Letting everybody play

long time a go when kids played soccer on the streets of my small home town, when women didn't have to cover their hair (unless they wanted to) and men could wear short-sleeve shirts (without getting arrested by the “basijis”), when we couldn't criticize the shah because if we dared we would go to jail (kind of like now), my cousin was born! strong and beautiful — also retarded (or so we thought or think).

he was never allowed to sit with the rest of us. he ate separately, in the corner of the kitchen. everytime he tried to join us he was shouted at by either my aunt or her husband, his father: “get out!” just like that.

his family was very well known in our town. they were too important and wealthy to have a
retarded child! they wanted us to believe that we had one less cousin or brother. the tragedy was, and is, that we believed it sometimes. he had other brothers and sisters, very smart ones too!

their house was always full of prominent members of society. they all loved the kids, except him. he was never around. if he somehow escaped the little room at the other side of the house, where he was almost a prisoner, and made it to the festivities, the famous “get out” would ring in the house.

i always waned to know what would have happened if he had interacted with everyone. if we ate together, if we were allowed to play with him like we wanted (we always did if, we got
a chance, when his parents weren't around).

you know what? many years latter when women had to wear the “hejab”, when men couldn't wear short-sleeve shirts or they would go to jail after his brothers, my other beloved cousins died. then both his parents passed away (may all their soles rest in peace). and he became
the king of that house.

now when you go there He invites you in, He asks the maid to bring tea, He sets the table just like the way my aunt did.

he remembers it all. he is retarded, but he knows what he was deprived of, so he is doing his best to live a “normal life”. he is my cousin and i love him dearly and i am proud of him despite all of his disabilities.

when i think about the history of Iran, this comes to my mind: every time we tried to make it work, someone (i don't know who may be our collective family) says: “get out!” as if we are not good enough.

we will get a chance, and as retarded as our experiences with democracy might look like, we the people of Iran will make it happen….

Like I said: just a memory!

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