By Sofia Mahmoudi
Translated by: Roya Monajem
Edited by: Katherine L. Clark
It was cold. The wind blew up dust and debris into the air. With the intention of killing the cold and dust and fog, she had run and turned and bent and risen so much from the minute she had woken up early in the morning that she had not felt the passage of time at all. Until a moment ago, when she realized that it was nearly noontime; instead the house seemed quite cozy and clean of dust by then. It was now the time of waiting and the woman hanged around for the kids to return from school. She stood behind the window and stared at the yard. The apple tree of the house was standing alone in the yard; alone and bare and impatient. Perhaps it was waiting too. It was waiting for the rain to fall and wash its body and quench its thirst; and to blossom and then wait, in its colorful clothes to receive the swallows.
It was not a bad idea at all! She took off her clothes quickly and jumped under the shower. The minute she turned on the tap, it started to shower. The snow melted and the foamy water started to flow downhill. The muddy water ran down the rocks and stones, mountains and hills toward the valleys. She felt revived. The freshness of water washed the sense of exhaustion and the melancholy of waiting off her body and replaced it with a spring-like feeling.
Now she could understand the feeling of the only apple tree of the yard during spring rains. The tree that tired of the passage of days and months, had traveled from one season to the next, accumulating this exhaustion in its body that now surrendered to the spring rain, letting it wash away its fatigue. The fatigue remaining from the passage of summer, autumn and winter that had left a dusty color on its body and had stolen and taken away their own share of its colorfulness .
Though the passion of the water touched her body, but in harmony with the rapid pace of the heavy rainfall, she had to hurry too. She had to wash away the dust and rust from her body and soul as quickly as possible to grow new buds again, blossom again and grow her branches to greet the swallows again. She turned off the shower and wrapped herself in a towel. A kind of pleasant warmth ran into her body. Soon the swallows would return from school. The spring is arriving . she had to hurry, lest the warmth of her body would be wasted.
She dressed up quickly and went to stand by the window; still waiting.
She no longer found it hard to wait. If necessary she could stand another thousand hours by the window waiting. As though she had grown a habit of it; or perhaps her soul was now more resistant against so much waiting and had grown immune to its effects. Like vaccination in medicine that increases the resistance of the body against various diseases, thereby increasing the body's immune system. Her children's pediatrician always said, "Vaccination means several injections of the weakened strain of a microbe into the body of your child that would increase the child's ability to resist against various diseases." And by giving her children the necessary vaccinations in time, she had granted them the ability to resist against mortal diseases such as measles, mumps, whooping cough, tuberculosis, and so on.
The time was passing ruthlessly and the woman was still standing by the window, waiting. Various forms of waiting that she had experienced throughout the ups and downs of her life had made a patient, resistant and tolerant woman out of her: years of waiting for the arrival of the right man to share her life with, months and months of waiting to give birth to each one of her children; numerous days of waiting for her children to grow up and bloom. waiting for the milk not to spill over the pan when reaching the boiling point, waiting for onion chips to be roasted without being burnt, waiting for jams to thicken; for pickles to season properly; for the rice to cook; for children to arrive from school; waiting for them to finish eating their food so that she could clean the table; for their fever to subdue; for the sun to rise so that she could wake up her children to go to school; waiting for the sun to set and the night to fall so that she could send them to bed.
At the beginning, during all these various forms of daily and endless waiting, she got intensely restless and impatient. Gradually her restlessness pacified and her soul calmed down.
For a long time she was like a person who had just been converted to another religion: surprised at first, because of the intensity of the changes that one has to go through and all those rules and laws and commandments that one has to observe, but ready to go through all that ordeal with the hope that after enough perseverance it would lead to one's salvation.
Actually all those repetitious, daily and endless quasi-praying practices in the quietness of the house and in a corner of her kitchen had finally proved to be effective. Actually they had gradually turned into a form of contemplation, concentration and meditation rituals that it is said would lead one to eternal peace and salvation. Nevertheless, here too the secret of reaching one's goal consisted of one's ability to wait. Waiting for some angelic bird to arrive and lead one to eternal bliss with its promising song .
She was leaning on these very sweet, promising dreams and on the long time that she had persistently tolerated the pain of waiting; without getting distracted by profane matters and the events of her surrounding world. The events that could ruin the power of one's sense of vision and hearing and disturb one's faculty of reason and common sense; the persistent sound of the radio of the next door neighbor that penetrates constantly one's brain like a nail; the loud trampling sound of heavy steps of an inconsiderate upper floor neighbor producing this feeling that the ceiling would fall at any moment; the vociferous sound of the welding and stone cutting machines working incessantly in the unfinished building next door that impair and wear down the hearing and nervous systems little by little; the sound of growling of a motorcycle engine that refuse to get started and infuriate the owner and his companies; the voice of the peddlers who for the purpose of selling some surplus or buying some surplus commodity scratch their own throats and other people's ears; the senseless sound of the horn of a car passing by and the futile cawing of crows passing over the walls.
Despite all that, all that turmoil and clamor, she obstinately kept trying to concentrate on that angelic bird and its promising song. But the solemn intruding cawing of a crow that was sitting on a nearby wall prevented her from concentrating on her spiritual thoughts and drove her to the trap of a painful inner struggle.A struggle that could continue and continue ruthlessly. and could not leave the woman alone until she completely sank into a swamp of doubt and suspicion and anxiety. But the moment that the columns of the woman's faith would start trembling and her weak feet would begin shaking on the edge of the crag of doubting her religion, the bell would suddenly ring and that great miracle would happen. The miracle that would save her from the impending dilemma of losing her faith and religion. She would run anxiously to open the door and would stretch her arms to receive the swallows. At last, the children are home and the flood of their canary-like laughter and their sweet short stories miraculously overwhelm the violent and intolerable clamor of the street, flow into and seize the heart of the house.
Her arms would then surrender voluntarily to the first attack and would be occupied by her daughter's forces. The girl would sit on her laps and in a blink of an eye would seize her eyes, ears and mind. The eyes, ears and the mind trapped by the thousand headed dragon of political, economic, social, scientific and cultural news and cants and ads that like a labyrinth seem to lead to nowhere.
The swords of laughter and kisses of the child would strike the head and face of the mother incessantly, defeating and eradicating this thousand headed dragon of news, radios, newspapers and propaganda.
It is only then that the unfamiliar roaring cry of the world would retreat, fade and disappear and instead a promising, pleasant and passionate sound would emerge, approach and seize the heart. A sound that only a child could impart to the mother over that great current of turmoil: the delicate singing of a little sparrow on the roof. A sound as sweet as the rhymes of a solo instrument or as fresh as chanting a simple pray in private.A sound that could lead the woman to eternal peace and serenity and grant her eternal salvation.
And this was nothing other than a miracle. The miracle of patience!
The miracle did something else too: The woman and the child merge in a surprising way with the sparrow and its song!.. It is like the woman transforming to the song and the sparrow turning into the child; the child transforming to the song and the woman turning into the sparrow.
1. Taken from the collection "The Woman and the Child, with the Sparrow and the Song," Sofia Mahmoudi, Tose-eh Publishing house, Tehran, 1999.