From the “Kissing All The Frogs” Series
Scene 1: We have known each other through our childhood and college years, and as each of us has started working in a professional field, we have kept in touch, visiting each other once a month at a small marina café. It is our time to be that which defines our identity, so drastically different from that of our parents’, and still very different from non-Iranians. We are the odd Iranian American bunch of our metropolitan city. One of us is a graphics artist, another a dental student, a third one a psychologist interning with the prison system, and there are two software engineers, a teacher, and a bartender in our midst. I am still attending law school.
Every first Sunday of the month, we get together at the corner table of the noisy Café Roma, where we have breakfast and catch up with each other.
On this particular Sunday, as we are sitting around chatting, Parsa announces: “Hey, I’m going to Iran next month!” We are so happy for him. Our parents have always made the effort to go to Iran at least once every other year. When we were children, they used to take us, too, and we have so many good memories of the fun and loving times we had there.
With our lives becoming more complicated, though, and with travel to Iran being so expensive, most of us don’t even consider going there for a visit any more. Vacations are a lot cheaper and let’s face it, a lot more fun when we go to Mexico or other places! But we all feel happy for Parsa who is going. Parsa has been doing well at the major software company where he works, growing more prosperous than the rest of us a lot faster, driving a nice car, and wearing nice clothes. It’s true, he isn’t that tall or handsome, but he is funny and smart and sweet, and we just love having him around. So, we’ll miss seeing him next month. We’ll catch up with him in October!
Scene 2: We are all sitting around and chatting, excited to see Parsa after his return from Iran. He looks so happy. Wait, is that a wedding band on his left hand?!! He tells us that he met the most gorgeous woman and got married in Tehran! “Just like that?!!” we ask him. “Just like that!” he says! “Where is she?” we ask, and he tells us that she will join him soon, after he does the paperwork. We are shocked and a little worried for Parsa. How could he make such a big decision in just three weeks! We disperse a little too quietly and quickly this time.
Scene 3: We are at the coffee shop, waiting for Parsa who had emailed to say he was showing up this time after having missed our gathering last month. Before he arrives we are whispering our fears and reservations about Parsa’s quickie wedding and his phantom bride, the one he has been waiting to arrive for close to 8 months. The little bells on the door of the coffee shop jingle and we look up. There at the shop’s threshold stand Parsa and the most gorgeous woman we have ever seen! They start walking toward us and we are having a hard time keeping our jaws where they were a few minutes ago! He introduces her to us. Negin is tall, sexy, and gorgeous. Her beautiful long curly hair is falling in cascades all around that beautiful face. She looks and walks and acts like a supermodel, not like a girl out of an Islamic country. She shakes our hands and flashes us a most charming smile with her perfect teeth. Though nobody minds Negin’s awesome beauty, especially the guys who are a little jealous, everybody feels a little strange seeing her next to our casual group and particularly our cherished friend, Parsa, who is clearly excited and beside himself with joy, if a little lost, a little dimmed next to his wife’s beauty and charm. We start talking and the ice melts soon.
Scene 4: We are at the coffee shop and Parsa is there without Negin. We don’t mind since nobody else brings their boyfriends or girlfriends to the gathering, and Parsa is the only one married among us. We ask him how Negin is and what she’s up to these days and he tells us that she is in college, continuing her disrupted education. Parsa looks good and happy. He is wearing an expensive suede jacket and he is growing his hair longer than normal; it becomes him.
Scene 5: When we arrive the coffee shop, Parsa is already there. His hair looks disheveled and his clothes look like he slept in them the night before. We take our seats and say nothing but the casual chit-chat of greetings. Soon we fall silent and look to Parsa to ask him how he is. He starts sobbing openly. He tells us that he and Negin had been fighting for a while, because he wanted them to start working on a family and she wouldn’t hear of it until she finished her degree. Once she had finished her two years to complete her degree, she had said she wanted to get a job. The sales job she had led to a meteoric rise for her at her work which has made her drag her feet even more. He says during their last fight two weeks ago, she announced that she wanted a divorce and had promptly moved out to a girlfriend’s house. Parsa says no matter what he has done and how hard he has tried, he hasn’t been able to bring Negin back. She refuses to talk to him and is adamant about a divorce. We all reach to hug Parsa and pat him on the back, telling him that things will work out. He is inconsolable. We are all thinking it but nobody says it at first, until Nima asks him whether Negin’s green card has arrived, and he says yes, last month. We all look at each other miserably and then at Parsa who is completely oblivious to the silence and shame around the table.
Scene 6: We are at the café and Parsa looks better than he has in a whole year. He is back to his old self, joking, and sharing funny stories about his work and his life. It feels so good to see him finished with that painful time in his life. Since his divorce, we don’t bring up Negin and he never talks about her. We do know that he had to sell their apartment and share the equity with her, but not much more.
Parsa looks excited as he tells us that he wants to tell us something great, and we are happy to tune in. He says he is going back to Iran for a visit. We all look at each other and at Parsa in silence. One of us tells him kiddingly “I hope you don’t plan on getting married in 3 weeks again!” And the rest of us laugh uncomfortably. Parsa looks a little uncomfortable, too, but he says: “I might!” And all of us lay into him demanding to know whether he is serious! We are reminding him about his state of mind and emotion not too long ago, where he was telling us how he was sure Negin had agreed to marry him so that she could leave Iran, graduate from an American college, get her green card, and sweep his bank account.
Parsa takes all of this in and looks at us with determined and playful eyes. He is driving us mad! He finally says: “Yeah, that’s true! I think I was Negin’s ticket out of Iran. Yes, she did break my heart and clean me out financially. And yes, the next girl I might marry may also do the same thing, but that’s a chance I’m willing to take! Maybe she won’t leave me; maybe she’ll stay and give it a go!” All of us start on him again when he says: “You see, for the few years that she was my wife, I felt the happiest I had ever felt in my life, feeling proud and special to be living with and loving that gorgeous creature. That is a feeling I miss. That is a feeling I’d like to have again. The way everyone looked at us when we arrived anywhere together, the way I felt walking down the street with her. So, if I find another gorgeous girl I like and who likes me, I’ll get married in three weeks and bring her here!”
None of us can believe what we’ve just heard.
* Names, places, and other identifying attributes of this series’ characters are made-up and a work of fiction. The relationship and the dilemma at the heart of each story is true and that’s all that is true.