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The Killing of an Arab

Novel

Hooshang Danesh
Copyrights 2010 by Hooshang
Danesh

All rights reserved. No part of this book


may be reproduced or transmitted in any
form or by any means, electronic, or
mechanical, including photocopying,
recording, or by any information storage
and retrieval system, without permission
in writing from the copyright owner. This
is a work of fiction, any resemblance to
actual people is coincidental.

First Edition
Chapter One: Contact

We are video-chatting, my friend and I. He is


married and lives in Amsterdam. He is not
Dutch, but we’re both rootless, and restless--
doctors, we can go anywhere.
He is amazed by the on-line availability of
medical texts in States. He is picking my brains,
like he’s suddenly been dropped into a virtual
toy-store, and there’s no way out of there.
“What else you got?”
“Nothing, that would interest you!”
“Just tell me what you got, will you?”
“Look: I have Atlas of Endometriosis, 3rd
Edition!”
-1-
“Send the file, I’ll take it.”
“You’ll take it? You are a Psychiatrist for Gods
sake!”
“I’m married though, you never know!”
“Send her to a gynecologist, are you mad ?”
“Look , I like to collect text-books, they are free,
aren’t they?”
“They’ll sit on your hard disk forever!”
“Let me worry about that.”
“Ok, its sent.”
He looks exasperated, sitting in front of the
webcam. His hair standing upright on his head,
been slept on . It’s a Sunday, he looks disheveled.
I can hear his kids in the background.
“You should see the way you look--like a
frenzied mad dog!”
“Just because I like to keep up with
information?”
He just likes to hoard things. A genuine pack-
rat.
“What else you got?”
He is relentless. Its getting comical.
“This one couldn’t possibly interest you at all-so
don’t bother me about it.”
“Let me be the judge of that-you act like you
own these files.”
I should let him have it, its like a Greek tragedy.
-2-
Back in med-school, he’d started collecting
antiques. He would, in the middle of term drive
to some far-out county for the thin promise of
finding a 19th-century table lamp.
“You want to know what its called?”
“Go-ahead, try to humiliate me!” Chuckles. He
is incensed, I can hear it in his tone.
“Its: Oxford dictionary of clinical dentistry, 430
pages.”
I can’t stop laughing now, its hilarious.
“I’ll take it.”
He can’t back down. His forehead is stuck in the
shadows of the camera, pale and immobile. I
can’t make-out his face anymore. He is
dissolving in the shadows, unrecognizable,
“Coming right up!”
“I like to be able to talk sensibly with my
dentist!” He offers as an explanation.
He wants to rationalize things: but hoarding is
absurd..
“ The whole planet is afflicted with what you
got.” I want to say, but I don’t. Instead I say:
“It took you too long to come up with that
explanation, it
-3-
doesn’t count--remember: your mothers house?”
Once he took me home to meet his mother, the
house stank of cats, and defeated carpeting.
Card-board boxes of all sizes, were piled from
floor to the ceiling, and there was this thin
narrow passage, right in through them, you had
to tip-toe your way through, or fall flat on your
ass. And where there were no boxes, there were
piles of yellowing old news papers, some of them
dating back to 60’s. He’d looked curiously at me
and asked:
“It looks pretty bad, ha?” Like he wasn’t quite
sure.
And I’d mumbled: “Yes.” Not sure, what’s
expected of me, and also in a shock.
“I’ve seen worse!” He’d said flatly, dismissingly,
but with a tinge of anger.
And we’d left it at that.
Few years later, he casually told me his uncle
and wife were being evicted from their Long
Beach home by the department of Health
services.
“But why?”
“A neighbor reported them-they had collected so
-4-
much junk, all the windows were shut up, there
was no light coming in through the house, and
the house stank the neighborhood.”
“How could they live like that, I mean what do
they do for a living, how do they support
themselves?”
“They both work for the post office.”
Pause.
“They’ve been working for the post office for
twenty-five years!”
“Oh.”
I am not sure what--but something is thinly
logical about that explanation. I mean: post
office, order, sorting things out, and its
malignancy: never letting go of anything.

The picture from Amsterdam breaks. He moves


out of its field chasing one of his kids out of the
room. He apparently closes the door to his study.
Because they’re just faint obscure noises now ,
like they were thrown down a well.

“How is life there?”


“We like it here, there’s so much going on, and
then there’s a peacefulness here too, living isn’t
-5-
So diluted. I don’t think we could live in States
anymore, we would probably need a house three
times this.”

“Remember my uncle and his wife?”


“The pack-rats?”
“Yeah.”
“I think I finally know why?”
“Why?”
“ It’s all the Wal-marts, and the Chinese.”

“No, its deeper than that.” I think,


but let it go.
The door to his study must have been opened,
tiny voices rise like birds in thorn-they want
attention-and I see two of them behind him, on
the ground directionless, running in small rapid
circles. Like toys on fresh battery.

“You better go.”


He is reluctant.
“ Ring again, if you have something for me.”
It occurs to me that he uses hoarding to make
contact, human contact.
I want to say: ‘object relations’ have become
torn apart, like stars, planets nudged out of
motion.
-6-
But I must dash-off. I’m chasing objects as well.
Life is a lot busier here in Los Angeles.
We both wave goodbye, and just as I’m about to
cut the video off, I have another video-chat
invitation.

I don’t recognize the signature. Its vague. But


my memory is inefficient these days. There is
just so much I can store in my cells: so to cache
anything new, something else must always be
reduced in significance-I’m not sure what I can
afford to condense anymore. Everything seems
vital.
I type:
“Hi, do we know each other?”
“Yes.” Response is in English.
“Where?”
Pause.
She is typing a response.
“Nous avons recontre de la conference!”
I have to think. Translate. Conference?
Qu’est conference?”
She is typing.
“Medicins san frontiers-a Paris.”
-7-
Doctors without borders.
“Oh, oui.”
I connect the video, and there she is: Samar Ben
Mahmoud..
Just as pretty as when we met in Paris. Only
older, something vague building around her
eyes--no hijab (head cover), smiling wide with
that familiar innocence, same pearly white teeth,
and cracks in her eyes like pools of light. Back
in Paris she’d stood out like something wild and
uncommon. With a full-length black skirt that
didn’t quite match anything else she wore, or
match Paris for that matter. And her briefcase,
like something unexpected, thrown in the mix,
and she’d looked worn by its weight--and its
unfamiliar language of close-fisted masculinity. I
remember I noticed her feet first. She was
wearing a strappy open-toed pair. I was struck
by how pretty, and milky they were. And then
the hands she stretched out to meet mine, soft,
long, exquisite. Why was she there?
“What are you here for.” She must know some
English. Everyone pretends to, a bit.
“Etes-vous un medicin?
“No.”
She isn’t a doctor. Doctors don’t carry
briefcases.
“Je suis un avocet.”
“Qu’est-ce avocet?” No English at all? I
-8-
probably look disappointed.
“Lawyer, lawyer, d’anglais.” She repeats in a
happy tone, like she’s just discovered it in a
giddy corner of her brain. She has very bright
expressive eyes. I want to tell her she looks like
Juliette Binoche-but I’ve forgotten what she
looks like-its just a beautiful name. And only an
excuse for a complement.
We exchange eye contact again. Her eyes are
dipped in jars of honey.

“Je travaille sur l'obtention de l'eau à des


villages différents en Afrique.”
“votre français n'est pas bonne?”
“aucun.”
“votre niveau d'anglais?”
Pause.
“Ecote?”
“Pavillon de la Finlande est proche
Voulez-vous y aller à pied?”
I want to take her away. To a tourist spot next
door. She stands out here, conspicuously
splintered. The Finnish woods might have her
scents. Scents of roots and foliage with nests.

We walk to the pavilion de Finland, its almost


next door-it’s a modern piece. I am exhausted
with French architecture. They all have the
-9-
same autocracy, everything repeats itself like a
knock-knock joke. She walks along me. She has
a funny child-like walk. She swings to the left
and right, it reminds me of a windshield wiper.
And she smiles uncontrollably.
She is either playful naturally, or my curiosity
has made her coquettish. I seem to stare after
her, with fondness, and with a look like I’m
making an arrangement of her in mind. “
Like I plan to put her in a vase.

We have a great deal of fun that day, she likes to


try French pastries and chocolate. And likes to
beg me to share some with her. There is
something matronly, willowy about that. But I
have strict rule against sugars and cholesterol.
She doesn’t mind showing she disapproves of my
rules.

We come to have these forays into Paris every


day, for the next seven days of conference. We
are attracted to each others’ company. Nothing
around us exists directly during these dates, but
-10-
as extensions of some vague filament of
happiness. When I finally have her alone in my
hotel room, in a clear day you can see across
miles of rooftops. She refuses to make love.
Though she is very aroused. She trembles at
every touch. Her face reposes with discovered
new feelings ? I can’t tell. She says she is a
virgin!
“I have to be married first.” She says coyly,
reserved, while panting with sexual excitement.
“Or my father will kill me.” There is a look of
terror in her eyes. Is it real? I take heed though.
Had I not taken notice of this expression, we
might have gone all the way-but the severity of
that thought! She is a Muslim. She would have
been killed? In retrospect, I think the thought
must have both excited and trapped me there
and then in a way I am yet, unable to explain.

We exchanged e-mails next day. It was the last


day of conference, and it seemed the
appropriate, modern thing to do. Though
I couldn’t have imagined the thought of wanting
to murder her someday then, as now.
-11-
She said she lives in Tamanrasset. A town on the
borders of Sahara-- 2000 kilometers south of
Algiers.
“You should come, and talk to my father.”
Her English had improved a lot in seven days.
I think she meant I should marry her-that is if I
want: her love (or does she mean sex?)
I meant to tell her we don’t do things that way.
That there are many factors in love.
That things aren’t quite as common or concrete
as the father -approval -racket. But all the while
thinking: does her ways turn
“father”-“abstinence”, -- “marriage” into
complicated mysterious, and pleasure-finding
things ? I Know her temperature was higher
pitched than most girls I’d met. Perhaps “hijab”
was invented by women after all? I know women
who would pay dearly to have their libido
pitched this heavenly sharp.

And now, after two months, here she is on


skype. Without a “hijab”-her hair is dyed a
brownish color. Its short and looks attractive
around the symmetry of her face. She is wearing
a summer dress, something with straps over her
shoulders and her breasts are large winged
objects inside. I know how they feel. How they
can tremble like sea in desert, I know the rotund
shape of her nipples. Something had to be chased
out of my brain to preserve the memory of their
geometry.
-12-
“What?”
“Do you like my dress?” She repeats it as though
I can be hard of hearing.
She stands in front of camera now., showing off
the dress.
Its what happy careless women would wear if
they were strolling down a beach somewhere. Its
ornamented with tiny flowers. Its stylish. She
has good taste.
I say its pretty. I mean it.
She says: “I have good taste.”
I say approvingly like a husband: “I know
azizam.”

Azizam is an affectionate Persian term, it means


honey, dear. Its like habibi in their language.
Is the dress a glimpse of what she is like inside?
Carelessness of summer-unguarded, indifferent.
There and then I begin to think of her as a wife.
There is something very unexpected, and calm
about her.
I see her fit anywhere in the world. Our world.

I feel happy, privileged by her existence?


“You look great.”
“Thank you honey. I like that word ‘honey.”
It occurs to me that words of affection like:
azizam or honey must have certain sounds, and
lyricism in them. Binding. Movements away
-13-
from the remote- into smoother hoards of life.
It feel as though with “honey” her pretty dress
will come off her body the way it never did in
Paris. Though I was allowed to touch, and tease
her- I’ve never seen her naked.

But here, 10,000 miles or more away--She looks


ready to throw them down like feathers in the
wind. Is it the rebelliousness of internet?
Or is this the reunion of a river that began in
Paris? Or million years ago?

I don’t know quite want to say:


“ Can I see your breasts?” I’m sure I can’t say
that. Even distance doesn’t reduce how unusual
that sounds to me. I know I’d really have to want
her first.
And I know I’ll be saying it for her sake. To me
seeing them from here is like conducting a
mantle of music far away in an attic. Their scents
are out of reach, their shifting weight. The
orchestra would be missing major footsteps. But
she must know I desire them. That I am
speechless. I’d felt them-- made them sway, and
felt their nipples harden in between my fingers,
like frozen things.
-14-
But that “terror” in her eyes: ”My father will
kill me.” I want to ask: “is it easier here. Is a
simple webcam enough to shake away the
foundation of family/religion? Has this religion
existed for the cold indefinite solitude of
appearances only?

I notice her room. Its small. The webcam is


slanted to her right to show her thinly profile.

Behind her is a dresser, painted white like the


rest of the room, it absorbs light in goblets and
drops them around her in fits of grey. She wears
a headphone with a microphone, she whispers
carefully, everyone in the house must be sleep.
She lives with her parents of course. And the
door to her room is closed. And her clothes are
piled orderly and neat on the dresser.
I know I don’t wish to see her naked. Touching
her in Paris had almost meant love, this here
could drive me into insanity. (And it does.)
I say I’ll see her again tomorrow?
She nods her head.
She blows kisses, as we sign off.
-15-
A taste remains just under my skin. Something
subterranean, something from some other world.
Later on I dream of her breasts stirred. Of their
terrifying wind.
In the morning, I try to forget her, it feels like
being infected by the pure essence of objects. I
know I want her scattered warmth. But I know
seeing them without touch is a soliloquy,
touching them without love is object-less, empty.
It will be like the thick fruit that breaks and
falls. And no one’s to pick it.

But I’d underestimated her. Underestimated


myself. And underestimated the threat of being
submerged in the sterile sorrow of aloneness.
Objectless.

-16-
Chapter Two: The Eyes Have it.
-17-
She calls back the next day. Its almost midnight
there in Tamanrasset. And it’s the beginning of
evening here in Los Angeles. The day will settle
in dark mountain hollows soon. We will almost
share the night together.
I hear the rapid Spanish dialect of the neighbors
in my headphone. The world is hushed on her
side of the world-except the occasional barking
of a lonely dog , and the sounds of roosters, or
are they chickens? No one would know around
here.
I like to ask her personal things like does she
have a boyfriend. And why a pretty woman like
her is yet unmarried. In fact I do ask that.
“Comment etes-vous pas marie?”
She looks shocked by the question. They are
unused to directness, or is it reality?
“Vous n’etes pas marie ni.”
She means I am not married either.
I want to say: but I’m not an Algerian Muslim
woman aged thirty. But its all too obvious.
“Il ya quelqu’un?”
“Speak English please.”
“did you have someone?”
“Yes, but he married a girl with money. I loved
him.”
And just as she says this, tears come out of her
eyes. She is quick to dry them by a lonely finger.
Its so solitary, I think.
-18-
I want to be empathic.
“I am sorry, who was he?”
“No, it’s the past-why go to the past, why?”
I like to say: but its you who is crying about it!
But then I’m neither a woman, nor a romantic.
“There are gender and cultural issues here.”
I murmur mutant to myself.

She wants to change the subject again:


“How about you, you aren’t married yet, why?
You haven’t found anyone?”
She asks almost accusingly.

“I don’t have anyone?”


I think sadly to myself: But I want to say we
have something called: fuckbuddies. People who
like each other, go for casual sex. But I know this
fuckbuddy thing is neither in the zeitgeist nor in
the collective consciousness. And never been
practiced by me. I’ve just heard of it. It can’t
really talk about something I’ve only heard of!

“You look beautiful tonight.”


I want to say you look like a silent territory-like
your Sahara-like pure water has slept in you.
-19-
But I can neither translate it, nor her English
can pick it up. We have to fall on something
terrestrial, something not words but with their
potency and tenderness.
And I think this is where her pale, pale skin
comes in, like a trick of waving silt by a magician
and doves will fly out.

“It’s inevitable that her clothes will come off. “


I think.
If we sit her and there, night after night for
weeks, in wrathful peace, nothing would stir us
as much as her pale flesh seen. Nothing in her
world can forbid it yet, religion always play
catch up to the majesty of thirst.
“We should sit in our own blue bonfires, and
watch the passing of blood over our extended
wings.”
I want to express. Should I tell her I’m a poet
too?

A clear wind from near my Pacific ocean to her


silent, solitary Sahara, How quickly my mind has
turned on itself. I’m changing my thoughts,
inhibitions, restraints.
-20-
The thing really needs my perusal, her daring,
and the rightness of our reflection.
“Its all there.” I think.
So I begin to softly seduce, the most willing
object. Her readiness is in every dress she puts
on for the next few days. The florid flows of tiny
colors in the distance. They all want to be
dropped in her 30-year-old hands and slap the
moon in the face. I would have said.
In how she texts: “I am going to take a shower,
and be with you in ten minutes.” In the way she
turns the camera to show the whiteness of her
bare legs. The slope of her eyebrows in the view.
The silent agreement of the universe.
. One night I ask :
“Aren’t you sleepy?”
“No.”
“You sure!”
“Yes, I’m sure, I want to talk to you more,
everyone in the house is sleep?”
“Are they?”
“The door to your room closed?”
“Yes, see.”
She walks to the single door and turns the lock
clock-wise.
“See?”
We are co-conspirators now..
-21-
.“Can I see more of you-I think we’re ready.”
“No, we can’t-we have to be married first.”
She repeats it like a mantra.
“But how can we know if we can be married?”

“I don’t understand?”

“Tomorrow night?”
“May be!”
“But you have felt me in Paris-you know me
already!”

“But we are 10000 miles or more away- we


almost have to become closer or die apart?”
“Die?”
“Alright I’m exaggerating a bit but only the
spirit can move this distance alone, and only the
spirit makes the call!”
I seem more vague to myself.
“Yes, I know.”

“Tomorrow night.”
“What do you want to see?”
“Everything at once, “
“I think we’re just desiring to be close.” I say
convinced.
“We have talked so much—and we will run out
-22-
of words someday, and then what?”.”
“I want to fall into some dream of silence, and
take root.”
I want to say, but can’t, even if she knows
English well? Though it isn’t vague to me
anymore.

She is silent. I know she repeats the words to


herself for understanding. But listens more to
the music, so it reaches her. She moves the
microphone closer to her mouth.
I think her hands are so pretty.

“Yes?”
Pause.
“And yours, your skin?”
“In the rigthtness of your reflection.”
The poet in me.
pause
“Are you falling in love with me?”
“I think I’m falling into all possible, that’s
something.”
I repeat, hoping she catches their scents.
-23-
“Your voice is so nice.”
Pause.
“Votre voix.”
“I understand.” I say, and see the swaying
towers, like spiders, they will turn the moon into
a star.

Then her bare skin begins to cover the camera,


the whole of the solitude.
They look like roots of water.
Everything remains still, and persists at another
limit.

Her breasts look the way they’d felt. But its like
they are covered by more mystery, and made
even more voluptuous.. She rubs her nipples
round and round, like I’d done. Her fingers are
slimmer than mine. And for a time, she looks
absorbed in some memory.
“It can’t be mine?.”
I think a voice might have been brave enough to
say that in my head.
And she sways under my skin this way, a
subterranean river. And its not like I get goose-
bumps, erection, or rapid heart beat. Whatever
this is, its more stealth. It’s as much a mystery
-24-
to me, as movement, stillness, or the geometry of
things are. But I think and dream of nothing
else but her for hours after we sign off, until she
connects on again. And we barely talk except:

I ask her to marry me.


She agrees.

-25-
Chapter Three: The Shape of
my Heart.

Moments after we wave goodnight, and only an


hour after our engagement is set final. I go
looking through drawers , and old boxes, for my
grandmother’s diamond ring. I know I’ve always
had it. Always assure of its existence, though not
looking for it at all. Its always sat there,
somewhere, like a rare unguarded treasure. Oh,
not because of its price, its only a half-carat
diamond ring, princess cut, on aged white gold..
Its an antique . She’d said before she passed
away:
“You only give this to a woman you are going to
marry.”
-26-
Like she’d suspected I might be careless with its
allegiance, and then looked at me as though, the
thought of my marriage had suddenly
invigorated her. It must have meant continuity,
endlessness to her. She must have known that it
exists, then and there.
I often wonder if she was the one who poisoned
me with these thin innocent thoughts of love,
marriage?
Never mind that now.
She’d died two days later in sleep at the old
people’s home in north of Tehran.
Not really a nursing home. She’d never been ill.
But where she’d been surrounded by people her
own few generations. Women and men she
talked to often. People who had lived lives
similar to hers. Old doctors, college professors,
inventors, nurses.
I know their society had been rich and
confirming. Their own generations must have
thought of erecting these places themselves.
Orderly, clean, spacious rooms with views of
Persian gardens, rituals: tea every hour, word
puzzles, and talk of poetry and of classics.
-27-
I’d been there many times. She’d liked to show
me off. I liked to do the same. She looked healthy
vibrant, and sometimes energetic as a little girl.
No one had ever seemed depressed, or ill there.
Just aging well, and social in the Persian way:
like everyday is Nourooz (new yesr): presents,
eloquence, the perfect symmetry of things, like in
Persian rugs, like the universe somehow makes
sense and geometry is its testament.
And their earned luxuries: their satellite dishes
like little deflated things arranged conspicuously
asymmetric on balconies. (they weren’t allowed
by the illegal government who frightened, would
naturally jump at the sounds of birds chirping.)
The Voice of America in one room, BBC in the
other. They trusted the state run TV and radio,
even less than the young people did.

Silent agreement over the outside distant world


of rape and mayhem. Silent prayers for the
extinction of “akhunds” as they called the clerics
(the enemy).. And always poetry at the
beginning, and in the end. Like destiny is like
geometry too, and somehow it must always
repeat and rhyme in one form or shape. Only
then they weaved and sang like young boys and
girls the truth about the world, and everyone
trembled then before this swirling mystery.
-28-
And the saddest thing for me then as now: the
remembrance of things past. That inevitable
sense of nostalgia.

The nostalgia had always wanted me to run out,


elsewhere, elsewhere. But one by one they had
picked up this revulsion in me, they seemed to
have the keenest senses, and left the nostalgia out
of our conversations. Like it was an uneven
number in the grace of our meetings.

But where did I pick up these thoughts of love


and murder?

It couldn’t have been the religion in them. None


was a devout Muslim . They may all have been
born into it, but with all the hardships of present
Iran. These people were sick of this new-old-
religion-racket.

My grandfather, God bless his soul, had upon


moving into the big city, ages ago, been
persuaded by a friend into Bahaism, a
-29-
perfect peaceful naïve branch off Islam, I don’t
know much more about them. But their
ritualistic “meetings” and “socializations” been
too autocratic and ceremonial to be
comprehensible to me as young boy. I was
reading Crime and Punishment then, and was
content with that sort of meaning. Everyone else
seemed to take things too seriously, or do I mean
superficially”? My dear grandfather, after
taking me to a Bahai meeting (which had lasted
a ghastly 3 hours) looked me in the eyes, and
there and then abandoned thoughts of
converting me, I think in my 14 –year- old eyes ,
he must have clearly seen the nature’s beast in
me. He must have seen that no amount of talk
about “love and peace” could drive the beast
out.

And with the same rebelliousness, I assume, my


grandmother had defected from Bahaism after
his death. No, she’d remained respectful to him,
all through his “love and peace” phase of life, she
must have been a beautiful pretender. But
shortly after his death, she went to India and
became a devotee of a 70-year-old Indian guru
named startlingly: Sri Sri Baba. And she
remained a devoted follower, until hoards of
grown young
-30-
men, his eminences’ former followers, came out
of closets in numbers and accused him of having
had raped them in their childhood. Their stories
entirely believable. She left this guru feeling
indignant and confused.
And she never mentioned this period of her life
to anyone. And if I were slightly playful, joking
about this pedophile. She would stare at me
hurt,, with her round black eyes, pleading me
silently to stop. And I would.
-
But for different reasons, everyone in the
fashionable old people’s home was a silent
objector to the religion scam. Though none ever
really warned me about the deception, the
conceit, or I wouldn’t have become the perfect
murderer I slowly am.
-31-
Chapter Four: Surprise.

I said I have a surprise for you. I think I was


more excited than I’d ever been. More excited
than the time I got my first bike-more so than
anytime I’ve bought roses or presents for
anyone.
The ring laid perfectly still on the Persian rug in
its velvety box, I thought the world of it-strident,
thin and lugubrious, it whistled “hurry” at me.
“What surprise.?”
She sounded tired like always. She said she
worked 8 hours at her job, and came home to
wash and cook, and help her mother with chores.
She never was free before 10:30 at night.
“It’s a wonderful surprise.” I said.

“What’s a surprise?” I think the eagerness in


my voice, and the mysterious word: surprise,
frightened her.

“A surprise is a good thing.”


“Oh.” She exclaims, a tired timid smile lights her
eyes for seconds, like she is ready to put up with
-32-
this surprise business. It occurs to me that the
“surprise” notion may be an entirely alien thing
to her. That nothing suddenly thrust upon you
can be that welcome in her world. And that
perhaps somewhere inside her she is expecting
bad news?
“No, I assure you, you’ll really like this!”
I feel I have to really convince her with this.
“Ok, what is it?”
She clasps her hands in that childish way she
has. It reminds me of her walk, the playfulness;
she’s taking her time to mature.
“It’s a ring, an engagement ring, for you!”
“You have it already?”
“Yes its right here, look!”
I take it out of its velvet bed. It sparkles with
blueness. Like I’ve lit a lantern in the room. She
stares at it, asks me to hold it close to the
camera. She is awake, restful, measuring things.
“For me?”
“Who else , why, we are engaged now.”
“But you said you can’t come to Tamanrasset for
another 2 months?”
“I know I’ll mail it to you.”
“How? They’ll steal it!”
“No, I know a courier service, they’ll deliver it to
your door.”
“Make sure I have to sign for it.”
-33-
she says with legal authority.
“Ok.”
“Its beautiful. How did you get it?”
“It’s a long story.”
Perhaps I don’t want to remember my
Grandmother at this point.
Perhaps she ought to have warned me with not
just her eyes,. But words, even tears, about
recklessness, treachery, love.
And perhaps she ought not have left me with a
jewel to plan a future, but a strapping dagger,
something ominous and intimidating.

Samira is over the moon that night. Every few


moments she asks me to put the ring right back
in front of the camera and turn it like its on fire,
and the ring’s reflection looks condensed, in her
attentiveness, like it’s become the union of nights
elements, and you feel as though an assumption
is posted behind every object in the universe, and
this ones’ clearly sustained by a minor star.

And her clothes don’t just come off her body


that night, they vanish like a spell and everything
becomes a curve that circles us into the closest
distance. And I, an intelligent being myself,
survive a night of worship?
-34-
She doesn’t ask me to make any promises, she
doesn’t even ask whether or not I will post the
ring later or sooner. By the dawn there in
Tamanrasset, she falls into sleep. With the lights
and the camera left on. Her legs far apart, like
she’d been interrupted in the middle of a dance.

I jump into bed myself, assured that love or a


religion has taken over me entirely. And I dream
of a great forest surrounding us. Of objects
incomprehensibly inseparable and lost. And of
their union, and collective echo, somewhere,
where I’m not allowed.

As soon as I wake up, I instantly recall past


conversations at the old people’s home in
Tehran. Someone or other had on more
occasions tried to explain the “foreign” religion
of Islam. They liked to do that. To blame it all on
Arabs. The history apparently went something
like this: Arabs spiritual impulses before
Muhammad were entirely absent or lukewarm.
That they worshipped idols, their objects of
devotion had to be seen by eye, and touched by
hands or it couldn’t exist at all!!
“They couldn’t imagine God , can you believe
that?”
-35-
“Well what does that mean?”
“It means they can’t abstract at all—eventually
they’ll need 72 virgins just to understand the
abstraction of heaven? Why don’t you read
some?”

I read.
The different nomads had different idols, And
they performed ceremonies in “nude” around
these idols. A famous object was known as Al-
Lat, she was a cubic rock!!
“But the current object of worship in Mecca is a
huge cubic rock!”
“Old Muhammad, may he rest in peace, really
tried.”

She (Al-Lat) was venerated by Qurayshies.

“Muhammad changed a great of that, I tell you


son, but that a meteor hitting the desert
venerated as a “larger” holy object?
The old folks raised their eyebrows in a tight
circle of empathy! As in:
“The mysteries you don’t know boy!”

“Do you know as we speak the Islamic republic


not too far from these walls is arresting women
for not dressing constrictively enough. I mean
they want the scarf tight enough to literally
strangulate us?”
-36-
“And all the time, while they worship another
cubic rock-a she phallus.”

That was the voice of my own grandmother.

“What does have to do with the price of rice?”

“My grandson is not an idiot, he just pretends to


be.”

“Look, old Muhammad had his hands full. I


mean some nomadic Arabs worshipped stones
made in the shape of phallus, and do you know
the most frequent appeal to their object-gods?”
“What?”
“Guess.”
“I can’t.”
“Their most frequent appeal to stone idols was
to settle the legitimacy of their children.”

“You mean they slept with one another a lot?”


“Call it what you like, but it sure sounds like
they fucked each other’s wife or concubines and
frequently.”

“Frequently?”
“They come home, after a long trip, and the wife
or whatever is pregnant, they would go to the
stone god temple, and draw arrows.”
-37-
At the time I had pointed out that if they
performed their ceremonies in nude, around
object gods, and children’s legitimacy were
frequently questioned, then Freud, would call
“Hijab”: Reaction-Formation: constructing the
opposite of their reality. I had exclaimed this
with great enthusiasm. But the old folks cared
less for Freud than for Islam or Arabs.

I read on.
In: Kitab al-Asnam (the book of idols)
everything the old Persians murmured is
supported: the old Arabs worshiped objects
created, rather than the creator. They clearly
had problems with abstraction.

This by sidelines reminded me of my friend’s


exile to Amsterdam and his family of pack-rats,
his mom’s house, the postal workers being
evicted for hoarding objects etc.

“Arabs called these object-worship temples:


Ka’bah. And they circumbutated the Ka’bah in
a state of nudity?
“You must tell them.”
“Tell who?”
-38-
“Whoever you run into.”

“The current Arabs still worship a stone in a


temple called Ka’bah, and the act of worship
consists of circumbulating the stone-- not nude-
mind you, but in white uniforms.”

“Who would I tell these to?”

“To those who worship objects, that they might


have to become Muslims, and this is what one
Islamic empire looks like.”

The most quiet of them says:


“Imagine ten more, and you see the problem?”

“No, I don’t.”

Their olive-colored voices whine down in my


head.

I don’t praise their halting history lessons. Their


love of what might be made clear. Or the fears of
what awaits their grandchildren on the Tehran
streets. But above all I sing a common thought
that joins us in the dark.

And of murder and love, always in the air.


-39-
Chapter Five: 72 Virgins in
Heaven, 1 on Earth.

I had to call my mother and tell her the good


news. She and my sister have been waiting for
the day I announce my engagement and wedding
plans. My sister is unable to have children.
I have come to be their sole common thought of
fertility. Through me they hope to leave the
frantic rain of their veins, and naked forms.
I suspect they daydream of caressing these
offspring, of admonishing them with their clear
gestures. A naked boy will be taught to curl his
fingers into a fist (like me), the girl will measure
solitude with silence.
-40-
After my grandmothers death, they’ve both
moved to India, They’ve bought apartments in
Bangalore, fancy little places with air-
conditioners, silk Indian rugs, and old family
pictures framed luxuriously, like restless
longings. The have cell-phones, and broadband,
and no morality police like Tehran. And
everyday is some God’s birthday in India, and
this abundance of Gods, I assume they feel, can
not pierce your flesh and thoughts like one God
in Tehran can. I clearly approve of India, but
refuse to visit them. One anchored God, this is
the way I want it. Breath of flesh and matter
exactly joined, for the love of one “entire”-- that
doesn’t even know your name.

“Hello!”
“Its me.”
Its my mother who always picks up the phone.
My sister is afraid of phones just as I am. I’m
happy phones are dying out. The boomers thing.

“How is it going?”
I ask in my American colloquialism.
“Great, we just came back from a women’s
meeting. We want to collect enough money for a
new orphanage, in a village near Bangalore.”
“People keep reproducing, ha?”

Pause.
She doesn’t quite know how to answer me.
She believes as Hindus do that we are on
different planes of consciousness. She suffers
silently for my lack of altitude.
-41-
“Hey mom, I have a new joke for you.”

“Ok.”

“An Iranian, An Indian and an Arab were


shipwrecked and were holding on to a piece of
wood for their lives, in the middle of an ocean?

I rest for timing, as jokes go this one is a bit


complicated,.
“Ok?”
She is enthusiastic.

“A shark swims by and eats the Arab and the


Iranian. Right?”

“The Indian holds one hand up to the sky, and


thanks God for having saved him from the
shark. The shark turns around right then, and
says: “Hey I ate one of you last year, and my ass
still burns.”

Mother is laughing and for some old, odd reason,


always wants to explain my own jokes to me.

“You see its because Indian food is real hot and


spicy. “ Ha ha ha. She laughs with renewed
energy. It reminds her of Iran where everyone is
cracking jokes all the time, Persian mockery of
all that’s officious, mean:
-42-
and all in the name of “this-too-will pass” of
Hafez and Rumi, In the parlor of: “dust-in-the-
wind.” Where the soul filters concreteness from
the essence of most joyful- is

“I have news for you.”


I almost never start a conversation like that. She
is already alarmed.

“I am officially engaged to an Algerian lawyer,


she is beautiful.”
“ What’s her name?”
“Samar, short for Samira, its quite a pretty
name.”
Silence.
“You sure you aren’t hurrying things, how long
you have known her, any pictures?”

“Yeah, I’ll send it right away. Check your e-


mails.”
Silence.

You’d think the pursuit of continuity, genetic,


etc. would speak, sparkle, but it’s the perennial
fear of changes? Or: Love-objects have become
unfathomable to her. My father passed on six
years ago, she does “meditate” few hours a day.
When in Tehran, she’d walk out of her
“meditation” hours, wet with tears, and claim to
have reached ecstasy over and over. Entirely
believable to her. But not to me.
-43-
The knot never seemed broken. At the river’s
bend, she’d continue with same chains. And the
presence of ecstasy/God in just a few hours of the
day, made her God look truant. They were
thoughtful fits of solitude, solitude with attitude.
Style. But why her God was only present in her
own architecture of absence?

She never explained I never asked. I was content


her God was flagless. Her God didn’t rest by
tables waiting impatiently to razor necks. I loved
her for this generosity, and was patient with her.

“How long you have known each other?”

“A few months? Its like time has been split in


two--time in her absence, and time in her
presence. Mom I think time has a lot of unknown
features.”
“You talk to her like this too?”
“Not really, she is all the way in Tamanrasset,
somewhere in the south of Algeria.”

“All the way out there?”

“Funny her mother said the same thing: “all the


way in America.”
-44-
“What’s with you mothers and distance? Is it the
length we have to travel the womb?”

“Her parents know you talk like this?”


“They only speak Arabic, she said her father
understands French.”

“Well good, you haven’t been to Algeria, have


you?”
“No, how can I, I’m booked for 3 months solid,
we talk and see each other on Skype every day.”

“I see!”
She sounds puzzled. She needs help.

“Let me get your sister.”


“Oh, no.”- I think, that’s always a threat. My
sister is older than I, round and grayish-a
changeless bully. And its like her mind has
boroughs, and one can devour priests, one can
devour neighbors, but they all can devour poets.

She cuffs the phone. I know they are discussing


something frantically. The bully picks up the
phone after a minute or two.

“We got your fiancé’s picture, is this her in a


“hijab” ?” She sounds threatening.
-45-
She doesn’t wait for an answer. Talking to her is
like holding a sword against a dragon. There is
fire and there is smoke, and you can wave your
sword aimlessly, uselessly.
But like the dragon in “Shrek” you hope she’ll
fall in love with the donkey.

“After all the crap we’ve been through with


Islam, you want to marry a woman in ‘hijab’ ? I
mean that’s so two-faced.”

I don’t know what to say. Her vocabulary hasn’t


grown since she was eight.
“Look here, Samar, my beloved, lives in Algeria,
its like living in Iran, except Iran is quite a bit
worse, but when taking pictures, they have to
wear hijab. In Los Angeles, she won’t be wearing
a hijab, do you mind?”

I secretly wish for the donkey to appear now.


The dragon will whisk (the donkey) away, in
rapture, finally captive to love, discipline, even
good vocabulary.
I want to whistle a tune while her boroughs are
working up cynicism, mixed with rejection.
But everything is a bit absent in her. The
murmurings of crystal, wood, bird, man
-46-
“This isn’t another one of your madness things,
is it? Remember in 2004 you fell in love with that
Hollywood actress. I don’t remember her name.
But you sent her flowers, even wrote scripts for
her. And where did you end up?”

She damn sure knows where I ended up. In a


private mental institution, for only two weeks
though, just the place for a tune-up.

“Look here, we’re in love, and getting married.”


Waving the sword in the air.

“How old is she?”

She is thirty, a very attractive thirty-and she is a


virgin.”

“She is what?” She really hasn’t heard me.


“She is virgin, never been touched, etc..etc..”

“You must be joking me, a thirty-year-old


virgin. How do you know she is a virgin?”

“She told me if she is touched by anyone before


marriage, her father would kill her. It’s the
Islamic law there!”
I say with abstinence, conviction.
-47-
“You’ve gone bunkers.”
Bunkers is one of her favorite words, she has
other favorite words I don’t understand. Like
“shagging” -“chakra” or “prissy”—for a time
she had everyone calling her: “padma.” “The
foot of mother” in Hindu. “What?” I was never
bold enough to ask why. We didn’t grow up
together, she was such a bully, and a precocious
little girl, she had to be shipped out of Islamic
Iran to a boarding school in England, where the
nuns collectively pronounced her unsalvageable,
“irredeemable”, or something like it, as it turns
out, nuns too, have their own vocabulary.

Of course, they couldn’t have been more “right”


the big pretty bully went on to college, studied
arts, and is a self-made millionaire.
Ask me why? And I tell you God has a soft spot
for bullies. They fasten themselves to his sad
beauty, and avoid innocence altogether.

So I assumed she can’t understand the beauty of


virginity, having left hers perhaps, behind the
mossy walls of some old English building.
-48-
See, on the roads of becoming a murderer, I
become the magician of creating mysteries of
reason and intellect. As I go along, almost every
rose’s visible beauty can be turned upside down.
As a favorite football coach of mine used to say:
“ Any team can win on any Sunday.” And so I
believe, same with reason.

My mother gets back on the phone. She


understand my petition better. And she wants
grandchildren.

“So, when are you going to Algeria?”

“In three months. We haven’t talked about the


details yet.”

“Tell her, I have a lot of family jewels for her.


They are all meant to be given to your bride.”

She wants to bribe her already! She means


‘affection’ though. Very Expensive these days..

Pause.
She is searching in her memories. But it always
takes but a few seconds: the woman is sharp.

“Tell her when I was in College, we were taught


about the life of a great brave Algerian woman.
She fought against the French.”
-49-
“Her name is on the tip of my tongue.”

“Mother, do you think it’s the right time to


mention their history of colonialism.”

I am somewhat ashamed of having suggested


that. Because later on, as you’ll see I take every
chance to mention and humiliate my object of
love.

“Alright, you are right, better not to mention it,


they are sensitive about that. But what language
do you guys use to speak, you don’t know
Arabic, she can’t know Farsi?”

“We equally butcher English and French,


though her English is improving a lot faster than
my French.”

I liked to boast of her mental acuities back then.

“She is like a sharp little butterfly, she jumps


from French to English, back to French and I’m
learning Arabic, though to be honest with you
mom, I will murder a woman who makes love to
me in that language, its so ..well..unromantic..so
I plan to teach her a lot of sexy-dirty words in
Farsi, do you mind?”
-50-
“Ha ha ha..this is a little more than I need to
know.”

“I know but it will amuse you all day, sex is like


a tiny infinite burn. Every footstep will throb.”

“I have to go, your sister is calling me, she’s met


a Tibetan holy man, he’s teaching her about the
power of crystals.”

“She is surrounded by monks-someone must


always lick the wounds of millionaires.”

“Stop it, you two didn’t grow up together, you


never really liked her.”

“No, I can’t say: I did.”

“All wounds can heal, remember!”

“You think miracles can happen mom!”

“ Miracles happened to you!!”

“No they didn’t. I am a tornado through the


south, slanting through the back mire, I like to
spit on the broken boats, and drive them into
shoulders mom.”
I could have said that then, but didn’t know it
yet.
-51
Chapter Six: She Drives Me
Crazy

After talking to the folks I sit through an all-


engaging silence. The sister’s anger, the mothers’
shy approval, And I think I hear my father, the
dead are more powerful, and his sad handsome
face is here. He always jumped, jumped rather
than wait. He’d jump for the brutal pleasures of
everyday. He was like a boy with his own bear.
He once asked me to go for a ride with him, and
took me to the nastiest streets of Tehran, streets
I’d never seen. In the poorest neighborhood. And
parked the car, walked to an old cinema which
showed three Chinese Karate films for the price
of one. He bought two thickets, we found two
seats in pitch darkness, in the middle of some
dreary thing. The theatre was packed with men
only. They talked throughout the cheapest action
flicks, and broke
-52-
and chewed sesame seeds and spat the tiny
shelves at anyone seating below them. I
remember sinking into the wooden seat, thinking
this odd odor, these cold men, this existing is the
most horrid experience I’ve ever had. And why
is he doing this to me ? After a few hours he got
up and we left in the middle of the third
incomprehensible thing. Once outside and in the
car, he calmly said: “I just want you to know
how the others live.”

I didn’t speak to him for two weeks, until anger


receded in the distance.

“Once I had a father who was a giant.”

“This for the crocodiles who lie in ambush.


Because I want to break the chalice in the middle
of worship. And those who sleep in the street
corners will say: once he had a father who was a
giant.”

I wait all day aimless until its 11:00 PM in


Tamanrasset. I know she’ll be tired from her 12
hours day, and that she is saving for me the most
special part of herself. I feel gratified. I almost
want a tiny madness to come in for sure, in this
great gathering of “us”, her and I.
-53-Something should howl, pushing through our
throats. Tearing out roots, shaping new sounds.

She is late, and I complain to the computer, I


know its slowly acquiring, mirroring creature
forms, its future arrives in its now like a
projection. It will be soulful someday, it says:
“rest assured.” I know I want it that way.

When she clicks I click right back. She appears


briefly: “I’ve been learning new English for
you.”
“What?”

“Things to amuse you.”


“What?”

“I don’t know how to say it, but I’ll write it for


you.”
“Ok.”

“I go to take shower, then you can see my


poussy, I want you to think you can fuck my
poussy.”

And she clicks off. The picture’s gone. I have the


sentence in front of my, she must have looked up
the words, and hurried through with excitement
of their meanings, forgetting the spellings.

And isn’t this a strange place for a dance.


Oh, savage shameless Algeria.
-54-
I type:
“Les femmes Algériennes Je t'aime.”
“Algerian women I love you.” So, it’d be the first
thing she sees, when she gets back. and wait
and tremble like a man out of its shell. Like a
man with blue teeth, a grin born of a head, eyes
with thousand ears.

“How long does a shower take?”


Oh, mine are 10 minutes each.

I want to hear the tiny sounds of water, where in


her body resist. The pink sponge, the green soap.

“How did it go?”


“Like this.”
And the towel is on he floor.

“Really, like that?”


“Yes.”

“How will it happen.”

“Its like an itch, here, it never sleeps.”

“Now whip him, whip him.”


“Here it is where my finger is, here, whip him.”

“Your pussy, you shaved.”


-55-
“If you just look at it, it feels so good when I
know you stare.”

“Do you like me?’


“Yes and you?’
“Yes, yes.”

“Let me see, I have to see.”

“Its so hard,

Then I dream of being on a roof’s edge.


With the fears erased.

“One more blow.”


“I want to see that nothing is left.”

Out on the sky no one sleeps.

Her deep blinding forms crackle the matter. And


out of the corners of night a leak.
A long enduring moment of tenderness, and
pure relations escape. In both of us,
simultaneous.

And I become addicted to her, and she’s


addicted to me. And it will come to matter.

Continued
.

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