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The sixth man
Short story

By Jahanshah Javid
December 7, 1999
The Iranian

[This story was originally written under the pen-name "Parivash Afsari"]

I've never been so popular in my life. Farzad, my kind, handsome, co-worker has asked me out several times. The American guy in the cubicle behind me, Warren, just asked me if I was doing anything this weekend. He's good looking too.

There's also my sweet cousin Afshin. We've been close friends forever. I had a crush on him when we were growing up in Mashhad. But it seems years of being alone in Atlanta have made him nostalgic for the good old days. He calls me three or four times a week and sends God knows how many emails every day.

I met Reza at the Barnes & Noble coffee shop a couple of months ago. He came over and asked if I was Iranian and we started talking. We've had dinner a few times. I enjoy his company. He's smart and funny. I still don't know what he does in life. He always looks very otookesheedeh, yet casual. A nice balance.

I still think of Tom though. We broke up (I broke up with him) last year after five very intense years. Intense in every way you can think of. He still sends me flowers -- via email.


I could have handled the two scotch whiskies and three beers. But after half a joint, I was floating in the heavens. I felt like my body had become one mass of thoughts and feelings the size of the universe. I pushed my car seat all the way back and took a deep breath. The air was cool and fresh. It was dark. All you could see out the window were the outter edges of tall trees against the deep blue sky.

I reached and touched Dara's face. My fingers slipped toward his neck.

-- "I like you," I said.

-- "I like you too," he said.

He seemed surprised and slightly hesitant. But I wasn't going to let that stop me from telling him how I felt. I didn't want to ruin the moment or drown my feelings in doubts and questions. Is he really the one? Does he feel the same towards me? Is this the right time or the right place? I cleared my head of all that. All I thought about was love and how good it felt. Was it real? Deep? Forever? It didn't matter. It was there. Dara was there.

I held his hand and caressed his fingers.

-- "I'm still emotionally involved," he said. "I... "

Dara lifted my hand and put it on the gear handle. He explained that he had not yet fully recovered from his recent break-up. He was delicate and considerate.

It was almost three in the morning.

-- "Are you hungry?"

Denny's was only five minutes away. We sat at a booth with pink-gray seats.

-- "They have a killer cheesecake here," Dara said with great excitement.

-- "Denny's? Cheesecake...?" I started to giggle. "We're at Denny's. Not some, I don't know, gourmet restaurant. It's Denny's ... what are you talking about?"

-- "I'm not kidding..." Dara started to laugh.

His cheesecake and my salad arrived.

-- "Here," Dara said as he dumped a big piece of cheesecake on the side of my plate. "Try it. It's really good."

I looked at the yellow-white ball of creamy cheesecake sitting next to my pile of lettuce. Their edges were touching. I can't eat cheesecake and salad at the same time, I thought.

-- "I can't eat cheesecake and salad at the same time."

-- "Why not? Just try it."

-- "But..." I started to laugh. "You see ... I have the taste of salad in my mouth ... and ... if I taste your cheescake now ... it will mix with the taste of the salad and then I could never tell if the cheesecake is really as good as you say it is ... am I making any sense? ... So I have my tea here. When I'm done with the salad, I'll wash it down with this cup of tea and then I'll have the cheesecake ..."

He was laughing. But he understood.

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