I hear some unbelievable stories about young boys having girlfriends in today's Iran. Times have changed, big time. Nowadays you need no trick whatsoever to take a girl home, supposedly. Relationships start with phone calls and soon end in bed. Young girls of 14 or 15 do things that those au pairs I knew in London 20 years ago wouldn't even think of.
These stories remind me of my first and only girlfriend in Iran. Well, by today's standards she wasn't really my girlfriend. It was more like a laas khoshkeh.
My mother says when I was five I used to cry every time I saw kids going to school. So she asked the nearest elementary school whether I could just sit in class. It meant I could go to school but wouldn't have to do any homework.
So I started school as a nokhodi. Naturally I didn't know anything about my status and would do the homework like all others. I was shaagerd avval in the first five years of school and my picture was published in Kayhan Bache-ha magazine as an honor student every year. I swear it wasn't because my father was a journalist at Kayhan, I really was shaagerd avval. I swear.
Anyway, when I finished fifth grade I had to take the exams to get into the new Rahnamaee junior high school system. My parents were against the new system though . The new books were full of mistakes and the teachers had no experience with the new system, blah blah. So I took the exams to enter the old school system. I was two years younger than everybody else. And while I'm writing this I'm thinking, what's all this got to do with the subject?
Oh yes, that's when I met Mitra.
I used to go to Tehran's Hadaf No. 3 in the Absardar area and Mitra was a student at the Asadi school nearby. She was two years older than me. I was 14 and she was 16. (Doesn't that remind you of a Beatles song?). We couldn't meet after school. She was a few-minutes walk from her home and didn't have an excuse for being late after school. So we used to meet early mornings before school.
Those days they were tearing down the houses behind parliament to extend the garden just behind our schools. It turned out to be a good place for dates; very little traffic and half-demolished houses to hide in. Two of her teachers passed the area to go to school, so we had to be very careful.
She had no problem going out of the house early in the morning. But I did. I had to catch the 5:20 am bus at the Nirou Havaie station (damn hormones). After a while my parents started getting suspicious and asked why I left home so early. (Before, my mother had to kick me out of bed to go to school). So I had to come up with some excuse.
I told them I was in the basketball team (this was true) and since the school yard was crowded during class breaks we couldn't practice and we had to meet early in the morning (this wasn't true). To make it more believable, I asked my father to buy me a basketball because everybody else had his own except me. He never asked why we needed more than one ball to play. (This ball thing wasn't a good idea by the way, because now I had to take it with me every day.)
I did all sorts of kalak to see my girl but I couldn't do anything about my clothes. My mother bought me shoes one size bigger than my feet so that I could wear them for at least a year. And I had an ugly, heavy paalto jacket large enough for the whole family. Picture me with this huge brown coat, James Bond briefcase in one hand, and in the other a net carrying a basketball (which I kicked with my large shoes every second step) walking in the streets behind parliament with Mitra next to me.
I think in two years we held hands twice. I put my hand on her shoulder a couple of times and once I wiped chocolate milk from her chin. But you should have seen the letters we wrote to each other. We were so in l-o-o-o-o-v-e and we wrote poems to each other — but never kissed. Never. This was the extent of our dokhtar baazi in the mid-seventies. We had hayaa back then. Pass chee kheeyaal kardeen?
My friends at school wouldn't believe I had a girlfriend. But, Qalat nakonam, I was the only one who had a one. Although they all had stories about girls and claimed to have phone numbers but I didn't believe them. I had lots of phone numbers too. Imaginary names with imaginary numbers. When my mother found my phonebook she thought they were all real girls. I remember her standing at the door with my phonebook in her hand asking, “Who's Shirin?”, “Who's Noushin?”, “Who's…?”
Mitra didn't have a telephone. If she did, I would have called her and let my friends listen and prove she existed. So instead, I told my friends to come and see her for themselves. It was one of those cold winter mornings. Half of them didn't show up. And neither did Mitra. She was sick that day. The rest of the school year I was swearing to my friends that she was not a figment of my imagination.
Once I took one of her letters to school but they said I had written it myself. Soon others started bringing letters from their supposed girlfriends too. Chap o raast naameh-haaye aasheqaaneh az laaye ketaabhaaye fizik o shimi dar miyoumad.
In those days every Hadafi's purpose in life was to shout matalk at girls while eating a sandwich at the bus station. I was the same. But I also couldn't stop thinking about Mitra. I pictured her with her grey school uniform walking next to me, holding her books on her chest.
I don't remember what Mitra and I talked about. I just remember I had a special kerm. I would direct the conversation so that I could tell her “pass mano doust nadaari.” Then she would argue and I would think to myself “pass mano doust daareh.” Although we had many times written how much we loved each other, we never actually said it when we met. I still don't know why.
I left Iran when I was 16 and I never saw her or heard of her again. Now after 20 years I've started thinking about her. I don't have her letters anymore, or even a lousy picture, but I remember her in her school uniform; her kind face and her girly shyness.