My absence

The airport is crowded... I close my eyes, raising my arm in air


My absence
by Azarin Sadegh

Mehrabad airport is crowded. Everybody seems in a rush to leave Iran. The air is dry. It’s the end of September, but the heat belongs to July.

I push my valise on the floor, over the remaining pile of yesterday’s newspapers. A few pages are dragged with my suitcase. I stop pushing. I’m too tired.

As the sweat runs over my forehead, I remember the exact moment when the three Pasdars raided the house last night. I wipe the sweat and wish I could wipe the tears off my mother’s face as she stood there at the center of the living room with all the eyes set on her. My mother, the woman who knows how to hide behind a serene smile, even when there’s a thunderstorm blowing her mind away.

It was nothing but an ordinary family gathering, I say to myself. Just a simple goodbye party! I push the suitcase full of my winter and summer clothes and my books. Full of dictionaries; French to Persian and Persian to French. Full of dried fruit and pistachios that Father bought me yesterday.

I kick my valise. I wish I could kick the men who made Mother weep and who made Father forget his pride. I picture him begging them to let me go. “She has a flight to catch,” Father said. I kick harder my valise that’s full of my future.

Nothing moves. I’m tempted to sit on the floor and to sob the way Father did, the way Mother did, the way I should have done, but I didn’t. I’m tempted to give up.

I had never seen Mother being so loud. I had never seen Father being so little. We had never embraced each other so tight, being so close, still so far.

All the travelers around me are waving at someone behind us. I don’t need to turn. What if I turn and I find there’s no one there waving at me?

I turn back.

The airport is crowded. All the faces look at me and smile. All those strangers wave at me.

I close my eyes, raising my arm in air.

In an effortless moment, I catch a last glimpse of my parents, both behind the airport’s large window. Mother in her green raincoat and Father, all in black. It’s summer. It’s a hot day, but the way they move, the way they touch the glass, as if they’re standing in the rain. As if their gaze has already reached the approaching winter. As if I’m already gone.

Feeling alone, I open my eyes and smile, waving at my own absence.


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Azarin Sadegh

More thanks!

by Azarin Sadegh on

Dear David, Balouchi, JJ, Jamshid, and Mason,

Thanks to all of you for reading my essay and also for your lovely comments...and sorry for my late reply!

Dear David, Like you, I was also in a rush to leave...still after so many years I have the impression that I never fully left. As if a part of me refused to get into that plane..:-)

Dear Balouchi, I'm so happy to share this story with you...Unfortunately, we're not alone! We might be the burnt generation, but we aren't dead yet!! So I think through remembering and writing our shared memories-- hopefully-- we will be able to heal our old burns and wounds. 

Dear JJ, Thank you! But it is kind of strange to see the disproportion between the time spent on this one (compared to my other essays) and the final result! But I guess life isn't fair!

Dear Jamshid, It’s so good to see that you’re still here! I don’t know why I thought you had disappeared! But now I realize that I could be the one disappearing refusing to read the social/political/non-literary articles!

Dear Mason, Actually, I used to write in Persian in a journal as long as I lived in Iran (until 1983), but since then, except for a few terrible poems (that I hide with vigor), I haven’t written anything else in Persian... 

Honestly, I have been away from the Iranian literature for too long, but my favorite Iranian writers are Sadegh Hedayat and Hooshang Golshiri. I like also Ahmad Mahmood’s style of writing. My favorite poets are Nima, Akhavan, Shamloo and of course Forough! Voila!

Thanks again, Azarin


Favored Writer

by Mason (not verified) on

Dear Azarin, I have read some of your essays, excellent writing especially my absence. Do you write in Farsi as well? Who is your favored recent Iranian writer? Thank you


Dear Azarin

by JamshidNotLoggedIn (not verified) on

You have a good way of transforming feelings into words. You brought back a lot of memories.

Jahanshah Javid


by Jahanshah Javid on

Your best writing yet.


The Burnt Generation

by Balouchi (not verified) on

Those of us who remember those thick stained glass partitions at Mehrabad separating us from our loved ones have marked that day as the day our expectations turned into exasperation and a burnt generation was born. I too had the misfortune of being imprisoned in that glass section of our bittersweet airport due to Alitalia's incompetence and had to stare into my loved ones eyes from midnight until late in the morning for my flight to depart and that day I separated from my soul and left it behind me and another young heart turned to charcoal.

Thank you for your touching memoir because it is examples such as yours that are slowly cracking those coals that are inside all of us from the burnt generation.

David ET

I went back only once

by David ET on

....I couldn't wait to leave. It was just hard to breath that heavy air of the Islamic Republic and I am not referring to pollution. 

Great piece Azarin Jaan. I am proud of you.


Azarin Sadegh

Thanks to all of you!

by Azarin Sadegh on

Dear Irandokht, MPD, Sobh, Peykan, and JD,

Thank you so much for your comments and thoughts about this story! It really means a lot to me…and it’s so useful to know what is working and what is not! :-) This story meant to be about our collective memories as the Iranians in Diaspora. Many of us, we’ll carry this last image of Iran forever.

As I wrote in my first comment, I wrote it in the class in less than 10 minutes, but I have to say that I did some editing afterwards (maybe about 20-30 minutes)…so MPD jan, please don’t feel slow! Doing your kind of writing is ten times harder than this…believe me! It’s always harder to make the reader laugh, otherwise as Iranians we’re all sometimes just a simple word away from crying!

Thanks again, Azarin



by JD (not verified) on

One can feel where you where in that juncture of time and visualize the experience almost like another passenger inside the plane. So touching. Really nice.



by Peykan on

Many of the older generation who left Iran for higher education in 1920s and 30s have also written about their emotions at the point of departure which in those days was Bandar Pahlavi (or Anzali, in late Ghajar era) and its green shore that almost always vanished in the fog...  

Keep up the good work!


Quando il gioco si fa duro, i duri iniziano a giocare


That is my story too

by sobh on

Dear Azarin, I loved the way you wrote it, short, simple but full of content.

I remember the day that I left too, I never forget it after more than 25 years. I still remember when the plane took off, after a while I could see the peak of Mountain Damavand; standing there with no fear and no intention to leave. I thought to myself, I wish I was like you.

Great job, please write more for us.

Multiple Personality Disorder

You wrote this in less than ten minutes?!

by Multiple Personality Disorder on

That's just amazing!  In ten minutes I can't even finish one sentence.

P.S. this comment took me twelve minutes to finish.


those bitter memories

by IRANdokht on

Azarin jan

Since I started reading your stories many of those haunting memories of mine have come back, but somehow, knowing now that I am not alone, helps and to some degrees heals.

on my day at Mehrabad, I didn't have the courage to smile when I raised my arm to wave the last time. I was horrified of the future I had been forced to choose. I wanted to run back, already regretting it all, as if I already knew the hardships and the heartbreaks awaiting me. I just don't know if I can ever write about them and relay those feelings as beautifully as you do.

I love your style! 


Azarin Sadegh

Write a page about something shocking you've witnessed.

by Azarin Sadegh on

This was the subject of this in-class write in less than 10 minutes.

Dear MPD, I think no matter where we are, we're trapped and rootless...trapped by lies and barriers, or by remorse. Azarin 

Multiple Personality Disorder

Oh those damn windows that separated us

by Multiple Personality Disorder on

Whenever it was time to leave, my brother would always say one of us got away, meaning they were trapped there, imprisoned in that society, and one of us escaped.  After all that has happened all these years, I often think it’s better to be trapped where one belongs than to run away to a land of no belonging.