It has been twenty years since I last saw my Pesar Daayee. When we were kids, I used to follow him everywhere. He used to make up grand stories and I believed every one of them. Every summer, we used to go to Tehran to visit our relatives. I loved visiting my uncle's house. At nights, they would put several beds side by side in the balcony so all of us kids could sleep under the stars.
My cousin and I used to sneak away from the dinner party, lie down on the laahaaf and hold hands, watching the stars. He would, very scientifically, describe each star and say their names. It was like a magic show and he was the magician. He would look intensely at the sky and suddenly yell: “There it is! The RED Star” and proceed with a story as to how the star got its name.
What made me happy were not the stories but just listening to him. His world seemed so colorful. Everything interested him. I was content with holding hands, being the center of his attention, and his dearest cousin. We had a special bond. Although we played with other cousins too, he would only tell me stories.
Some nights, we would sit on the stairs and listen to grown ups. When I would get tired, I would lean on his shoulder and close my eyes. One night, I heard his mother tell my mother that she could not wait for us to grow up and to have me as their bride. I know now that his mother was tarofing but in my childish mind I thought that that was my destiny and that was how people got married. I was pretending to be asleep next to my cousin on the stairs, but I remembered the warmth of my cheeks. I must have turned very red.
I looked up to him. Although I was a bit of a tomboy and would stand up to his older bully brother, I would adoringly follow him in his adventures around the neighborhood. I should have married him. He would have been the perfect husband. I was not in love with him but life was magical with him.
His parents had a stormy marriage and fought all the time. When he was 14, they separated and sent him to a military school in the middle of nowhere in America. I was also sent to a girls boarding school on the U.S. east coast. We did not see each other for a few years until we both graduated from high school.
When he agreed to come for a visit, I could not wait to look at the stars with him again. I thought my favorite cousin was coming and I could spent time with him without worrying about the revolution and what was happening to our lives. I wanted to forget all of that and live in his magical world. But he had changed. He was very serious. He had a haunting look in his eyes. I had never seen sadness in his eyes before.
I kept asking him questions. I thought maybe he had fallen in love with someone and could not tell me. He would not tell me what the problem was. He would not say much at all.
One night, I had fallen and scraped my knees badly. He walked me to the health center. It was the only time we had been alone together in a long time. My English was not as good as his. He told me to tell the nurse that she should amputate my knee. I did not know what it meant. I thought it must be some kind of disinfecting method. When I saw the look on the nurse's face, I knew. I turned around and I saw his smile, just like the old days. We both started to laugh. I tired to explain to the nurse but it was useless.
On our way back home, he seemed to want to tell me something but I guess he could not find the words. He seemed to keep loosing things. He could not find his airline ticket or phone book. He had many headaches. I asked him about it several times. He said they were migraines and the doctor had given him pills for it.
He would lie on the couch across from me and stare for hours. I was at a loss for words. I tried to talk to him about what we would study in college. He seemed very distant. I grew angrier by the hour. Why was he so distant? Why would he not hold my hand on our way back home from the clinic?
He left after a few days with the promise of calling soon. Few months later, the phone rang and all the stars vanished from my sky — forever. My dearest cousin had died of an inoperable brain tumor. He had known for months but had not told a soul.
I am still mad at him for not giving me the opportunity to tell him how much I loved him — and I still feel guilty for being mad at him. I guess he had come to say goodbye. How lonely he must have felt. I did see a bit of the old magic in his eyes; they were shining and smiling at me.
You will always be magical to me, wherever you are, Pesar Daayee.