,
as I sat in my room packing, he sat next to me and asked what I was doing.
"I'm packing, Baba. I'm going back to America."
"America? Do you know M (my uncle)?"
"Yes, Baba. I will see him and his wife and his little girl."
"Will you see Parissa, too? She lives in the same city as M."
At this point I was crying uncontrollably. My Baba
who used to take me to walk in orchards and buy me ice cream didn't know me; Baba
who would not let anyone say a harsh word to me couldn't place me; Baba whose white
mane I had envied as a child was talking to me about myself.
"Don't cry, Khahoom Koochooloo. You even look like my Parissa when you cry.
Her eyes were like green fountains filled to the rim -- the water was always waiting
to spill over. You go tell her I don't remember much but I still remember her, give
her a kiss for me. Please, hallaalam kon."
That last night, I did not speak to those who called. I had nothing left to say.
And so I left Iran, only to land in LAX and hear about the Columbine shooting --
it was April 20, 1999.
On this trip, I am going to celebrate my brother's wedding. I'm meeting his fiancee
and family for the first time. A friend was teasing me that I have an obligation
to make a lasting impression with her -- I'm going to be Khahar Shohar for Pete's
sake -- and show her who's the boss. He said that knowing that I have no idea what
he was talking about; knowing my reaction was the punchline to his joke.
And I'm meeting my own in-laws (khaahar shohars included) for the first time without
my sweet husband to introduce me to them and help me navigate. We had agreed that
I would go completely empty handed -- there would be no discrimination, no complaints
about the quality and a smaller hit on our finances during these times of economic
insecurity. We also agreed a week later that doing something like that would be a
great idea for future trips -- on this trip it would be insane!
off we went to the malls proud of our ability to shop after all of those who had
been conned into doing so before Christmas -- and all the time I was imagining those
who were waiting to see me. The acid level in my stomach rising as we moved from
Macy's to The Gap to Robinson-Mays. Swish.
And there was the issue of what I would wear to the wedding -- something stylish
(but not too much so), modest (but not ommol) and otherwise perfect... I gave up
on the malls, ordered online and still don't have anything to wear to the wedding.
My guess is all of my packages will arrive Wednesday afternoon -- an hour after I'm
on my plane. Swish.
So feel free to start counting down to the final days with me. Close your eyes and
imagine the searing pain in my stomach as I walk through that glass partition in
Mehrabad to the loving and expecting arms on the other side. Imagine the rollercoaster
dropping out beneth me. And that acid flooding my stomach. Swish...
Does this article have spelling or other mistakes? Tell
me to fix it.