By Shahrokh Tondro Saleh
Translated by: Roya Monajem
Edited by: Katherine L. Clark
I should be very careful. The old woman had said: "Beware! Even when you go to the toilet! You should be extremely alert!"
While puffing out the dense smoke of his cigarette, the old man who was counting my steps with his weary eyes said: "I implore God to heal all the sick people."
I held the handle of the door that had the shape of a rose and turned it slowly in a clockwise direction. The cool air of the room together with the gentle scent of jasmine made me more alert.
Nobody answered me. Most probably they did not hear. The secretary's back was toward the door and she was tidying up the desk. The doctor was busy smoking his pipe. I thought: "If grandma were here, she would have definitely chanted salavat for the pleasant smell of the doctor's tobacco."
The doctor, who by now had noticed my presence, turned his face away from his secretary and said: "Come in please."
There was a half-open window in front of me. A gentle breeze was blowing. The secretary asked: "Would you like a cup of coffee, doctor?"
And immediately he took up smoking his pipe again and stared at the distance. The smoke filled the space between us. After a few minutes, the doctor cleared his throat and asked: "Now, tell me, what is new? Are you better or not? Come on, tell me." And with a rapid gesture, he turned off the light shinning above my head and brought up a small torch with a blue lamp as big as a date from beneath his desk and put it in front of me. While closing his eyelids, he said: "Come on, tell me now."
I tried not to cough or make a sound like that of a burning oil-lamp without oil.
"The rain that poured ceaselessly for seven days from the weary sky on my head and face washed away all my thoughts. I no longer ask myself why I don't mix with people and socialize or invite others to spend time with me. I don't even ask myself what have my friends and relatives done that makes me to avoid them." And, there are many other questions that I no longer ask myself. I have abandoned all this. Not that I did it voluntarily, no! The rain that joined the earth and the sky for seven consecutive days washed away all this from my mind.
"Now I am O.K. I am fine! And, if you see that I have lost so much weight, it is because of that sarcasm and disdain from those people who think that life is just eating, and sleeping, and reproducing, and know absolutely nothing about what love is or is not, and what is worthy of loving and what is not."
"You see, at the beginning I had no desire to do anything. I was all alone, isolated and secluded. Sometimes, as soon as I stretched my hands towards anything, there was a mortal pain in my chest, and my eyes turned into two bowls of blood because of this breathtaking pain. I had no choice other than asking the old woman to bring somebody to manage my life."
"And the old woman said happily, "Very well! I'll start looking from tomorrow until I find the right person." "
"And I remember that on the very first night I came to see you, I was thinking about all you told me to do before going to sleep, and I thought that it could be very delightful if in such pleasant air, I could sleep on the roof all alone and stare at the sky and count the stars one by one until I fall asleep and dream of being in a boat in the color of clouds, paddling on the quiet waters while people are watching me and I wave my hand at them, saying goodbye, goodbye."
"But that night I did not sleep. I remember I stared at the sky until morning, and I counted the stars until I lost my breath and got bored and told myself that having to count all the stars of the sky just to go to sleep is just another piece of bad luck! I remember very well that I woke up with the sound of rain around noon. I did not know where I was or who had brought me to the room. I was still very sleepy, but I could hear a voice clearly telling me, "Get up, get up and open the door, somebody is trembling in the rain." I partly rose up and asked, "Who is it?" "
"Nobody answered. I got up and walked toward the door and asked again, "Who is it?" But nobody answered and again I heard the same voice saying, "Get up, get up." "
"I opened the door; nobody was in the yard. There were big reddish drops falling from the sky splashing and hitting the red tiles of the floor of the yard. Not being taken aback, I returned to the room and asked "My god, who could this be?" "
"It was raining harder now and the blood-colored grooves were slowly moving down the window. You do not drink water, doctor! Well, it was then that I promised myself that I should be careful, and if I continued like that, I would not get anywhere. I should not pay so much attention to these absurd fantasies! Yes, when I stared at those colored drops of rain, I realized that it was not really surprising; surely it was all those fumes, and pollution, and filthy particles in the air that were turning the rain that color."
"And I was right, Doctor; the rain was an acidic rain, that's what it was. And there was nothing to be scared of. And, I owe all this to you. I don't know, but perhaps if I were scared, it would have been easier for me as I could have thought he was one of those idle people who keeps bothering us day and night, and there was no need to carry
his memories with me wherever I went."
"At last I picked up the phone. It was his voice. I took a deep breath and said, "Do you see the rain, well, when shall we go?" With a fake laughter he replied, "Whenever you wish."
And I said, now, at this very minute, "My God! Voices! Voices! Voices! How infuriating are these voices!" I told myself that I must be careful, that he would not come this time either, wait and see!"
"While intensifying his fake laughter, he asked, "What about this evening?" "
"Somebody was singing. I recognized the voice; it was my own. I asked, "Look! What should I do? Perhaps it would stop raining by the evening." "
"He laughed and said, "Don't be afraid, it will not stop raining. It is not the
spring rain." "
"Then without saying goodbye, I hung up the phone. From next door I heard his boisterous laughter that obscured my singing. I turned my face toward the wall and shouted: "Stop tormenting me and turn off your bloody tape recorder!" "
"Doctor, he had poured a strange pain into my heart! I could not bear him. However, you might only listen to what your nurses say. Well, they work for you, and to you, or perhaps to everybody else, whatever they say is proof whether they say the truth or not. And it doesn't occur to anybody that they might lie. And, it does not matter really, but I can say what I like to myself. Can't I? After all, if I am not using those pills, it is because they intensify my anxiety. Under such conditions, I try to remember what my mother used to do that relieved my pain, and I remember that she put some seeds such as harmel, but with a more pleasant scent, in the fire holder and I held my face over the fumes while her lips moved constantly and she chanted things, and I had to breathe deeply and chant salavat. But you know that the love of a doctor exceeds the love of a mother. I hope I am not being rude; after all, she was a mother!"
"Now my bones and ribs do not ache anymore, but for a few days I have felt something boiling in my chest producing a warm, dense vapor that rises up making the whole passageway from the tip of my tongue to the bottom of my larynx burn, so much so that I cannot swallow my saliva. Can I shut that window?...Yes, all the time I am wondering what this warm, dense, vapor-like liquid, crawling up my throat and erupting from the corners of my eyes, might be. And sometimes, when I remember my mother, I completely lose my temper. God bless her soul; she too was thoughtless and talked to everything--to doors, walls, pigeons, fish, ponds, trees, windows, crows, and most of all to the sky."
"I remember that one evening around sunset she took me to the roof and while I collected the clothes from the laundry line, she said, "Look there." "
"I looked where she was pointing. The sun was setting slowly, and something like purple vapor was flaring up in the horizon, emitting purple lines into the veins of the sky. I remember very well that I was so excited to see a large, glimmering object in the sky that I asked eagerly, "What is that?" "
"My mother laughed and said, "It is beautiful, don't you think so?" Then she stared at me with her loving eyes and continued, "It is yours. It is your lucky star." "
"So now if I like evenings, it is because of that star, the same one that carried my luck all these years, the one that my mother called my lucky star. I know, I know too well that this star is neither mine nor anybody else's and what they used to say about these sorts of things were all nonsense, intended to please us and make our childhood pass and to cool down the burning flame of our eagerness to know and understand so that they could breathe more comfortably, that is, live more care-freely! That is why when I feel sad and regretful, the only thing I can say is how lucky are the stars! After all, the world of regret can be a real world in itself. These days, I am merely thinking of how to make my days and nights pass by. And in such a state, there is nothing better than reviewing days and nights, whose rise and fall is an opportunity to indulge in clear memories or rise up compressed under the heavy load of empty, colorless dreams."
"Now it is up to you. But I would be very grateful if you would be kind enough to increase my ration of cigarettes instead of these pills that ruin our brains. Nevertheless, I should say that you are free to judge me in any way that may please you and shout at me and say, "What else do you want?" It doesn't matter really because then you would be like one of us, that is, you too will realize and become aware of a lot of things, but fearing all the trouble of having to deal with the affairs of everyday life, and with your kids and wife and family, and with thousands other damn things, you won't be able to talk about them with anybody. Now it is up to you. You are right!"
"It never rained! These are all senseless absurd thoughts that I have made up. How do I know, perhaps if I did not fear squandering, I would not care for the past so much and let it preoccupy my days and nights, and I would not take so much of your time and would forget everything at once. Then, without caring about what these shadows want from me or why they stare at my eyes that have turned red from crying for long hours, I could stare at the starry sky until my heart turned into tears, little by little, and I shared the memories of my lost one with the stars of this bone burning night. I might see those boats again, and while shaking off the dust of fear and horror, paddle and mourn and shout, "Take me, take me with you, too. Here they make your heart bleed." "
1. It is a bidding to 'greet Mohammad the prophet and his fathers.'