We would be playing in the street in the evening and I would see my American friends’ fathers come home from work and kiss their wives and I would think, my secret’s out.
There it was for all to see. I used to wonder how the street didn’t freeze in time just then. I used to wonder even more how the American father could go straight from the kiss to talking about his day or the traffic.
It was a secret because we were Iranian and I felt like I was the only one at home who knew that it was nice for a man to kiss his wife when he came home from work. My father came home with important things to say, and a strong and proud voice for saying them. There was a revolution happening in our country after all, and a kiss could seem like a very small detail in comparison.
There was nowhere I could go with the secret, when it came back to me. To Americans it was ordinary, and Iranians had other things on their mind. A little while after the revolution, two of my American friends whose fathers I’d watched told me that their parents were getting divorced. I knew it, I thought. A man can’t go straight from kissing to talking about his troubles at work. He needs to fall down and melt first, and then do his talking after he’s gotten back up.
Somehow Americans didn’t have it figured out either. I still wanted to be a man who came home with important things to say about revolutions, in Iran or anywhere else. I didn’t know if the kiss should come before or after that. If it came before, it was going to be hard to fall down and melt and then get back up to be as serious as a revolution. If it came afterwards, it was going to be hard to fall down and melt after having been so serious; I was going to have to explain it to my wife.
And I had it in my head that if she was American, I was going to have to explain to her about revolutions, and if she was Iranian, I was going to have to explain to her about the kiss, but either way, I was going to have to explain it because if a woman was marrying a man who was always falling down and melting and then getting back up full of seriousness, that was something she should know about going in.