Divine Comedy

I have returned to Iran a few nights ago. I spend my days smoking and drinking with my brothers, waiting for my dad to return home in the evening, so we can sit beside each other under the pretext of watching TV. I only like watching the news. But he watches everything. I watch everything with him. It is Ramadan, and our only family member who ever fasted was my mother. Her death was also partially caused by that. But I don’t want to talk about that.

The television is showing a vulgar comedy especially produced for the holy and festive month of Ramadan. The cheap characters are washing a gigantic carpet in a river. It must be funny. I do not understand any of their words even though it is in my mother tongue and they mostly exclaim. I am transfixed. My father is laughing, so I feign laughter too. But I am tearful. My body is shivering although it is hot. I am not crying for my mother’s blinding absence, but for the frightening assurance that death does exist, and it might also happen to my father any second. A fat man and a woman in yellow hijab are yelling at each other beside the muddy river; it must be a hilarious scene, my dad is chuckling, and I pretend to do so as well. I conclude my existence would be painfully meaningless without my father. For a moment, I visualise myself without him, the image leaves me shattered and empty, a burnt ant. One of my feet shakes violently. My face is filled with soundless tears. But I am pleased as I am aware that my father is too absorbed in the divine comedy to take notice of my situation.

Where Was I?

I believe I am walking in a corridor of a British university until I realise the colouring of the walls are quite dark and there is noone around. I look back and see two Far Eastern looking figures emerging from the army green walls with guns. I then wonder whether I am in an American university. At this point, I am, of course, utterly stressed and ask the gunman and gunwoman about the exit. They point to a staircase, on which I bump into a woman who does not have a gun. This makes me warm up to her. She is wearing a white doctor’s uniform. She is tall, and has short, straight, dark hair and large dark eyes. Her skin is pale. I instantly presume that she is Iranian, and her name is Mojdeh. I step closer to her and ask in Farsi, ‘ببخشید راه خروج کجاست؟”

She doesn’t return my smile. I’m not even sure whether or not she replied to my question, however, I feel I have to follow her and she is getting me out of this monstrous building. We are descending the staircase, I am strangely pleased because I think I am getting out. But she leaves me in another room, telling me in Farsi that this is outside! ‘Biroon’

I am shocked as the room is not a room; it’s a hospital and a mental asylum. It’s called: آسایشگاه کاکیان و ساسیان

Cockiaan & Saasian. In Farsi. What does it even mean? I am stressed to the point of puking, but I try my best to remain calm. I know she will get me out, I feel I can trust her, but in a second I realise she’s left me in this horrifying section with all the patients and brown, strange machines. Mojdeh is gone.

I look at the few filthy, ill and insane people in their narrow beds, for a second, I hope that perhaps I can find my mother here but then I remember she is dead, hence, not here. I don’t know whether to be pleased or sad that she is not here. The place is horrific, and it’s a blessing not to be here. I want to get out. I want to get out.

I am trapped.

Electra in the Sun

After having read my brother’s descriptions of my mother’s dead face, I seriously contemplated suicide.

Since I did not have a peaceful life, I wanted a peaceful death.

I imagined poisoning myself quietly in my tidy room in Kensington. Then I wondered – quite regretfully – why I did not die when my sister informed me on Skype three months ago, when I fell on the floor and kept banging my head under the desk. Why didn’t I die of internal bleeding or a head injury or something like that?

My lovers, my friends, and my neighbours saved my life in London. They did not allow me to die. My conservative American neighbour, my German gay friend and my London gang. I went berserk. They tolerated and resurrected me.

Today, when I wistfully contemplated my suicide, and imagined the chicest and quietest death for myself in Kensington, and was just deciding on the best, most effective poison, I suddenly realised that my father would have to go and receive my corpse from the airport in Iran. After imagining that scene, I got up and took my vitamins and did my daily exercises. I stopped viewing suicide as a viable option.

A few hours later, I am in tears, on my bed. It is midnight, and for once in my life, I’m merely thinking about the loss of my mother – outside of our family structure. And I realise I did not mourn my mother in Tehran simply because I did not want to upset my father. This might sound ridiculous, but it made sense to me. This is exactly the length I would go in order not to upset my father. Because ten years ago, when I was a clueless teenager, he embraced me and said, ‘I can tolerate anything but your sadness.’

This is why I postponed visiting my mother’s grave as long as possible. I even said I wouldn’t attend her fortieth. I said I’d go to the cemetery in the summer… when I’m ready!

(Out of interest: is anyone ever ready to visit their mother’s grave?)

The night before, my dad mumbled he wanted me to be there on her fortieth.

I woke up early in the morning. I was hungover from a night of whiskey drinking with my brothers. In the car, we listened to Daft Punk. I banged my head as though I were in a discotheque in London. As though nothing had changed. As though I were still a hedonistic little girl, spoilt and fearless, ready to play and conquer.

For once, I appreciated and admired Tehran’s heavy traffic.  I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to be stuck in the middle of those aggressive streets forever.

We cracked hysterical jokes. I even made my younger brother laugh, which I considered an enormous victory. My older brother hadn’t said much since mum’s death. He’s seen it all. It all happened before his eyes. He says he doesn’t feel the need to ever get over it.

I was there on her fortieth. Nine in the morning, when the sun is a complete sadist in the cemetery.

My brothers disappeared, and my father took my arm, dragging me towards the right direction – my mother’s grave. A defeated commander trying to rescue his last soldier, but the soldier is fatally wounded. The battlefield smells like dried blood.

All eyes were on me. And for the first time in my life, I did not relish this.

People (our relatives) thought I would die. They called me numerous times, trying to be supportive,’You don’t have to go if you don’t want to. Don’t feel obliged to visit her grave.’ My uncles, my mother’s beloved brothers, had a row about me, as one accused the other of forcing me to go to the cemetery. I couldn’t take them seriously. I was so worried about my father’s loneliness and level of stress and blood sugar, that I couldn’t even hear their words, even when they were wailing in my face, ‘now you angelic creature, have become motherless!’ and when I was not worried about my father and everyone reassured me that he was all right, I was worried sick about my younger brother, as he is only twenty-five and his soul is as tender as a flower. And when he cries, I feel like burning down the universe to make him happy again, because he laughs like a child. I view him in the same light I see my niece and nephew. I adore them with a motherly love. I constantly worry about them. I feel terribly protective towards them. I believe in their greatness. And I am always ready to rescue them. And when I see them smile, I feel ecstatic. Now I am proud to announce that during this lovely trip back home,  I did not shed even one tear in front of my father, my younger brother, and my niece and nephew.

I had decided not to even weep beside my mother’s grave. I held my chin up, although it felt as heavy as the earth.

My sister shouted at my father, ‘Why did you bring her here? she’s going to faint!’

I realised my body was shaking hard in my faux fur coat, in the mourning sun. And I didn’t even have enough energy to ask my sister not to scream at our dad, and it was entirely my own decision.

My mother’s grave is beside her nephew’s. Later on, when my eyes were capable of seeing, I realised my favourite aunt, my mother’s younger sister, was sitting at an angle with the best view to her sister’s and son’s graves. Sometimes murmuring Arabic prayers, sometimes, transfixed, sometimes shedding mad tears. Her face as dark as the soil. For the first time in my life, I envied her unshakable faith in God. And despite our strong bond, that day, we did not even look at each other. Not even once.

I strongly felt like throwing myself on my mother’s grave. I wanted to melt on her grave and become one entity with it. I wanted to smash myself against her grave until there was no distance between us. But I fought this insane urge, and I won.

I stood there, motionless, for a few seconds, highly alert that my father was standing beside me, believing in my love and strength. My glorious mother was now beneath the ground. How could it be possible? So much beauty, power, and knowledge! So much wisdom and energy! How could that little grave bear the enormity of her existence? So much love, life and passion!

This ruthless question still burns my mind every second of every day. No matter where I am and what I am doing. I could be studying, flirting, dancing, fucking, or sleeping. There is this sentence, in English, in my head, exploding, ‘How is it even possible?’

Even.

Possible.

How?

But to my father, I said, ‘okay, I saw it, let’s go.’ I am bleeding, but we have not lost the battle. I am wounded, but it does not matter, I am still capable of fighting. I will not break down. Because you are by my side. And I want to be by your side. No drama. No more bloodshed.

Then my dad took me for a walk in the cemetery. We stared at the other gravestones as though they mattered, or made any sense. He said, ‘she broke her promise; we made a pact that I should go first.’

I held him tight and heard myself saying, ‘If that had been the case, I would’ve killed her.’

He chuckled bitterly and my body stopped shivering.

Sickdays

I run around all week like a demented rabbit

Try my best to be always well-dressed and use concealer to hide the dark circles under my eyes

Everyday

I don’t have a full-time job, but I’m doing my doctorate full-time, and I teach part-time

I like teaching and dislike studying. I do both. I like earning money and dislike working. I do both. I dislike teaching grammar and love teaching poetry. I do both. I like lustful dreams, but I only have nightmares. I run around. Sometimes, I go to bed at 5 AM.

And then family drama. Personal drama. Plotting plots no mortal ever dared to plot before. Abusing perilous opportunities. Chain smoking. Chain flirting. Chain fury. Typical London life. Utterly hysterical.

But on Sundays

On Sundays, my only church is my bed

I don’t dress up. I don’t even put on lip balm. I don’t look in the mirror a thousand times – as I do on weekdays, controlling my make-up, I know I look like shit on Sundays, because in my dictionary Sundays are called Sickdays.

I am always sick on Sundays. I hospitalise myself in bed. I’m in my dirty PJs all day long, I don’t have enough energy to do my laundry. I usually have a fever, sore throat, physical weakness on Sundays. I cook on Sundays. I despise cooking. I eat red meat, lentils and egg. I take vitamin C and my favourite pain killer from Iran, Gelofen. Sometimes noodles. I watch trashy reality TV shows and envy the shallow characters. I rub my head against my pillows and literally shed tears for the amount of decadence I’ve committed during the week. For making myself ill. I cry because I know I am weak.

And yet

Someone was shouting at me the other day, telling me my will to power is disgusting.

I replied calmly, ‘darling, I don’t even have will to live anymore, let alone will to power!’

I assure you, no longer am I a narcissist. I don’t dream of blood red victories.

I party in London, I have beautiful friends, lovers and opportunities. You think I must be happy.

I used to be until.

I still can’t talk about it. I am still in shock.

I live in London, like a corpse, missing feeling victorious and amazing.

I walk around, and someone says I look like a queen and I inform her, ‘I’m homeless.’

I am in London and everything’s going well. All I can feel is Iran. I’m taking a walk in my beloved Bloomsbury and gorgeous Kensington, and yet I am blinded by sorrow. I feel I’m in Tehran.

I cannot wait to return to Iran and watch TV with my dad 25 hours a day. This is my ideal life.

He can mock me all he wants for not being ambitious enough, for letting our queen’s death kill my youthful ambitions. He can complain all he wants. I will writhe on the floor he walks on and weep, ‘This is where I need to be right now.’

 

London Spring

Spanish tourists

push their aggressive luggage

on my feet;

Their acned skin and clumped mascara in my eyes

I would become blind if I weren’t wearing sunglasses the size of the sky;

However,

there is no escape from getting deaf

They speak loudly – it’s one sweaty scream:

‘Rotto, rotto!’

What does it even mean?

Perhaps, they’re from Italy… but

who cares.

Lest They Forget

We’ve been

Shot.

 

Torn,

Thrown

On the ground,

Writhing in our blood,

Hardly breathing

For our sunlit morning has turned into sunless mourning

 

But

We’re still

Stronger

And better

Than they are, than they were, than they’ll ever be.

 

The philosophy of superiority won’t end just like that.

Our mountain of power is everlasting, shaken at times by heartless earthquakes, but never shattered.

Trembling mountains won’t be pitied, nor will they be conquered.

Our victorious flag is still dancing in the wind, although we have lost our glorious commander.

Long live the overflowing oceans of our significant existence.

 

Soft Door

I was in our house in Tehran – as one usually is – with my parents and possibly my grandmother.

There was also an English boy playing my older brother’s guitar in the living-room. We ignored him. But he was gorgeous. Ginger. A boy I once knew but never talked to.

I was wearing my soft white shorts and shirt – a present my grandmother gave me in summer.

We were at the door. Greeting a guest. And to my  surprise, the guest was my best friend, Yasna, whom I haven’t met in three years, as she lives in Montreal.

Yasna

at our door

More beautiful than ever – and I couldn’t believe it would be possible for her to become even more gorgeous: glorious, tall, golden make-up like my mental image of a Greek goddess.

She stared at me, and I realised I was in tears.

She only said hi to my parents: Salam. They were kind to her, waiting for her to come in or to leave. Dad was in his soft baby blue sweatshirt. I was overwhelmed with ecstatic love, with my unbearable emotions.

When I embraced  Yasna, she kissed me… on the mouth. In front of my parents and religious grandmother.

Her tongue, soft yet powerful, like sun rays in autumn.

And I couldn’t be ashamed. I got slightly stressed. But it was too good to miss. That kiss. It stopped my tears. I did not want to cry. I wanted to drown.

And we did not stop. We couldn’t stop.

Until I woke up, feeling dizzy. Dizzy.

Dizzy

Dizzy

Dizzy

And

Insanely happy.