He made up grand stories and I believed every one of them
By Shahrzad Irani
December 8, 1998
It has been twenty years since I last saw my Pesar Daayee. When we were
kids, I used to follow him everywhere. He used to make up grand stories
and I believed every one of them. Every summer, we used to go to Tehran
to visit our relatives. I loved visiting my uncle's house. At nights, they
would put several beds side by side in the balcony so all of us kids could
sleep under the stars.
My cousin and I used to sneak away from the dinner party, lie down on
the laahaaf and hold hands, watching the stars. He would, very scientifically,
describe each star and say their names. It was like a magic show and he
was the magician. He would look intensely at the sky and suddenly yell:
"There it is! The RED Star" and proceed with a story as to how
the star got its name.
What made me happy were not the stories but just listening to him. His
world seemed so colorful. Everything interested him. I was content with
holding hands, being the center of his attention, and his dearest cousin.
We had a special bond. Although we played with other cousins too, he would
only tell me stories.
Some nights, we would sit on the stairs and listen to grown ups. When
I would get tired, I would lean on his shoulder and close my eyes. One
night, I heard his mother tell my mother that she could not wait for us
to grow up and to have me as their bride. I know now that his mother was
tarofing but in my childish mind I thought that that was my destiny and
that was how people got married. I was pretending to be asleep next to
my cousin on the stairs, but I remembered the warmth of my cheeks. I must
have turned very red.
I looked up to him. Although I was a bit of a tomboy and would stand
up to his older bully brother, I would adoringly follow him in his adventures
around the neighborhood. I should have married him. He would have been
the perfect husband. I was not in love with him but life was magical with
His parents had a stormy marriage and fought all the time. When he was
14, they separated and sent him to a military school in the middle of nowhere
in America. I was also sent to a girls boarding school on the U.S. east
coast. We did not see each other for a few years until we both graduated
from high school.
When he agreed to come for a visit, I could not wait to look at the
stars with him again. I thought my favorite cousin was coming and I could
spent time with him without worrying about the revolution and what was
happening to our lives. I wanted to forget all of that and live in his
magical world. But he had changed. He was very serious. He had a haunting
look in his eyes. I had never seen sadness in his eyes before.
I kept asking him questions. I thought maybe he had fallen in love with
someone and could not tell me. He would not tell me what the problem was.
He would not say much at all.
One night, I had fallen and scraped my knees badly. He walked me to
the health center. It was the only time we had been alone together in a
long time. My English was not as good as his. He told me to tell the nurse
that she should amputate my knee. I did not know what it meant. I thought
it must be some kind of disinfecting method. When I saw the look on the
nurse's face, I knew. I turned around and I saw his smile, just like the
old days. We both started to laugh. I tired to explain to the nurse but
it was useless.
On our way back home, he seemed to want to tell me something but I guess
he could not find the words. He seemed to keep loosing things. He could
not find his airline ticket or phone book. He had many headaches. I asked
him about it several times. He said they were migraines and the doctor
had given him pills for it.
He would lie on the couch across from me and stare for hours. I was
at a loss for words. I tried to talk to him about what we would study in
college. He seemed very distant. I grew angrier by the hour. Why was he
so distant? Why would he not hold my hand on our way back home from the
He left after a few days with the promise of calling soon. Few months
later, the phone rang and all the stars vanished from my sky -- forever.
My dearest cousin had died of an inoperable brain tumor. He had known for
months but had not told a soul.
I am still mad at him for not giving me the opportunity to tell him
how much I loved him -- and I still feel guilty for being mad at him. I
guess he had come to say goodbye. How lonely he must have felt. I did see
a bit of the old magic in his eyes; they were shining and smiling at me.
You will always be magical to me, wherever you are, Pesar Daayee.