SEVENTEEN

I broke mother’s heart numerous times. Have failed her many more. I’m sorry maman. For not being there when you needed me most, abandoning you when I felt abandoned; for not pursuing your dreams, the ones you sacrificed so that you can raise your children; for not ever getting married and having children. I know you say it doesn’t matter to you. I know all you want for me is to be happy. Forgive me for not being happy. The less you asked of me the less I gave.

“I’m sorry Leila called you. I was really ok.” I say as I pull the belt across my chest in mother’s front passenger seat. We both watch Leila’s 4wheeldrive rolling into the slush of snowy road. “Nonsense. What is that pill that you took from her?” And yet we didn’t see each other for years. The passing of father has made us even more distant. Grief tears bonds apart, erects thick cement walls around one. You would think his death would make us closer. That I wouldn’t be stuck between her world and the house, the house which was their battle ground and the cause of their endless battles at once, the house which finally evicted her and won over father. Their battles are my battles.

I question my reality frequently. Growing up exposed to their constant tension felt like being razed by two dense massive grindstones, constantly breaking me down to smaller pieces that could fit into that lean space between the stone disks, their realities. Was father as a spiritual ascetic soul? Or was he just a lazy depressive bum who never got promoted at work although he knew so much more than his other idiot colleagues? Mother’s energy was porous. She was a wonderfully generous, and extremely demanding hard working career woman. Or was she just shallow and materialistic? How does one reconcile these two opposing moral worlds that rely on a seemingly singular reality? My parents’ flesh and bones. And no matter how long the arguments went and how many facts they presented to prove their side, I, as an entangled but self-proclaimed impartial, ever-witness of their marital life, developed a very precarious sense of reality, one that is deeply woven into moral judgment. Is there even any amoral truth out there? Doesn’t reality get established mostly based on consent? The first social act is not gift giving as anthropologists insist. But it to consent to the other’s reality, perhaps by accepting a gift from their world. I remember once father had gone to a trip and brought souvenirs for us, for her. Yarns of silky colorful fabrics. I saw mother blush for the first time. But that was a rare occasion. Which one of them was telling the truth was synonymous with which one of them was right! And they somehow could never be right at the same time. In Farsi, truth and righteousness have one linguistic term: Haq, which also is the name of God. How confusing. Which one was I? A lazy depressive girl, who takes after her father? Or a shallow materialist?

In order to quiet my restless mind, I ran away. We are all runaways. First when I left, mother was still on her never ending mission to find Amir. She barely noticed her daughter was gone. But later as Amir’s disappearance sunk in more, she started to remember me. She wanted me to listen to her new findings, consult the clues she had found, or just hold her frustration for her. It felt good to be away from here at first. I’m sorry maman for feeling like I could breathe finally, only when I left home, you. For making you feel so guilty for not being there for me.

“You should know better Raha. Never take pills unless your doctor has approved of them. Or just give me a call. I could have just asked my husband. You know he is a doctor right?” Says she as she drives the car out of the parking spot. Micro-managing is her response to stressful situations over which she does not have full control.

She is wearing a pair of clear glasses. Her eyes are ornamented with a thousand wrinkles. Father hated clear glasses for her. He used to say they made her look older. He is gone now and she is older. She doesn’t look her age though. Not because she has done Botox, as every woman over thirty in in Tehran does, nor because she highlights her hair. But mostly because she is a small nimble woman. Her silver undyed hair is in trend. She was never fancy but always trendy. She is singing to her favorite classical singer Parissa, from twenty years ago. We all are stuck in the past one way or the other. “Come on. At least sing with me. You know this one.” She is trying to bond with her cold blooded daughter.

When I applied for that job in Yellowknife, I thought there can’t possibly be more than three candidates for it. But only one week after putting the call out, there were 19 applicants already. Or so says my upgraded linkdn account. I never knew that the upper division of North Western territories in Canada was a popular destination. It had just occurred to me that Yellowknife, the largest city and the capital of North Western territories was the perfect place to get lost. Population mix of Dene, Metis, and newcomers. That was my ticket out. It is crazy to consider how many people want a clean slate. We, humans or homosapiens, or whatever is the correct term to refer to our species, we need a fresh start, a second chance. We have been running from our past for thousands of years, in the stories of our people that we tell, and in our collective memories. The Inuit people’s reality was so far off from mine that I could consent to it without any need or room for self projection. My mind would finally settle.

“My beautiful daughter what a beautiful voice you have. See? Only if you sang with me, you would feel so much better.” Yes. You are probably right. Sometimes I hate it when you are right maman. I know. How juvenile of me. Thank you for letting me act like a spoilt girl even if I am thirty five years old. “Can we eat something? Leila said the pill suppresses appetite and I might get dizzy.” She makes a U-turn so that we can pick up pizza on the way home.

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