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The mirror and the book
Till we meet again, till we part again

By Hossein Samiei
January 26, 2001
The Iranian

Before dawn, you bring the mirror and put it on the tray, next to the bowl of water and green leaves, next to the Book of God. You arrange the three items carefully on the tray.

You comb your hair, put on your long coat and dark blue scarf and boots, pick up the tray, and walk to the door. You open the door and hold the tray straight ahead of me, in front of the door. Then you look at me, as if to say why now, why so soon, why ever?

Your eyes are tired and red. You didn't sleep last night. You had set the alarm, of course, but then you'd just laid there on your bed, staring at the old clock for hours, until finally, feeling ashamed, the alarm had conceded and gone off before dawn.

I walk toward you and stop in front of the tray. I look at you, as if to say I shall return soon, I shall return always. Your eyes are tired but filled with emotions. I look into the mirror on the tray and see two eyes that solemnly look into the distance, beyond the mirror. I turn to the Book, the Book of God, I pause for a moment. What is my faith?

I hear the ever-questioning, the unyielding voice from that distant corner of mind. But time is short. I bring my head down and feel the Book's velvet cover with my lips and smell its old age. I walk under the tray to the other side, turn around gently, and look into the mirror again. I kiss the Book and let my forehead touch it fleetingly, before I pick up my suitcase and walk outside.

We take the elevator down to the parking lot and get into the car. Four sleepy, pensive faces, getting ready to part. There is silence in the car as we drive to the airport. The kind that is purposeful, not incidental. The kind that has a presence.

Outside, darkness is slowly giving way to light. A few stubborn stars, including those on the belt and armor and four corners of the Orion -- my companion of winter nights -- are resisting the approaching daylight; they stare at us silently, but inquisitively, as if to ask why now? Why at this early hour? Why ever?

You're sitting in the back, next to me, quietly watching the oncoming traffic. I look at your hands. And your tired eyes. And your gentle face. Passage of time has left its mark, but never dared touch the beauty, the purity. I try to read your mind, perhaps you're thinking why? Why always going away? Always separation? Who knows, who will ever know?

I close my eyes, half awake, half asleep...We're walking in a narrow pathway. I'm holding the mirror and you the Book. I look around. I recognize the apple orchard instantly -- the one from your childhood, the one that I know only through your memories -- although now the trees are covered by lights and crystals, brilliant and dazzling, and the pathway goes on forever. I look above. There are stars, lots of them, all bright, all white. I hear music, from a distant past, from a distant future, from the heavens. I look below, there's nothing. We are walking in air, on thin clouds, not of this earth...

Sometimes you're tall and I'm small, and I hang on to your skirt and you hold me tight so I do not fall. Sometimes I'm tall and you're fragile, and you lean on me and I put my arm tightly around you; you who brought me into this world, you who united us forever. On that trail, we are lost among stars and clouds and lights and crystals and music. Gentle and soft and soothing, and yet exciting and mysterious. Melancholic and yet promising. We're walking in that ethereal trail till eternity, you holding the Book and I the mirror...

A voice calls out my name. I open my eyes. It's your tender voice. We're approaching the airport. I'm back on earth. Back on the road to Mehrabad. Banal and ordinary with no glitter.

Inside the airport, I carry my suitcase, heavy as always, through the customs and check-in, for what that feels like hours. Then I walk back to the terminal, to find you. I look around, among the crowd of thousands, my eyes meet yours instantly, as they always have, as they always will. Those eyes that emit, all at once, affection and anxiety and beauty and anger and smile and tears and pains of parting. All that crammed in just two beautiful, gentle eyes. I embrace you tightly for a long moment. I kiss your cheeks. Then I walk out to the gate.

A little after dawn, the plane flies out. In Washington DC -- where I'll arrive in 18 hours or so -- it's still the night before, someone's probably getting ready to go to bed, someone's thinking what to wear at the airport tomorrow, someone's trying to recall the taste of my lips on hers. It's been over a month. Meanwhile, I imagine you back at the house, putting away the mirror and the Book in that safe, secret place, till we meet again, till we laugh again, till we part again.

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