20
Jan
2013

THREE WAYS OF SAYING GOODBYE, by Elaheh Zohrevandi

Zohrevandi studies genetics and teaches English in Tehran. She is an editor at Delta Women, and her work has appeared in Hopewell Publications’ 2009 and 2010 “Best New Writing” anthologies. 

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One of these days he would close his eyes and there would be darkness: pitch black. Finally, he could say goodbye to everything.

He must have been a braver man in a past life — his own savior — but wasn’t it a girl’s mission in this world? 

“Well, you should never leave a responsibility to a girl. They never know how to handle responsibilities and they always end up doing something else.”

He smiled at himself. The good old days when he could have girls around were over. Before the revolution, he was somebody, a young man at college, someone with reputation and dignity. Now, he was an old existence, not even a man. He’d forgotten Russian and German. After years in bed doing nothing, he knew nothing was a real issue in his life. Life: a series of moments followed by quietness, night-sleeps and nothing more.

The painted walls still looked modern in an old-fashioned way. If only he could move. His cold feet were wrapped around by warm bed sheets.

He noticed how easily old feelings could vanish and give place to new habits. A year ago he was still in prison without a single warm sheet in his cell. Life was still a series of moments; the only difference was that there were no noises outside.

Oh, the noises! The kids back from school. Happy little kids!

The sudden motivation to get out of bed, the rush of energy was all too much. His arms twitched, his feet got stuck in the sheets and he fell on his head.

A single moment passed.

His eyes closed. The darkness of his life shadowed the daylight.

He finally said goodbye to everything.

Kids were still playing outside.

***
She could hear the kids outside. Holding the hot pan, she stared at the window. Three school boys were kicking a plastic ball and pushing one another. Living in an old dusty house downtown in a crowded city like Tehran, getting to eat only mashed potatoes three times a day and carrying a child inside can drive any girl crazy.

She was no exception.

She touched her lips. They were dry. She ignored the sound of him — scratching his beard in sleep — and grabbed the only cosmetics she could afford, a vitamin A ointment. She looked at her reflection in the broken mirror on the wall and saw him staring at her: sleepy and hungover. He was still terrifying. She turned and faced him, the only reason she was pregnant and sick at the age of 12. She heard a soft scream from outside. The schoolboys had found a girl to show their power to. She imagined herself walking home from school happy, fearless, ready to change the world with the feminine powers that only a teenager can be proud of and now she was married to a man: a man three times her age, an addict, an alcoholic and an abuser.

He blinked patiently and walked to the bathroom.

A second passed and that was it. She was done with this life. She grabbed the only thing that was hers — a bag that her classmate had made for her — and stepped out of the house.

She felt the fresh autumn air in her lungs. She touched her lips — they were dry and the vitamin A was left in the damn place she had called home for the past seven months.

It was time to say goodbye to that obsession. It was time to say goodbye to that life.

She looked at the schoolboys. They were playing with a purple plastic ball and a schoolgirl was watching them.

***
He broke his promise and pushed the dial button. The numbers on the phone screen had been staring at him for long enough. He heard the beep and then there she was. Her voice was calm, but in that peaceful voice he could hear sarcasm and anger.

“Sorry love.”

“Don’t be.”

“I just couldn’t think of anything else.”

“I know.”

“It’s just that… You never told me about it.”

Silence from the other end of the phone.

“Are you still there?”

“Yes.”

“Do you always cheat on your boyfriends?”

“You’re not my boyfriend.”

“I know, but I used to be.”

Another killing silence from her end of the phone.

“Did you ever love me?”

“You always pretended that you were reading a text message or having a phone call. I liked that.”

“How did you know?”

“How did I now what?”

“That I was faking a phone conversation.”

“I just knew.”

“I see.”

“How did you decide to sleep with him?”

“I told you, I never decided. I didn’t have a choice.”

“You just did it then.”

“I guess.”

“Why then?”

“I wanted to buy you that new cellphone.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The one you were always talking about. That new Nokia in that advert on TV. The one that says ‘you are never going to be alone.’ That one.”

“You cheated on me to buy me a stupid Nokia?”

“I didn’t cheat.”

“Oh! So you slept with him to buy me a fucking brand-new cellphone. What a good excuse.”

“I knew you would not believe me. I told you the truth because you are not my boyfriend anymore.”

“I can’t marry you. I hate sluts.”

“I know. That is why I fell for you.”

“Looks like you are not even sorry for what you did.”

“Never. I did it for the boy I used to love.”

Silence from his end of the phone.

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be.”

She was a slut, how could he fall for a girl like her. He had won the conversation and he was happy. Maybe saying goodbye wasn’t that difficult after all.

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