Deeper pain

My day begins with a rollover of yesterday’s “to do” list. When grocery is done, dinner is half made, my son’s dental appointment is behind us and I’ve written the overdue article for a local magazine and done my share of weeding and pruning in the garden, there’s a half hour left to have a cup of tea with my best friend.

We spend the entire time talking about Iran and although neither of us admits it, there’s a connotation of deep sorrow in both our voices. Once again I marvel at how decades of life in a blithe society has done nothing to free our souls of the melancholy that our Persian hearts have carried across the globe.

They say, “You may take the farmer out of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the farmer.” A nation in selective exile, we all carry bits and pieces of the past, but sometimes it feels as if it is those bits and pieces that keep us connected and give us the strength to endure what may come and perhaps that’s why we cling on to what we had rather than what is promised.

The pledge of a better life, freedom and security is hammered into our heads if not every hour, at least on a daily basis. Stuck in traffic, I wonder if my entire view of this life is not a bit foggy and if indeed the “means of comfort” have delivered their promise.

On the way home, I pass by a woman who has piled her whole life into a squeaky shopping cart. At the red light, our eyes meet and the unyielding look in hers matches that of all the other homeless people. I open my window and offer her money which she leans forward and takes before I drive away. Her callous fingers touch mine, reminding me of our strange connection. I and my placid life and she with that rackety shopping cart share an emotion that is hard to put into words. For both of us life goes on, yet somehow it seems to have stopped amid an incredible remembrance of the past.

It took me years to be able to differentiate between the homeless in this country and the beggars back home. Those were hungry and in desperate need of the bare necessities, while many of the homeless here are well educated, their miseries are created by society and their needs are more in lines of alcohol, drugs, or anything that may help them to forget how they got to where they now are.

There’s this guy who comes to Starbucks, he has a college degree in languages and I often buy him a cup of coffee and we discuss words and expressions. When he spoke of his love of writing, I told him about the Almost Free Writer’s Conference at Balboa, but he says he’s not ready to be a writer yet. I don’t know when he’ll feel ready, or considering his old age, if he ever will. I watch him as coffee drips into his white beard and find it heartbreaking to think about the squander of his beautiful mind.

The evening news mentions a writer back home whose life is in danger yet he strongly believes that his hunger strike, indeed his death, may make the world listen to what he has to say, but as the Disney commercials follow the program, I realize that the world is too busy having fun to hear anything else.

I listen to many well educated young people who can’t find a job, can’t make plans, and can’t find the right partner in life or make enough money to support their spouse. And, I worry for them, too. When I was a child, my biggest dream was to find a “Patient Stone” and to this day, I have not given up hope of someday finding one for in today’s world that seems to be the only noninvasive solution to our mounds of sorrow.

Years ago in my hometown there had been a young needy man with a brilliant idea on how to make money. He must have looked around him at a nation who loves drama and in fact, socially gathers at Rowzeh to have a good communal cry. So he invented a job to worry and suffer for others! People actually paid him so he could carry their sorrows. He called himself Akbar Ghosseh-khor — Akbar the Sufferer. I don’t think anyone believed in such a transfer of emotions, but somehow, paying this needy man a little money made them feel better, thus their sorrows seemed less of a load in comparison to Akbar’s misery.

My sister for years jokingly called me Akbar Ghosseh-khor, making fun of the way I constantly carried everyone else’s sorrows in my heart and worried about them. If we saw a crippled beggar on the way to school, that night I couldn’t sleep and if someone had a problem, I could not wait to help them solve it and when my best friend lost her father, I mourned his death more than I had my own. Living in a society where many people were unhappy, it wasn’t hard to become another Akbar.

Indeed we are a nation of sufferers who, regardless of the comfort offered us, at times fold inside ourselves in search of the sad memories and find sorrows that we should have left behind and only through such a remembrance do we feel whole.

With a semblance of peace, with a roof over our heads and food on our tables, others think we have little to be so sad about. Americans often comment, “Aren’t you lucky?” We nod out of sheer politeness, but why is it that deep down we don’t feel so lucky? It offers little help to remind ourselves of all the people around the world who would give their right arm to change places with any one of us. There’s that deep melancholy in our eyes and tears ready to be released at the strum of a ‘Tar’, the lyrics of a sad song or for all that we have left behind.

There’s a whole melancholic nation out there who willingly distribute the laughter, but each and everyone carries a deeper pain they refuse to share. One can only hope that either they’ve found a “Patient Stone” among the memorabilia they brought along or that an analyst somewhere acts as their Akbar Ghosseh-khor! So, if you feel that you are the only one with that nagging voice inside of you, with a scream that won’t escape your throat and tears that you have held behind the strong dam of pride, it may offer solace to know you’re not alone.

Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani is a retired dentist and a freelance writer. She lives in San Diego, California. Her latest book is “Sharik-e Gham” (see excerpt). Visit her site

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