Friday afternoon, November 5th, 2003. I was late getting to TARANEH’s rehearsal, and began shooting the moment I stepped inside the room and saw TARANEH turn a weary eye toward me mixed with happiness, reminding me of our first encounter in Dusseldorf so many years ago. “We have to wait for a friend,” TARANEH said to me after we were through and had exited to the hall way of the theater house, added, “we’re doing his play – about Bam.”
Iranian time. We were still waiting a good half hour later, using the time to catch up with each other. She asked if I had talked to Jason again, and I said I did. “Is he any better?” I nodded negatively. “What am I going to do TARANEH?” She evaded my question, held me by the arm and said, “let’s wait outside, my be he is lost.”
Standing at the mouth of the building, it was getting dark and a bit cold. TARANEH sympathized with Jason, reminded me how dedicated and faithful he has been to me these years, how much he loved me and, then, asked me a pointed question, “do you still love him?”
“Of course I do.”
“Yes, but are you in love with him, I mean to say, you may love him because he loves you, but are you in love with him?”
“No, I’m not in love with him,” I startled myself by responding so quickly, and then amended myself, “it’s just his illness. He will be in physical therapy for his MS until January, and we haven’t been with each other since last January. What if his illness returns six months or a year or two from now, it will be impossible to break up then, you know what I mean.” She concurred, “yes, but then again, you can’t sacrifice the rest of your life with a crippled, can you?” Of course I couldn’t. “Oh finally,” she pointed at the man approaching us.
AMIR was in his late thirties early forties with specks of gray here and there, average height, dressed in jeans and a black leather coat, carrying a heavy computer bag dangling from his side. Apologizing for the delay he blamed on the traffic, oh that dreadful Tehran traffic, we then proceeded to the main street and grabbed a taxi to the House of Arts a few minutes away.
Sitting at the outdoor café filled with young artists, I put on my sweater I had brought along just in case and then engaged in a conversation with AMIR when TARANEH left us to go and find her husband SAEED. I learnt that he was a political science professor at Tehran University visiting for a semester from California, and that he also worked at a couple of think tanks focusing on foreign policy issues. He asked me how long I was staying in Iran and I said one month, and that I was going to Tibet afterward.
“Why Tibet?” He naturally wondered and I laughed and said, “because of its fresh air, it has lots of it.” May be I should have told him that I was just looking for a temporary refuge, to do the soul search and return to Jason with an ultimate answer. He wanted us to get married and have children, and I didn’t know what I wanted, except that at thirty two my body’s clock was ticking and I desperately wanted to become a mother.
“Jason are you in love with me?” I asked him on the phone later that night, when I returned to my hotel room tired and a little depressed, perhaps because TARANEH’s pointed question had hit a raw nerve in me. “Sweetheart you know I do.” I was afraid he was going to throw the question back at me but he didn’t, may be he was afraid of asking it.
I had come to Iran on a mini-project for a local television station: to produce a short documentary on Iranian women and arts, and after two weeks or so I was in possession of enough takes for a long movie. Narrowing down my options to several female artists – painters, actresses, photographers – I was beginning to form an opinion after a half dozen interviews both on and off camera. They were all creative and first-rate, one named Shadi had had her photographs in exhibitions at Louvre and several other European museums, another, Maryam, was a lead actress in a popular TV series as well as director of plays and movies, only TARANEH, who had returned to Iran a few months ago after a long hiatus in Germany, was still trying to make her presence felt on the Iranian scene. TARANEH’s career in Germany had had its ups and downs, and the ups included a few minor roles on German TV, a huge accomplishment by my standards knowing how tough it was for foreigners to break into the German TV, but not for TARANEH who had set her eyes much higher.
Through a Lufthansa stewardess I ran into accidentally at Homa Hotel, I was able to move into the ritzy home of Afsaneh and her husband in North Tehran nestled by the mountain with a gorgeous panoramic view of Tehran’s skyline. The couple were both in their early twenties and Babak was an avid guitarist who had accompanied Googoosh, the diva of Iran’s pop music, to her much-anticipated U.S. tour a year or so earlier. He was thrilled to learn that I knew Jason and immediately wanted to know if he would listen to his tape and in case he liked it would find a distributor for it. Jason agreed instantly and the very next day a mailman picked up the package at home for fast delivery to Jason’s address in Berlin. And then I met my Iranian friends again at a restaurant. AMIR joined us, late again, and told us that his head was “going nuclear” after a whole day of meetings on the issue of Iran-Europe talks on Iran’s nuclear program. I thought at first that he was showing off perhaps to impress me, which was why I preempted him by invoking Jason’s name and telling them about Babak and his world music. We then went to see an art exhibition and I got into a long conversation with AMIR about the paintings, which I found a bit controlled and laden with explicit messages. He thought that what I found confined was deliberate, a message from the artist about Iran’s ancient history weighing in on the present generation.
I am a Catholic and my father is a former priest who was keen on cultivating the creed in his one and only offspring. When I was a child and we lived in Brussels, we attended his church regularly and I listened to so many of his sermons. His one big mistake was to let me be present when he was reading from the Book of Revelation one day and the scary images of beasts and dragons was a long lasting turn off my religious key. Since my teen years, I had been unhinged from my parents’ ship of religion living a secular life. For some reason lately I was quietly, somewhere in my head, looking forward to revisit the issue of faith and religion on a personal level, and coming to the Islamic Republic of Iran was a mixed blessing, reminding me of why we in Europe had gone through Reformation and locked the gates of politics to religion, and also re-learning the power of faith on the community of believers.
So that day at the House of Arts, when we went to TARANEH’s little apartment in Tehran Pars and ate spaghetti and meatball and listened to SAEED’s heartfelt guitar, I was freshly surprised when AMIR rolled out an impressive book, Islam and Ecology, published by Harvard University Press, and pointed at his chapter contribution on “Islamic ecotheology.” Looking at the long endnotes, I noticed that he had cited Ernst Bloch’s Das Prinzip Hoffnung, and articles by Hans Kung.
“Hans Kung! I know him. He used to come to our home and discuss theology with my father,” I thundered, and this gave AMIR the opening to share his own caveats on meeting Kung – in Berlin, New York, and Tokyo, at various conferences on Dialogue Among Civilizations, an Iran-inspired theme picked up by the UN in 2000-2001. AMIR said that he worked for the UN program for a couple of years and that one of his inputs was to organize a world youth festival on dialogue among civilizations in Vilnius, Lithuania. “We brought in some 500 young kids from 66 countries for a whole week of discussions and artistic activities, but it took four months of my time,” he elaborated. We then talked about Kung and the idea of a “global ethics” he was espousing. “Do you think that the West could ever come to a common denominator with the East on a global ethics?” AMIR asked me. I reflected on the question and then tried to quickly race back in my mind to my past travels, to Africa and Middle East, when I worked as a photographer in charge of Pirelli’s annual calendar, and then said, “I don’t think it can be done without a serious effort to create it.” AMIR looked impressed by my answer. By their looks, I could see that TARANEH and SAEED were noticing that AMIR and I were starting to enjoy our conversations. Then we shared a cab back to Niavaran; AMIR stayed at the foreign ministry’s guest house and that was barely ten minutes away from my new residence on “Kouhestan” (i.e., Mountain) Avenue. He invited me to go to Manzarieh and play tennis with him. How little did he know me! I thought nothing of tennis and knew only that dumb German kids with no prospects for higher education resorted to tennis as an alternative. But when he insisted, I relented.
The next morning I surprised AMIR by showing up ready for a tennis lesson, this after reflecting at night on the strong grounds I had kept so long against the game. Naturally I was a poor game and he displayed utmost patience with my errand shots into the net or the fence. “You have the talent for the game in your next life,” he joked afterward, “but practice is really what makes perfect.” A quick shower at the club, and then I emerged outside with a tremendous hunger. I invited AMIR to my place and we took a taxi home. My hosts were away for a couple of days at their Caspian villa and we had breakfast consisting of tea, cheese and boiled eggs on the terrace, savoring all except the nuisance of construction from all directions. It was only then that I suddenly noticed my extra notice in him.
After AMIR left me an hour or so later, I opened my diary and jotted down these lines: “It’s around noon time and my new Iranian friend just left me after we spent a couple of hours together that included my first try, in my whole life, holding a tennis racket and actually hitting the ball on a clay court. I must be opening a new chapter in my life, but I am also thinking why, and how many chapters are in one’s life? My mind is now crowded with the assignment I came here to do, to take back to Germany a vivid sample of Iranian females’ struggle for survival in a rather inhospitable environment. The system here allows them just as much room for maneuver and self-development as it denies them, a peculiar mix of autonomy and constraint.”
I was not prepared for the interview and it bothered me. Mrs. Safahinejad, searching for a clue in my eyes, paused for a moment and then said, “may be we should do it some other time” and then without waiting for my reply stood and left me behind in her office kind of speechless. I walked out dispirited and mad at myself. Once again, I had let my personal issues get on the way of my job.
Mrs. Safahinejad was one of the few top government officials in the Social Welfare Organization, who had consented to be interviewed only two days before, solely as a favor to her niece who played in TARANEH’s theater group. And yet, having spent the whole night crying after an emotional exchange with Jason on the telephone, I had stepped into the interview with only half the questions pre-written, nothing that would escape the attention of the astute female bureaucrat who ran her organization like a fiefdom. Per her request, I had met her at another downtown office and had accompanied her to her headquarters on Enghelab Avenue not too far from the mighty Freedom Square (Miydan-e Azadi) on foot, and noticed that some people in the street and the corridors even sort of bowed before her.
“In this country, women have made a second revolution by taking their affairs into their own hands, and a lot of our men are unable to come to grips with that,” read her last remark in my journal. How true.
But I was mad at myself the whole afternoon, took refuge at a café near my rendezvous with TARANEH and tried to calm myself down and reflect on what was happening with me and Jason. He was always so good at reading me and my emotions, one of the principal reasons why I liked him and felt attached to him and, sometimes, also resented him quietly because I was unable to hide anything from him. He called past two in the morning and sounded like he had smoked pot, although he insisted that he was not high and everything that he said about us was based on his intuition. “I feel like I am losing you, that you’re deliberately distancing yourself, and I don’t mean just physically but more importantly emotionally,” he told me, this after letting me know how much he missed kissing my lips and making love to me, all those long and passionate hours we had spent in bed months after months without ever losing even a bit of the luster until his illness set in slowly and we were eventually forced to celibacy. For some mysterious reason unknown to myself I chose not to reassure him about anything, and even fueled his concerns by telling him, “look Jason, I am only thirty two, and I have a whole life ahead of me, what do you expect me to say? We only know each other two years, okay two and a half years, but what is that relative to, I don’t know, ten to fifteen or even longer, if we get married and your situation doesn’t get straightened?” I then cried and he got upset that I had dared to be so bold with words — that he could only interpret as another sad sign of a deteriorating relationship. “I don’t think the ship is sinking, do you?” “Of course not, and I am sorry if I all of a sudden sounded so cruel to you, really am, please forgive me,” I wailed, but mixed with my guilt feelings and sorrow was also a tinge of relief that at last I had articulated what was ebbing in my chest, which is why when I hung up the phone I felt like I was becoming the grave digger of my own love, that I may have opened a Pandora’s Box. “It is not someone else, is it?” Jason had asked me and I had yelled at him, “what do you take me for, how dare you ask such a question? Why are you doubting me?” He had no answer.
By the time I saw TARANEH a little while later, I had overcome my anxious thoughts, as much as possible, and tried to put on a cheery face. We went to an ice cream parlor and walked out with ice cream cups in our hands and then found a quiet corner at a nearby park and talked. TARANEH was celebrating SAEED’s big bonus at work, which had been promised him a good three months before, and told me that they were now shopping around for a second hand automobile. In my turn to recount the day I deliberately kept from her the content of my argument with Jason. I told her about playing tennis with AMIR and she raised her eye brows and said meaningfully, “that is nice.” And I exclaimed, “What do you mean by that?!” She nodded with her shoulder and then after a quick pause replied, “he is divorced you know and has a daughter.” I said that I knew that and didn’t get the drift of her question. Was she implying that I was somehow getting close to another man? “Listen, I don’t know what you are getting at, but let me stop you right now. I have absolutely no interest in him, I mean to say, I find him interesting as an Iranian intellectual and accomplished academic, nothing more, absolutely not.” Then it downed on me that we were not having this conversation in Berlin or Dusseldorf, that may be the cultural repertoire in this country lent itself to quick judgments on even the slightest encounters of opposite sexes. “He hasn’t told you anything, has he?” TARANEH answered no and then corrected me, “do you remember Marco and how you used to say that he meant nothing to you at first, and what happened? You dated him for how long?”
“Three years, but that was different. We were classmates and I knew him from high school. Come on TARANEH give me a break, I was a romantic fool back then and know what I am saying now.” TARANEH was finally convinced and we moved on to other subjects.
“Sorry I am really busy these days, may be next week, but then again I am going to Meshed next week. So I am afraid it has to be when I come back from Meshed,” I said to AMIR when he phoned me a couple of days later and invited me to attend an international conference at his research center. “Fine, but you will miss real fine food, and also SAEED.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I managed to convince my boss to have SAEED play classical guitar at the luncheon. There are some foreign ministers and ambassadors at this event you know,” he sounded. “Really? Any one from Germany?” I asked and AMIR said that he thought he had seen the name of charge d’affair from the German embassy. “Okay, I am coming then,” I said, this after calculating that I may be able to present my request, for information on Iran-German cultural exchange program and who was involved from the Iranian side in it, at the event. Still I was uncomfortable about being seen with AMIR and, god forbid, cause both of us an unwanted embarrassment. As I prepared to enter the plush compound of the research institute on Niavaran Street the next day, I found myself asking the obvious, “he is not interested in me, is he?” By the time the day was over, however, my question had turned, “I am not interested in him, am I?!”
I spoke with Dr. Berman and he sounded upbeat about Jason’s health. He and I had talked so much, and so regularly, over the past twelve months that I was beginning to confuse him with my old therapist. “I bet this has bruised your relations with him, am I right? Don’t worry you ‘re not the only one, a lot of my patients, even those who are married, experience the same thing,” he said. “Experience what? What are you implying?” I said with a tinge of unhappiness in my voice, following a sudden conviction that the news was already circulating outside my inner sanctum of privacy with Jason. “Did he say anything to you Dr.?” “Oh no, I was just referring to the wear and tear of a long cycle of rehabilitation on relationships, that’s all.” But I knew, remembered, what he had said earlier and let it be.
The phone rang at around midnight and TARANEH let me know that AMIR had called her and told her that he was going to be on a TV news program shortly. “It’s in English and he wanted you to see it,” TARANEH said, putting a special accent on “you.” “Really, that is nice, but why didn’t he call me himself?” I asked and TARANEH said that he probably thought it was too late.
It was the opinion section of World Today: U.S. Edition, and AMIR handled the interview, on Iran’s nuclear issues, masterfully and with a measured degree of sophistication I had come to expect from him after observing him at the conference. Then for a moment, as I studied his face and facial and bodily language on the small TV in my room, I wondered if he was thinking of me, if he was wondering whether or not I am watching him at that very moment and, if so, was he trying to impress me, and why? Was he trying to befriend me in order to sleep with me? Or was it something else? I fell sleep with the TV on and woke up a while later by the parasitic noise that had followed the end of regular programs; after turning it off I noticed my diary at a corner of the night table peeking at me. “What do you want? Attention? Okay I am going to give you a little attention now, come here?” A few purposeless lines as a substitute for the day’s entry, and then I dropped it and the pen in exhaustion and went to a badly needed sleep, only to wake up again after a brief nightmare: I dreamt I was racing back to Germany, rushing past the passengers in the airport looking for Jason, and when I saw him on the wheelchair pushed by a friend, anguish filled me heart and I wished I had stayed behind. “How can you be so cruel in your own dreams?” I besieged myself. The sky was turning milky white and the sound of roosters soon mixed in with the call for prayer, azan. I then felt like talking to my old man like never before.
German manners, or rationalism, versus Iranian eastern sentimentalism. Like acid and water, do they ever mix? AMIR had accompanied President Khatami to Berlin in 2000 and once recounted the trip to Goethe’s town and Mr. Khatami’s unveiling of a bust of Iranian poet, Hafez, apparently revered by Goethe. So I picked up an English translation of Hafez from a bookstore recommended to me by TARANEH and began reading it for several minutes before finding it kind of incomprehensible in most parts and, a clue to my mood, too much to handle, given its propensity for flowery descriptions. I would later find out that a lot of Iranians despised that particular translation as doing a major disservice to Hafez. But the damage had been done. In fact, quietly, as I was entering the third week of my stay and getting geared to go to Meshed, beginning to feel somewhat bored and yearned to return to Germany as soon as possible.
But why was I getting bored when the exposure to the Iranian culture, architecture, and so many nuances of life, was so fascinating? I did a soul search and concluded that I was experiencing a mild depression, hopefully a temporary one, but it wasn’t, which was why I had screwed up the interview with Mrs. Safahinejad in the first place. It was that damned relationship, which had forced me to temporarily vacate out of Germany and take a critical distance from Jason in the guise of a TV documentary. Truth was I was losing interest in my own project, felt like an expired tire that was flattening out. And then I received an email from Jason that read in parts: “I walked a lot today and it felt great, better than ever before. The numbness is diminishing more by the day and I really surprised the heck out of Berman. He told me you had called him.” I immediately called him and we talked a long while, and paid a dear sum to the man at the internet café since I had failed to terminate my session. Only when I returned to my room and reflected on our conversation did I slightly doubt the veracity of Jason’s remarks about his health. Was he putting me on, given the fact that Dr. Berman had not given me any major hint of a breakthrough? Or may be it was true and Jason was using his will power to be healthy again faster than expected? I couldn’t rule out the possibility of a major fake however. At any rate, the whole thing was getting a bit out of control – I remembered our conversation when I told him of my decision to go away a couple of months, enough time to make a decision, I keep telling myself, as if my decision is yet made.
A lovely dinner party at the home of parents of my hosts, a few kilometers outside Tehran. There were some forty or so guests, almost all cousins and aunts and uncles of each other, and all of them arriving in latest models Mercedes or MBW and the like, the girls shedding their head scarves at the door and displaying their chic outfits. One, whose name I cannot recall, was barely twenty and spent the whole time on the phone with her boyfriend. Another even younger and spoke fluent English in royal British accent, a result of her boarding education in Essex. And then I met their cream of the crop, their young author, Haleh, shy, slender and soft-spoken, with a slight ability in German. She had authored a best seller book dealing with run away girls in Iran and the whole family was very proud of her. To my disappointment, Haleh did not show any interest in being interviewed on camera by me and I attributed that to her shyness. At one point, while I was randomly browsing through a newspaper in their quaint library, I noticed AMIR’s photo and asked someone to translate for me. “It says Dr. Afrasiabi’s exclusive interview with Iran Diplomatic Editors.” But I hadn’t heard from him I suddenly noticed, wondered why?
The question bothered me even more when another couple of days passed by and I concluded that AMIR was probably too busy to think of me. “Have you seen AMIR lately?” I asked TARANEH on the phone and she said that she had not. “I called at his office and left a message yesterday and he has not replied,” TARANEH said and then, as if sensing my feelings, inquired, “why?”
“Nothing. I just find him a bit interesting, that’s all. He is a nice conversationist.” I had finally verbalized something to TARANEH that verified her suspicion and she laughed and said, “Oh I see.” Sometimes a remark like that speaks volumes and I chose not to rebut her then. “So you’re all set to leave at the end of the month?”
I replied, “yes, unfortunately.”
“Let me see. That’s nine days from now, right?”
“Right,” I said with a visible tone of sadness, “and I ‘ve decided to cancel Tibet. I think I should be near Jason.”
Jason was elated that I was returning earlier than scheduled and that things were looking bright again. He also sounded positive about his situation and I chose not to double check with Dr. Berman, focusing instead on the last remaining interviews and the finishing touches for my documentary. Several days passed and one day I took time off to do my gift shopping and found a nice a portrait on camel skin that was bound to bring joy on my mother’s face. For my father I got a couple of small Persian rugs right outside Tajrish square. At night I joined TARANEH and SAEED and Maryam and a few other friends from the theater group, but there was no sign of AMIR. “We haven’t heard from him,” said Maryam. “May be he is out of the country or in another part of Iran,” I said and Maryam immediately corrected me, “no I don’t think so because one of my friends is his student at Tehran University and just the other day was telling me what a fabulous teacher he is, although a little absent minded.”
My departure was now three days away and I had to go to the main office of Lufthansa near Ferdowsi Square in order to re-confirm my ticket. The lady I spoke there gave me a hard time initially by insisting that it was three days prior to the departure day, which in effect makes it four days, and that the flight was overbooked and I needed to postpone for another four days. But she finally relented after I put my foot down and insisted that my TV program would be jeopardized if I did not leave on time.
On my way home suddenly an idea downed on me and I asked the taxi driver to take me to Tehran University. I was stopped at the main entrance by the campus guards and only after a couple of students assisted with translation – I told them I was going to meet with a professor there – did they let me in. A few minutes wandering around in the drab campus fenced in from all sides, and then I was inside the law and political science building buzzing with students. With help by a kind secretary, I knocked on AMIR’s office after noticing his voice from the inside, this after a long pause that nearly caused me to turn around and leave.
I totally startled him and he half raised himself on his chair, looking a bit grubby, and with a faint voice said, “hallo, what a surprise.”
“Well, I was in the neighborhood and since I am leaving in a couple of days and hadn’t seen you, I thought I should stop by to say good bye.”
AMIR reflected on my statement for a moment and then as if still in a minor shock, swallowed and said, “so nice of you. Please come in and close the door behind you.”
I sat in front of him, for a moment thinking of myself as one of his students. His desk was cluttered with papers and he was obviously working on a project feverishly. “Looks like you’re very busy,” I said and he threw his hands in the air and replied, “what can you do? It’s the nature of the beast.”
“Right,” I said nervously, and then asked, “what beast?”
“I am sorry?”
“You said beast and I was wondering what you meant by that? Do you mean teaching?”
“Well,” he paused, to my surprise, and then looking down from my eyes, said, “not quite.”
“No?! What then?”
“You don’t want to know, trust me,” he said, looking at me again. His phone rang and he picked up and spoke in Farsi for a couple of minutes and stood in a rush and said, “I am sorry, but there is problem with a fax I wanted to send. Apparently the Department’s chair has to approve every fax and since he is not here today they refuse to send it, so if you don’t mind I ‘ll just go and straighten this and be back in a few minutes.”
I got up and gestured to leave, “that’s okay. I didn’t mean to interrupt your work. As I said I just came to say good bye.”
“Nonesense. You just got here. Please sit and make yourself comfortable. I will have the janitor bring you some tea if you like, okay?”
“Okay then,” I sat. Before he left he gathered the papers tucked them underneath a folder on his desk, told me to dial one first for dial up in case I wanted to use the phone. I waited, asking myself why I was there really? After a couple of minutes, I got up and stood behind his desk and dialed a number – my host’s to see if I could get them anything on the way over – and after leaving a message with the nanny who barely spoke a foreign word, I was about to return to my spot when my eyes caught the sight of the papers and I removed the folder and was shocked to see my name on top.
It was all letters that he had jotted down without bothering to give me, and one read in the bottom lines: “So it is a dictate of my mind over my heart that I suppress my feelings and refuse to be another helpless victim of an impossible love.” Hearing a noise, I looked up and saw, to my relief, a male student and told him to come back later. I then quickly sat on a chair and then got up and repositioned the papers in their original place and, after a couple of minutes, he walked in.
“Did you send it?”
“Yes,” he said laughing, “unbelievable. It’s a mad bureaucracy here that would make Max Weber cry in his grave. Imagine. The department’s chief must review and approve every single fax from this damn place.”
I got up and using the excuse of the airline rushed out after a hasty exchange of good byes. Quickening my steps to get out of there, I suddenly stopped myself and went right back into the building and his office, opened it without a knock and found him holding his face in his hands totally depressed. As he raised his head in disbelief, I pointed at the papers still tucked under the folder and said, “I read them.”
It was a most unsettling moment of scrutiny. With his right hand’s middle finger between his lips he just stared at me without uttering a word. I closed the door behind me and took a step toward him and said, “you were never going to let me read them, were you?” He shook his head negatively, and I said, “may I sit?” He gestured me to sit and then pulled his fingers into his forehead for a moment that bespoke of immense difficulty for him to articulate his thoughts into words. And then I said, “I wondered what happened to you and why all of a sudden didn’t hear from you.”
“Now you know.”
“Now I know.”
He turned his face toward the window and in a barely audible voice uttered, “now your curiosity has been satisfied, you can go.”
“Oh I see.” There was a knock on the door and a girl stepped inside and handed AMIR a couple of pages of paper, apparently his faxes, and then left. On the way out, she gave us a puzzled look. I got up and looked out through the side window.
“Don’t you think I was entitled to know?”
“I don’t know what to think. As you can see, it hasn’t been easy.” His hands pointed at his unshaved face and his overall shabby appearance of a man badly sleep deprived. “I haven’t had a good sleep in a while.”
“Because of you.”
I was unsure what to say or do next, decided to simply pick up my purse and leave and, yet, a couple of steps shy of the door turned around and asked, “what about me?”
“I don’t know. I mean I don’t know how to explain it. It’s been a lightning, quickening, of wells of emotions that somehow popped open when I first saw you,” AMIR almost whispered, “and then knowing your situation I decided to keep it to myself and suffer it alone. It’s me only any ways so why should you be inflicted by this — nonsense.”
“You can call it whatever you want, but not nonsense,” I retorted, “besides, why do you think I am here – if you’re so sure that it’s just you — professor?”
AMIR was unprepared for my last statement that came out of my mouth without thinking, without a self-censor, without qualification, like words that speak not the feelings inside but also pave the way for them. “I like to read them if you don’t mind, do you?”
He shrugged indifferently and handed the papers to me still sitting. I sat down and read one of them loud:
“It’s four in the morning and I haven’t slept a wink thinking of you, just as I have been every moment of this past couple of weeks driving myself to insanity. I wish I had the power to come to your door and Romeo-like confess my love to the attentive ears of the whole world, and see your face emerge through the window and simply smile. What preposterous thought, what madness, when I know without a shred of doubt that you are in love with someone else and your brief trip will be over soon, no time to leave an ever-lasting imprint except the ashes of my soul that has been burning uncontrollably like a forest fire engulfing my entire being. I am lost without you and don’t know why, how it happened, and so quickly, and without any direct input from you, except the input of your natural beauty and your inner loveliness, or purity, the very purity of your sentiments so vividly reflected in your photos from Africa, the unique ability to get through your lenses the depth of human soul intermingled with brute nature. That you are my dream woman I have no doubt, that I am the wrong man for you I also have no doubt, and there lies the utter futility of this mad endeavor of the heart that has enslaved me for days now, turning my stomach upside down whenever I think of you.”
I put down the papers on the table and broke into tears, he came near me and first touched my hair and caressed it and then raised my chin and with his searching brown eyes glared into my tearful eyes and wiped my tears away and then kissed me above my lips and then my lips.