Can They Come Too?

From “Kissing all the frogs” series.

I live in a dangerously thin, long, and deep stretch of space, which is my identity. I live in America, taking daily pains to practice what I know well—being an Iranian. On good days I think I have the best of both worlds. I am free to live, to be, to think, and to talk, because I am in America. I am surrounded by wonderful friends that Americans are, loving and supportive and respectful of me. I am free to love Iran, to follow its news, and to appreciate its music, poetry, and art, among all the other cultural elements I follow.

On bad days, though, I feel lost, belonging to this land never, and belonging to the old world no more. When I lose my balance and fall off my thin stretch of identity, I am lost for I am neither Iranian nor American.

My friends have asked several times whether they could introduce me to their single American male friends. They say: “Jim is a nice man, a good man, an architect. He is handsome and fun, and he is lonely. We think you two will be so good together.” I say: What would I say to Jim? Talk politics? O.K. We will talk about George Bush. We will talk about Obama and elections. Talk social issues? We will talk about our mutual disgust for Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. Talk life? We will talk about our past experiences, our triumphs and failures. We will talk about our children and their individual characteristics. Talk spirituality and the environment? We will talk about religion and global warming. Then what? What will we talk about?

Can Jim and I talk about Sabzeh Meidoon and Tehran Bazaar on a smug-ridden weekday? Can we talk about Sohrab Sepehri’s Sedaye Paye Aab, reading the passage which says: …zendegi abtani kardan dar howzcheye aknoon ast (Life is bathing in the lake of present..)? Can we talk about the nuances of Forough’s Fath-e Baagh? May we be engrossed in talking about Ahmadinejad’s latest antics? Can I convincingly tell him about my trip to Ghasem Abad Olya, a village on the boarder of Gilan and Mazandaran provinces? Can I tell him about the eerie feeling of Khaneh Mashrooteh in Tabriz? Can I describe the strange and sad and sweet feelings I felt watching an Ashoora parade in Tehran? Can he listen to me tirelessly while I play track after track of sweet Alizadeh music, describing how he wrote Neinava, and how I saw his many live performances, and how they made me feel?

On certain nights, can I inexplicably take my Hafez book and make a wish and open the book to cite my Khajeh’s words of wisdom and hope? Can Jim understand fully what it meant to grow up a tomboy in Tehran Pars, riding bicycles and fighting with boys who grew up to follow me home and carry my books, a few years later sending their mothers to my house for khastegari (asking for my hand in marriage)? He might. He will have to, if I am to bring him into my life. I can only go to any Jim’s life, if Hafez, Molana, Sohrab, Forough, Alizadeh and Ahmadinejad can come, too. I have yet to meet such a Jim. Have you?

* Sohrab Sepehri’s “The Footsteps of Water” 

This piece was first published in Peyk in September 2007.


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