Today I asked my mother why she named me Azarin.
My name, Azarin, means a type of volcanic rock similar to granite. When volcanoes erupt, granite rocks are thrust into space, and when they first contact air, they lose their heat and turn worthless, items unusable for any kind of jewelry. Granite rocks are two-faced. One minute they are hot, and the next minute they turn cold. One minute they are red, and the next minute black.
In Persian, Azarin means also “like fire.” As a child I always wondered why my parents named me this because I never saw any fire in me. I used to nag a lot, but I was harmless; when I judge my old self, I condemn only my temporary arrogance. I was a good student, and somehow I felt that fact offered to me the choice of feeling different.
In Iran, my loneliness was my own choice. I loved to read and I was satisfied with my status as a nerd. Like a shadow, I reflected the darkness of an imaginary world created by the books I read; I almost believed I was invincible in that other world, and crossing the border to enter the reality on the other side was not worthwhile.
My bubble kept me safe and unique.
The revolution and war with their unpredictability and the closing of borders and universities changed my world. I felt as if I’d been tossed like a pebble into reality, and not even my name saved me. I never heard the sound of the cracking of my cocoon. I wasn’t religious, so I hated all religions and had no use for those who did practice. I wasn’t a leftist, so I hated political activists marching in the streets demanding changes. I needed and wanted none of them. I wanted only to stay focused on Plato and Heidegger. And I dreamed of becoming like any of the philosophers--cut from truth, holding tightly to my own definition of the world. When the war began, I hated the absence of philosophy in my life, the randomness of revolution, the brutality of justice, the loneliness of death. I hated the world in which I lived and my dreamless life.
I hated a lot. But that was the easy part.
When I left Iran, I left behind the holy war, my home beneath the falling bombs, my burst bubble and my dreams. I carried in my luggage only the seed of my hatred. On the day of departure I felt as if I died, and in France I became Azarine. Lacking the sounds of wars, revolution and dreams, the old Azarin disappeared, but my hatred didn’t vanish; it grew as I heard breaking news of lost friends and saw images of innocent cadavers. My hatred changed through years, like my changing name. It grew larger and became like a tree, a weeping tree, and it wrapped my soul within its dark branches and hid the beauty of the world from me, this other person with a name, Azarine, that had no meaning.
Twelve years later I left France to move to the United States. Once again my name changed. No one here in my new home could pronounce Azarin. They called me Azarian, Azerin, Azaarin, anything but the correct name. And so, again, I became the shadow to that other person who wasn’t me.
If my hatred tree had roots these would have been in the United States, roots growing underground through the vast meadows of France, reaching at long last the dry deserts of Iran. If my hatred tree had a color it would be black. If my hatred tree had leaves, they would be brittle. If my hatred tree had a temperature, it would be cold. And if my hatred tree had a shadow, I would lie down, immobile, under its lonely shade, waiting to become – at last - that black stone that is supposed to link my being with its definition.
“Why Azarin?” I repeated my question to my mother.
My mother paused, looked at me and said, “While I was pregnant, I saw a lovely picture of a woman named Azarin.”
“Did you keep the picture?” I asked her.
“No. I didn’t need to remember her once you were born...” my mother said with a smile.
And I knew she was right. Even an old hatred tree needs love to exist. My mother, who never read philosophy, told me this without saying a word. I blushed, red-faced, confused, rootless.
What if the lost volcano of my birth never existed?
What if I were truly changing like a blaze, metamorphosing from past minute to this one, from this one to the next? Changing color from black to red, from red to black? What if I were flying like a tossed stone, from here to there, from there to somewhere else? What if I were straying, like a nomadic weeping tree, swaying from hatred to serenity, from serenity to hatred?
What if I had already turned truly into my own evolving name? What if I had already become a foreigner, in between, far from who I was, close to whom I would be?
What if I do have a meaning after all? What if I have finally become Azarin, the one who is like fire?
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