The sound of the heart-monitoring machine, all of a sudden, began to resemble the sound of a wandering happy bee in a garden of flowers. The line that displayed the heart rate became a straight line and it began to make a constant buzz. The doctors panicked and began to scramble to do anything that they possibly could do to save the life of their patient.
They were badly caught off guard. The surgeon in charge was giving instructions to his staff, ordering a staff of highly experienced plastic surgeons to do the proper thing in order to save the life of the young woman who was rapidly fading away and quickly resembling a lifeless soul. “This has never happened before. This has never happened before,” the head surgeon shouted.
Everyone was stunned and was running around in a total panic, trying to do something to save Bita’s life. At this juncture, Mohsen, Bita’s husband, who was notified a few moments ago to come and see his wife after the “successful” surgery, had just arrived in the recovery room. Upon his arrival and discovering the chaotic scene of the doctors and nurses running around like rodeo bulls, Mohsen realized something had gone badly wrong.
They had told him a few minutes ago to come and see his wife whom, after a reconstructive nose surgery, was coming to and was resting in the room next to the operating room. But, so suddenly, she had lost consciousness and had gone into a coma.
Several months ago, Bita, whose weight barely surpassed one hundred pounds, had decided to correct her nose. She was convinced that her nose was a bit crooked and not fully aligned with the other features on her face. In her imagination, she perceived that the diameter of one of the nostrils was about the tiniest fraction of a millimeter longer than the other one, and it had to be corrected and adjusted. The rest of her body had already been modified several times throughout the years by the top plastic surgeons in Beverly Hills.
She had lost nearly seventy-five pounds over the years, and for the most part had kept them off. It could not have been possible without having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, operation after operation, hard dieting, going to the gym, self-imposed starvations and other costs and tasks that the society imposes on women. When she was in Iran, before the revolution, she hardly ever cared about how she looked or how much she weighed. But this is now and that was then, over two decades ago. Life had changed. Norms of the society had changed. People had changed.
The hospital staff was running around. Several new doctors arrived and joined the already busy doctors and nurses. The situation seemed extraordinarily critical. Bita was not breathing. The doctors were desperately trying to revive her but to no avail. They were injecting medicine into her veins. They were defibrillating her. But she was not responsive. Mohsen was standing around stunned. He could not comprehend what was going on. “What is happening, you told me that she was doing alright,” he shouted. One of the nurses walked towards him and asked him to leave the room.
He did not comply. One of the doctors patted him on the shoulder and told him that it was in the best interest of Bita that he would leave. He finally agreed and left the room. He walked outside and sat in a chair. He put his head in his hands and hunched over. Tears were forming in his eyes. He thought to himself, would that be possible to finally fall victim to the “curse?” Could it really be happening? Is this the curse that was put on him years ago? Is it coming through after all this time? Mohsen began to wonder and remembered an incident that happened to him years ago before the revolution, something that had occupied his mind for nearly thirty years.
It was several years before the revolution. He was a single man working for the city police in the holy city of Mashhad. His job and duties were guarding the holy shrine of Imam Reza. He was assigned to protect the inside of the shrine from the “infected ones,” as they were referred to. At the time, there was a large colony of people with leprosy near Mashhad in the province of Khorasan. At that time, Mohsen was working as an undercover detective in charge of the operation that was aimed to prevent lepers from entering the shrine.
There was a risk of contaminating the shrine and ultimately the pilgrims. Leprosy is medically identified in two forms, one that is contagious and may be passed on through physical contact, and the one that is not contagious. But, since the city’s health department could not identify lepers visually, it did not intend to take the risk of allowing any of them into the shrine.
Mohsen recalled the night that he was working the graveyard shift. He entered the vicinity of the Harem. There were hundreds of people gathered in the yard. The beautiful glowing lights were giving the front yard of the shrine a holy and magical look. The dome exemplified the magnificent architectural ability of the ancient era. Pilgrims from all across the Shiite world were scattered all around the fountains and the tiny pools.
Women were seated on the cold pavement, chatting and talking. Children were playing. At one of the gates, there was a large crowd of people sitting on the ground. Most of them were attached to the gate by pieces of individual ropes. These were patients who had come for cures, some of them from as far as thousands of miles away, to seek healing from the holy Imam. All sorts of people from all facts of life had gathered in different parts of the shrine, all seeking cures, financial comfort, prosperity, and a better life.
Mohsen clocked in and went to his post inside the shrine. He was watching everyone. His job was to locate and arrest possible lepers. That night, his superior had warned the security crew to be on the watch and full alert for a female leper who had just escaped the colony. Therefore, all the agents were on extra alert that night.
Things were going smoothly without any problems. People were circling the shrine, grabbing, kissing, and touching its iron bars, begging for mercy and realization of their wishes and dreams. They were mostly, if not all, from the poor segment of society. There were about six undercover detectives watching the crowd, when, so suddenly, Mohsen heard a loud whistle.
That was the signal that alerted the presence of a leper. Immediately, the detectives ordered everyone to leave. Right away, Mohsen noticed a short woman in a colored chador being grabbed by one of his colleagues. The woman was struggling to free herself from the security man. The detectives were pushing people out. Mohsen dashed to the northeast corner of the shrine. The woman was vigorously struggling and screaming.
Mohsen grabbed the woman by the legs as his colleague was holding her under her arms and around the chest. Other detectives rushed to the scene as well. By this time, they had managed a complete control over the woman. They began to drag her out. Once they were outside in the back alley, they could feel the cool breeze of the night under the shining light and that was a suitable remedy for their hot and sweaty bodies due to the extensive and hard struggle with the leper.
The woman was moving and resisting aggressively. One of the detectives put his leg on her chest to further subdue her. They finally succeeded to gain complete control of her. The head detective, Mohsen, was shouting at her, ordering her to lay still. Six men against one woman, that did not resemble a fair fight. Thus she was finally subdued. As she was lying on the ground, Mohsen reached and pushed the chador off her face.
Upon seeing her face, he gasped and stepped back. That was horrifying. It was as if her facial architecture had dissolved. The majority of her face was missing skin and flesh. Her eyes were close together rather than being in their own natural position. She was missing her entire nose. Instead of a nose, there was a hole in the middle of her face. All of the detectives felt repulsed. One of them nearly vomited.
“What the hell are you doing in there, bitch?” Mohsen shouted and then grabbed her by the neck. “Who the hell told you that you could be in here with normal people?” Mohsen said.
“Bitch is your mother who gave birth to you,” the woman responded. Mohsen slapped the woman’s face and immediately wiped his hand on his shirt as if he had touched feces or germs.
“I am not contagious, you stupid ignorant bastard. What do they teach you in those schools of brutality and repression?”
“I said shut the hell up, whore.”
“And I told you whore is your mother, not me. I am a decent woman, an unfortunate human being who has fallen victim to the cruelty of nature. It is not my fault that a son-of-a-bitch like you contaminated my system, passed it on to me, and then left me by myself.”
“But you have no rights to be here among the general population, you creep.”
“Creep is who that bore you. Would you be treating your own mother, sister, or wife like this, you coldhearted bastard?’
Mohsen grabbed the woman tighter by the neck and shouted at her to stifle. The other guards pleaded with him to calm down and not get himself in trouble.
“Just take her away, move the creep out of my sight,” Mohsen said.
As the guards were dragging her body to the van to take her away, the woman shouted: “I put a curse on you. I put a curse on your entire gender for what you have done to me, I put a curse on you.” Mohsen just shook off the whole incident and returned to his post, and soon after, he forgot all about the whole episode.
A few years later, the Islamic Revolution took place, and Mohsen, like many other Iranians, left Iran and settled in Los Angeles, California. In terms of finance, life was never a burden. He packed a great deal of money with him before departure for exile. He made a comfortable life for himself in the United States. In the late 1980s, he married Bita, who had recently left Iran. They got along well. He invested his money in different businesses and Bita just took care of the house.
It was in the middle of the 1990s, when Bita began complaining about her weight, shape and looks, and demanded to reform her body and face. She began the process by going under the knife of the surgeon and having liposuction. Then she proceeded by lifting her face. That operation was followed by the correction of her breasts, thighs, and buttocks.
The last stage in the episodes of “physical modification” for Bita came as a nose job. The more she was cut under the knife, the more she felt the need to stay in the race with other women. She felt the necessity of reaching that level of “beauty” that the society was commercializing and commanding. In a short time, it became a compulsiveness that took over her. She became enslaved to reaching that level of beauty and “perfection.” She always seemed determined to stay a leg ahead of her competition.
In parties, gatherings, and concerts, she always tried to match herself against other Iranian women. If any of her relatives had a facelift, she searched for a doctor who could perform a better job. If her neighbor lost five pounds, she tried to double the weight loss. If a friend aligned her butt a couple of centimeters, she went for three or four. If a colleague went for size 32C breasts, Bita aimed at size 34C. Until today that she went under the knife for the seventh time to re-do her nose, but this time around the luck was not in her corner and she faced severe complications and went into a coma.
Mohsen was sitting in the waiting room, reminiscing about the past. He was drawn in the thoughts of the woman in the Shrine of Imam Reza, his life in America, and the fate of his wife. He was thinking about all those times that he begged her to remain herself, telling her that no matter what, he would always love her, unconditionally. He could not even imagine life without her. He remembered the joke that his brother in Iran told him this morning when Mohsen informed him regarding Bita’s latest plastic surgery.
“Bita is having another plastic surgery? Make sure that in case she runs out of skin, some women’s butt would always supply an ample amount of flesh that may last a lifetime,” he said it jokingly. For a moment, a faint smile spread over Mohsen’s lips and a small window of hope cracked opened for him, and then he heard the footsteps.
It was the doctor. He had come to give him the news. His face was telling the story. He was not the bearer of good news. The doctor shook his head in despair. Mohsen buried his face in his hands and began sobbing, hysterically.
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