The Pleasant Girl

Malihe was different. From conception, she acted differently and unusual in the womb. As a fetus, she was agile and active. When her mother was carrying her in her belly, she often felt unusual symptoms. She had already bore six babies in a time span of six years, hence it was hard to assume that she was unfamiliar with the symptoms of pregnancy and its complications. But this one was a different breed. The baby kicked and moved a lot. The mother endured repeated and unusual morning sickness. The whole period of pregnancy was harsh and intolerable. She endured a great deal of difficulties carrying her for the whole seven months.

Malihe was born prematurely.

At the moment when the baby was born, everyone gasped. She looked magical as any newborn baby — beautiful, innocent, glowing like all babies and vulnerable. But everyone exhaled. She was crying heart wrenchingly when the neighbor pulled her out. It was as if she did not want to exit the birth channel. Perhaps she was conscious and fully aware of the life that was awaiting her. Maybe she was just being cautious. The mother experienced an excruciating and long labor. For several days, she experienced discomfort and pain; an episode that most mothers go through to give life. What would life be without the precious sacrifice of a mother?
There would be no life.

Malihe was born. She entered a world that was uncertain and unfamiliar to her, as it is for most female newborns in many societies. At the moment of her birth, everyone gasped and stepped back. What was that? She was all twisted and curled up. It seemed that a giant pretzel had popped out of the mother’s womb. She had a beautiful face, full of grace and innocence. But the body was completely deformed, contorted, and curled up. People laughed. People sighed. People stared at her with much astonishment. But the mother cried. She saw herself and her fate in her little girl.

Malihe was born with a severe case of Cerebral Palsy. She was not “normal.” At least not with the standards of a society whose treatments of “abnormality” is well undeserving and uneducated. Malihe was considered a monster. But she was beautiful. She was a beautiful baby with much potential and promises. But it was up to the society to allow those values to flourish.

No, not in my society.

As Malihe grew up, she learned about the cruelty of her surroundings. Her siblings, cousins and the neighborhood kids avoided any contacts with her. She always spent her time alone, by herself, secluded and often by one leg tied to the bed’s leg in the only room that the family possessed. She was a scary sight in the neighborhood, an eyesore. At the sight of her being carried by her parents or walking awkwardly, people laughed, stared, or stepped aside and cleared the path for her as if she was contaminated, contagious.

But she was precious.

There was much debate over choosing a name for her. Everyone came up with names that did not fit a dog much less a beautiful, precious baby girl. But the mother selected the name “Malihe,” the “pleasant one.”

And she was pleasant.

She was a pretty, little girl with a huge smile that always brightened the room, and big, black eyes, as black as Yalda, the longest night of the year. She always smiled and tried to talk. But she had difficulty talking. She often mumbled and her saliva ran through her lips and dangled off her chin. Her fingers curled up and her limbs tangled with one another.

But she always smiled.

Majority of people did not find any liking towards her, and if they displayed any “kindness” towards her it was out of sympathy and not genuinely. No one ever treated her like a human, but more like a pathetic and pitiful being.

But her mother adored her.

Malihe’s mother worked as maid at different houses to pitch in with the heavy load of family’s financial burden. Her father was a low-ranking construction worker, an amale, barely providing for a family of seven children. Malihe’s mother always took her to her jobs with her. Who else would care for Malihe? Her bosses did not seem to be too pleased to see the little girl, but most did not have the heart to tell the mother not to bring her along. Some seemed more compassionate and kinder.

But they were pretentious.

At one house, the lady boss allowed Malihe to sit at the house poolside while her children swam in their lavish pool and had a great time. But the moment that Malihe reached to touch the water, the children shouted at her, ordering her not to touch the water for the fear of her polluting the pool. She withdrew her hand and cried in fear. At the time of lunch, many of the employers ordered her mother to have her lunch outside because Malihe’s appearance and uncontrollable shake and curled up body could “ruin their kids’ appetites.”

One day, Malihe’s mother was working at a mansion. There was a large and lavish party thrown for the man of the house who had just returned from Europe. The mother was working hard, washing the ground and the window glasses, sweeping the floor, dusting the curtains and doing the laundry while the guests were dancing to foreign music and mingling. It came around the lunchtime. She was still working hard. The boss told her to keep working, but he allowed the little girl to sit with all the guests and have lunch with them.

What a surprise, and it was.

Malihe’s mother was rushing to finish the work, not for the purpose of joining the festivity but to look after her little girl. She knew the guests might find her repulsive and resent her being at the table. She cleaned the last window glass and rushed to the lunchroom.

Everyone was sitting at an extended and long table, filled with all sorts of foods, salads, fruits and beverages. People were eating, laughing and having a great time at the beautiful, European style table. The main course was the delicious chelokebab, steak kebab and rice — the food of the elite. She could not see her little girl at the table. But it did not take her long to find Malihe. She was sitting alone in the corner on the floor. There was a small, plastic bowl in front of her. In the bowl, there was a small, cooked potato. The aroma of the fish, lamb, steak and kebab had filled the room. All the guests were indulging and feasting on the variety of foods. The little girl was licking on the small, cold, cooked potato.

The mother cried.

The mother suffered. She was not a stranger to pain, depravation and bias. She had lived all her life as the servant of people; the rich people, the male people. She lived a life riddled with poverty, prejudice and depravation; socially, economically, and based on gender inequality. One day, she finally ended it. Right before Malihe’s eyes, she put a piece of rope around her neck and hung herself. The precious mother said farewell to the world and left her pleasant girl behind.

Life went on.

The house seemed empty without the mother. Now Malihe was barely cared for anymore. Many blamed the little girl for her mother’s death. The father felt alienated towards her. He became indifferent. The neighbors ignored her. Her siblings scolded her. She was abandoned.

Malihe gradually began looking after herself, but it was hard. She would crawl on the floor and reach her destination of the restroom, kitchen or any other place. Everyone perceived her as a burden, a dysfunctional and counterproductive being. She rapidly became an outcast, considered unwanted and purposeless. One night, she heard her father telling her older brother that he did not know what to do with her anymore and wished the State would take her in and care for her. She sobbed that night, all night.

She felt to be a burden too.

Life went on and by passing of each day Malihe felt the burden of her existence becoming heavier and less tolerable. Now she had totally become a being that was considered of no use to her family. Her sisters often helped around the house by doing chores and helping out, but Malihe sat in the corner, incapable of doing anything, often mumbling incoherently.

One day in her sleep, she soiled her pants. The father yelled at her. Her brother slapped her. She cried. Where was her mother? She loved her family but everyone called her a worthless and useless human being. Everyone believed she was worthless until that day.

It was around noon. Malihe heard loud noises in the yard. There was a big commotion there. She peaked through the door. Her brother was in the middle of the yard and four men in semi military uniforms were wrestling with him, trying to arrest him. Her father was also in the yard, begging and trying to plead with them.

The men were angry.

The agents of repression were determined to haul her brother away without offering any explanations as to what his charges were or what his fate would be — perhaps taken to an unknown destination, where many others before him had been taken and were never heard of again. They wanted to haul him away to the committee. They were saying that he had participated in an “illegal” demonstration. They wanted to take him where some of the best children of this nation, this world, had been taken before and had never returned.

Down with theocracy and repression.

The little girl dragged her body on the old rug. She was trembling with fear, but her fear was not surpassed by her rage. She reached the door, pushed it open with her forehead, tried to scream, but her voice cheated her. The door opened wide. Malihe screamed and mumbled incomprehensively, as usual. The men turned and looked at her. There was a staircase of five steps attached to the room. She threw herself out and flew out of the room. Her body momentarily floated and then dropped down and hit the hard concrete of the yard.

The four men looked at each other. They were not able to comprehend the situation. Malihe’s body was in pain. The fall had caused severe hurting throughout her tiny body. She was dragging her buttocks on the pavement of the yard. Tears were pouring down her face. She tried to scream again. She wanted to holler against the repression and injustice, but her voice was as usual silent — just like a woman’s voice, everywhere.

Her tears were about to turn to blood. The little girl crawled and reached the man. He was roughing up her brother and was trying to handcuff him. With her tiny and curled up hands, she grabbed one of the men’s legs and put her teeth into it. The coward jumped up and down and screamed of pain.

The men tried to get away from her, but she held on to him as ferociously as she could and kept biting on his leg. The young man cried in pain. His colleagues were stunned, badly caught off guard. They backed down as if they had faced an army of resilient gorillas and freedom fighters. Huge men with machine guns, the man-made weapons of oppression, were speechless by the reaction of one little girl.

Malihe kept biting and scratching the man’s leg.

The commander ordered the little girl to cease her attack. The little girl growled like a female tiger. He ordered the father to quail her. “The pleasant girl” roared and kept attacking the men. She dragged her tiny body on the tiles of the yard and attacked the repression. She grabbed the second man by the ankle and bit him too. The second coward ran towards the door and cursed. The commander ordered one of the men to subdue her. The man shook his head in disobedience. The commander then ordered all to leave. He warned the family about his eventual return and cautioned them about the consequences of their young’s activities.

But they left.

Malihe’s brother lifted his little sister and tightly embraced her. The father hugged his children. Malihe’s body and face were bruised up and swollen. The defeated army had retreated by now, for now.

The power of a woman — the pleasant woman.

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