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12/27/11

A Short Story: That Summer Night in Tehran

By Yasi Etemadi

The night air is warm. The heat of the day still radiates off of the old taxi’s pleather seats, and I am content to slide into its permanently indented cushions and nurse my freshly engorged stomach. The sounds of the city lull me into a limbo between wakefulness and sleep. Laughter, blaring horns, shouts and conversation, screeching old brakes, and street vendors advertising their bootleg purses or baklava. Yet as I burrow into the seat, the sounds grow more distant as I retreat within the velvet recesses of my drowsy brain.

I am within inches of the tendrils of my subconscious, tentatively preparing to tug me into a dream. Then, a jolt rushes up and down my spine, snatching me from its reach, and it scurries back into its mouse hole. We have stopped at a red light. The horns immediately protest, drawing me further out of my near unconscious state. Itching and adjusting the hijaab on my head, I grunt and pull myself up to look outside the window. My feet can’t reach the floor; I am only nine. My eyes widen to their full circumference, but I’m still not satisfied. I have to see more. The streets are filled haphazardly with taxis, cars, and an occasional motorcycle. The orange, red, and fluorescent white lights momentarily dazzle me. The shops stand on either side of the congested avenue, occasionally interrupted by the gaping maw of a bazaar. People walk in and out at a clipped pace, pushing any who happen to block their way. I open my window, unable to resist the bustling life of the city. Though it is night, the day’s residual heat is amplified by the black asphalt and smoggy belches of the surrounding vehicles.


A child girl selling items in the streets of Tehran
photo by lifegoesonintehran.com/

My eyes dart here and there, searching for a new oddity, a new marvel. Immediately, my pupils latch onto a movement I see between the honking cars. It is a girl, about my age, going from window to window, selling a stack of small Qurans, a perverted version of the girl scouts selling thin mints back home. The driver two cars up ignores her completely, and so she turns and heads toward our taxi. I am finally able to see her clearly. A tattered blue dress drapes over her slight form, and a smudged white scarf covers her hair. Her face is young, but her large eyes suggest experience beyond her years. Within them is the knowledge that I have yet to acquire. Still, they hold an expression of hope as she approaches. My father rolls down the window.

“How much are they?” he asks.

“Ten thousand tomans, agha,” she replies tiredly.

“I’ll take one,” my father replies, and pays her.

As she moves to hand him the Quran, he gestures to show that he doesn’t want it and rolls up the window. She thanks him and scurries to the next car, but not before meeting my eyes. Her seemingly knowing look frightens me. Instantly, I am ashamed of the dinner that rests in my belly, and I look away; I know who deserves it more. As soon as she passes, however, I turn in the seat to study her from the back windshield. She knocks on the window of the old Volkswagen behind us. The man inside opens the window, but quite obviously turns down her offer.

“You know, she was about your age, Yasi,” says my dad as I quickly turn forward.

“I know,” I reply quietly, and resume looking out the window.


About the author: Yasi Etemadi is a high school student interested in writing poems and short stories.

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