Yesterday I had your dream – Part 1

“Yesterday I had your dream.”

It was our fifth resting place in less than an hour – the riverbanks of the Zayand e Rood. A few moments to linger among the plantings of shemshod and mulberry, and it would be time for us to move again.

We were in Esfahan, a city of pleasure gardens, wooden palaces painted with peacocks and nightingales and a river criss-crossed with softly lit bridges. It should have been a romantic place to see each other again, but in Iran, in this new city, we were growing accustomed to behaving like strangers. 

We sat facing the river and I counted the width of five handspans in the distance that separated us. I pulled my scarf forward to hide the blonde streaks of my hair and avoided using my hands – the giveaway of a European background – when I spoke, which I did while either looking across at the horizon or down at my feet. We directed the things we told each other to my black pointed ballerina flats or the shoelaces of his brown loafers, matching them as best as we could with disinterested expressions. I didn’t imagine we were really fooling anyone. On the cobbled pavements behind us a group of women in chador lay on scraps of carpet, shoeless but in black stockinged feet. They watched us disapprovingly, grumbling sour-faced commentary while fumbling with the yards of black cloth that they lowered and raised across their mouths.

It was a big deal for us to be here in Esfahan together and I knew it. His family had consented for him to follow me here because it had never occurred to them. When his father had loaned him fifty dollars and his mother had tucked a lunch of lavosh, cucumber, mint and cheese into his travel bag, they were thinking of him as my host and protector. They had enjoyed the sweet, temporary nest I had made for myself in their suburban Yazdi home and smiled at my quirky Western socialisation, that I was bold and animated where their daughter and nieces were reserved and shy; but they had never imagined the unthinkable.

For a traditional, Yazdi family, a relationship was a mathematical formula: you put in the correct variables of age, beauty, morality and finances and the output was a successful, peaceful marriage. It couldn’t be therefore, that their Iranian son could feel desire for someone six years his senior, someone who didn’t come to him pure and untouched. I was an amusing visitor from another world and soon enough I should return to it, fading quietly into an anecdote brought up over tea or a postcard taped onto the fridge; a photograph kept in a shoebox. There was nothing to worry about, for Vahid could never love such a girl as me.

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