The Spider Killings (5)

This will be the last time Azadeh sees that schoolbag


The Spider Killings (5)
by laleh haghighi

A fictional series based on real events that happened in Iran known as the "Spider Killings". [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21]

As soon as Azadeh got home, she rushed to the bathroom and locked herself in. Quickly shedding all her clothing, she stood in front of the mirror, looking at her naked reflection, something she seldom dared to do. Her arms and legs were covered with a multitude of scars, as well as the coagulated blood from fresher wounds. Her body had for years been the canvas for her monstrous designs. She used knives, razors, and scissors in guise of brushes and pencils. She opened one of the drawers in the bathroom vanity and took out a pair of scissors. The thought of cutting her skin once more filled her with both trepidation and exhilaration. Slowly, she brought the sharp tip of the instrument down, until it rested against the skin on her inner thigh.

-- 'Massoud, sabr kon baraam, Massoooouuuudddd!'

Azadeh is ten years old. She is chasing her older brother Massoud on their way home from school. The street is full of puddles from the rain the night before and the two of them are having a grand time skipping into them and splashing themselves. When Azadeh finally gets home, her face wet, her cheeks reddened by the wind as well as her own excitement, her uniform covered with mud, her mother quickly yanks her schoolbag from her hand and sternly sends her to clean herself up. This will be the last time Azadeh sees that schoolbag. By the end of that week, she will be betrothed and the groom, Mohammad, a distant relative of her father, will take her from her home to his own city, to be raised amongst his own clan.

Azadeh's hands were trembling, making her unable to achieve the steadiness required for that first cut. The first cut was always the most important. It had to be deep enough to break the skin and release the blood but not so deep as to do permanent damage. Azadeh could not concentrate because Majid's eyes continued to peer at her from behind his desk at the police station, making her nervous, making her feel guilty. After a few minutes, she couldn't stand it anymore. She threw the scissors away and, looking into the mirror, she screamed:

-- 'Fuck you!'

And then spat at her own image.

Azadeh has just turned fifteen and she still has not produced a child. Her mother-in-law and sister-in-law have begun to throw neesh, thorny comments at her and her family, who now stand accused of having duped Mohammad into taking on a defective bride. No wonder they couldn't marry her off to someone local, the in-laws scoff. They have forgotten that they were the ones to come forward uninvited. Like brewing coffee that slowly drips, drop by drop, from the filter into the decanter, likewise, the poisonous words of his mother and sister gradually drip, like drops of poison, one by one, into Mohammad's mind, slowly but irrevocably altering his perception of his wife. From gentle and attentive, he becomes more and more annoyed by her presence, by her sight. First, he uses only words to hurt her, calling her 'lazy' and a 'slob' as if fertility is simply a matter of effort on her part, an effort that she is not willing to make. He soon ceases to visit her at night, which she does not mind at all. Somehow though, the clan continues to blame her and her alone for failing to reproduce. Her sister-in-law's children, who over the years have become substitutes for Azadeh's very missed siblings, start excluding her from their play. If she comes near, they run away from her, chanting:

-- 'Khaaleh khareh! Khaaleh khareh! Auntie the dummy!'

Unlike most prostitutes, Azadeh had never delved into drugs or alcohol. Cutting was her sole addiction. It was devouring her, inch by inch of her skin, and she could not put a stop to it. She didn't want to. She welcomed the pain of cutting herself, because in all other aspects of her life, she had become numb. Numb to the insults, numb to the slaps and kicks. Numb to having her body used and soiled time and time again, like a toilet. She remembered about a year ago, she had been picked up by this one man, an artist of some sort, far different from her regulars, who mostly consisted of bricklayers, truck drivers and the like. After their tryst, they had laid together in his bed listening to classical music, she on her back and he on his side, smoking a joint and looking at her nude body. He had whispered to her:

-- 'Your face is a poem, your body a tragedy.'

She had liked that.

Mohammad now pushes her, shoving her against the walls. Anything can set him off. She has become so unsure of herself that even in the rare moments when he is in a good mood again, she misreads him. Once, sitting at the dinner soffreh, Mohammad raises his hand to caress her head. Azadeh, mistaking his intention, rolls away from him, falling on her side, causing much hilarity among everyone. One day, after being berated for two hours straight for having fooled Mohammad into accepting her deficient self, she retorts that they can return her to her parents' home and she will gladly go. As she says the words, she realizes how much she means them and breaks into tears. Suddenly, Mohammad and his family change their tune. Bikhod, bikhod, they scream, secretly alarmed that she will reveal to her family how they have been mistreating her. They start locking her away in her room for hours, sometimes days, afraid that she will run away. Then, one day, her husband tells her that her family has perished in an earthquake. She does not believe him at first. She experiences anger, true rage, for the first time in her life. She jumps on her husband's back and scratches and slaps him the best she can. That day, he gives her the most severe beating she has received thus far. He breaks her leg, knocks several teeth out. He pulls out whole clumps of her beautiful, thick brown hair. They are forced to take her to the hospital.

Azadeh decided to take a bath. Maybe that would be the best way to forget about Majid and the whole experience of the police station. She filled the bathtub with steaming hot water. The water could never be hot enough for her. Maybe hot enough to scrub away all the dirt on her skin, but what about the dirt inside? She could never feel truly clean. She welcomed the pain of the scalding water much as she did that of cutting. She welcomed anything that could make her feel, period. As the young woman settled into her bath, she closed her eyes and tried to relax. She had been so strong for the past few years. Armed with her best weapons, her quick tongue and derisive words, refusing to show any weakness, any tears. Why did this meeting with Majid, this man she had never met before, shake her so? For the first time in many years, he had made her remember who she was, before she had become Azadeh.

When Azadeh returns home from the hospital, Mohammad threatens that if she does not behave, he will sell her to slave traders who will take her away to Pakistan, to be sold like the useless, disobedient whore that she is. After that, she is very calm. She wordlessly endures the continuing abuse. She does not protest when Mohammad brings home a second wife, another child bride, like she has been. Azadeh is so calm and docile now that little by little, they stop locking her door. She has become invisible, an insect that they have grudgingly grown accustomed to in their midst, which still deserves their disgust but who is not even worth the energy to swat away. The family that has once celebrated her like a little malakeh, a queen, now treats her worse than a poor relation. She is relegated to the most debasing chores, cleaning up after her in-laws' waste, waiting patiently for their dinner scraps after a long day of work and debilitating hunger pangs, while everyone else has had ample time to fill themselves to their heart's content with the best morsels.

One day, her sister-in-law accuses her of having broken a photo frame. As punishment, she gathers all the children of the household in Azadeh's room and before their eyes, she proceeds to destroy one by one all her precious dolls, the last remnants of her childhood, the only things she has left to remind her of the love her late parents heaped upon her. Methodically, Azadeh's sister-in-law pulls apart each limb, pops the eyes out, rips to shreds the outfits that Azadeh has meticulously designed and sewn herself over the years, before finally tossing the remains on the floor. After the executioner and her jury leave her alone, Azadeh can't take her eyes off the little bodies that lie there, strewn on the floor like corpses in a makeshift cemetery. She thinks that's how her siblings and parents must have looked like, crushed to death, their body parts thrown here and there, after the devastating earthquake that has engulfed her hometown.

The bath wasn't helping either, though it usually did wonders. Azadeh dunked her head underwater, hoping to drown the cacophony of her thoughts and her memories.

Azadeh begins to cut herself in secret. She sneaks out of her room at night when all are asleep, finds a knife in the kitchen and starts cutting away. One night, after getting the knife, she decides to go into her husband's room. He is fast asleep, his second wife lying next to him. Holding the knife in her hand, she calmly observes him snoring away. She becomes fixated on his neck, the way his vein rises then comes back down rhythmically, with every breath he takes. It is hypnotic. She does not think of it as killing him. She just watches his bare throat, rising and falling, rising and falling, and wonders what it would be like to have the knife break open that skin, have his blood squirt out, feel the warm stickiness on her fingers, on her face, and her hair. Just then, the girl, who has been until then sleeping peacefully next to Mohammad, wakes up.

Her eyes open wide when she sees Azadeh standing by the bed, holding a knife, but she does not scream. She just locks eyes with Azadeh and waits. The girl reminds Azadeh of the sacrificial lamb that her mother-in-law ordered to be slaughtered to celebrate the day of her own arrival as Mohammad's new bride. The little lamb also stood there quietly, eyes wide, calmly waiting for death, as if it knew it had no choice in the matter and better not cause a scene, better to die with dignity. As Azadeh looks at the little girl on the bed next to her husband, in her daze, she suddenly sees her own face staring back at her instead of her rival's. The spell is broken. Azadeh leaves the room as quietly as she has entered it. This is the last night she will spend under her husband's roof.

-- 'Azi!!! You are going to burn in that water! Azi get up, you will drown!'

Azadeh was shaken out of her stupor by Yassi's squeals. She resurfaced from beneath the bath water and laughed at her best friend, hovering over her in the bathroom. Good old Yassi. Always prone to wringing her hands and panic.

-- 'Azi, look at your red skin: You have burned yourself! I am going to have to peel the skin off you again'' Yassi whined.

When Azadeh first reaches Mashad, she sleeps in parks, in alleys, or at the whim of the men she approaches, in their home, in the back of their truck. Until one day she meets Yassi, who leads the same life but has the advantage of having a permanent home. Yassi lives alone with a very old, ill grandmother, who cannot or does not want to figure out how her granddaughter can afford to keep her and care for her. It is not difficult for the two girls to find common ground, and an instant liking to each other. Since then, the two of them live together, and for each other, a stronger bond between them than any sisters. One day, they even get matching tattoos on their ankle to seal their sisterhood. The tattoo sums up both their lives eloquently, they agree. It says:

'Your deceiving eyes have killed me.'

For their old selves have indeed died a long time ago, forcing them to be re-born. >>> Part 6
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21]


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