As soon as she walked into the Indian buffet restaurant I knew that she was Niloo. We had dated a few times back in the 90’s. She was a young 20-year old college student then. I was in my early 30’s, looking for that perfect Iranian mate.
She was with her American husband and pregnant. She still had that beaming smile on her face. I could never forget her smile. There is something magical about women who are 2-3 months pregnant! They are at the peak of their femininity. Their faces shine. They look so self-assured and confident. By the time they get to the 7th or 8th month, they just look tired and irritated from carrying all that weight and everything else that goes with it. She looked wonderful.
She saw me too, sitting with my colleague, a few tables over. She didn’t say anything. I didn’t say anything either. Her husband seemed nice. He looked modest and humble, the kind of man that would be ok to take a back seat to his wife’s career ambitions. I could already tell where she was in her life. She walked with the confidence of a doctor walking into a room full of patients. She seemed happy. I was tempted to follow her to the buffet table to say hi and tell her about me. But I just didn’t want to summarize my life in 30 second for her. It just didn’t seem fair.
The first time that I saw her, she was on the stage, part of a modern dance troupe. The brochure had her name and a couple of short sentences about her. She danced well and had the most beautiful smile. I was just taken by her charm. Her last name seemed very familiar to me. I thought about it on my way home. Then it came to me. That’s my uncle’s good friend’s last name, Mr. so and so. She could be related to him. I couldn’t get her out of my mind. The wrinkled brochure sat on my kitchen table for a few days.
I finally called my uncle. “Your friend, Mr. so and so, I was at a show over the weekend and there was a girl with the same last name. Is she related to him?” I asked. “Oh, you mean Niloo, she is his daughter. She is very talented.” It did not take my uncle too long to figure out what I was up to. My uncles were my role models throughout my childhood. But also, in a strange way, they enjoyed watching me live my life in the US, the life that they would have loved to live.
“Listen, she is not like some of these bimbos that you meet at the clubs or concerts! She lives with her parents. She is a serious girl. Not only she is a good artist, she is also studying to be a doctor.” My uncle said. Then after lecturing me about the virtues of women and the family life, and hearing my assurances that I was at the point in my life that I was looking forward to a serious commitment, he said’ “I tell her dad about you. But don’t screw it up. We have been good friends going back to the time that you were in diapers!”
“Don’t worry! I’ll be on my best behavior. I’ll take her to an amusement park and buy her a lollipop!” I laughed.
My uncle called a couple of days later. He gave me her telephone number. He also said, “Call her in the morning when her parents have already left the house. She can talk to you more freely.” He then cautioned me again not to screw it up!
I called her the next day and after talking about her dancing and my uncle and her father I asked her out to lunch. She quickly agreed. I couldn’t believe it. This was the easiest date that I had ever had. “I should put my relatives to work more often! This is so smooth, I love it!”
I picked her up the next day at her parents’ home. She looked so beautiful. I took her to a Spanish restaurant famous for its tapas. She looked at the menu for a while and then giggled and said, “This is all in Spanish. How do you know what to order?” I took the menu from her hands, turned it upside down and gave it back to her. “See, now it is all in English!” She laughed. She smiled and giggled at everything that I said. I ordered gamba al ajillo, calamares, morcillas, fried anchovies and artichokes. She ate them all with a smile. I used all the charm and wit that I had accumulated over the years on her. There was no way that she could resist me. She didn’t stand a chance, I thought! The only time that she got serious was when I asked her what her life ambitions were. She talked about wanting to be a pediatrician and her passion for modern dance.
After I dropped her off at her home, I called Behzad, my best friend. He patiently listened to everything that I had to say and then said, “She is too exposed, you know, being a dancer. Are you sure that you want to share her with the world? And also, do you know what it takes to become a doctor? Do you want to babysit her through her college years? Then comes the internship and emergency midnight calls, and on and on and on.” Behzad had a way of putting his thoughts into few simple sentences. He always let me know exactly how he felt about things.
We went out a couple of more times. There was something addictive about her. I knew that I was getting into more trouble day by day. I could also tell that she liked me a lot. She laughed at every funny or silly thing that I said. But at the end, I knew that it was not meant to be. In a selfish way, I knew that I did not want to share her with the world. She deserved the chance to chase her dreams and I knew that I should not get in her way. We were two people passing through the same intersection at different times of the night.
I called my uncle before I went on my final date with her. He understood my dilemma, but offered no advice. She looked puzzled when I told her that we are not going to see each other anymore. I was way ahead of her in where this relationship was going. But she understood me. She then looked into my eyes and smiled. I dropped her back at her house for the last time. I felt sad, but also in a strange way, I felt relieved. A heavy weight had been taken off my shoulders.
As she passed by my table on her way out of the Indian restaurant, she had that beautiful smile on her face that I had not seen in years. I did not dare to look at her eyes. I didn’t want our eyes to meet. She didn’t look my way either, but we both could feel each other’s presence. As she left, I thought to myself, “She smiled. She must have remembered the upside down menu in the Tapas restaurant!”