Yasaman R. Choube was born in Iran and now lives in exile. For PEN/Opp she has written a moving story about love, oppression and loss.
Yasaman R. Choube was born in Iran and now lives in exile. Her first novel White Violet discuss human trafficking, homosexuality, and transsexuality, subjects that in general are taboo when it comes to publishing in Iran. Her published writings mainly focuses on women's issues, issues of exposed social groups and the lgbt community.
It has become dark.
I'm staring at the white wall in front of me.
This one-bedroom house seems to be too big.
I'm sitting on the bed and putting all my concentration on the boat of mindfulness, to calm me down as if it were a cradle. But my thoughts whizzing doesn’t leave me alone.
No, that doesn’t work!
That's why I'm here.
To entwine my verbosity so that I at least don't think of those thoughts.
Not think at all.
When people read a biography, they know that the storyteller has made it through the journey of life by either cunning or luck.
Some who were luckier could unbelievably get out of the maze of events with a combination of these two. But I do not belong to any of them, thou my journey has not yet come to an end.
It's a long way to go before I turn into an old sulky woman, with a cigarette between my lips with a gesture of someone who has experienced life's roller coaster, and begin to tell about my miserable life in a single breath.
And then someone will come along to write it down.
I get up and get dressed. I pick up my marqueterie khatam cigarette case and leave. I still haven’t even learnt the address of this house.
Well, what am I going to do if I get hit by a canary yellow car on the street and taken to the hospital, and then a gorgeous nurse comes up to my bed and asks for my address?
I haven't even memorized my new phone number. Maybe I’ll get lucky and instead of giving out my number, the flirtatious nurse will furtively stick her number inside the plaster on my arm!
Obviously, this isn’t possible, because neither do I understand the language of the nurse nor can the nurse read my lips.
Ultimately they will have to get some kind of a translator. I would be ashamed to ask the translator, with the plaster on my arm and my bruised body, to give out my phone number.
Furthermore, one has to think about the future. After all, the translator has better things to do than to attend all our romantic encounters.
I have lit my second cigarette as I arrive at a grand park.
It's not clear what time it is, but from the presence of a spirited crowd busy having dinner, one could guess that it's not that late.
I feel like a person surrounded by a bubble. The kind of a bubble when one doesn’t know a language.
I’m thinking of the nurse of my dreams. I wish I was in Iran and got hit by a car or something. Then I wouldn’t need a translator to accompany me at my dates.
I would tell the ambulance driver to take me to Porsina Hospital and call out for nurse Shiri.
Then Mitra would come.
Initially she would get very scared and might even cry.
She was quick to burst into tears.
This I discovered after the first time we had sex with each other.
Well, who bursts into tears after sex and orgasm, and everything in between, if not the one who has far too easy to cry?
Her sister, like her, easily shed tears.
She had come to get back Mitra's diary when she unfortunately happened to see the painting I’d painted for her.
No! I made this painting for us.
On that painted canvas, the world had taken on a whole different meaning.
A moment of inscribed eternal joy that was not completed.
When she first saw the painting she was shocked. I thought I would be severely beaten again. I didn’t mind getting beaten again. But contrary to my expectations, she sat down on the studio floor, broken down.
God, how I hate sisters. In some respects they are very similar to each other.
I just had to close my eyes for her to become Mitra crying in the soggy basement.
All the family members apparently burst easily into tears.
Mitra described her mother - after she had seen all our love letter with so many damn photos - had been sitting on the carpet and hitting herself on the head and crying!
I try not to think about Mitra's mother, sitting on the carpet!
In general, I try not to think about her mother at all.
Where was I? Oh yes.
Her sister put the drawing under her arm and left. Without even asking for any agreement or approval or something
I actually don’t know what she wanted the painting for.
Given her husband, she couldn’t hang it anywhere.
Maybe she took it with her in order to destroy it so that she would be sure to preserve Mitra's memory as they wanted it to be.
An obedient diligent student, with dark eyes and eyebrows, short at length but whom nevertheless hated high heels.
Hope she hasn’t t have set it on fire.
Why didn’t I think of this possibility before?
I became nervous. The cigarette suddenly slipped out of my fingers and ended up straight in the river that ran under the wooden bridge.
I jumped and start thinking about those thoughts again.
It was as though the cigarette also was telling me that my thoughts are similar to this river.
Damn it, It doesn’t stop.
I look around for a subject of fresh thought and see a dog running after something in the bushes.
I don’t like dogs, unlike Mitra who loved them. Her dream was to have a golden retriever one day.
I would have liked my first present to her, to celebrate our common home, to have been a golden retriever puppy.
I was going to call and check if someone could find out where the painting is?
I get more worried for every second, why didn't I stop her sister when she took the painting?
If I had said no, she would certainly would not have taken it.
She ignores the fact but she was the one who helped Mitra to escape that night, through the window, to take car keys and to hit the road.
I light the third cigarette, I move my hand lightly over the slippery khatam marquetry carved cigarette case.
When did I become such a smoker?
It was the fourth anniversary of our relationship when her mother saw our photos from the trip to Isfahan and became furious.
Oh damn! Change your thoughts!
No! No! Let me just recall this memory. Just this one…
They come to our house in the middle of the night. She and her son-in-law. In the darkness of the street, she mistook me for my brother and revealed my evil nature with great zeal.
She kept her chador between her teeth and swore uninterrupted and when she would renew her breath she stopped for a short while. Then her face shifted between dark red and black colors.
I don't know if it was anger or greed. Maybe both.
Her son-in-law was quiet and didn’t even look at me. He occasionally touched his caftan and turban.
When my brother came to the door to find out what was going on they suddenly discovered that they got the wrong person. All the swearing behind my back had actually been said straight to my face!
The son-in-law raised his voice and asked to talk to my father.
I kept quiet because I was afraid that anything I said would be to Mitras disadvantage.
During that night, I experienced many of my life’s first-time experiences.
I think of what I could have done in order for the situation not to be as it has became?
Maybe I should have thrown myself at her mother's feet and apologized, and vowed that everything was a childish game?
No, Mitra would never have forgiven me.
She was as proud as she found it easy to cry.
The weather has become colder and slowly people start to pick up their things and go.
I count my cigarettes, there are ten left.
I have to buy another package before the shops close.
I know I shouldn’t let my thoughts get out of control, but it seems that I have to.
As if they have tied my heart on a spiked chair where they are slapping it, from right and left.
Damn you! Don’t forget what you were thinking about and how it evolved.
We did not meet in a few weeks after her mother visited us at the gate and I was beaten up.
Fortunately, she still worked and was able to call me from work.
They didn’t dare to lock her up because they were afraid of what people would say and perhaps the truth would be revealed. But they had begun pressuring her to get married.
When she was working the evening shift a few times a week, I would get sick to visit the emergency room, hoping to meet the crying nurse of my dreams.
Then I used to tell her about the painting I was painting. She insisted that we would roll it up when it was done and take it with us. We thought of everything and the road to freedom was only so long as one and a half hour flight.
God how close we were, my Mitra. How close we were.
I'm here now, in the middle of nowhere-city.
Frozen and quiet I have stood amidst people I don’t know, in an area where I don’t know what is hidden behind the darkness, unlike the neighborhood where my Mitra is.
Here the unfamiliar world extends only as far as my weak eyes are able to see.
And I think where did I go wrong?
Which steps should I have taken that I didn’t?
Her sister called the same night I was booking a plane ticket.
She just cried, it wasn’t necessary for her to say anything.
I knew that I had lost her forever.
Oh, we were so close Mitra, we were so close.
I must be extremely thick skinned to be able to live without you.
How can my heart continue to beat?
How is it possible that I haven’t gone crazy?
What did I want, more than your warm embrace.
I always thought we would die calmly and beautifully together, hand in hand, old and wrinkled.
I had imagined all sorts of ways of dying except completely alone, far down in the valley stope.
I hope she didn’t feel so much of when she died, I hope from that moment she only experienced the truck's light and the sound of her own cry in her ears.
Even Imagining that she is curled up with broken ribs inside the car, far from me, and all alone met the angel of death makes me put my hand inside of my chest and pull out my own heart, so that I do not feel anything more.
Nobody knows why she was on her way to Tehran that night.
They didn’t know she was on her way to my place.
They had said it was her father's birthday, but in reality they had arranged a wedding ceremony without her knowledge.
Her sister told the truth.
She helped her to escape.
I wonder why you didn’t take your mobile with you?
You could have called me from the car.
Then I would have told you to sleepover at a friends house.
I would have told you not to drive at night when you feel anxious.
My love, I would have told you that I will buy the tickets and that tomorrow night we are free.
The nightmare of seeing your name on the mobile screen but hearing your sister crying voice does not leave me alone, Mitra.
I throw my empty intarsia khatam cigarette case in the pond and make my way towards home.
I haven’t opened my bag yet.
I get my documents and call a taxi.
I have to go there and bring back the painting, and for one last time kiss her tombstone.
Perhaps my heart calms down, for a mere moment.