Nazanin’s great leap

Part 3
November 5
7:02 a.m.

— “Bzzzzzzz…”

— (Snore)

— “Bzzzzzz… Bzzzzzzz…”

— (Snore)

— “Bzzzzz… BzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZZZ…”

— “Ugh… What the…?”

Yikes! Felt something brush against my cheeks. And it wasn’t my Ali’s lips unfortunately. Fearing the worse, I slowly open my right eye.

— Bzzzzzzzz…

— “Aaaarrrrrrggghhhhhh!”

It IS the worse! An ugly black bee is circling around my head with all the subtlety of a Japanese pilot preparing to perform Hara-Kiri. The sudden panick shakes me from my groggy state. With a sudden jerk, I try to shoo the bee away but I miscalculate both the distance and my own force (am not used to this new bed yet). Booommmm! I fall over the edge of the bed
onto the cold hardwood floor while my nemesis triumphantly escapes behind the curtain, no doubt to plan another Kato-like attack on my poor being.

Great! My first morning in California is starting out literally on the wrong side of the bed.

As I pathetically rub the shoulder that served to “break” my fall, I realize Ali is nowehere in sight.
A-ah! One of his famous notes lies waiting on his pillow, neatly folded in two, a heart drawn in blue ink on one side.

“It’s 6:15 a.m. Gone to see sun rise. Join me when you wake up. I love you,” It says.

Grrrr?. If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s morning people! Maamaan was like that and tortured me for years by purposefully making up some noise in my bedroom (vacuuming, singing, screaming on the phone) at the break of dawn. In her little psychotic mind, she probably thought she could “cure” me of my lazy morning routine this way? Well, guess what? It’s 27 years later and it still takes me two cups of coffee just to sit up in bed. Then I have to watch TV for at least another 30 minutes before my brain can put a whole sentence together. Usually, by the time Ali has showered, eaten breakfast, dressed and come to kiss me goodbye for the day, I’m merely letting my toes gently graze the ground.

Well I guess the spirit of Maamaan (safely tucked away back on the East Coast) has possessed my nightmarish bee to force me awake for my first morning in California!

— “Eshghe man, you’re up! Why didn’t you come down to the beach? You missed the best sunrise?”

Ali has just walked in, smelling of sea air and morning dew.

I just shrug my shoulders. Sunrise Shmunrise! Nothing could get me out of bed at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m.!

Oh come on, don’t get me wrong. I’m as emotional as the next person, even more than average maybe. I remember the first time I saw “Wheatfield with Crows” at the Van Gogh Museum, my heart instantly turned to ice, like it was channeling the pain of this poor soul, so tormented by his thoughts of death. I remember standing there, in front of the painting, tears rolling silently down my cheeks. A beautiful, horrible moment. So you see I have had my share of “balaali” moments just like everyone else. Just has to happen AFTER my morning coffee. Speaking of coffee, where’s my coffee pot? In fact where is anything? We came in late last night from the airport and have unpacked nothing. Though the small beach view apartment Ali is subletting from his friend is cozy, it’s a typical bachelor’s pad, devoid of any practical utensils.

— “Come on Naz! Before you go through your caffeine withdrawal, let’s go down and have some breakfast at Diedrich’s. It’s a few steps away.”

Caffeine? Breakfast? Mmmm… Good idea! Maybe this first morning in California won’t be so bad after all.

11:12 p.m.

What a strange day I’ve had. I’m starting to wonder whether it’s the California experience that is strange in itself or is it just me? Do I attract strangeness wherever I go?

Oh come on I’m not being overly dramatic. Just wait til you hear of my evening.

So Ali and I decided to hook up with my cousin Samira and her hubby Behnam for a fun evening (or so I thought) in Laguna Beach, our new hometown. Sami and Behn are the cutest couple ever, and the nicest. I don’t usually get along with my mom’s side of the family, but Sami truly feels like the sister I never had. With her short, silky straight black hair, cut in a chic bob, and her petite frame, she stands in sharp contrast to Behn, with his Basketballer height and reddish blond hair inherited from a Scottish-American father.

The evening started off very well? I was so happy to see them? Hadn’t kept touch since their wedding last year, shortly after which they moved to the West Coast. Well they looked radiant and happy, but then again I have noticed that all the people I have encountered so far in California walk around with the same beatific look of bliss on their face. To tell you the truth, it’s giving me the creeps a little bit, like I have walked into the inner circle of the Stepford wives. But then I reprimand myself. A lifetime of living in New York has taught me to automatically distrust and frown at strangers, lest they think I’m an easy target. But I wasn’t in New York anymore. I had to make a conscious effort to stifle my prejudices and get with the Californian spirit. However, God (not that I believe in her) had other plans for me for the evening — other plans in the form of a lanky, gap-toothed man named Rick.

No sooner were we seated at San-shi-go, a cute sushi place off PCH, that Sami was accosted by what turned out to be an old College acquaintance (the aforementioned Rick).

Not understanding the persian concept of ‘taarof’, Rick instantly accepted my cousin’s half-hearted invitation to join us since he was all by himself. Grrrr… Already the dude was getting on my nerves. But it was only the beginning.

As soon as Rick found out Ali and I had just come in from New York, he decided to ?break the ice? with us. “So?” he mentioned with all the casualness of an octogenarian discussing doilies at a church swap meet, “How’s it going with the anthrax over there?”

Phhhhhhssssssshhhhhhh? Out came a spray of my green tea, which I had just ingested.

— “Rick!” exclaimed Sami nervously, “What kind of a thing is that to say?”

But Rick was as sure as himself as Kevin Costner signing on to play the role of the “Postman”.

— “Hey, I just wanted to find out if you are prepared, that’s all..”

By this time I had regained somewhat of my composure. Ali was looking bleak, staring off into oblivion. Behn ordered a round of sake shots.

— “Excuse me…. ummm? Rick is it?” I growled while Sami was throwing me, pleading looks not to “start”. “Exactly what should we prepare ourselves for?”

With the calm of a serpent right before he strikes,
Rick explained:

— “Why? For bio-chemical warfare of course? Don’t you know that’s how ‘they? are going to strike at us? They’ve already started in New York with the anthrax?”

— “And? You think there is some way to prepare for this? assuming you are right?”

— “Why of course! I’m prepared!”

— “How?”

— “I bought a gas mask.”

At this point, Sami couldn’t help laughing.

— “Rick.. you’re not serious?”

— “Sure I’m?”

— “Well? Where is it?”

— “In the trunk of my car? I take it with me everywhere?”

I couldn’t help laughing too at this point. This man was obviously insane.

— “Ummm? Rick you realize that poison gas is odorless and colorless right?”

— “Of course, I realize all that and more,” he replied haughtily. “I’m after all a chemistry professor.”

What? He had to be kidding! That was the caliber of college professors these days? If this was true, this country was indeed in big trouble.

— “Rick..what I’m trying to say? is that we could be poisoned right now, as we speak, in this very restaurant and we wouldn’t realize it until it is too late? What use would your gas mask be then?”

Rick shrugged his shoulders, unphased.

— “Well I still have a better chance to survive with my gas mask while all of you would surely die.”

The Marquis de Sade was right. There is nothing that can shake the solid foundation of triumphing imbecility.”

Completely unaware of his faux pas, Rick happily ordered a bowl of edamame. At this point, Ali got up. With the bravest smile, he said:

— “I hope you’ll excuse me? I’m still tired from my trip? Please go on without me? Naz, call me after dinner and I will come pick you up.”

Sami and Behn looked mortified. But I couldn’t let Ali go on home alone. Poor sweetheart? He had flown all this distance precisely to get away from all this chaos and now?

I hugged and kissed my cousin and her husband and caught up with Ali outside.

In the car, Ali squeezed my hand.

–“Nazanin I’m sorry for ruining your evening?”

— “No… no… don’t say that?”

— “I guess it’s true, you can’t run away from your problems? Maybe this whole California escape thing was doomed? Maybe it wasn’t worth it?”

As he spoke those words, a turn we made on the PCH suddenly revealed all of Laguna Bay in its glorious beauty before our mesmerized eyes. The sun was setting and a deep golden pink light had turned our town into a magical Xanadu. It was the most beautiful sight I had seen in a long time, I realized, after months of seeing nothing but destruction and fear around me. Suddenly, my eyes teared up and I understood that I didn’t want to leave this place.

As we watched the beautiful sunset together, I squeezed Ali’s hand right back and whispered:

— “No you are wrong this time Ali? It IS worth it my love? THIS makes it all worth it.”


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