FIFTEEN

Father used to tell the story of the girl who was cursed to cry for all eternity. Her freedom was contingent upon brimming a barrel with her tears. But the curse made it so that no matter how much she cried, the tub didn’t even get wet.

***

Leila is trying to calm you down as if you were a three year old girl. She suggests getting soft-serve ice cream from your favorite place. You can’t recall such a thing in Tehran. You associate soft-serve with ice cream trucks of the cities of the Northern hemisphere. She tells you, “let’s go shopping and we can then grab hot chocolate.” You face gets mushed. Your quiet sobbing turns into a long and persistent squall. Her infant bursts out into a scream as she cries along with you. “Or actually we can just go home.” She says frustratingly as she turns toward you and Delara. She nimbly mixes formula with water in a baby bottle and shakes it fast with her right hand. As she shoves the bottle into the baby’s face, she extends her left hand to you. There is a tiny white pill in her open palm. Delara immediately quiets and begins sucking hard. “Or you could try this. It’s over the counter stuff. For anxiety.” You are not anxious. Are you? Leila continues informing you about the drug. Her voice is receding to the background. You are going under.

***

She is going under again. She can feel it. This has happened before. When she can’t stop her tears, water starts to pour into her space from every seam, every crack, every corner. As if her tears call in all the water on this earth. Water. How soothing it was to watch the calmness of it in Ontario lakes and peninsulas. Unlike the roaring waves of the Persian Gulf, the dark waters of the north were still. Black, soft, silky. Going in, felt like plunging in the abyss. How safe water made her feel. Like a fetus in a womb, held softly in amniotic fluid. Water alleviates the heaviness of flesh. The burden of life. It gives solace as it makes the presence of the other, un-intrusive. It made her feel untouchable by the catastrophes of her surroundings. The ultimate fantasy. Under water, she could bear witness to life.

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