By Farideh Kheradmand
Translated by: Roya Monajem
Edited by: Katherine L. Clark
You are totally right. I do not doubt your judgment even a bit. But before making your final decision, I'd like to make a point clear, not as a defense, but for the sake of liberating myself from an agony--the agony of a guilty conscious that all of us suffer from every now and then. No, do not take me wrong. I do not intend to defend myself for what happened on that stormy night in the sea. Please look at the tableau behind your head, hanging from that white wall; thank you.
Now suppose you are sitting in a small boat and the boat is caught among the waves of a stormy sea. You look around, and you see nothing except absolute darkness. You cannot see even a single point of light. Neither can you see a lantern in the far distance, nor the light of a lamp on the shore. It is useless to shout and ask for help, as nobody will hear anything, except the sound of horrifying waves. And all of a sudden, you realize that your little boat is falling into pieces. With all my good will and from the bottom of my heart, I hope you will never have to experience such an impasse.
However, as you know, it is not possible to foresee the events of life. And, God forbid, if one day you get caught in such an impasse, it is quite possible that you will make the same decision that I made. Yes. That it was three of us is true. Our intention was to have an excursion on the sea. The golden rays of sun had a beautiful reflection. Perhaps it was this beautiful sight that tempted me to propose to those two persons to... Yes, I confess it was me who suggested it. As we were sitting on the sand watching the blue sea, I said, "What about having an excursion on the sea?" They looked at each other and made an approving gesture. Please, note that there was no compulsion regarding the probable dangers of the sea; they could have very well disagreed with my proposal.
I had invited them on a damned Friday to my villa by the shore. However, I should remark that it was for the sake of escaping loneliness and the repetition of boring hours that I invited them. Willingly, they accepted my invitation. The three of us walked toward the boat. Yes, I confess that it was only me who noticed the small opening in the floor of the boat. And, of course, I did not mention it to them. They were both sitting, rowing heedlessly. And then, one of them composed a short beautiful poem for the sun and the sea. I memorized it instantly. Just for the sake of doing something, no matter how silly or absurd it was.
It was obvious that they were really enjoying themselves. Well, this is our human right, I totally agree with you. We have been born to enjoy the short hours of life. I should confess that I used to take life very seriously until I was hospitalized in a sanitarium. When I was discharged, I found life easy and pleasing like all the rest of the people. Yes, as I was relaxing in the boat, I saw a white piece of cloud in the blue sky. Then a gray piece appeared. The clouds were constantly increasing and getting darker. Those two persons were still enjoying their time. Perhaps there is no doubt that if I had shown them the clouds prior to their accumulation and before the onset of the rain, they would have returned. As you might have guessed, the clouds were pregnant with rain. However, I removed my right toe from that opening in the boat's floor once it started to rain. Surly, you can anticipate what happened! I confess if I had not removed my right toe...
But please take this point into consideration. You just moved on your seat. Well, you have every right to do that. One gets tired if one keeps the same posture for long. This was true about me too. I got tired. Please, let me tell you the rest of the story. It started to rain. This was neither in my or anybody else's power. The boat started to sink little by little. Petrified, they moved from one end of the boat to the other. As you know, one should not lose one's courage under such conditions. One should keep cool.
As in the case of fire, if you get petrified, everything including you will be burned. But if you keep cool and alert, you can at least save your life.
I tried to make them realize that they should stay calm. But they kept moving in the boat aimlessly until the opening, the opening I mentioned before, divided the boat into two. Yes, I confess that among the three of us, I was the only one who knew how to swim. Yes, I confess I could have saved both of them. But I should also say that I thought, why should I do that so that they could return home and then on a dull Friday afternoon be invited to a villa by an apathetic person like me, who wants to escape the boring hours of life, and sit on the hot sand and be tempted to ride on a boat and compose a short, beautiful poem for a sunny day and enjoy life?
You should admit that to repeat the same old patterns of life can be quite wearisome. In addition, I hate heroism and these kinds of antics. I had reached this conclusion just a few months earlier when they hung the gold medal for swimming around my neck and handed me that silly cup. I confess that it was only I who knew how close the shore was and said nothing to them.
I could have shown them my medal and given them hope or saved them with a small part of the boat. But I didn't do it, I confess.
1. Selected for the collection of short stories "Twenty stories by Women", Negah Sabz, Tehran 2000.