I’m no storyteller as you might find out soon. The following story, however, is true, but names have been changed to protect the guilty.
We were practically inseparable, the 6 of us. Although of different backgrounds, we were practically glued together throughout most of the years in high school. Our “gang” was myself (Faraz), Kamyar, Korush, Farzad, Kian and Dariush. We were all in the Riyazee curriculum, the toughest of them all. All wanted to continue in a technical field as was the case with a lot of kids those days. Iran was enjoying some prosperous times as factories and refineries were starting to popup in most places and demand for technically-trained people was on the rise.
So we got up every morning eager to go to school. I know what you’re thinking: geeks, right? On the contrary; high school was the best time of our lives and even back then we kind of knew that to be the case. Our school had four 12th grade classes ranked A, B C and D according to how capable and smart the kids were in the class (so the students in A were supposedly the smartest). Korush and Farzad were in “A” class, the rest of us were in “B”. That was the only time we were not together. The school let out at 2:30 PM every day, but we never got home before 6 or later. There was hanging out after school to check out the girls from 3 nearby all-girls high schools after their schools let out which was pretty much the same time as ours and mingling with others regarding whatever had happened during the day at school. We also waited around for the occasional fights that broke out between our resident martial art masters (we had quite a few at our school) and those of other high schools (primarily in other neighborhoods), but I for one never knew what the fight was all about. This was the time when Bruce Lee was all in theaters and everyone felt that he was a Karate master after seeing his movies. I remember seeing a couple fights breaking out in the street after the theater let out from a Brice Lee movie.
In the mornings, we occasionally had breakfast at the local “ghahve khooneh” (a type of casual café that caters to mainly blue collar workers) in Maydoon-e Kakh (Kakh Circle) – the best sunny side up eggs and fresh bread you ever had – east of Mississippi – and a large cup of steaming tea for only 2 tomans (less than 30 cents, back then).
Late in 11th grade and into the 12th grade, I started to drive the car to school although I was months away from getting my drivers license. BUT, weekends and nights after school were “cruising” times. I would take the car and go after as many of the our gang available and we’d cruise….from “Bowling Abdou”, to “Ghaser-e Yakh”, from Intercontinental Hotel to Niavaran to “Kolak-Chaal” and places in between we would cruise and hang out. It is no wonder that when the New Year came along we realized that we had not done a whole lot of studying for the Finals – the most feared event in a high school Senior’s life back then.
Panic bells started ringing right around New Year and we decided to organize study groups to “catch-up”. We broke up in 3 groups of 2 and planned for an aggressive study campaign for the 2.5 months from the New Year to finals.
The finals came and went. I remember the last exam was Rasme-Fanni (technical drawing). After the exam we came out on the street and broke the portable drawing boards (takhte-rasm) and tore up books in celebration of the end of the brutal 2-3 months we had endured and that we were now considered adults!
About a month after the finals I, Kamyar and Dariush were in “Bagh-cheh” in Vanak having dinner and drinks when we spotted Mr. Merrikhi our literature teacher and another guy who worked in the school admissions office at a nearby table. Mr. Merrikhi was probably the nicest teacher I have ever had. He was a gentle soft spoken guy who was never mean or harsh, was interested in kids’ welfare and never showed some of the anti-student behavior that some other teachers exhibited. Bagh-cheh, as I remember, was an old Estate converted into a restaurant. It had a huge pond in the middle surrounded by flowers and plants. The pond was more or less square shape with tables on all four sides. I can still remember the frogs calling and the crickets singing from that night. The actual restaurant building was on one of the sides overlooking the pond. It was a nice place to go for dinner especially in summer. Greetings, chaakeram & mokhlesam were exchanged and we asked them to join us at our table. We were drinking White Horse Scotch and wouldn’t you know it, so were they! Since typically, student-teacher interactions in Iran outside the school were non-existent, we were a bit apprehensive about the whole thing, but soon the ice melted and we were engaged in talks about school, finals and future plans until we were told by the waiter that they were closing for the night. That’s when Mr. Merrikhi said, let’s go to my place and have a night cap…..
As plastered as we were, we didn’t want to call it the night…yet! So the five of us went to his place; a nice old house with a large garden in nearby Vanak. He put beer in an on ice bucket and we started playing backgammon. There were fruit trees in the garden and as we munched on the fruit we picked off the trees we kept on chatting and playing backgammon for another few hours into the night. By about 4 AM, we were all but dead! Tired and drunk we zigzagged our way out of the garden and into the car. As usual, I had driven (I had a driver’s license by then) and started the car and drove for about 100 meters when the engine died. Wild-eyed and confused I stared at the gas gauge: Empty! What the…..? All of a sudden, the lyrics from the Cat Stevens song came to my mind…”stoned, drunk and cold…” I was one of the 3, but I could identify with it. Luckily, the house was on a hilly alley and I had parked the car in the right position. I put it in neutral and coasted all the way to highway (bozorg-raah). From there a little push and a lot of huffin’ and puffin’ got us to the pavement. The “bozorg-raah was downhill toward Geesha (now called Nasr, I think) and Amir-Abaad. We ended up pushing the car a little more when we got to the intersection where a left turn took you to Amir-Abaad and left it there until the gas station opened. There was one right in the corner and I lived about 2 blocks away. The 3 of us, now wide awake and sober from all the huffin’ and puffin’ made it to our house and crashed.
Korush and Farzad left to study in England late that summer, Kamyar, Kian and myself left for the US in the next few months. Dariush stayed in Iran and started attending Tehran University. Most of us stay in touch to this day and see each other occasionally 33 years after graduating from high school. Unfortunately, we lost touch with Dariush a few years later after we found out he had left Iran for Europe. Who knows, may be Dariush is one of you guys posting here and would reply after reading this piece – I am sure he remembers.
After that night, it would almost take another 2 years for my country to go through the revolution that transformed it to something that most of us who’ve lived outside it for a long time can hardly recognize.
I often think what would have happened to me had I not left Iran that early Spring day for America.