Every once in awhile you might wonder whatever happened to a certain friend, acquaintance, classmate or any familiar face in the past without wanting to really putting the effort to finding out. Though it does not make the smallest bit of difference in your life, you remember a face or a character and wonder if they are even dead or alive.
Well, I am not sure why but lately a few ghosts from the past have made their way back into my thoughts and every once in a while poke their head out and start raising dust in the old closet stuffed with a heap of memories. Most of the time you do not have the time or patience to give them any attention, but some become so persistent that they start to pester. Perhaps it is because I am getting older and life is more hectic. Or maybe because within the last three or four years I have lost many friends and loved ones I am beginning to miss the peace and quiet of the past and revisiting old familiar ghosts.
Don't ask me how this one started dancing in my mind, but out of the clear blue sky I started remembering a familiar character in my childhood, an old bully I feared for a long time. Though only a couple of years older than me, he always came across older and always appeared stronger than he really was. Maybe it was due to the fact that I was undersized and puny and even the house cat seemed bigger than me. Plus, he was taller than an average nine or ten-year-old kid.
His family lived in the same block my grandparents lived. His sister Minoo was one of my friends and playmates during my frequent visits to my grandparents. They lived only couple of blocks away from us. She was very sweet and completely opposite of her older brother. I mean opposite in many ways. She was shy, kind and always with a smile that revealed her two deep dimples. She had a very round chubby face with two green eyeballs peeking through her slanted almond shaped eyes. I remember my sister's comment about her face being made of an outline of a “pargaar”.
Minoo looked very out of the ordinary. To this day I have not seen too many green oriental looking eyes. I think the shape of their eyes was the only thing Minoo and her brother Mohammad had in common. She was fair skinned and rather meaty and filled which made her look very womanly at a very early age. The bully on the other hand was long and lanky. Olive skin, jet-black hair and dark slanted eyes combined with high cheekbones made him look like a direct descendent of Genghis Khan. I'll be damned if the piercing eyes and the vicious frown was not inherited from the old Mongols as well.
He always rode a bicycle. The big ones that were too old for his age, but his long legs and arm could handle the old bike very well. With such great maneuvers he was in complete control of the wheels. Yet another reason to remind one of the Mongolian riders, which made it even worse. That meant if he set out to chase something or someone, he had great advantage on catching up to them and strike. And for some strange reason he had it in for me! I never understood why. Never had I done anything to him or said anything to or about him. I did my best to ignore him and avoid appearing in his way.
I never forget the strange feeling in my guts when I used to see his bike drawing near. I knew there is a push, a shove, or a smack on the head in the horizon. I could feel the sting of my scraped knee before I even fell down and hit the ground. I was even too afraid to tell anyone, in the fear of a harsher retaliation. He knew when and where to strike without getting caught. I am sure his mother knew though. She was constantly on his case and threatening to report his bully behavior to his father. When was this report due? No one knew.
Ahh and the father, a kind and gentle creature who was drunk most of the time. I think the whole neighborhood had seen him drunk at one time or another. He was indeed the first drunk I encountered in my life. He used to sing loudly and curse and shout at his wife to help him with his coat. Once he noticed me with Minoo. His wide grin almost completely hid his tiny eyes and his round flat face went even more flushed. An older, friendlier and smiley version of his son Mohammad, he started singing to us from the top of his lungs.
We started laughing and he gave us a shiny coin each. 5 RIALS! I was in heaven and right then I decided alcoholics are not so bad. What were my grandparents or everyone else whining about? He was great, why should everyone badmouth him and not want to be near his house was beyond me. If it were not for that pain in the neck son of his, his house would be the heaven on earth. Mind you, my mother was furious with me when she found out where I got the money, and I was painfully and tearfully reminded later on that day that I am not to play in their house ever again. I could play with Minoo in my grandfather's house or near his house in the “koocheh” as long as we were in everyone eyesight. What the hell was the fun in that?
The bully was scared of my grandfather. God knows what magic he had performed, but of all the people “Aghajoon” was the last one you might think of to be my savior against Mohammad the Mongolian (or anyone's for that matter). For god,' sake the man must have been one of the smallest men in our neighborhood, petit and completely bald, with hazel eyes and very fair skin. He should have been the last one the bully would be scared of.
I was fully aware of my grnadfather's image; his age and status, in the neighborhood. As soon as the corner of my Aghajoon's abaa appeared from the bend of the street, the bully would vanish like a “jin” hearing “Besmillaah”! My grandfather would stride down toward his house with the wind beneath his light brown cloak just like batman coming to the rescue. Perhaps that was one of the reasons I used to hide under the cloak and walk with him in safety. Well, that and the fact he used to pretend he is looking for me and has no clue where I am.
One glorious summer day Aghajoon had left early in the morning as usual and was not due back til noon. His schedule was so precise you could set your watch to it. As soon as he would appear back at the door, it was 12:00 sharp. He would then have lunch, drink tea, pray and take an afternoon nap. Always. He would then take a walk and disappear to meet with friends at 4:00. They discuss dinosaur-age politics over tea and argue about the price of “ghand-o- shekar”, the exchange rate and what not.
That day I was again being chased by the bully, jeering and laughing over yet another glorious triumph. I was rubbing my head from the fresh smack and trying to hold back tears. Suddenly, out of the blue, my grandfather appeared. The bully was not aware of my hero approaching from behind. All of a sudden Aghajoon grabbed the bully's collar and with a quick shake turned him around — kind of Jackie Chan style — and slapped him on the cheek. Hallelujah! Glory, glory!
“Tuleh sag-e valadezenaa! Ye baar bet nagoftam invaraa paydaat sheh cheh balaayie saret miaaram? Mageh aazaar daari sar be sar bachehaa mizari tane lash? Boro taa pedareto dar niavordam!”
A true Kodak moment! The bully was petrified. I would have thought he would pee in his pants. But heck, the shock was too great even for that. As he struggled to get away from my grandfather, he slipped and tripped over his bike and went head down for the asphalt, but his pants did not want to go with him as the leg caught the chain and ripped like paper. Now THAT did not go with the image of great Mongolian warriors!
I jumped with glee and ran to my grand father. With my hands on my waist, raising a James Bond sort of eyebrow, trying to act much tougher and much cooler than I really was, I repeated:
“Aareh, tuleh-e sag-e valadezena, ye baar digeh in varaa peydaat beshe…”
The bully stood up squinting his sharp eyes at me. Though he would not move toward me, he was not running away either. What gives?! Puffing up my chest I turned to see if Aghajoon had another slap in the bag for him. With a speed I had never imagined myself capable of, I set out for the opposite direction. Aghajoon had vanished just as mysteriously as he had appeared!