The H Bomb

Right here in Berkeley, ten minutes up the street where I used to live for many years, there’s a little bakery. It’s run by a dutch man who’s married to my first girlfriend.

I went inside once out of curiosity but did not see him. He must be a good man.


Abadan on a Thursday night, summer of 1975. Bashgah Golestan’s main hall was packed with teenage boys and girls mingling in the dark. A high school band was playing live pop music. I stood in a corner watching. I was not a great dancer and never had the courage to approach girls, not even those I had known and liked, from a safe distance, since kindergarten. Something had happened that summer. All the girls in my age group (13, 14) suddenly looked like giants. In a matter of months they had grown much taller and developed distinctive curves. I looked like their shy little brother. I had seen some of them disappearing to far corners of the club, behind a stage wall, or a thick palm tree in the garden, talking hand in hand with bigger boys. I was so jealous. When was it going to be my turn to have a girlfriend?

Then I saw H standing there on the dance floor, clapping her hands and moving her hips. She had a bubbly personality, gorgeous smile, big penetrating eyes, cute face, tight jeans. Where did this knockout come from? I had never seen her at Golestan before. Her family lived near the neighboring port of Khorramshahr and she had only recently enrolled as a student in the oil company school system in Abadan. She was a year younger than me.

At that moment I didn’t feel so shy. I wanted her. I walked up and asked her for a dance. She cheerfully accepted. We danced and danced not just to fast songs, but slow ones too, with my hands around her back. It was nice. Real nice.

We went outside to get some air and ended up on the club’s basketball court. I can still see her jumping up in the air and throwing the ball with a loud scream and laughing on the way down.

From that night on, she was all I could think about. I longed for her. I had to see her at every opportunity, which was not often. She was always on guard not to be seen with me when her strict parents or older sister were around. I didn’t care. Just seeing her meant everything to me, especially at the swimming pool. Those legs drove me nuts!

Segoosh pool was several kilometers form our home. I usually took a taxi there or rode my bike. One particular day I had no pocket money and my bike must have had a flat tire. I remember walking more than an hour in the blistering heat wearing a thick bathrobe, swim shorts and slippers on the streets of Abadan to get to the pool. I tell you it was worth every blister. H would swim the width of the pool and I from the opposite direction. There were hardly any words spoken. Only playful glances.

At nights I would listen to love songs dedicated by listeners on Radio Kuwait and squeeze my pillow thinking of H. I thought wouldn’t it be cool if they read my dedication. I sent a letter with my request and waited. I listened night after night to the announcer reading his list of dedications in English with a mellow Arabic accent. I had my thumb on the record button of the cassette player, ready to hear my name. Finally one night I heard it. “…and from Abadan, Jahanshah dedicates Hot Chocolate’s ‘I Believe in Miracles’ with all his heart to H… ” I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited. I made a copy of the tape and gave it to H. Pretty damn impressive for a 13-year-old.

At the end of the school year, around June 1976, my father walked into my room and gave me the news: “You are going to boarding school in California.” My reaction was mixed. On the one hand I did not need to re-take exams for four subjects I had failed in my 9th grade finals. Which was fabulous. On the other hand I was going to be away from H. Which was too painful to even think about. I wanted to get her something special to remember me by.

My weekly allowance was 30 tomans (at the time about $4). That was a lot of money for a kid of my age. Yet I never saved a single rial. I would quickly spend it all on candy, burgers, chips and tennis balls. But for several weeks before leaving for America, I miraculously managed to save a hundred tomans ($14 or so). I took the money and went to a jeweler’s store in downtown Abadan. I looked at the rings and picked one that was just perfect. It was gold with letters LOVE in red, blue, green and I think yellow.

I told H to meet me in the back of the school one day for just a minute. And I gave her the ring.

We stayed in touch through letters and cassette recordings. But after a year my life changed dramatically. My father passed away, our family moved to Hawaii, and Iran went through a revolution. So did I. So did H.

Here’s for the joy she brought to my life:

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