She: Alzheimerist? There is no such a word.
Me: Now, there is. I just coined it, my friend.
She: Come on, you can’t do that?
Me: Who says I can’t. I told you. I just birthed it.
She: Yeah, but you’re corrupting the English language.
Me: Just about everything English is corrupt and corrupting. What do you think the English have done to us Iranians and to Iran? The mullahs are courtesy of the English, many claim. That they, the mullahs have been minted in England and nurtured by them. I mean the English language anyway is corrupt. English is little more that a mixture of German, French, Latin, Spanish and a spattering of a lot of other languages. That’s what makes it such a powerful and expressive language. It accepts new words, and by doing that it becomes a more powerful tool. But, let me get to the main point of what I was going to tell you.
She: Okay, better be good.
Me: Well, the other day I ran into a fellow Iranian I knew that hadn’t seen for a couple of years at a Starbucks Coffee shop. He looked at me and stretched his lips under his massive mustache. I took it as a sign of recognition and a smile. But the smile had an eerie quality about it. You know, the kind of smile that people who had lost a couple of marbles put on…
She: No. I don’t.
Me: Okay, take a good look. I’ll put one on.
She: Well, it does look stupid. It looks good on you, if you don’t mind me saying so.
Me: Yes and no. It does look stupid and I don’t mind you saying so. What it tells me is that when I start losing some of my marbles, I can count on producing the right smile…
She: Speaking of producing. Why don’t you do just that. So far you have done nothing but chew up my time.
Me: I would. Only if you would stop interrupting me with your non-too-smart comments without bothering to accompany them with the appropriate smile.
She: Wise guy, go ahead.
Me: Thanks. Got to understand I can’t report to you what happened verbatim. I mean the exact way he spoke and acted. But, I’ll try to do the best I can to tell you some of the exact words and phrases he used as I remember them. Now, so I see this guy and he gives me that eerie look and the wan smile. I go to him and say Salam. He is taken aback and says, “no, Saeid.” Of course I knew his name. He acted as if I had called him Salam instead of Saeid. I got a bit embarrassed and shaken. So, I moved forward, extended my hand and said SALAM ARZ MEEKONAM SAEID AGHA. He tentatively extended his tremorring hand, stretched his lips little further apart and showed his extensively reworked teeth.
It felt really weird. I mean, I didn’t know what to do. We weren’t exactly close friend, but we knew each other fairly well. He was about ten years older than me and I had a good deal of respect for him and his accomplishments. He was ahead of me in the line at Starbucks and the girl behind the counter asked him what he cared to have. Haltingly and with great difficulty he managed to tell her he wanted a cup of grande’ coffee.
Then he turned to me, greatly embarrassed saying, again very haltingly, I would like to buy you a cup, but I have only two dollars on me. That he hoped I forgive him.
Boy. Was I hurt and embarrassed myself. What adversity had befallen this once graceful and respectable man, I thought. “BE BAKHSHEED SAEID AGHA. EJAZEH BEDEED MAN BAA NEHAAYETE MAIL POOL GAHVA SHOMARA BEDAM. KHAAHESH MEEKONAM. CHEEZE DIGARIHAM AGAR MAIL DAAREED LOTFAN MOZAYEGHE NAKONEED. LOTFAN. KHAHESH MEEKONAM.
He turned beet red; his eyes filled with tear, and said he would appreciate it if he could have a sweet role to go with his coffee. Boy-o-boy! That really helped steady my nerves some. I felt good that he let me pay for his coffee and even asked me to buy him a sweet role.
We settled down at a table with our coffee and his role. I was wrecking my brains to find a way of extricating myself from the awkward stressful situation in a way that wouldn’t hurt the man’s feelings when he opened up speaking with a great deal of stuttering, confused and disconnected sentences. Yet, he seemed intent at telling me all about his afflictions.
I am summarizing the rest of the story to avoid chewing up your time, as you so candidly, or rudely, reminded me earlier.
She: Yeah, go on.
Me: Right. He started telling me all about his woes. How his health had deteriorated. How he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer after having had radical prostectomy two years earlier which had left him impotent. And to really top it all, he had been afflicted with adult onset diabetes. That he can no longer have his favorite rice dishes. When I turned my gaze at the sweet role he was hungrily devouring, he got the hint and said sheepishly that once in a while, when he has the money, he does indeed cheat diabetic regimen and indulges himself with a bit of pastry. I was already feeling his pain when he kept telling more.
He said that he and his wife of thirty years have come to a dreadful point. They can’t stand each other any longer.
I interrupted him and said that the two of you were like two lovebirds. Everyone envied your love for each other, trying to comfort him, I thought.
He said; right, right. But such are the vagaries of this world. See what happened to our Iran. The Shah was finally taking time off from playing playboy and acting as SHAAHANSHAH. He was dragging Iran into the twentieth century. We were the power in the entire Far East, along with China and Israel. All of a sudden, we had this sonofabitch mullah—what was his name, yeah Ruhullah Hendi, come force the Shah to flee. Then take power and kill thousands of our best young people and force thousands more to flee the land. Who would’ve thought, huh? That’s why I’m here. What the hell am I doing here? Sick and dying. I have told my son, my executor, to cremate my body and have the ashes sprinkled on my Iran’s soil. I sure hope he doing that and my wife not vetoing it because it may cost a few bucks. I worry, he says, and starts shaking violently. Some coffee spills on the table. He wipes it with his sleeve, before I could use the napkins. .
Dodoo, buckets of it, I kept thinking to myself. I am so sorry, Saeid Agha, I said.
He wipes some tears from his eyes with his coffee-soaked sleeve, again ignoring the napkins on the table. He sniffled some and went on. Well, I don’t want to depress you. Why am I doing this? I guess it helping you feel better. It helps me? Save it man, I thought.
What killing me, he goes on, is why I am here. It is that sonofabitch Hendi guy’s fault. See, what making him ayatollah or even imam to make millions following him like sheep? He writing books about doing KARHAYE BAD BAD with chickens and donkeys, so we all do it right? He says nothing how women should do same with animals. Women don’t count? That Hendi must coming meeting my wife. I send him tickets.
Saeid Agha, that mullah is dead, unless you can bring back the dead, no tickets will get him here. I tried to liven up the macabre.
Dead? He said. Why not dying before borning. Saving Iran and all of us from his destroying.
Saeid Agha, many Iranians still love him and even worship him. They have built a huge mausoleum where he is buried and hordes of the faithful pilgrimage the place and supplicate at his graveside. Something about us Iranians. We are hero-worshipers, particularly when the hero is a dead. Ali, Hassan, Hussein, just to name a few the KHALGH-O-LLAH worship even after they have been dead for more than fourteen hundred years.
Yes, he said. When did Hussein die? I mean our dear Hussein Hedayat? Why not notifying me going to his funeral? Is he hero now? But, no matter. Thank you for listening to me, almost sobbing. I clearly felt my ulcer acting up. The coffee was bad enough for my ulcer. And his story and condition reminded me of the Biblical Job—the woes that had fallen on him.
He went on. My wife, “American uppity type,” has take complete over our finances using the excusing of my mental deterioration. Tell me Bahram khan, am I really a mental case? I mean, I do lose tracks of things and get mixed up a bit. Who doesn’t? When you get older, you just get little worse. Right?
Right, I said.
Well it are bad. We want divorcing. But, lawyers. Damned the sharks. That’s what they are. They would cleaning us up. What little they leave goes to the uppity and me ending up in soup kitchens. So, no divorcing. This not our Iran and Islam law. In Iran I can toss her out on her bare butt and keep everything. The reverse here in America. She can doing that to me. Think, huh?
I am thinking and I hate it. I wish I had never come for the darned coffee, I did think.
Hear this Shahram joon, he says. I didn’t correct him. She reading about Alzheimer and finds Alzies kick bucket after three years or so. She is counting days. Me, show me the damned bucket and I kick it right this minute and you see my ashes spread in Iran. Will you?
Sure, sure. Please don’t get upset, I said.
This was more than I could take. I got up, hugged him and started to leave.
He stopped me. Please wait. Listen to me a bit more. You know what the uppity doing? Every morning she giving me two one dollar bills and saying, okay Saeid go for walk and get coffee. You know what the doctor saying. You have to keep walking. Walking is one of the best things you can doing to keep Alzheimer in check. Would you believing that Bahram Agha, she says I am Alzy? She shoves the bills in my shirt pocket and saying, here is the coffee money. You know how to find the place. Don’t hurry back. Take you time and maybe go to park for a while and do some window shopping. Okay, Saeid? So, here I am and I had the great good fortunate of running into you and you so kindly paying for me coffee and sweet role.
This time my eyes filled with tears. I started to leave and extricate myself out of the horrible life of a man that I knew as a very accomplished and respectable person who had fallen into such wretched misery when suddenly his timid wan smile was replaced with a roaring laughter. I was shocked and people turned around wondering what was with the man.
He jumped out of his chair, grabbed me by the arm, still roaring with laughter and walked me out of the store. Once outside, he reached for his gene’s side pocket and pulled out a wad of twenties—must’ve been a couple of hundred bucks– and said, sorry for the stunt Bahram azizam. Every last word of what I told you was bull. Come. Come with me. You absolutely must come and Joan would be delighted to see you. You may recall she has become a consummate cook of Persian dishes and by the time we get home that darling woman will have lunch ready. It will be a small way of making amend for pulling this stunt on you. Would you forgive me? He still kept laughing and wiping tears from his eyes.
I felt like kicking him in the crotch. Son of a bitch!
She: Yeah, son of a bitch!
P.S. I wasn’t sure whether my friend, was seconding me calling Saeid son of a bitch, or was she calling me that. I wasn’t going to take any chances and ask her.
P.S.S. The lunch was indeed heavenly. No cuisine in the world comes even close to our top of the line Persian dishes, as far as I am concerned. Having stuffed myself, some ten times more worth the five bucks he had cost me at Starbucks, while sipping my Earl Gray tea I ventured to ask him why the dumb off the top prank.
Him : Remember five years ago April? Last time I saw you?
Me: No. I hardly remember five weeks ago. Five years?
Him : I do. It was April first and the prank you pulled on me? You had so much fun, didn’t you? At my expense.
Me: Yeah, it is okay to do things like that on April first. April fools day, it is called. This is October.
Him: The minute I spotted you, the revenge impulse popped up. I wasn’t about to wait for the outside chance of running into you come April first. Today presented me the chance and I just improvised the whole thing on the spot. It worked, didn’t it? I loved it. More tea?
Me: Son of a bitch (subvocally)