About…   My Lousy Life Stories

An Abstract Novel

 

 

The Beginning

CONFUSION

 

The Big Plan

 

The big plan officially began with a long journey from Tehran to Los Angeles on planes, trains, automobiles, and the U.S. Steamship—the largest and fastest passenger ship at the time according to the overzealous travel agent. He was ecstatic about finally finding a fool from this part of the world who wanted to send his son to the other part of the world with so much hassle, including a boring excursion on a vessel.

“My first sale of a seat on this magnificent ship,” he told Father with triumph, as if talking about a spaceship going to Mars.

“But you said this magnificent, speedy ship still takes five days to reach New York from Southampton…! Right?” I asked with tension. “Going to Southampton would be another hassle. I prefer to fly all the way.”

Both he and Father stared at me briefly before continuing their serious work on the cheapest travel itinerary for me. So I just leaned back in my chair with despair, admitting finally that no part of this whole shenanigan was for adventure or fun, but only penny-pinching. The three-week, tedious voyage was merely a part of Father’s clever scheme for shipping me to America for higher education and returning to Iran to become a cabinet minister—something the poor aristocrat had himself strived for all his life in vain. He always claimed that not having a graduate degree from a prominent university in the U.S., or at least Oxford, had been the only obstacle for his final promotion to a cabinet post. He just ploughed on as a testy deputy-minister, year after year, despite his friendship with the long-lasting prime minister. Anyway, this long, messy mission of getting to Los Angeles, as frugally as possible, had its fine moments, too, of course.

I had already told Father a hundred times that I was not really up to taking on all the hassles involved in his big plan for a shaky political career in a flimsy monarchy. Yet, amazingly, he seemed to have gone deaf. He only smirked, as if watching a moron not appreciating the wisdom of his free advice. My cynicism about the Shah’s prospect irritated Father the most, though, which nicely soothed my tension a little. I believed my life was already perfect without becoming another arrogant, greedy official like many of Father’s snotty friends. I had a good job, a bright future, and a pretty girlfriend, Haydeh. Actually, we had vowed to marry soon. But that was all before Father’s gradual brainwashing me about the path to a ministerial position as the ultimate purpose of life. In fact, I got so carried away at the end, I decided to shoot for the Prime Minister’s job, after all. Too bad we already had a dogged king with a bunch of heirs, quite friendly with America, too. His blind loyalty, for such a haughty royalty, felt embarrassing, actually, beyond my patience and pride. So I had to get over my political dispositions in a hurry, too, on top of getting all the necessary technical education in the U.S. of A. I wondered if it entailed CIA, or whoever, giving me a lecture too.

Anyhow, I set out to break my promise to Haydeh and renounce our love very calmly and rationally like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. My meticulous reasoning for abandoning her, after our blistering romance for two years, sounded bizarre even to my own ears. Not merely inventing such lame excuses, but the way I offered them so briskly with no shame, revealed a new depth of my shallowness. Worst of all, after spending so much energy and logic, she did not buy any of my bullshit.

She was more stubborn and annoying than I had anticipated. My pitiful presentation was simply going nowhere, despite all the fine justifications I had diligently prepared and practiced in the last few days for my great speech today. My tone of voice was probably ineloquent and maybe even girlish when she challenged me. Learning that I lacked even the slightest trace of Father’s power of persuasion was also embarrassing. She only rolled her eyes and overruled my strong reasoning with a lousy argument and a smirk as if saying, “Okay, what else have you got?” So, out of desperation and frustration, I started to sob, and she thought I was crying because of leaving her. Magically, the mere notion of my loss and despair calmed her and she suddenly seemed happy and convinced. “Go, go. Just leave me alone, you selfish bastard,” she yelled.

How weeping alone seemed to authenticate one’s intentions most naturally and faster was enlightening. Maybe women respect and trust the legitimacy of certain tactics best, regardless of the gender using it! Had I known this spectacular secret sooner, I would have wept at the beginning and gotten the matter over with quickly instead of wasting an hour and all that sound logic. But then later, I wondered why she had not cried herself to convince me to stay, instead of only insisting on rejecting my arguments so stubbornly. Did this mean she had her own doubts about our affair and her love for me? Was she fighting me only because I had ruined her chance of dumping me first after finalizing her own lame excuses in a few days or weeks? What would I have done had she really cried hard and begged me to stay? Many perplexing questions haunted me because of my simple intention of justifying our break-up like a real gentleman.

Things got a little clearer during the send-off party, however. I felt a little guilty in fact, as she moaned furtively in a corner with vengeful stares. Meanwhile, Father grinned victoriously, as if he had discovered America himself. He mingled among his flashy friends, gloated, and snubbed Haydeh. You could imagine he would burst out of his skin any second from all that pride, for being such an insightful, persuasive father. I was embarrassed watching his charade, while Haydeh shamed me with her own last minute advice:

“Get off the devil’s donkey, forget your stupid fantasy, let’s get on with our own fancy.”

But then it was all too late to abort that masterfully laid mission anyway. Too late for any amount of tears, including my poor mother’s, to trash the big plan! She had listened cynically to Father’s gibberish and plans all a long, cried her heart out, and savoured the last minutes before her spoiled son goes away. She just kept making the best Persian foods that she knew I loved with basmati rice and saffron, constantly worrying and hinting how I could live without this kind of luxury for three years. “Do you wanna take five kilos of basmati rice, too, to cook there?” she asked and I declined her generous offer patiently.

She had started my luggage two weeks prior to my departure. Soon two big suitcases and a huge carryon were filled with all kinds of stuff she believed I needed no matter how much I insisted that I did not, including dried fruits and vegetables, delicacies, pistachio, and a large assortment of winter clothing and boots. I kept telling her that winters are not nearly as cold in California as they are in Tehran, but she insisted that it was better to be safe than sorry. “You never know,” she said. Every time I turned my head or left my room, she sneaked back in and hid a few more things underneath the presently approved pile, as though I would not double check and take them out again. At the end, my luggage weighed over fifty kilos at the airport, even though the winter clothing was restricted to four wool sweaters and a long heavy overcoat like Dr. Zhivago’s. All along, her narrow, sad eyes were buried behind her heavy tears anytime I had looked at her. So, how could I refuse hauling most of the things she wanted me to take with me?

I hit the road one early morning in May 1969 with an admission letter from the University of Southern California, my jam-packed heavy luggage, a journey itinerary, a handful of tickets, all my personal savings turned into $1,250 traveller’s cheques, and Father’s moronic promise that I could find work in Los Angeles quickly—hinting not to expect any money once I got there. He always had better use for his money, even though, in this case especially, only his ego and rivalry with his friends was behind this preposterous project.

“Bah…! Any young man can find a good job in a jiffy in the great land of opportunities,” the bigheaded Father had repeated every time I had complained about the difficulty of finding a job and working to pay for the steep tuition and living expenses while going to school too. His idiotic cool and apathy was odd and frustrating. Still odder, his confidence and persistence had finally calmed my nerves and I set out to get a job, find time and energy to go to school, and learn something, too—at least enough to reform the economy of my chaotic country upon my triumphant return to Iran in a few years! Going by Father’s diligent descriptions of my forthcoming role and responsibilities, I had to save the Shah from the rising unrest all over the country! I imagined myself already back from the U.S. and being the Prime Minister with Father always sitting in my office—maybe even behind my desk—to advise me, or expecting me to go visit him every night so that he could outline my duties and decisions for the next day.

“Come back soon and make me proud, my son,” Father whispered in my ears at the airport before I left.

I nodded sceptically.

The Iran Air flight had long stops in Athens, Rome, and Paris, before the plane finally landed at London’s Heathrow late in the afternoon. It seemed to need a major tune-up at every stop just to go another short distance. Surviving this ordeal was a miracle all by itself considering the coughing sound of the engines. We had to change planes in Paris, after all. Exhausted and disoriented, after over eleven hours of travel for such a relatively short distance, I got out of the customs with my heavy suitcases.

My close friend, Jafar, who had started his own education in London a year earlier, was waiting for me based on my request in a postcard. With tension and a passive smile, embracing his beautiful English girlfriend as a shield, he struggled with gestures and whispers to warn me against hugging him and kissing his cheeks according to the Iranian customs. Timid and confused, finally I gathered that the Iranian gestures of friendship were not cool in the Western culture. Jafar would have been hugely embarrassed before his girlfriend and the English public if I had showed my Persian affection. So I froze like a Popsicle and we only shook hands formally like two jackasses.

Things have changed recently, though. Going by the TV clips, even the U.S. Presidents and European leaders seem eager nowadays to hug and kiss the beardy sheikhs and other Middle Eastern heads of states. It is commendable how oil diplomacy alone has made everybody more affectionate and changed world cultures in such a short period, all beyond Jafar’s wildest imagination. On the other hand, maybe Jafar had been up to something more fundamental with his mystical foresight, I wonder! These days, I only shake hands even with my cousins and close friends too—as you might decipher my reasons later.

Jafar drove me to a hotel and left me lonely and homesick quickly. With all the daylight still out there, I did not know what to do as I lingered in the middle of the room like a misplaced ghost. Equally rude, I was too exhausted and upset to thank him for picking me up from the airport and possibly waiting for my late arrival too. I felt slightly bad a few weeks later when I realized my unintentional insolence, although I believed Jafar’s behaviour at the airport should be blamed for my clumsiness anyway. Actually, thanking him had suddenly felt necessary only because he had changed. Otherwise, close friends do not think or worry about these formalities anyway. I needed time to adjust and learn all these new raw formalities, right? I had imagined getting out of Iran would cause trouble and confusion, but not this much so soon.

The next day, I found a cheaper bed-and-breakfast accommodation, learned about the underground subway, and fooled around the city on my own, completely bewildered about my identity and purpose in London—out of Tehran altogether in fact. According to the journey itinerary, I had to wait five days in London before taking the train to Southampton to board the U.S. Steamship. So, all I could do was to eat fish and chips every day, do some drab sightseeing with stress, and practice solitude. I spent one whole day at the zoo whispering curses about the hassles of being a human to animals and the pesky insects circling them. It was hard not to envy their simple ignorance and irresponsibility, though their occasional stares made me feel stupid a few times. All day, I missed Haydeh badly, especially when I met the angry lioness. It peeped at me and then yawned. I wished I had the guts to return to Iran and move out of my parents’ house right away too.

I did not find Jafar until the last day of my stay despite my earnest attempts. I went to his flat tensely to say goodbye and complain about his hiding. He blamed his final exams. But I believed he had really changed, already melted in the cold culture of foreign lands. This time, we did not even shake hands and I left with more despair. I wondered and worried about myself becoming aloof like Jafar very soon. I was feeling weird already, anyway! I took a taxi, the subway and trains, carrying my heavy luggage in the streets and from station to station, panting and perspiring like a dog, to get to Southampton Harbour. I feared getting lost somewhere or missing a train or the U.S. Steamship and thus the entire travel itinerary falling apart.

So, boarding the ship in the final minutes felt like winning a major triathlon. I gasped a sigh of relief despite the grimness of the tiny cabin I had to share with a tough-looking, impatient guy. Soon, however, the rhythmic, loud sound of several heavy chains banging the shipboard shattered my tentative peace, especially at night when the racket impeded my sleep. I complained once to a ship steward about the matter. He listened in bewilderment, glared, and then left coolly after murmuring some words like, “What do you expect for the price you’ve paid? You think we can move the big anchor and chains for your convenience, Mr. Big Shot.” I remembered Father and the travel agent collaborating on the ‘most economical arrangement’ and cursed both those idiots. That was all I could do other than jumping into the ocean! I felt doomed like a convict without any hope for mercy whenever I returned to the damp cabin—as if trapped in one of those medieval dungeons with hundreds of chains and cylinders clashing around me. My cellmate was hardly around to complain, not even for sleep. That remained an unsolved mystery all by itself. The next day, nausea and vomiting aggravated my agony when the ship hit a rough storm and the banging of the chains got fiercer. The Atlantic Ocean was mad at the ship too. Most passengers looked drained and staggered awkwardly like zombies. Not even the comfortable sofas in the lounge offered me much relief, though at least my ears rested awhile.

A thrilling moment raised my hopes a little at dinnertime when I looked for my pre-assigned seat in the dining hall. When booking my ticket, the jolly travel agent had keenly recorded my profile, emphasizing proudly that the ship’s crew—or some experts—arranged the seating according to passengers’ profiles. I had not believed in, or cared about, the outcome of such scrutiny until I saw the only empty chair at Table 21 next to a gorgeous blond, quickly assuming to be mine—the chair, I mean. Though, my inane brain promised that soon she would be mine, too, since, at the very least, the crew’s wisdom to put us together must surely mean something. I also assumed she was equally intelligent to know that we must not disappoint the crew or waste their goodwill and expertise. So I moved forward firmly with a wide grin, hoping that she had not suffered too much in anticipation of my arrival to claim a Scandinavian heart. The reason for my tardiness was that I had dozed off in the lounge with a headache and nausea, unaware of the fate’s impeccable plan for me. Hopefully she takes my delay as a sign of confidence—so casual and cool about the rigid timetable and all.

At last, I arrived cheerfully with my charming grin beaming quickly around the table before focusing on the beautiful girl. But it seemed to be losing its magic recently. She did not even hesitate to show her disappointment rather hastily and openly. Perhaps I had not looked classy enough for the snob girl who soon proved to be out of place in that part of the ship. She was quite blunt about this matter, especially, announcing quickly that she must go to the first class section of the ship right after dinner. It sounded as if she had been waiting for my arrival to share this vital information when everybody was accounted for at the table. Then she whispered to me, in particular, that she must go dance with her friends on the other side instead of going to the lounge like the rest of us. I only grinned at her with a show of support. Was she lying just to get rid of me? Would she hide in her cabin five nights and days just to avoid me? Nah, she definitely stayed on the other side save for her meals and maybe sleep. Had I looked more stylish or assertive, she might have taken me with her at least for a glimpse of the better world. Not even my well-groomed, groovy mustache had impressed her the way it made me feel handsome. 

For easing my cynical mind and curiosity, I considered sneaking into the first class to check out her charm among her haughty friends. Life must be on the other side, judging by Marie’s timidity during her limited presence at Table 21. The indignity she bore for half an hour during each meal saddened me too. The burden dulling her beautiful eyes was heartbreaking and totally unfair. We chatted sporadically for etiquette and then she vanished swiftly after finishing her meal rather hastily and excusing herself with a cold courtesy goodbye to all of us losers at the table.

I wondered whether the first classers knew about the economy class and steerage in the way we were so carefully isolated and hidden from them. Marie would most likely not reveal her knowledge of us, either, to protect her own secret. I would have not been any smarter myself, if it were not for Marie’s admirable persistence to educate me. I would have kept imagining that the vast territory we occupied so freely comprised the whole passengers’ domain. The ship must have indeed been really big then, as that young travel agent had so cheerfully bragged about, as if describing his dad’s yacht. I bet the fool had envied me for my fabulous adventures, especially riding the steamship! He had surely wished he had a generous father, too, to send him to America on a boat so big!

On the other hand, you could take Marie’s timid presence at Table 21—more like a spy—as a calculated, cruel plot by the first classers perhaps to convey their displeasure of sharing the same vessel with us. Her incessant gloating about the other side, including the big music band, showed her meagre view of us despite her etiquette and bearing me rather patiently. At least she did not ignore me completely! “Now I’m going to escape this hellhole,” she usually whispered to me just as she rose to leave. She seemed to really enjoy torturing me with her subtle sarcasm and putdowns! In return, I cursed the travel agent every time—for faxing my profile.

For five nights, bingo or dancing to a measly record player amused the rest of us after Marie left. We pretended everything was fine, although I could not get Marie’s words out of my mind. I imagined those people dancing the real dance, unaware of our existence, or assured that we were safely babysat out of their way. My half-assed attempts to find the gate to the high society failed, too, and I never saw the boys who danced with Marie. I quit looking quickly considering my apathy for exploration and conquest—unlike any adventurous son that Christopher Columbus or Father would have been proud of.

At least the young man from Pasadena amused me with his friendly attitude and conversations. Glen Wymore was attracted to Marie, too, but, more than anything else, he seemed to enjoy my pitiful efforts to soften her. He knew that neither of us had a chance with her, yet he kept encouraging me and asking questions about her, as if still gauging his chance anyway, or for laughing some more at my expense. He consoled me and offered suggestions, with a chuckle, when I complained about Marie or recounted her words. He confessed to his flying phobia and taking this very ship and several trains every few years to travel to Europe for sightseeing and visiting relatives. He gave me his address and phone number and explained that Pasadena was only a twenty-minute drive away from downtown L.A. He suggested we take the same train to L.A., but I declined his offer on account of visiting Mr. Ganji, another snotty friend of Father in New York. I had to stay with his family for a week, mainly to save money on hotel and food before my school started in fall.

In New York, Glen helped me with the customs formalities and securing my luggage in a locker at the Grand Central Station before continuing his journey toward L.A. I was thrilled to be in America, at least for Father’s sake and on his behalf. His love and admiration for this country was both amazing and amusing considering that he had never traveled to the U.S. himself. He had, however, read many books and grilled people who had been there. He also watched a lot of American programs and movies on the U.S. TV channel that broadcasted in Tehran for the American civilians and military personnel living in Iran. After traveling all over Europe himself, somehow America, especially New York, remained a holy place for Father, beyond all the splendours and cultures that even Paris could offer.

I strolled in Manhattan proudly with an amazing, mysterious lightness, like walking on clouds. I basked in this peculiar sensation, believing that it all related to the thrill of pacing such sacred grounds, exactly as Father had anticipated in his description of life in the New World. But, unfortunately, I lost both my interest and lightness soon. My high expectations gradually turned into dire disappointments, since the streets seemed quite uninspiring like in any other city despite all those noises and skyscrapers. My anticipation for attaining a huge milestone and a swift enlightenment was punctured. I also realized that the sense of lightness was not due to Manhattan, either, but rather the effect of traveling on the ship for five days. After adapting to the ship’s rigorous, rhythmic bobbing, my steps on still ground felt wobbly and weird for two hours. Soon, instead of my feet, only my head felt dizzy when checking all those outrageous prices or looking up at the skyscrapers.

I peered at the seascape stretched widely beyond the glass wall of Mr. Ganji’s large, impressive office. The U.S. Steamship anchored like a sleeping giant at the harbour. Its proud stillness, after all that bobbing and throbbing, felt soothing. It needed a rest, too, after hitting and defeating all those wild surfs for four days. I missed it, somehow, despite my gloomy memories, and doubting I would ever dare to board another ship. I pointed it to Mr. Ganji and bragged about my adventure, without mentioning the nightmarish banging of the chains or Marie’s undivided enthusiasm to humiliate me. Oh, gosh, where did she get all that energy and tenacity to educate me about everything on the other side? I mentioned her, too, to Mr. Ganji, anyhow—only vaguely just to complete a fanciful picture of my fabulous experience on the ship—all for Father’s benefit, of course. In that moment, I was more excited than the travel agent in Tehran when explaining the U.S. Steamship. I had this habit of making Father proud whenever I got a chance. His gloating habit had apparently infected me too. Anyhow, I killed the afternoon off in Manhattan before returning to Mr. Ganji’s office and going home with him.

The next day, I tried to repeat the joy of riding the subway in London to go around in New York—oh, what a big mistake. I learned my lesson after getting lost a couple of times and paying a substantial cab fare to return to Manhattan. So, the rest of the week, I restricted my adventures to window shopping and walking to museums and the Central Park in the vicinity of downtown. I tried to appear and behave like a genuine tourist, but it was impossible considering my rising depression and stress. The following week, I was on the train bound for Chicago. I had to change trains there, which entailed four hours of waiting—enough time for me to wander around the train station and take a glimpse of Lake Michigan. Back at the station, I went to a coffee shop for a snack and took a seat at the counter next to a young elegant lady. She opened up to me quickly.

“Where’re you heading?”

Los Angeles,” I replied with pride as though I were the mayor of L.A.

“Uh-oh!”

“What?!

“You shouldn’t go there. I’m personally running away from L.A.

“You are?! Why?”

“Haven’t you heard?”

“What about?”

“The big one…”

“The big one…?” I asked with shame for my ignorance. Everybody probably knew what the ‘big one’ was except for stupid me—just fresh off the boat.

“Yeah… The earthquake…!”

“No, I haven’t heard anything. Was there an earthquake?”

“No, but it’s coming soon…”

“Really?”

“Yeah, it’s going to cause a major catastrophe,” she said with horror in her eyes. “I advise you go back to New York. That’s where I’m going.”

“Are you serious?”

“Of course.”

The idea of abandoning a city for good because of a possible earthquake sounded absurd. Was everybody warned about this looming disaster, or the secret was shared only with pretty and privileged people like her?   

“When is it coming?” I asked like an imbecile.

“Well, nobody knows exactly when, but it’ll come sooner or later. Believe me… I’m not gonna sit around for it to kill me.”

“Sooner or later…!?” I did not quite understand what she meant, most likely due to my poor English again. But I did not want to go all the way to L.A. just to realize my stupidity either. I did not want to be the only person arriving in L.A. with his big luggage and all, while everybody else was scrambling to get out! How could I push through the dense crowd rushing in the opposite direction? Why were they still selling train tickets to L.A. anyway?

“Yes, one of these days,” she replied.  

“Is everybody leaving Los Angeles, then?”

“Many people are…”

If she did not look so elegant and gorgeous, I would have not taken her seriously and gotten anxious so quickly. But she was too cute to doubt her judgment. She was obviously a godsend to save me from the hassle of going all this distance to an empty city with no job opportunities. The university would probably close down soon, too, if it had not already. There was clearly a major flaw in Father’s big plan and it was a shocker how he had missed this major bottleneck. Despite causing me a big dilemma, I appreciated her warning and concern. I thanked her a few times, almost bending to kiss her gorgeous hand, too.

“When’s your train leaving?” she asked to break my pensive shock.

“In about an hour,” I murmured timidly while totally sunk in despair.

“You’d better decide quickly. The New York train is leaving in forty-five minutes.”

“I don’t know what to do. I’m confused.”

“Then listen to me. Go change your ticket and come to New York with me. I’ll help you get settled there and go to another school. You can go to school anywhere.”

Now I was more tempted to go to New York for her than I feared of dying in Los Angeles. I wondered only briefly about her intentions and quickly assured my cynical brain that she really wanted me—finally a positive sign about my good looks, thanks to that well-groomed mustache, of course. “But who’s she, you moron?” my nosy brain kept butting in, though. “Who cares, stupid!? Leave me alone!” my boisterous heart yelled back at it finally. She was too beautiful to concern myself about her identity or intentions—that is how we men think and react in emergency, in case anybody had any doubts.

Making such an important decision quickly was excruciating. Forget the damn earthquake, the temptation of going to New York, now that she had promised to help me, was wrecking my entire existence. I was falling for her rapidly and losing my power to say no to her. I was almost ready to put all my trust in her when the image of Father, shaking the journey itinerary before my face with anger, popped up in front of my eyes and I shivered of fear. How could I disobey him, especially since I had followed his instructions to the letter up to that moment? It would be a radical decision and an utter mutiny. He would never forgive me and I would never forgive myself for spoiling everything for him. What if I fell for this strange woman and married her instead of going to university to become the prime minister of Iran, so that Father could brag to his friends? I needed more time to think, but her luring, demanding eyes made it too difficult to even concentrate!

Another one of Father’s teachings had been to eventually marry an Iranian girl, because mixed marriages always lead to disaster. Of course, ‘eventually’ meant, ‘if you really have to, and only after you are at least in your thirties.’ He had a big reservation about marriage, anyway, especially with foreigners. The liberal family lifestyle was the only thing about America that Father disapproved, and that was a big deal considering his undivided devotion to this country.

“Oh, what a madness,” I blabbered.

“What?”

“This Big One…”

“Just listen to my advice…, will you?”

She sounded exactly like Father already, pushing her advice like the eleventh Commandment and not merely a friendly suggestion. Now I had to choose between two adamant experts with contradictory plans for me. The funny thing was that I trusted and liked them both almost equally in that instant, even though I had met her only half an hour before. A big competition continued in my head between these two pushy advisors for about two minutes before Father finally prevailed with a narrow margin. 

“I must go to L.A. at least for a while,” I murmured with shame.

“That’s too bad. I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” she replied with an angry tone and smirk. Then she got up to leave.

“Maybe we can meet again sometime, though?” I asked anxiously. “Maybe I go to New York in a few weeks or so.”

“I don’t have any address or phone number in New York to give you.”

I gazed at her with embarrassment, feeling guilty and lonely. I was about to cry for losing the chance of seeing her again. I had no address or telephone number to give her either. Besides, she was already quite disappointed with me and walked away too fast for my overheated brain to react creatively. I just stared at her disappear in the crowd before realizing that I could have given her the address of the English school to contact me. Still better, I could have given her the telephone number of Glen Wymore, my Pasadena friend. I smacked my forehead and cursed my slow brain. I rushed out and looked for her everywhere, but she had vanished the way a fairy would after giving you an advice or a gift. Those times, I really admired older women, though my preference has reversed completely nowadays—like everybody else, I presume. In that moment, especially, I was swept off my feet by the beauty of this goddess, who looked fifteen years older than I was. How could I be so stupid and selfish? How could I forgive myself for everything I had done to that pretty creature—especially breaking her heart in our very first meeting? No wonder she had left me with such an attitude—rolling her eyes and all!

Running around the station frantically, I did not give a damn about my education or Father’s diligent plan for me anymore. I was glad, though, for having realized my serious mistake quickly while there was still a chance to find her and apologize. I missed her miserably already as if we had been lovers for two decades. Now I was willing to sacrifice everything for her and forget my patriotic obligations, too. I could not care less about the Shah’s problems either. I will follow that woman to the edge of the earth if only I find her, I promised the devil and ran faster. The true meaning of life had suddenly manifested only in the warm cuddle of this elegant lady whom I had forgotten to even ask her name. For ten more minutes, I rushed around the station with a lump clogging my throat and tears gathering in my eyes. I ran along the windows of the train bound for New York, and checked inside a few wagons, too, until the train prepared for departure. There was no sign of her anywhere, as if she had been only a figment of my imagination. I would have exchanged my ticket and gone to New York if I knew she was on the train. But what if she was not? What if she had decided to stay one more night in Chicago to find another lover to take with her to New York. I felt a nudge of jealousy for a second. Maybe not enough eligible men live in New York, I wondered. I sat on a bench in pain and stared at her train for three minutes, until it hauled out of the station. Then I collected my luggage from the lockers and boarded the train to L.A., still cursing my slow brain and Father all the way. I remained baffled and sad about the mystery woman who had shattered my life in a moment and then abandoned me so casually, with no hope of ever seeing her again. It could have been the greatest love affair in history and I missed my chance out of sheer cowardice.