If you are under 18 and happen to read
this, talk to an adult afterwards. And ask lots of questions.
June 18, 2001
Today is my birthday. I am 39. Here at a friend's party, another fellow
Libran, I seem happy and well adjusted to my single life. Which understandably
takes less to adjust to than would a double life. A little joke there to
amuse myself. It has come to this. A man I don't know is staring at me from
across the room. Undoubtedly due to the fact that not only am I speaking
to myself but I'm laughing in response to this self-entertainment as well.
Another freak, he must be thinking. No, honey, just one woman who doesn't
need the likes of you. No, I'm not bitter, just tired. Tired of it all.
Perhaps even too tired to ever experience love again.
I remember the first time I stayed awake all night thinking of a boy.
I was twelve; he was seventeen. Our meeting was like a scene from a music
video. I was walking home from school through the field where the neighborhood
kids played soccer. I always did that to see who was around and if a good
game had started already in which case I would rush back to the field as
soon as I had dropped off my books at home and changed clothes. I was given
two precious hours in the afternoons to play. Those were the hours to live
for. When I along with the neighborhood boys separated into opposing teams
and through sand and sweat, and much untrained kicking about and aimless
shooting of some dainty plastic excuse of a ball, proved our superiority
It was on one of those days -- a day like many others before it but unlike
any that came after it -- that I was walking home from school hoping for
a good game of soccer, expecting at most a narrow victory and instead I
found myself drawn to two inquisitive eyes. He was tall and thin wearing
Lee jeans and white Adidas sneakers, the ones with three stripes. He had
taste! His wavy brown hair covered his eyes when he turned to take a second
look at me. He turned his body as his hand reached for his face to pull
back the hair blocking his view. I believe I stopped breathing. I believe
we stared at each other for three whole months but for some reason I continued
walking only turning my head once to catch another glimpse of him. Still
standing there. Still looking my way. I felt his gaze branding my back as
I walked away.
No one was home when I arrived. I sat on my bed frozen. We had turned
what must have been a greenroom into a bedroom for me. I was surrounded
with glass walls and a glass ceiling two-stories up. I had turned into glass
too. I could feel the sun burning my body, from the inside and out. Something
unrecognizable was growing inside me. I heard my sister come in. Normally
I would jump up and tell her all about my day in one breath and run out
without giving her a chance to say anything. Not the case that day. I sat
frozen staring through the glass door of my room and all I could see were
two inquisitive eyes covered with wild strands of brown hair. Who was he,
what was his name? I didn't go to the soccer field that evening and I didn't
sleep that night. As I stayed awake all night I thought to myself this must
be how it feels to fall in love. When after a few conversations and one
treasured movie date my beloved found out that I was only twelve he stopped
speaking to me and after a while he stopped coming to the soccer field all
together. I swept the broken pieces of my heart under the carpet and built
an iron wall around where it used to sit in my chest.
The next summer I ran into that same boy at a club. It was the first
day of martial law in Tehran. Ambivalent to the gravity of the situation,
my cousin and I were looking forward to another routine fun-filled Friday
hanging out by the pool watching tanned bodies glisten in the sun. Unbeknownst
to us, that was to be our last Friday at the club. Three months later my
sister and I left Iran never to return. When I first saw my ex-beloved that
Friday over a year after he so nonchalantly threw my heart to the wolves,
he had his back to me. A nice back my cousin and I agreed laughing, and
then he turned and caught us evaluating his ass. "Oh, it's you,"
he said visibly impressed with my development. I threw him a casual "Oh,
yes, hi..." with a cold smile and walked away hand in hand with my
cousin never looking back. I had grown up. And like many others I had packed
away my heart in the process.
Now this man is staring at me from across the room with a smile the content
of which I'm only too familiar with. Those walls in my chest have not entirely
disappeared. In fact they may have actually grown thicker in recent years.
Hollow. It describes many aspects of me and my life. Tired of the letting
in and driving out games. Tired of the cycle of finally trusting some one
only to be betrayed later. Today is my birthday and I feel incapable of
even making an attempt. Today is my birthday and I refuse to show my heart,
to share my thoughts. Anything remotely beyond casual repartee will cause
tremors in my being. Today is my birthday and I have not loved in what seems
like years. I am sick of love and the crimes committed in its name. Iron
walls are all I have to offer. Interested? Yes. Well then, perhaps I will
have that drink.
Nader is his name. A dot.com transplant from the East Coast. Chattering
away. Using his hands nicely to draw pictures of his thoughts in the air.
His voice is warm, dare I say even sincere. His looks are acceptable. His
coloring: mixes of brown, black and green. Or maybe it's the color of his
jacket that brings out the green in his mostly brown eyes. My body is unconsciously
moving to the beat of the House music I hear in the background. Just keeping
rhythm, nothing too conspicuous. Nader is describing his idea for a virtual
city-planning site, so people can have a say in what kind of environment
they live in. Urban, is the word that comes to my mind. But who would actually
sit there and design a whole city? Nader thinks many would. Sensing that
he may be losing my attention he asks me to dance. No, I say without a doubt
yet unaware of exactly why.
Usually I spend the entire time at a party dancing. With myself, mostly.
Nader is still talking, blah, blah, blah. It's like that dog-and-master
caricature where the dog only hears "blah, blah, Spot, blah, blah.."
I'm not even hearing my name. Except now, I do. Behind me stands a man whose
life I wished I could end two years ago. I recognize his scent even before
I feel his gaze. His dark green eyes framed in lavish black lashes. The
only man I ever found absolutely breathtaking. He is wishing me a happy
birthday. Why thank you. Oh, this is Naseem, my wife. Pleased to meet you,
excuse me. I walk away leaving Nader there to get to know Mr. M. It's only
natural that you should be more interested in Mr. M at this point than in
Nader. I would be too. And I was, briefly, before my body went on strike
and beat some sense into my head. There was a Naseem back then too and I
knew it. Even when I had sex with Mr. M I knew there was a Naseem. Not something
I do often. Never before or after that unhappy occasion.
We met at one of those weekend retreats. Where people go to be alone
with themselves but for some odd reason they go with a large group of people
who also want to be alone with themselves. I think it's because we only
find ourselves truly alone in the company of others. I don't know but somehow
it makes sense. So we were alone with a whole bunch of other people for
two whole days and the occasion called for much sharing and "being
here now" as the Zen-experienced would call it. M was among the more
joyful characters in the bunch. I was jealous of his energy. For a long
time I had lost that lightness of being. My load was heavy and my resistance
high. And M made me laugh on occasion. It is the greatest gift I think,
to be able to make people laugh. We spoke very briefly through the weekend.
I actually did spend my no-scheduled-activity time alone either in my room
or mostly walking around the Asylomar campgrounds. The beach in Monterey
is uniquely raw. It draws you near and scares you away all at once. The
autumn wind breaks through your skin and grabs your insides. I needed to
throw my insides into the ocean. There was so much anger and pain locked
up in my veins that my blood could hardly move through them. But for some
reason I couldn't let go of any of it.
It had been smart of me to extend the cabin reservation an extra evening
to leave Monday morning and miss the Sunday night traffic. But the large
food hall was filled only with the echo of the now departed voices and after
two days of group support I was feeling abandoned and unable to go on without
peer approval. Then he showed up at my table. A bright angel with his eyes
glowing and his words getting lost in the song of his sweet laughter. Without
understanding what he said I nodded for him to please join me. He was delighted
that I am Iranian, so is his wife. Yes, I remembered him showing her picture
at one of the group sharing sessions. He had said how much he loves her
and their lovely son. I shared nothing of my misadventures. Why start now?
What I really wanted to do was get drunk. Get drunk and dance all night
and never sleep again.
M loved the idea and before you can say jump we were on his motorcycle
on our way to some salsa joint in Salinas. The place was deserted but for
a few devoted salsa fans. And within five minutes after the first double
shots of tequila, one of them requested to dance with me. It didn't take
long for my enthusiasm to become evident on the dance floor. Between M and
five other guys my feet got pretty good training in the numerous variations
of salsa, meringue, and some sort of Spanish waltz. I was flying. Just give
me a dance floor and all my troubles will just stay oh, so far away. Every
time I came back from the dance floor, I would find a note from M next to
my Tequila glass. Some comment on my dancing technique or a rehashing of
some concept from the session. Gradually the notes became more personal.
Gradually I found my lips getting closer to his ear. Gradually his touch
became tighter around my waist. I saw myself flirting with a married man.
I observed my shrill laughter in response to his lascivious comments. I
watched myself walk down the path. I knew where it was leading. I wanted
it to lead there.
What I remember most clearly about M's naked body is his perfect erection.
He looked like a Greek God painted on a vase. I had my back to him fiddling
with the CD player. He kissed the back of my shoulder. I turned on the music.
He pulled off my shirt. I lowered the volume. He turned me to face him and
as he pressed my bulging nipples against his sweaty body I felt like his
penis would pierce through my belly. He pushed me back on the table to get
my pants off. The boom box fell off and for the rest of the night the only
music in the cabin was made by our two hungry bodies. What can I say? It
was good. What made it even better was the next morning. When contrary to
my expectation M continued to be caring and intimate. He made a big joke
out of not finding his socks and made me laugh so hard when in pretend desperation
he put on my stockings. I napped while he took a shower and pretended to
be asleep when he whispered goodbye in my ear and softly kissed my nape.
I melted in the pillow when he turned back to leave a note on the bed. Hardly
capable of waiting to read it. The note simply said 'Thank you for being
I thought I would never see him again. I thought M would be my one and
only one-night-stand. But it wasn't meant to be. I wasn't meant to have
a one-night-stand, or so I feared. All was well until one morning about
a couple of months after the session I got an email from M saying he's going
to be in town and would I have dinner with him. That's when the pain started.
The worst cramps of my life. You must understand, I'm blessed with very
short, light periods. Three days max, maybe one day of cramps. But these,
oh were these ever... it was as if someone was pulling my tubes out of me.
My sister, God bless her, had given me a book to read around that time titled
"Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom" (everyone, men and women, should
read this book). Anyway, in it there is a chapter about pain, and it said
something about how we react to "feeling screwed" and that the
feelings of guilt we might be having about the sexual act may result in
Was I feeling guilty? Did I feel screwed? It's always been difficult
for me to decipher exactly how I feel. For this reason my body has learned
to protect itself against unwanted activities by basically making it impossible
for me to engage in them. In this case, my body did not want another fabulous
night with Mr. M. And the thought of his return visit initiated four days
of deadly pain in the abdomen. Pain that was only partially relieved by
writing an apology letter to Naseem for "screwing her" by sleeping
with her husband. No, I didn't mail the letter. Where would I send it? It
was just a cathartic act. I thought about making some excuse and not meet
M for dinner but that would be pretty lame. So I promised my body that even
if he begged me and seduced me beyond my wildest imagination I would refuse
to sleep with him again. Yes, I would be strong. This is not right. I'm
not in the habit of stealing people's mate away. I wouldn't want anyone
to do it to me.
And so on I went to meet M even though the pain made it difficult for
me to stand up straight. We had a very nice dinner, casual conversation,
no mention of the last occasion we spent time together. I was reminded of
how much I enjoy his company. After dinner I asked him if he would want
to go anywhere else, maybe to the city for a drink or to hear some music.
He smiled and said no. That he's tired and has to prepare for an early meeting
the next morning. He thanked me for my kindness. And then out of no where
asked me if I know Dariush. Of course, I said. We've been friends for a
long time. Oh, it just so happens that Naseem and Dariush went to the same
school! Oh, what an interesting coincidence. I gave him two very light kisses
on both cheeks and walked rather rapidly to my car. I almost felt rejected.
Why didn't he want to be with me? Was I just a one-night-stand to him? It
was only then that I noticed the absence of any pain. Absolutely gone. He
didn't give me the chance to refuse him which pissed me off royally but
my body seemed happy with how things had turned out. This is good news.
As I drove away I wondered if I might ever run into him again, and his wife.
Nader seems to be enjoying M's company. I watch Naseem from a distance.
She has no breasts. I don't like boobless women. Her body is pretty nice
otherwise. In general I prefer women with some meat on their bones. But
then again perhaps I'm biased given my own so-called excess weight. I think
I use it quite well, how is it in 'excess?' Naseem is chatting with Dariush.
Oh, so happy to see you again after such a long time. I'm afraid of approaching
her. Guilt does that to me. What am I doing here anyway? Most of these people
couldn't care less if I stuck around or not. Maybe I should just gather
my stuff and hit the road. Almost 40, proven ability in walking out. This
one thing I can do. The question is where the hell is my coat? From the
corner of my eye I see that smile again. Nader is standing there holding
a blue box in his hands.
- "You're not leaving, are you?"
- "Why yes, in fact I am."
- "That's too bad. I was rather hoping to maybe... dance with you
- "Or something?"
- "Maybe chat a little more. You didn't say much."
- "I'm more of an action person. Talk is cheap."
- "This is true. Well, maybe we'll run into each other some other
- "Yeah, maybe."
- "Or maybe you could, or I could give you my number."
- "I'm sure you can."
- "Do you specialize in dead-end answers or is this a unique occasion?"
For the first time he's said something interesting. I look at him, the
little blue box in his hands. I have my coat on, my scarf loosely around
my neck, car keys in my hand. He is handsome. His crooked smile gives him
a devilish charm I hadn't detected before.
- "What's with the box?"
- "Oh, I almost forgot. Massimo asked me to give it to you. He said
it is your birthday too. Is it?"
- "I see. Well, would you please tell Massimo that if he doesn't
have the guts to give me the gift himself then he should just shove it up
his ass? Thank you and good-bye."
I walk determined to exit before the ache in my belly would make me crash
on the floor.
I mean there was a time when men prided themselves in having courage.
Nowadays they have all turned into fearful little mice. Oh, what a waste
to even spend an hour with them. I think I hear Nader's voice yelling something
back there. "His wife wasn't feeling well; he had to leave." What
a damn shame!