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Dokhtar-e hamsaayeh
I looked down and there she was, Shahnaz lying down on the balcony

Bahram Saghari
August 15, 2004

I love running the spell-checker when I am sending out email with a lot of American/Iranian words in them. Every other word gets underlined in red - some of the suggested corrections are incredibly hilarious. “Aziz” (e.g. Dear) is “As Is” (Hameen Ke Hast), “Arjmand”, a beautiful Persian name, is “Armband”, and “Khomeini” is “Homey”!

Anyway, I woke up this morning, thinking about Sadegh, my next door neighbor in Iran, and his sister Shahnaz; those hot summer nights in Tehran, and the scorching early morning sun ... (read on, it is not what you’re thinking).

Like a lot of families in central Tehran and despite the fact that we did have a huge air conditioner on top of our house, during the summer, we slept on the rooftop (Posht-e Boom) at night.

Remember those wooden beds with Futon mattresses? We had a few of those and had lined up right next to one another like a huge bed in our front yard, where we all slept during those distant and delicious summer nights.

(Just a reminder that our house, similar to all other homes in Tehran, had a good neighbor brick wall all around the yard, front, back and the sides. So, in case you have forgotten and you were thinking sleeping in the front yard is like sleeping in the middle of the street, think again. The front yard, conceptually, was similar to what we consider the backyard in America.)

I just realized something I never thought of before: neither myself nor any of my sisters ever caught our parents! I wonder with this no-privacy setup, how they ever made out, or I guess that explains why none of us were born in March ...

Anyway, my dad rented two of the rooms on the first floor to a younger family after which we moved those wooden beds to the rooftop; otherwise we would be too exposed to these new comers! It was pretty painful to move those heavy solid wooden beds to the basement at the end of the summer, and bring them out to the front yard all over again when the warm weather hit us, we were now forced to carry them to the basement from what would be equivalent to a 3rd floor!

I did like the roof a lot better regardless. There were less mosquitoes on the roof and the view was a lot better too (we’ll get to the view shortly). We erected a Pash-e Band (mosquito net) every night, and took it down every morning. As the son, it was my responsibility to spread the hot basking beds in the evening, generally before dinner, to air them to cool down.

After dinner we always ran up to the roof with my sisters, long before our parents and despite their warnings, played on the roof. Our favorite was to lie down on one bed and pillow, and after it had absorbed our body heat and it had warmed up and was not cool anymore, we would roll onto another that was still nice and cool. I can just feel the smell of the heat and the day in those beds and...

Well, Sadegh, my “older” friend next door worked at his dad’s Hojreh (Shop / Trade center) in the Bazaar and always took off very early in the morning with his dad. It was the best thing to do to keep the kids busy during the summer. My dad used to leave early and my mom typically went down long before dawn to get ready for the day, and avoid that scorching, blinding sun.

Kids always stayed up there to the last second until the sun came out and it became painful -- I don’t think ANY parent in Tehran woke up their kids. They didn’t need to. They would let nature, that burning sun, do the work for them. Can you think of ANY kid, or remember any, who was still in bed after 7 or 8 in the morning, EVER?

The worst part of sleeping on the rooftop was rolling up the beds. You see, to prevent mattresses from collecting dust -- and I think to prevent its color from fading too quickly, that would make them look old, which they were -- we rolled them up daily. Some houses had a little storage-area-like room on top of the house where they actually stored their beds everyday. My heart goes to their sons for all the work they had to do before they were even fully up!

We didn’t have the storage room, so it was just the less work, still painful rolling of the beds under that hot bright sun -- We had already stayed in bed to the point of a nuclear meltdown and “I CAN’T TAKE ANYMORE OF THIS LIGHT AND HEAT”.

The summer day was something like this: 8:00pm cool and nice, 9:00pm laughter running around the roof and being silly, cool nice, 10:00pm sleep and nice, 2:00am dream and nice, 5:00am dream sleep nice, 6:00am sleep birds a little light no sun still nice, 7:00am BLINDING LIGHT BURN BURN FIRE FIRE FIRE BURN BURN ... And yes, it felt worse because I had to roll them before I went downstairs.

By the time we got downstairs, we were wide awake and ready for another busy kids’ day.

As bad as making those “Toshak”s (beds) were, I had a great daily incentive regardless: Shahnaz always stayed late in her bed, in their balcony, to which I had a great view (we both lived in our two story buildings and typical of big cities, there was no space between our house and theirs -- Their house was some 5-6 meters further back. I had a perfect view of their balcony, where Shahnaz slept. All I had to do was walk up to the ledge, and look down! I was perfectly “Moshref” to their balcony -- I had view.

One morning, after I woke up, and after everyone else had run downstairs and I was left to do the beds, I looked down and there she was, Shahnaz lying down on the balcony with a sheet, as always, slightly covering her and slightly not. Hmmm ... I wondered!

I don’t think I ever had a crush on her, I was just curious. I overcame any concern I could think of at that age, or any punishment, as a consequence of what I was about to do. It actually didn’t take long and I don’t think. I grabbed the big long stick that kept our mosquito tent erect, and reached down to Shahnaz’s sheet, and with the hook at the end of the stick I attempted not only to remove the sheet, but also pull up her skirt-like pajamas.

Well ... why did I think she would not wake up or why did I think I would get away with it?! All the odds were against me, the time (body clock), waking up habits, the rising noise outside, the sun which was on me already and just about to hit her, everything indicated that she was either up or ready to. But you know boys at that age. I take it back, at any age. Men think with their ... (yes, men think with their dots!).

As soon as I pulled that damned sheet off, Shahnaz was up. That girl was up the entire time and was waiting for it. She grabbed the stick lightning fast. I didn’t even get a chance to blink. I was smaller than her and in a higher and weaker position as well. All she had to do was hang on to the stick and yank it ... and there you have it! I fell and landed on their beds, on their balcony, and then onto her, painfully! This is the perfect usage for “Gooz-Malagh Shodan”.

Although my landing made a loud sound, I did not break anything. Still, it was very painful. I got up as quickly as I fell and I don’t know how I climbed that wall back onto our roof -- I was up there long before her mother got to the balcony, said something to Shahnaz, and quickly left. Yes, I made it ok to our own roof, safe, with one little caveat: She had the mosquito tent stick and as I was climbing the wall, she grabbed my pajamas and pulled it off my legs!

I still can’t remember how I climbed that wall but I remember I did it with one hand as I was grabbing my underwear from being pulled down along with the pants.

After a bit of begging, she threw the pants back at me as her mother walked onto the balcony. She kept the stick though.

Was I more embarrassed about what had happened, or more afraid to explain to my parents how I lost the mosquito tent stick and how it came into the neighbor's daughter's possession...?

I finally decided:

-- “Shanhnaz, oon choobe Pash-e band ro mish-e bedi? Lotfan?” (Would you give me that mosquito net stick, PLEASE?)

-- “Nah baba.” (No sorry.)

-- “Toro khodaa?!!”, (For Heaven’s sake) I begged, and reached for the stick, from up there but carefully making sure I wasn’t going to fall again. “Joon-e maadaret bedeh”? (To your Mother’s soul, please?)

I kept begging, and “Boro baba” (No way) and “Boro bebinam” (get lost) was her responses.

“Shahnaz khodeto chos nakon, choobamo bedeh.” (Don’t be such an ass, give me that stick.)

-- “Haalaa ke harf-e zesht zadi aslan behet nemidam.” (Now that you used fowl language, I will never give it to you.)

-- “Bebakhseed Shahnaz -- Be khoda digeh harf-e bad nemizanam, mish-e choob-e pash-e band-o bedi?” (I am sorry -- I am sorry -- I swear to god, I will not say anything bad, ever again, can I have that stick?)

-- “Aval begoo to khodeto chos kardi, na man”, (You first have to admit that it is you who is an ass, not I) she insisted,

-- “Baash-e”, (OK) I nodded.

-- “Na, baayad begee” (Nope -- You have to say the whole thing.)

-- “Baash-e, man khodam-o chos kardam” (Ok -- I was being an ass)

-- “Begoo ghalat karadam va goh khordam” (Admit it and say that you did something bad and you eat shit) she asked

-- “Baash-e -- ghalat kardam va goh Khordi” (I did something pretty bad and you ate shit) I responded. She reacted by pretending to leave, but I corrected myself: “Bebakhsheed, bebakhsheed, ghalat kardam va goh khordam.” (Sorry, sorry, I did)...

Well, after she hit me a few times with the stick, and a couple of times in the head as I was trying to grab the stick out of her hands (zad too fargh-e saram -- right in the middle of my head), she finally gave me back the stick.

What a relief it was to get my precious stick back, so worthless and yet so precious! I packed the beds, hid that painfully-fought-for stick, and ran downstairs.

Later on my sister said: “Fekr mikonam een Shahnaz divoonas. Emrooz sobh daasht baa choobesh ye cheezi ro mizad, az in paa’yeen hame-ye joonesh peydaa bood.” (I think Shahnaz was losing it today. I saw her this morning on their balcony and she was playing with a piece of wood and hitting our roof. From down here, I could see her undies!)

After breakfast Shahnaz came to our house and we played LayLay (hopscotch), as if nothing had happened ...

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Translated by Dick Davis

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