April 3 Sizdeh-Bedar in Mason Park (in Irvine, Orange County) was like a fashion show put on by asylum lunatics. Seventy five year old women wore hip huggers the same shade of blue as their oversized mosquito type sunglasses. Children masqueraded as J.Lo, Britney or Shania. Vuitton purses and stiletto heels were de rigueur on the damp, muddy grass. An 89 year old man who looked high was wearing a “katkhoda” costume and people were snapping pictures of him as if they were at the zoo and observing an exotic, curious-looking animal. People had brought Persian rugs to lay on the grass so they could play takhteh and eat their kabaab in peace while their kids exchanged numbers and ghered to Mansour and Siavash and Naghi and Taghi etc.
That being said, it was the greatest fashion show put on by asylum lunatics on the face of the earth and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. With Sami and Behn, we circled Mason Park about 800 times before we could find any parking. I didn't mind. The spectacle outside the windows was something I had never seen before in my life and I couldn't get enough.
Finally, we found a parking space located only about 1200 blocks away. Thank god I had put on my pumas or else I may as well have walked on my hands. My cousins and I finally reached the park, where I got a little claustrophobic. There were throngs…I mean throngs of people out here. Sami told me even people from Hell-Ay come all the way down here to celebrate Sizdeh-Bedar. I believed it. I was one of them.
A plane was flying around the park, with banners promoting everything from free Iranian CDs to a special Cabaret night at the local nightclub. Other people were there for their own agendas as well. The Iranian Church had a kiosk and was blasting a stereo of persian women singing Hallelujah with a strong persian accent (sounds like “Haaleh- Looyah”). Others were handing pamphlets about some politician candidates for the presidential election.
But 90% of the people were there for the music, the gher and the fun.
I couldn't help it. Part of why I was stretching my neck here and there was the thought of maybe seeing Ali here. My heart even fluttered at one point when I thought I recognized the back of his neck. Like an idiot, I called out “Ali!” to which 112 people turned around at the same time. Sadly, none of them was my Ali.
After a couple of hours, the atmosphere was getting a little tiresome so we decided to retreat to Sami and Behn's place for some cooling drinks. In between numerous refreshing bottles of Corona, Sami and I got to gossiping.
— “You know… My sister's marriage is… well… over…”
— “What???!!!! What has it been? Not even a month!”
— “Hon, they didn't even make it through their honeymoon!”
I was in shock. I knew Hedieh and Peerooz's marriage was in trouble when I caught a glimpse of Peerooz getting it on with his own wedding singer but my god! I was sad for Hedieh, no matter how much I reviled her as a person.
— “So she caught him cheating on her uh?”
Sami looked at me bewildered:
— “No hon! She left him… for their Hawaian scuba diving instructor.”
” PPPPppppppppppfffffffftttttttttttttt” was the sound of the Corona beer spat out of my mouth and on Sami's potted geraniums.
I nearly fell off my chair, I was laughing so hard.
I guess these two deserved each other after all.
— “So…what happened? Did she stay in Hawai?”
— “And Peerooz?”
— “Aaakhh… That loon. He has been calling me almost every day crying into the phone and pleading with me to reason with my sister. As if I could ever get to her!”
Hmmmm… Peerooz the cheater had been cheated on. The ultimate role reversal.
So why didn't I feel vindicated? The only thing I felt was depression.
Again, all my thoughts led me back to Ali. Had I unfairly accused him? What had he really done exactly? Had he mentally cheated on me? I never had any proof that anything happened between him and Shohreh. Other than her manipulations, there was nothing else I could stand on. Was I letting my mistrust in men brought on by previous romantic disasters sabotage the best relationship of my life?
Maybe this physical proximity to him was making me think this way. He was only a short drive away. Back in Laguna Beach. Our little domestic nest that we had created together. I felt immense longing for him. It was around 6 pm. He would be sitting in his little office, typing away on his old-fashioned typewriter, the smoke of his cigar filling the room.
He probably hadn't eaten. Hadn't shaved. Most likely, he would be wearing his Cowboys T-shirt and faded jeans. I liked him best that way, better than when he was all suited up. Some of Sami's friends called her up and invited us to go to Sera's that night. Oh no! Not Sera's. Ali and I had spent countless nights at this hip little nightclub in Laguna Beach, with an eclectic mix of Arabic, Persian and Anglo music. It was the Iranian hang-out!
I debated whether I should go or whether I had better hightail it back to Hell-Ay but Sami pleaded with me to come along. After all, I had planned to stay over for a couple of days. The Corona had given me a slow, pleasurable buzz and the thought of dancing away was appealing, no matter what memories Sera's would bring back.
I should have followed my first instinct.
When we got there, the place was packed. My cousins'friends immediately spotted us and called us over to the bar, where everybody was having tequila slammers. The whole point of slammers is that the bartender pours a fizzy drink, usually seven-up, in a tequila shot then slams it down hard in the counter, making it fizz up. Then, you are supposed to pick up the shot and down it as fast as you can before it spills over. The result is that you drink a large quantity of alcohol over a short period of time, and the seven-up masks the potency of the tequila, making you believe you can absorb much more than you can.
I don't know why people drink alcohol to get more hyper and dance at nightclubs. I mean, alcohol is a depressant. And boy did I ever find out that night.
At first, everything was okay. I was dancing away with Sami, Behn and their friends. At one point, some completely strange dude showed up in front of me. He was wearing a white turtle neck under a checkered sports jacket, and sported an uncanny resemblance to Mr. Bean, of the famed BBC series. All he did was he kept clapping his hand and hop around me in a circle while screaming out “Damet garm! Damet garm!”
Eventually, the pace slowed down and they played a very rare love song. It was the end of the night, probably 4 in the morning, and they wanted to close. As all the couples got out on the dance floor and started hugging and kissing, I suddenly felt like I was back in junior high, with my awkward stage (frizzy hair, pre-puberty boyish bod), and no one was gonna ask me to dance. Feeling my eyes moisten, I asked Mr. Bean if I could borrow his cell phone, to which he gladly complied. Damesh garm!!!
I went out on the patio where I committed the biggest No No in the history of male female relationships i.e. the Drunken Phone Call to the Ex.
Damn! 28 years and I had steered clear of such embarrassing displays: A Perfect Record ruined by one night of Sizdeh-Bedar.
The phone rang once.
A third time.
Ali must have been sound asleep.
Then I heard someone pick up the receiver. Yoohooo!!! He was awake.
— “Shhhh…. Shhhwwaaallliii… Shhhh'aaaallliiii?” I hopelessly slurred into the phone.