FOURTEEN (I)

She kicks her shoes off as she struggles to keep the chador intact. But the slick fabric stubbornly keeps sliding down her hair, onto her shoulders. A tallish man shows her the way with his extended hand gesture. He is wearing one of those cone shaped hats that men in her community wear. She follows the directed hand into a fully carpeted room with cushions and bolsters arranged all around the corners. The profuse scent of carpets rushes to her brain, the smell of dust and wool under the heat of the sun. There aren’t that many people in the room. Some are sipping their tea in silence. Others are sitting eyes closed, cross legged with the left hand resting on the ankle, while the right hand grabs onto it. She chooses an empty corner and descends onto a plain red cushion. A serving member bends over and offers her a glass of tea on a tiny wooden trey. She picks up the glass quickly with one hand, kisses the tips of the fingers of her other hand, touches the tray with them, and then touches her forehead. Symbolically kissing the food that is offered. Old habits die hard.

Sitting in this room feels like sitting in a doctor’s appointment. Except that she is not looking for a cure. She just needs answers. If she is the one selling father’s house, she needs to know if he has left a will, a note, a request, anything. It would make so many decisions easier. Did father ever have a last conversation with his sheikh? Did he know? A man with a cone-shaped headgear enters, calling one of the people in the room to the sheikh. He puts his tea away, straightens his shirt. As he rises up, his eyes suddenly locks into hers. His eyebrows expand upward on his face. He recognizes her. Probably everyone can recognize her. They have always welcomed her as the daughter of his father. And now he has passed. She quickly looks down, intentionally closing any possibility of a conversation. Being around father’s people only makes her feel further away from him. Even when he is gone. Especially now that he is gone.

She watches the man’s feet pass in front of her. As he walks to the sheikh’s room, he steps on the series of lotus that is woven into the borders of the crimson carpet on which she is sitting. Lotus means power and health. The sun is shining through the windows, lighting large rectangular shapes on the garden of the carpet. Persian rugs used to be the perfect fields for her adventure games, parallel worlds that she inhabited with other children while parents were immersed in theirs. The symmetrical borders that were filled with animal or geometric motifs, were land, while the background of the carpet’s field, regardless of its color, was water. The medallion in the center was homeland. She would play hopscotch, trying not to drown in the water, while fetching items woven into the rug for subsistence. They had to hop and grab blossoms, bighorn sheep, gazelles, paradise birds, dogs. The carpet game tied the first knot of her friendship with Leila, who so patiently is now waiting for her in her car, parked outside, with her little infant napping. They played hunter-gatherer games on the same carpets that their parents gathered on. It was the carpet that brought together their alternate realities. Persian rugs are like that. They can bring people together. Children, adults. They hoped from one motif to the next while their parents played music, chit chatted, or kept each other company. Carpets absorb something of the lives that they hold, those who breathe, dine, and nap on them.

Finally she is called in. She stands up, tucking one end of the chador under her arm so that it will partially hold. She follows the guiding man as they step over the strip of paisley. Symbol of life. There he is, sitting on a large furry cushion inside the room. Pointing to the small cushion placed in front of him, he alludes to her to sit. Keeping her gaze down on the carpet, she obeys.

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