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Where have the men gone?
(All names in this article are fictitious)


September 19, 2005

When I returned home after twenty-six-years, the land was covered black with women -- millions of them -- seven to every one boy. No men.

The boys in Tehran walk poodles these days while the men shuffling the doe celebrate this grandest of all victories.

One of my students, a pedicurist, tells me that many of the boys sit poised in beauty salons on their wedding nights, while Parvin picks their eyebrows thinner, and even puts eye-shadow in the well of their eyes.

Wednesday, July 10th
Farideh with her chestnut eyes, is crying. She has come for advice.

I met Mansoor when we were both seventeen. He made my heart leap then, and even now, the ghost of him buried in his heart, does the same.

“What happened between seventeen and forty one?”

He and his family are from Alasht. Everyone there is a gambler, even Alasht’s native son, Reza Shah, who gambled for the throne with Nosrat Dolleh. Mansoor and his entire family are gamblers too. I didn’t know it gazing at him in the mirror as he slipped me the ring.

Then, he started to come home late and later. It was really too late -- I was already pregnant with Shahin. I love my boy, still do -- he’s seventeen.

Mansoor is good with money; he used to make lots selling $25,000 Nissan Maximas for $42,000. But, he’s begun loosing it all to the cards. The past six months, we haven’t had meat in the refrigerator. When I ask for house money, he says he doesn’t have much.

God forgive me, Fardieh digs her nails into her cheeks.

“What’s wrong?”

The other night I taught Shahin to pick his father’s pocket. One hundred thousand Tomans! Mansoor was laying on our bed in drunken dreams as my son picked his pocket.

“Why did you do it?”

Was it wrong?


Mansoor is burning away everything we have in those card games. Shahin is all I have left and next summer we hope to immigrate to Vancouver. I steal money to put something away for Shahin.

“Why don’t you get a job?”

You don’t know what goes on in this town. No one will give a f orty-one-year-old mother with zero experience a job. The one oil-man who interviewed me wanted special assistance on his weekend Caspian trips.

“Can you get Mansoor to come in for some help with his gambling problem?”

I have tried everything the past ten years; he doesn’t even admit to having a problem.

“Well, something is going to give.”

Yeah, last month he wrote a bad check. His card partners took him to court. He swallowed fifteen sleeping pills this morning. Right before he went to sleep, he told me he’s going to jail for two years to kick his habit.

Tuesday of the Following Week
Negine is black and blue. This is her first session; she is fidgety, her eyes downcast.

“Hello, Mrs. Yazdani.”

Hello, Mr. Naficy, I know your voice well from all your tapes. My neighbor, Yasmine who had come to you last year, lent them to me.

“Do they help?”

They calm me down a bit, but I really need big help.

“What’s wrong?”

My husband has begun beating me again. Two years ago Ali promised it would never happen again, and he bought me perfume and sun flowers. My youngest from my first marriage hears us fighting now. She is having nightmares and is becoming obsessive/compulsive about switching off  lights. She checks the lights ten times a day, and yesterday, she started screaming in the middle of her first grade classroom.

“Can you fill me in a bit?”

Ali is an aesthetic plastic surgeon; all day women are undressing for him and many offer him sex. My four children are from a previous marriage. My first husband was a tall man from Baluchestan -- the warrior type.

I first went to visit Ali because my x-husband was unhappy with fat I couldn’t get rid of after my last childbirth. The Baluch had invited me to divorce court already. I shared my troubles with Ali and we became close through Rumi and Hafez. After my aunt and some neighbors started “talking”, we decided to marry.

The first year or so were fine; then, he started yelling -- telling me that he was growing old; that his back was breaking under the weight of foster children. He stopped paying for the groceries and I began tutoring so I could come up with house money.

“Can you make enough doing that?”

No, but thank God, when one door closes, He opens another. This Hong Kong company called Diamond Quest has opened a branch in Tehran. They run a pyramid marketing scheme, and Mr. Naficy, if I can get my mother and uncle to each buy into five hundred Dollars worth of diamonds, I can be rich as early as next Now Ruz! Would you like to invest? You don’t even have to buy diamonds; they sell gold coins with Khomeini and Pope- etchings.

“Tell me more about your marriage.”

Negine crumbles her fifth tissue,

Two weeks ago it was his secretary’s birthday. Ali rented an apartment for her two years ago; he said he felt sorry because she was a divorcee. For her birthday, he bought the woman an LG washing machine. Can you imagine! Four hundred and fifty thousand Tomans and I am going around Tehran teaching little kids multiplication tables!

The woman didn’t even flinch when she saw the washing machine. When I witnessed her expression, I was sure that my intuition had been right all along -- Ali had been having an affair for two years.

 We came home that night, and we each had a drink. When I confronted Ali with all this, he went crazy. He started hitting me; he picked up a big dictionary and he smashed it into my head. Seven stitches -- see?

“What do you want to do with your life?”

At my evening prayers last night, I asked Allah if love really exists. If I find that there is no such thing as love in this world, I will die -- I know it.

I want to sign up all the parents of the kids I tutor -- with Diamond Quest. Allah has to support my children now. 

For letters section
To Kambiz Naficy

Kambiz Naficy




Book of the day

Three volume box set of the Persian Book of Kings
Translated by Dick Davis

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