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Devil's maiden
Short story


January 25, 2006

It was one of those winter afternoons I could not t decide whether to hate or love. I had to stop at the bookstore to pick up a book I had ordered and then go to the Whole Foods store to pick up some groceries.

I was in a state of sweet melancholy as I was listening to "Faramosham nakon" ("Don't forget me") by Moin, one of my favorite Iranian singers. As I pulled in the shopping center I decided to sit there for a while and listen to my favorite song in peace and savor the moment.

I selected a faraway spot to make sure I would not draw any attention and parked. Opened the door to my side and turned off the engine halfway so I could continue to listen.

I rested my head on my small pillow, which supports my neck and closed my eyes.

The song came on and with my eyes closed I began to sing loud and as it is my habit I used my hands to further express my emotions as though I was on a stage.

I am still crazy in love

You are the only one I believe in

Your fragrance still permeates in the emptiness of my room

My heart is still crazy about you

Do not forget me, do not forget me

You are the only reason for my being

Think of me, do not forget me

I long for love and am used to pain and sorrows

My heart has never gotten used to this separation

The violin sound in the background filled my heart with such emotions I began to sing even louder

Fragrance of our memories permeates

In the silence of my night

Repeating your beautiful name has become

The habit for my lips

Do not forget me, think of me

I do not know how long I was singing and displaying my emotions when I felt I was not alone.

I opened my eyes and let out and scream and quickly wiped my tears.

Right in front of my car was an American man staring at me.

He ran to my side profusely apologizing. I turned around and placed both feet on the ground.

He had startled me but it did not escape me that he looked like Clancy Brown (plays Brother Justin in HBOs new series Carnivale) whom I adore and often joke “show me a man that looks like him and has his deep voice and I will convert!).

I tried to remain serious and just shook my head. You nearly gave me a heart attack, I said.

Please forgive me because I came out of the bookstore and saw a car so far removed from any other car. I noticed a left leg on the ground and the head pushed back so I thought you may be having a seizure.

As I walked closer I realized the hands movement and I heard music accompanying the gestures. I had never witnessed such a scene. I do not know what the words were but the beautiful voice seemed so heartfelt and I was dying to see what the person listening with closed eyes and putting her hands on her heart looks like.

I went in front of your car to see your face. Although your eyes were closed there was such expression of ecstasy in your face I was just in awe.

I wanted to get back at him so trying to sound composed I said. Do you mean the Western definition, as in having taken the drug itself or other substances, or do you mean the Eastern definition, which derives from emotions?

Very clever! Your eyes tell me yours was from emotions but tell me what did the words mean? He said.

I told him, I was Iranian and then briefly summed up the song’s meaning and said, “It sounds a million times more beautiful in Farsi.”

Wow, very beautiful indeed,  just like Iranian women, he said. I did not reply.

He continued; you know I have often said that Allah’s heavenly maidens must be Iranian women with their mysterious eyes and amazing charm.

I was going to make him regret saying those things so I said, “that was such an ignorant and insulting remark!

He looked really puzzled as he said, what do you mean?

Well, if you knew anything about those heavenly maidens you would know that they are sweet, quiet, never age, do not speak and are very subservient. Their only purpose in life is to serve the men and spoil them.

Now, it does not take that much brain to see that I am not sweet, I am proud of being defiant and telling men to go to their moms. I am however, the maiden from hell with two tasks. I tried hard to look serious.

What do these maidens do? He asked.

Well, very few people know that heaven is for boring people who have prayed all their lives and have not done much for humanity. Hell on the other hand has two parts I will oversee.

Talented and fun people who have entertained humanity, partied but did not harm anyone and helped people in need populate the “Fun Zone.” I will stop by to make them laugh with my Iranian jokes and dance the beautiful Iranian dance, a much seductive and mesmerizing dance!

My other task is to visit the “Beating Zone.” This area houses perverts, convicts, and child molesters. I sneered when I said perrrrvert! I will whip the hell out of them and when my hand gets tired I will kick them until they are senseless.

He started to laugh uncontrollably as he tried to speak. Finally he composed himself and said; I am not a pervert. You may not believe it but I am a Neurosurgeon!

I remained un-phased and very nonchalantly said, this must be your lucky day because I know the few note worthy neurosurgeons in this area.

He came closer and looked at me as he said; I may be blasted again for being a chauvinist but if you were in the medical field as a single man I would have known about you.

I smiled and said well there is a very simple explanation.

I was in a serious car accident in 2001. Although I walked away without visible injuries and was called “miracle child” the MRIs showed I had badly damaged discs in my neck and further tests showed I had nerve damage to my right hand and torn muscle in my rotator cup on the right hand. I was in lot of pain and had numbness in my right foot, hand and tingling on the right side of my brain.

My Neurologist wanted me to be operated on right away and that is how I looked into the credentials of the neurosurgeons in this area.

He interrupted me as he said; is your neurologist Dr. Singer? He asked.

I answered yes.

I knew I have heard your voice before but could not place it. I spoke to you and the reason I remembered the conversation vividly. You had called and cancelled the appointment and being concerned about your health I spoke to you to find out why.

You told me you were going to beat Western Medicine and prove Dr. Songer wrong.

Then you are Doctor Kelley, I said.

He seemed really intrigued as he said, I remember Dr. Songer telling me about a patient that defied him and after six month when he released her from his care he told her, whatever you did, please do not tell me because I am too old to go back to medical school. He said you seem to function quite well.

I am so curious to know what you did to avoid surgery.

Everything and anything from praying to meditating and physical therapy. I got treatment by my girlfriend who practices ancient Iranian medicine and uses mostly Avisina’s prescriptions.

I also made sure to find the best surgeon in this state just in case.

 He started to laugh and said who was that?

Dr. Green and I know he has a one-year waiting list. But as an Iranian I wanted the best and found a contact that knew him well and they were part of the same social group. We Iranian make sure we have connections everywhere! My physical therapist who was working on her PhD also is his close associate of Dr. Green.

The man laughed and said, I am on call but if it is okay with you perhaps  we can go to one of the restaurants across the street and you can tell me exactly what you did to avoid surgery because I remember your injuries were pretty bad yet you seem so normal.

I stepped out of the car and said thank you but I do not like to eat with anyone but my kid.

Well, I really scared you and I would like to show how sorry I am besides, I love to know how people avoid medicine and surgery yet they could function, he said. I am an open minded person.

It is okay because even if I tell you as a logical Westerner you will not believe me so if you excuse me I have to run to the bookstore and then to Whole Foods.

He said, I am really intrigued and would love to learn more about Iran and its people. I want to find out more about your friend too because I like to find out about her herbs and her practice You seem to think that Eastern and Western thoughts are a world apart were in fact we are all human beings with different customs and cultural behaviors.

Listen Doctor, don’t even try. I am an old Iranian dame that sometimes sits at a table with fifteen Iranian men and I end up being the winner so your best bet is to not assume I am a typical Iranian woman because I am not!

If you are interested in learning about our culture and meet “nicer Iranians” you can join my e-mail list because I work with many Iranian organizations as well as American cultural entities to bring enlightenment about my beautiful heritage and culture to the Westerners.

As a matter of fact there is an exhibit called “Persian Image” at the museum showing pictures of Iran nearly a century ago. My music teacher is supposed to perform with his wife and I will be reciting one of my poems. You will also see some unique things from Iran ranging from books, to coins and clothes I have lent them to display.

He interrupted me again. Are you a poet? What music instrument do you play?

I am not a poet but sometimes express my feeling in poems and I have begun to learn Santour (Dulcimeir), I said.

He shook his head and said, my God that instrument is so beautiful I have heard Doctor Tabei play it several times.

I laughed and said , that 200 year old geezer with the dyed hair is a repulsive pervert!

He began to laugh again as he said, you have a unique way of expressing yourself.

I said whatever, that man made a pass at me in front of his wife who was covered from head to toe! The audacity appalled me.

There are also some Iranian movies being shown at the Film Festival next month and I just sent the e-mail. 

Please add me to your list, he said.

Who is the author of the book you are picking up? He asked.

Someone that 95% of Americans including those working at the bookstores do not know.

It is a book about the people of ancient times in Egypt and a Moslem fundamentalist stabbed the author in 1995 because his village Mullah said the author had committed blasphemy.

Can I please walk with you to the bookstore and you can show me the author and I will check the books?

Sure, I said.

I walked with him to the Literature section and showed him “Naguib Mahfouz” and took his business card and wrote his e-mail address.

He said I like to see some books about Iran.

There are not that many in the store but I will e-mail you the title of a few you might enjoy.

What are you doing on that Saturday after you have recited your poem? I am dashing back south because I have to attend another Iranian function.

Is your busy schedule part of the reason you ignore your physical pain?

I am impressed doctor! Yes, my community involvement makes me forget my pain and saves men from my wrath! I must go now. He smiled and said; actually I think one would never get bored being with you.

I said, that is the wrong perception and by the way, except for me the rest of Iranian women are sweet, well behaved, and charming. Good-bye and if I need surgery and Dr Green has retired you would be the next best on the list so I will come to see you! He shook his head.

I walked to the counter and asked the cashier to ring up the book she had under my name.

As I walked out of the store I thought how small the world truly is and tired to picture what would have happened if an Iranian man had found me in that crazy state this man had seen me in.

The thought made me laugh hard because no doubt the whole town would have found out and some would have shaken their head saying, She should be ashamed of herself!  So old, and yet gets emotional over a song! How absurd!

I looked at the clear sky and blew a kiss because my heart was filled with such joy with appreciation of having been given a soul that has not been hardened and remains as sensitive as ever.

For letters section
To Azam Nemati

Azam Nemati




Book of the day

Crowning Anguish
Taj al-Saltana, Memoirs of a Persian Princess 1884-1914
edited by Abbas Amanat

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