Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Maman Joon

Before I left the house Ameneh swiveled in her seat and snapped at me: Maman joon, khaar hastee. Mother dear--you’re an ass. I didn’t say anything and instead left, strangely comforted by my daughter’s use of the adjective “dear.” Somehow it diluted the acidity of “ass.”
The afternoon sun in Yazd is so hot that I often feel the overwhelming urge to vomit. Of course, I do not. But I still envision it every time I catch a shimmering glimpse of the dimpled blacktop.
As usual, the hospital parking lot gushes with cars. I manage to squeeze through without tearing my monteaux on one of the broken headlights, like I did last time. I had no other choice but to endure the rest of the day with pins poking my left thigh. I returned home with a patch of raw, pink skin that oozed blood while I showered.
As I walk down the bright, white hallway I can feel my lunch heave forward in my stomach. Though I remember chewing it into a pulpy mush, the chicken takes shape, evolving into a fat, feathered mass that weighs me down. I suddenly want nothing more than to return home, so that I can turn up the air conditioner and sit on my bed with a cold glass of water wedged between my bare feet.
The patient is only six years old and her chin quivers as she speaks. The overhead lights expose sticky tear-tracks on her cheeks. She reminds me of Ameneh. I adjust my headscarf and push up my sleeves. The small girl attempts a smile but her mouth collapse into a stubborn frown.
Nurses Zahra and Zeevar have situated the young girl on the crisp wax paper. She’s wriggling and writhing like the worms I sometimes pluck with my naked fingers from the circle of hydrangeas Baba joon planted before he passed on. I always accidentally kill the worms and their blood ends up underneath my fingernails.
Now, my fingernails are clean.
The young girl is wailing and her mouth hangs open. I stroke her damp forehead and notice that for a gasping instant she stops crying. Though the moment Zahra and Zeevar pull up her skirt she starts again. I know what it must feel like, being in her position. Too many people assume that doctors only give shots, and that they never receive them. I hate sitting and waiting for the impending sting in your right leg, or the muscle-pinch in your left shoulder. Doctors get shots, too.
Three other nurses agreed to help us. We leave the little girl no choice but to remain very still, still enough so that the needle doesn’t puncture skin that it isn’t supposed to. I glance over at her and notice that in the pale blueness, her face glistening with drying tears, the little girl looks most like Ameneh. The thought drives my heart straight to my stomach where it lingers a moment before sliding down my toes. The needle is too heavy in my hand.
The procedure is finally over. The wax paper crinkles as I fold it into a neat, translucent square. The girl’s face is hidden behind her mother’s head. I imagine that they’re exchanging soft pecks on the cheek. I throw away the trash and turn to leave: My mouth feels dry and I’m craving a long sip of ice water.
My throat feels alive again. I’ve swallowed enough water to sustain the hydrangeas for at least two weeks. Before I walk to my office I notice that the little girl is leaving, with one hand pressed into her mother’s palm and the other flapping at her side. I stare at her. At that moment, she spins around and smiles.
Yesterday I discovered one of Ameneh’s diary entries in the tight space between her bed and her wall:
Maman Joon, there is a picture of us when we were much younger. You were trying to kiss my cheek but I pulled away. And the picture is just a blurry whir in the middle where our faces were supposed to meet.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

There is a raspberry pie in the oven and it’s making the home smell like melted butter. There’s also a crispy-skinned chicken roasting in a creamy murmur of carrots. I’m the one stooped over my dinner plate and I’m sucking on the ice cubes and they make my insides freeze. The smell is warm, and in its warmness, nauseating. I want to eat but I can’t. The guests aren’t here yet and plus, my mom is mad at me for what I did last night. I know that she wants the smells to slip deep enough into my lungs and then she’ll stand before me and say, “There’s frozen food that will go bad if someone doesn’t eat it.” And then I’ll think of how frozen food can never “go bad,” because wouldn’t that ruin the entire purpose of it, anyway? But I know that she’s waiting for me to say that so that she could walk straight to the freezer, jerk open its bluish door and pull out the cold, pink cubes of food. So instead I continue sucking on the ice cubes and the chicken smell grows warmer against my nostrils and I’m about to explode with hunger and a vacancy that pulls me apart with a sharp, practiced delicacy.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Foolishly, I long for the days of my childhood when Hannah Montana’s mind-emptying lyrics did not pervade through the home like a sick stench, bruising the once delicate summer atmosphere, making the pasta sauce seem like pulpy, red vomit, and the lemon curd a urine goop collecting like dead dreams on the counter. I cannot convince them to poke their heads outside and take view of the warm afternoon, to observe and appreciate its slow transformation, the delicate, light-footed breezes falling away to allow for night to settle, the sun falling back like a souffle. Instead, the Internet has hooked them and so comforted they are, by its sweet-smelling breath and large, blinking eyes that they neglect their childhoods, not even turning around to wave two sloppy farewells. Foolishly, I long to change things, the longing itches my toes and the back of my neck, tugging me into a state of endless discomfort, during which I contemplate life and its meaning, such black-hole question for a young girl such as myself, but it always happens when I’m confronted with the epitome of loneliness, of emptiness--a hole-ridden Hannah Montana tune, short-lasting, awake for only the summer before it is pulled into a deep sleep. And the girls grow up. They are affected by the summer tunes without even knowing it, perhaps they wink at their startling images in the mirror, stringing together a story of love at first-glance, when a boy will be marveled by their endless, shimmering legs and their fleshy pink lips. Foolishly, I look back on days, pebbles pitched into a nearby stream, the earth’s gurgling, bubbling smells below my feet, and the luxurious bird-songs that erupted our worlds, how young and carefree--but never careless--were we.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sweet things give me cavities. This includes, but is not at all limited to, summertime popsicles--or brightly colored sugar-water frozen into a crunchy, rectangular mass with a thin wooden stick visible beneath the neon translucence, like an ant trapped in amber. Cookies, too, for I love them. My favorite are the cubes of caramel I soften between my thumb and forefinger before popping them into my mouth and savoring the sweetness roll over my tongue. Unfortunately, these brief moments of bliss end with a visit to the dentist's office ,during which my mother's eyebrows do that intimidating dance to the middle of her forehead and form a single, black dash of disappointment. These cavities are always filled, though, and soon after the aching, nighttime reminders of their existence dissolves, I forget about them completely. His sweetness, however, forced open the costliest of cavities, and this one never disappeared.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

One afternoon, Mid-July

How sad are the girls painted blonder than their toenails--summer sun yellow never looked so wretched. They chortle through pubic-hair-plucking sessions with their dearest, closest friends, their laughter bubbling from their mouths to stain the delicate afternoon where I was lucky enough to be sitting, cross-legged, sincere-hearted, a hot blush of embarrassment driven to my cheeks, where it remained for at least two hours after I saw them, hand in hand, their tan legs voiced near-silent confessions, they said: I have three bumpy green veins-- serpentine like the gold chains strangling their hot-pink necks--and they say more and speak more than those loud jewelry pieces ever could.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The young girl felt strangely serene with Hayden in the room. His tangled wad of greasy hair, his tight pants tattered at the knee, and the sour-weed-stench he dragged around like a long-lost friend all exuded a tragic helplessness that made her heart flutter. Dreadfully, Hayden much more preferred Hayley Banks. As the young girl sometimes loved to convince herself, Hayley’s perky, orange hair was so bright that it made her eyes ache. Unfortunately, the young girl could not grumble about any other of Hayley’s physical features without exposing her darkly swelling envy. For example, Hayley’s eyes were absolutely beautiful and glowed green like peeled kiwis. And Hayley always sported the pouty, doubty expression that made boys’ hearts spin like tops (the young girl once overhead them purring about Hayley‘s “innocent confusion”). Furthermore, when Hayley’s lips quivered it supposedly looked sexy. Whenever the young girl’s lips quivered it was due to one of her many irrational fears or her worsening anxiety or something painfully pathetic!
Though the young girl recognized each and every one of Hayden’s foul attributes, she couldn't wriggle out of her love for him. This love bulged and swelled, tripling in size every time he limped into class like an injured animal. That was what she saw him as(!): the battered, bruised and bent animal starved of a little TLC. Immediately, the young girl remembered her parents and wondered whether her dangerous desire was a genetic trait passed down from her mother. After all, her father--a stubby, hairless creature--lacked any strengths other than his ability to fix the living room coffee table. That, however, was only after he broke it, so perhaps it didn’t even count. According to wedding pictures, Trang’s mother was once a slender, shapely specimen with grapefruit breasts and eyes that shone like the full moon.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

An Evening of Change.

The evening perplexed the young girl, who teetered on the edge of her seat the entire night--her eyes wide with innocent fascination at the colorful lights skipping from one wall to another, and at the ancient Persian women denying their true ages with lipstick four shades too bright, high-heeled shoes and body-squeezing leggings. The young girl spied the oldest woman blow the musician a kiss, her wrinkled hand outstretched, her blindingly pink lips pursed in a pathetic pucker. The night continued on with a stern look from the teenage waiter. The young girl interpreted it as a poor attempt (on his part) to appear strict yet seductive. It was the “I mean business” look flung so readily at young, pretty girls who frequented the restaurant as often as the cook frequented the gym--this number being so small that it would prove a waste of both time and ink to discuss it. The night ended, in a flurry of wet kisses, tender handshakes and genuine promises to meet in the future, perhaps at the same restaurant…The young girl stepped outside, an indescribable fire inside her heart suddenly ignited while a greedy need for male attention hummed within her. She strode forward into the light, so that her new-found confidence became brilliantly illuminated, and one young male passerby could not help but notice.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Before Forever.

The young girl felt hesitant--she could or she could not, her two options shone clearer than the crystal chandelier blinking overhead. She decided upon the former choice, just as a quote expressing the stomach-twisting discomfort of regret snapped awake in her head. The young girl could see Peter, positioned near the punch, discreetly attempting to ease the itch in his left foot with the toe of his right. She smiled to herself, for he entertained her: here was this man who craved appearing suave and slick, yet who could not even scratch his own toe without looking clumsy. Nevertheless, he looked handsome, as always before. Although secretly, the young girl hoped that Peter's excessive party-going would one day get to him. Perhaps he’d awake, late one afternoon in mid-July, the unexpected sting of sunlight sharpening the pain in his left eye, and miserably discover that his black hairs had all turned gray, that his skin had worked with gravity to droop around the delicate nape of his neck, and that his eyes had transformed into a listless blue. At the same time that she hoped such a tragic episode take place, the young girl also wished against it, primarily because she loved his looks and the memories they reintroduced.

Time was running short, the party crowd already thinning while the smooth silver platters, once colored by stuffed squid, jiggling gelatin and puff pastries, offered nothing but a diverse array of crumbs--the evidence of mindless nibbling strewn for everyone to observe. The young girl shuddered with the thought of leaving without muttering even a single word to the gentleman who apparently had, during the thick mulch of her miserable musings, disappeared! Her heart hiccupped. She couldn’t quite believe herself, her one chance had vanished like the appetizers! Helplessly, the young girl scanned the staircase, longing to spot Peter’s lithe, delicate form, yearning to watch him transfixed by the beaming cluster of Picasso paintings, or by the marble Henry Moore sculpture…Suddenly, the young girl received a painful jab in her right shoulder. At that moment, her simmering feelings of sadness and regret swirled with frustration and anger. Furious, she swiveled around, her mind violently piecing together the most bitter of reprimands, when she realized, deliciously, that it was him.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Nothing Lasts.

I remember limping up to your apartment four years after I’d last seen you. In that time, your mother died in a freeway accident. They found a wet-nosed bunny cradling her skull outside of Yazd. Your apartment building was the color of blended chicken heads before they are fed to the cats. It was a pale pink, so pale that it intersected with gray and I could not bear to think of you, colorful like the opalescent moon, inhabiting a cockroach-infested building, with smells like the rotting sea. The elevator reeked of sweat, its walls sticky and the entire building tasted humid. I felt my many layers of clothing stick to my back and to my chest. It was an oily-dirty feeling that I could only shake off when I saw you, grinning faintly as you opened the door. I missed you so much! How many years had it been again? I paused a moment to remember.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Showroom

The showroom was so hot that the editors and the buyers and the ex-supermodels soon slumped over in their chairs, like silly putty that starts out stiff then softens over time to show what it really is. And so their crisp layers peeled away, their make-up skidded down their oily cheeks and streamed down their shiny foreheads. Their flat hair curled at the edges and at the top. Soon they turned into what they long attempted to conceal behind expensive makeup and luxurious clothing and leather boots that zipped up to their knees. Finally, the models emerged, each one more pale and more wiry than the last. They marched to the murmuring of a thousand flapping paper fans.

The models wore simple black dresses that appeared too small and too large at the same time, swallowing their perfect, painted toes and obscuring their shiny stilettos. The show was very dramatic. I choked on its suffocating silence, I choked while studying the slow, reverse transformation of one thousand beautiful people. I observed them revert back into their natural states, how gently yet how surreptitiously the heat folded away their smiles and placed them on the floor, near five thousand dollar handbags and two thousand dollar clutches. How quickly the men wore their tight lips and the women their lopsided expressions.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Separation Sturdier than Brick

I remember you. Desolate and dark, swinging supple, golden girls into the warm air while crying inwardly. Sometimes I regret letting you go, regret rejecting the mere thought of you until it broke apart and dissolved. On nights such as these, when the wind plays a sweet melody with the tree’s heart-shaped leaves, I am reminded of you. The memories flicker for seconds at a time, their duration short and severe. Though it is still enough to whisper open my wounds and will the sand-paper scars to reappear.
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image by laila riazi

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The wind carried many mouth-watering smells: boiling cow fat, sweet pomegranate seeds, ripe and bulbous figs, crunchy, grease-drenched tadik, and slabs of salty tachin. Reshaleh stood outside of the kitchen, her wet hair dripping into the pebbles below. She could hear the kettle's soft whimpering and Belghez's shuffling across the floor. The cook, shaped like the full-bottomed eggplants she often used to flavor her dishes, turned around with Reshaleh's entrance. Belghez's smile stretched her face, specifically her nose, so for a moment it resembled a ripe pear crowned with a single prick of sweat.

The kitchen itself was admittedly plain. The counters were sturdy and gray and only one shade lighter than the walls, which bore the usual expressions of old age, most notable were the large smatterings of soot. Therefore, decorations were instead provided by the sights and smells of many different foods sizzling, brewing, or simmering to life in several pots and pans. In the farthest left corner rested a dozen figs, which had been plucked at the peak of ripeness, so that their dark purple flesh smelled sweeter than the sweetest cherry jam. Only inches away from the figs glowed a watermelon nearly three feet long and four feet wide, while that night's dinner, of saffron dusted rice, simmered into completion. Reshaleh liked to think that by standing in the middle of the kitchen every aroma would perfume her hair and flavor her skin.

"Would you like a taste?"

Belghez pinched a fig by its stem before Reshaleh could reply, and placed it into the young girl's palm, where it rested a moment before she drew it into her mouth. Everything but the delicate seeds dissolved. Reshaleh crunched a moment on the seeds, some of which found themselves wedged between her teeth, so that Belghez began to laugh. Her chuckles shook her heavy breasts and rattled her plump thighs before fading like the curls of silver smoke escaping from a nearby pan.

image by laila riazi

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sometimes I wonder why I turned vegetarian. Perhaps because I cherished the bustling chicken coops of my childhood, which smelled sweetly of warm sawdust and fresh feces. Perhaps because the last word you spoke to me, you spoke while I stared down at my unfinished meatloaf, and now any whisper of that word stirs uneasy recollections. Perhaps because a raw steak oozes with blood and the flat echo of a cow's helpless moans. One day I might return to chicken legs for lunch, pulling stringy pink meat to reveal a polished bone. I imagine that I would lunge forward and vomit, dumping one thousand angry memories onto the cold floor.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I miss you, simply

your sallow complexion, the grim, gray-eyed baby of peer pressure and social obligation, revealed that you are a man of expectation, struggling to catch up with wealthier, worldlier, worthier "friends", who think of champain as they think of beautiful women bundled in fur: pleasurable, disposable, forgettable. That picture always gets me. I squint first, in disbelief that it is you: painfully thin, disintegrating, everything either pulling away, sinking in, sagging down, everything but your sterile white smile, a gash splitting open your face-- fooling yourself so that you can fool the world.