It did not seem hard to keep, the promise of being always happy. We were young, we had the whole future in front of us, we were actively changing the world around us for the better, and when he asked me to promise to always be happy, naively I said, “sure!”. Well, I was happy at the time. It was one of the best times in my life. I had passed the entrance exam for post-graduate studies in one of the best universities in the country, I had a good job, I had wonderful friends, and I had found a cause. He had become my best friend, the one that I always wanted. Life was perfect with it’s imperfections. Little did I know at the time about the nightmares to come, the sleepless nights of fear and suffering, the loss, the deaths that I was later forced to witness, the cold dry winter day at the cemetery when I had to climb down the grave to put the three-year-old Setareh in, the endless pain.
I was a spoiled child, brought up in the comfort of middle class with very little real-world experience. I had read a lot of books and believed that those novels had given me a real insight on life. I thought I was wise and experienced. It was a great shock, when I suddenly noticed how naive and stupid I was, how delusional I had been, how simple-minded.
Now, I am stuck in a life hunted by memories of pain and sadness, trying to keep a promise that I made 16 years ago, to be happy forever, and that is not easy, not easy at all … .
There’s no food left in the fridge. I’m cooking the last piece of chicken and the leftover rice. Payday is later this week, though. We might make it till then. I am not used to living frugally. This is a completely new world to me: the paycheck to paycheck survival pattern.
It’s funny how things change. The family parties, abundant with food and laughter. Those great weekends in dad’s garden when we would just play cards, listen to music and make tasty kabobs on open fire. Starry nights of my teenage years when I would spend most of the nights lying down on the rooftop, trying to figure out the constellations, all ended in nightmare after nightmare; the horrifying turn of events that I ran away from, to save myself and my son!
There is not much hope for me. I’m not that delusional to think the simple act of running away to a different place will save me. What bothers me dwells right inside my heart and my brain; there is no running away from that. I am permanently hunted by the shadows of my past. The scape might just keep me away from having to pass by the same places day in and day out; from standing for hours in front of what is left of Amir’s house; from lying down on Minoush’s grave right next to Laya’s tombstone. I might become a normal person again, I might be able to stick to existence till the day I have the freedom to end it all for good.
It is different for my son, though. He is still a child. He knows nothing of the fury and frustration of being exposed to the ugly side of life. He doesn’t have to. This is a different world. People are simpler, life is easier, and there is no pressure to be what you otherwise wouldn’t choose to be. He might be safe. He is happy, and his laughter is the only thing that connects me to life.
It’s a small apartment. A very small two bedroom. Enough. I have no desire for large houses. there is enough light, many windows, even in the bathrooms, and Sam has his own bedroom. He is happy. I didn’t raise him with the Persian standards of the more the better. He is happy to have a little privacy and to invite friends over. This is Home.
I put my purse down and sit on the floor. There is no furniture. What would mom think? She would be disappointed for sure. In her world, the same world that I was brought up in, that of conservative bourgeoisie, happiness cannot be achieved if you do not possess the right furniture. People who sit on the floor are not only of inferior breed, they will not and cannot be happy. In that sense, she is a lot like Americans. Everyone seems to be devoted to money here, too. I am no exception either. I am a child of the same culture. The only difference is where I like to Put my money:
I used it to buy freedom…
It is always the same thing: the little girl, almost three, with her long curly hair and big dark eyes, looking at me with a piercing gaze. I know better now that there is no way I can go closer to touch her or hug her, or maybe to apologize. I look at the small figure in the loose white dress and my heart aches with the desire to touch her soft curls, to run my fingers over her cheeks, and to hear her, just one more time, say “MOM”.