Not a love story
Merry Christmas, Sandy. Wherever you are
By Shahrokh Zarnegar
December 21, 2000
Last week I was in London for a meeting with some clients. I work for
an oil services company. We service oil drilling equipment, to be exact.
My plane landed on time, but I got stuck in traffic between Heathrow and
Central London. I was going to be late for my appointment but I couldn't
use my cell phone. I had forgotten to ask my phone company to make the
necessary adjustments to be able to use it in Europe.
I took the first exit into London and parked by a pay phone. I went
inside the booth and memories came rushing...
It was Christmas Eve, 1987. I was sitting under the cupid in Piccadilly
Square, staring at the giant neon lights. Coca Cola. Sanyo. McDonalds.
Flashing bright colors. Reds, yellows, blues. They were telling me: Buy!
Buy! Buy! And I loved it. But it didn't cheer me up. Not that night.
It was probably the most turbulent time in my life. My wife and I had
separated after six years of marriage. I had lost faith in everything.
My daily prayers, which I had started after the revolution, had stopped
months ago. I was eating Big Macs, even though I knew the meat was not
halal. And I wanted to quit my cushy job at the London office of
the National Iranian Oil Company, better known as KALA.
But what could I do? Where would I go? I was an Iranian citizen in the
capital of Great Britain at the peak of the Iran-Iraq war. Khomeini --
Imam Khomeini -- was railing against the enemies of Islam in every corner
of the world.
I still had my beard. If you had seen me you might have thought I'm
a Passdar -- revolutionary guard. The only difference was
that my overkot was gray instead of the more common olive green.
I wanted to divorce my wife, God and the revolution. But I had nothing
to replace them with. I felt terribly alone. I needed to be hugged. Badly.
I made up my mind. I was going to do it. The hell with everyone and
Determined, and completely terrified, I walked inside a phone booth
and started looking at the names and phone numbers written in bold letters.
There were names like "Wild Wendy", "Shelly the She Devil",
"Paula Please", "Kitty Cat", and "Breasty Barbara".
I picked up the phone and dialed the number for "Sandy the Australian
-- "... "
-- "Would you like to meet Sandy?"
-- "Come to..."
The apartment was only ten minutes away by foot. But by the time I got
there I felt ten years had gone by. I could not believe I was turning my
back against everything I believed in. I could go to hell just thinking
about what I was about to do. I could get a thousand lashes, castrated,
and executed by stoning. I could carry a huge guilt for the rest of my
life. I rang the bell.
A woman opened the door. She was slender; maybe in her fifties. She
wore a black turtleneck sweater and trousers. She was the woman I had spoken
to on the phone. I recognized her calm voice.
-- "May I help you?"
-- "Is Sandy here?"
-- "Come in please."
I walked into a narrow hallway. The woman closed the door.
-- "We are a little busy tonight. There's someone already in the
waiting room. I'm going to ask you to sit in the bathroom. I'll call you
in a few minutes. I hope you don't mind."
Did I hear correctly? I have to wait in the bathroom?
At least it was clean. Much cleaner than the bathroom in my own house.
New bar of soap. Fresh towels. Not a single strand of hair lying anywhere.
Small basket of flowers on the shelf behind the toilet.
I put the toilet cover down and sat with my hands over my face. "What
are you doing? WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" I thought to myself. I couldn't
sit still. My knees were shaking. Every second was an eternity. Knock,
-- "You can come out now."
The woman led me to the waiting room.
-- "Sandy will be with you shortly."
I sat on the edge of one of the two single beds. A pornographic video
was playing on the TV. I couldn't watch. It looked disgusting. And yet
I was there to experience the real thing.
Sandy walked in the door. She didn't look like anything I had imagined.
I hadn't imagined anything in particular. But she just didn't come across
as a prostitute. She looked like a regular girl. A woman I could have met
in an office. Not beautiful, but attractive. Maybe 20 pounds overweight,
but sexy. In her early thirties. Short, light-brown hair -- not blond.
But she did have an Australian accent.
-- "Hi. I'm Sandy. What can I do for you this evening?"
-- "... I'm not sure."
-- "Would you like regular sex or... "
-- "Okay. That would be 50 pounds."
-- "... I only have 35."
-- "I'm sorry. Fifty is the minimum."
-- "I understand. But I honestly do not have more than 35 pounds
-- "Okay. I'm going to give you a discount. It's Christmas Eve."
Should I say thank you? "Thank you."
-- "Let's go into the bedroom. Shall we?"
The bedroom was right across the hallway.
Sandy was naked in two seconds. She pulled down her skirt, unbuttoned
her short-sleeved shirt and went under the cover. It took me a lot longer
to undress. I felt terribly shy, stupid and insecure. And the lights were
on. She tried to calm my nerves.
-- "So what do you do?"
-- "... I'm a student."
-- "Oh how nice! What do you study?"
-- "... History."
-- "Do you like it?"
-- "It's okay..."
I laid down next to her. Her body was warm. And very smooth. I put my
arms around her waist and began kissing her shoulder and neck. I was suddenly
so happy. It felt so good just to hold her. All my fears vanished.
I began making love to her. Slowly. I wanted it to last forever. I wasn't
going to let her go. I wasn't going to face that terrible world outside
I tried to kiss her. I tried again. And again. But her lips were tightly
sealed. I tried again.
-- "Honey, this isn't a love story."
I didn't understand what she meant exactly. I knew she didn't want to
kiss, but I wasn't sure why. Did I have to pay extra for kissing? I didn't
know prostitutes usually don't kiss clients. It's too intimate, supposedly
(more so than intercourse?). And there's the risk of catching a disease.
I didn't know. I took it personally. The fantasy was over.
As I got out of bed, I noticed I was wearing a condom. Sandy had slipped
it on without me noticing.
-- "Was this the first time you had sex?"
-- "... Yes."
-- "I'm sorry, love. You should have told me. I hope you had a
good time anyway."
-- "I did. Thank you."
I don't remember a thing after that. I don't even remember leaving that
bedroom. I don't know how I got home. I don't remember if I was happy or
sad. But I was a different man.
Merry Christmas, Sandy. Wherever you are... : - x