Ali Salami

A Home in the Sky By Goli Taraghi

A Home in the Sky By Goli Taraghi

It was a harsh summer, humid, without water, without electricity. War loomed, fear and darkness. Masoud D. was like a man who had plunged into the depths of a troubled dream, confused and angry. He clasped the hands of his wife and children and hurriedly made his way to the west. Not knowing what future awaited him, he did not want to be sensible, cautious or far-sighted. He did not seek advice from those who had more experience than him, who feared the move and the change, or from those who believed in the soil, tradition and roots and whose decision to stay was a moral one.

Masoud D. was tired of war and afraid of death. The night terrors had robbed him of his peace, and the agonizing fear of dawn tormented him. He had to leave, he had to flee to a safe haven, far away from the noise, the bombs and the explosions, far away from the possibility of death, madness and revolution. He acted in secret, quick as lightning. He auctioned off his possessions and sold his house to the first buyer for a pittance. He got himself a visa, bought a ticket, packed his bags and as he was about to leave, his eyes fell on his old mother and his feet staggered. He wondered about her fate and his heart twisted with pain and despair, so much so that for a moment he forgot about the war and death and decided to stay.

Throughout the ordeal, Mahin Banu simply watched without asking questions, raising objections or asserting her presence. She saw her belongings being sold and remained silent. She watched as strangers moved through the rooms of her house and did not say a word. She sat in a corner against the wall on the large Tabriz rug – a relic of her ancestors – and traced the velvet flowers and colorful golden patterns with a hidden longing – remnants of days gone by. Her last touch on this familiar, old object was like caressing a half-warm body in the last moments of life. She clung to the roots of the tablecloth, hoping it would hold her back. Her eyes followed the tap decorated bowls being passed around and the large Russian lamps being sold. She wanted to say, “No! I am not giving away my termeh bundles and my wedding mirror,” or take something and hide it, but she remained silent. She sat in a corner, invisible and silent, full of inner wounds, watching as tables and chairs, china plates and golden frames slipped away, like the sad journey of a mother’s children to foreign cities. She understood that difficult times lay ahead and accepted them.

She bore no grudge against her son. Years ago she had transferred the house into his name. They had agreed not to sell the house before she died, an old pact from before the revolution and the war, before the fear, trembling and turmoil that overtook her children. Mahin Banu wished for nothing more than the well-being and happiness of her son or daughter, who was married to an Englishman and lived far away from Tehran. She would have given away the carpet under her feet, as she had done; even her life, which was coming to an end and for which she no longer yearned. Her children loved her dearly, and Masoud D. had never intended to abandon his elderly mother or leave her destitute at the mercy of God while he sought security for himself. But in the chaos and disorder, amidst the madness of war and bombing and the looming specter of death, he had lost his mind and was no longer able to take responsibility for his actions and desires. Mahin Banu understood this and her silence, her submission and her acquiescence stemmed from this maternal realization. She had cried, even sobbed, in secret, in front of the others, at night in the dark under her blanket or during the day in the locked bathroom, behind the tall cypress trees in the garden.

She treasured the termehs, carpets and antique objects, memories of her father, her husband and the happy days of her youth; she had grown old with them and they shared a deep bond. Her memories fluttered like thousands of scattered pictures in the rooms of the house, the fingerprints of her childhood still visible on the stone paving of the courtyard and the bricks of the wall. This house was the only place she recognized as her own, and now she saw that she no longer belonged “here”; she did not belong anywhere; she was floating in the air. She wished she could, as cats do when they are sick or dying, put her head back on her neck and disappear.

But she saw that she was still strong and alive, not ready to die. Her old age had been forced on her by others. It was their merciless looks and unjust judgments that defined her age and reminded her of the years gone by. She had a youthful image of herself reflected in old mirrors, in cherished memories of happier days. Her heart was still beating, her eyes still chasing after things. She awaited the future, the arrival of spring and summer. She harbored a thousand hopes and dreams, for herself, for her children, for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Seventy-four, seventy-six, or more? Others counted and estimated the dates of her marriage and birth, but Mahin Banu had not yet crossed the threshold of forty years, a fact that only she knew, felt and believed.

Now, with no status and no place, she did not know what moment on earth she had landed in, who she was, where she was, what her destination was. She had become something alien to the cosmic order of the universe, like a fallen star banished to the chaotic solitude of the sky. She wished she no longer existed, but that was not possible. Death was far away from her. Her feet sought the ground. Her body absorbed particles of light and heat, and her thoughts, interwoven with a thousand invisible threads, clung to the sweet corners of life.

It was decided that Mahin Banu would stay with her sister for a few weeks, or perhaps even two or three months, until Masoud D. could settle down in Paris, find a house, secure a job and stabilize his life, and then prepare for his mother’s arrival in peace and joy. His daughter also took care of her. Despite financial constraints and the high cost of living, she often called from London and invited her mother to join them. Her English son-in-law was a friendly man who was keen to take his mother-in-law in. But they still had to wait. Eventually everything would fall into place, perhaps even better than at first. Mahin Banu was patient and wise, and her children owed much to her innate wisdom.

The first two weeks were a bit of a challenge. Moving was never easy and Mahin Banu was not used to sleeping in a strange house night after night. She was addicted to her own room, her bed, her pillow, used to the sounds of her alley and the comings and goings of her old neighbors, even addicted to the stale smell of her kitchen and the familiar dampness of the upstairs stairwell, and of course the smell of the jasmine at her window and the constant presence of the four tall Tabrizi trees that were as old as her father. Her sister was kind and welcoming, and her brother-in-law, Dr. Younes Khan, was a reclusive man plagued by depression and loneliness, mourning the distance from his children. All six of his children had left Iran after the revolution. His eldest son lived in Australia, unreachable. His two daughters, the beloved twins, were in America. The middle son shuttled between Singapore, Thailand and Japan, and the youngest was constantly on the move.

One of his daughters, Dr. Younes Khan believed, although he wasn’t sure as his memory failed him, had become a citizen of Canada, India or an unknown country in Africa. The two sisters were close, and in that respect Masoud had no worries. He had a clear conscience because he knew his mother was in good hands. And she was, but the nightly bombings and the subsequent onslaught of cursed missiles had changed Dr. Younes Khan’s behavior considerably; he had strange thoughts and was suspicious of everyone for no reason. He would eavesdrop behind doors, rifle through his wife’s or sister-in-law’s pockets, hide his own insignificant things and then forget where he had put them. He was convinced that Mahin Banu had taken his glasses and lighter, leading to arguments between him and his wife, while Mahin Banu curled up behind the door in embarrassment, counting the days until she could travel west to see her children. She felt sorry for Dr. Younes Khan because she knew his actions were not premeditated or malicious. Even when her finger got caught in the door and ripped her nail off at the root, or the night her brother-in-law tore up her bed and rummaged through her pockets in search of his agate ring, she didn’t sigh or complain. She told herself that these moments were fleeting and thanked God that her children were safe and that she was alive and well despite everything.

The long-awaited day had finally arrived. Mahin Banu thought she was dreaming as tears ran down her cheeks with sheer joy, a rare sight for someone who rarely cried in front of others. She could no longer control it. She kissed the faces of her grandchildren with no thought of sleep or rest, even though she had been awake all night: the airport, customs, the ordeal of searching for her luggage, losing her handbag, forgetting her reading glasses and her medication, the sudden pain in her legs, the dizziness and the cursed commotion on the plane. But if she had the chance, she would talk all day, shower her grandchildren, son and daughter-in-law with kisses, run around her tiny apartment excited and fussing, bombarding everyone with a barrage of questions.

For the first two nights, they insisted that Mahin Banu slept in the children’s room. Mattresses were laid out in the living room for the children and they were quietly informed that their grandmother had arrived tired from her journey and deserved some rest. They would swap places later and give the room back to the children.

Mahin Banu noticed the scowls on the children’s faces and the frowning silence that weighed on her heart. She wanted to say something, but couldn’t bring herself to do so. She was too exhausted, her whole body trembled with fatigue. She laid her head on the pillow and fell into a deep sleep, only to wake up at dawn to find an iron weight pressing down on her chest. An unsettling, unfamiliar feeling of shame, humiliation and guilt welled up inside her, spurred on by the memory of her grandchildren’s unhappy looks. She felt guilty for usurping her room as if she were being beaten with a stick, and the mattress and pillow under her head seemed to be filled with needles. She would have preferred to sleep in the hallway behind the door or squeezed into a corner of the couch, as she didn’t want to displace anyone. On the third day she was moved and Mahin Banu sighed with relief. They gave her a light foam mattress that she could lay out in the living room at night and hide under the couch during the day. Her suitcases were stored in a corner of the kitchen and she lugged her handbag everywhere. The closets were bursting with clothes and couldn’t be closed, and things were piled up under the beds. There was hardly any room to move around. Mahin Banu had spent her whole life in a spacious house with sunlit rooms, a view of the sky, the sun, the garden and the courtyard. Her room had its own closet and storage space, and the attic and basement could hold hundreds of suitcases and a truckload of belongings. But those were stories from the past. Life had its ups and downs, and sleeping in the corner of the living room had its own charm, despite the noisy street and the vibrations of the subway rattling the windows of the house. But from the very first moment, Mahin Banu told herself that this was what life in the West was like. There was nothing to complain about, and she was grateful that she was with her children and that her life was finally in order.

The grandchildren were happy with their lives, enjoyed school and had a diverse group of Arab and Portuguese friends. Occasionally they had parties and Mahin Banu had to rearrange her bedding to find a quiet corner – but where? There were only two bedrooms, a narrow kitchen, a small bathroom and a toilet in the corner. She couldn’t stay in her son and daughter-in-law’s room, although they insisted and her kind daughter-in-law didn’t object. The children’s room was too cluttered; two beds stood together amidst a jumble of books, shoes, tennis rackets and footballs. The kitchen was the only option and Mahin Banu did not take up much space. She was small in stature, slender, delicate and fragile; she could fit in a cupboard or under a bed. She had even slept in the bathtub a few nights and found it surprisingly comfortable. But her son was adamantly against it and eventually forced her to sleep in his bed, next to his wife. That was Mahin Banu’s worst night; she felt shamed by her daughter-in-law. She lay on the edge of the bed, so far to one side that she was in danger of falling off, and never once closed her eyes.

The sheet stuck to her and her whole body trembled. She curled up so tightly that she resembled a small ball; a gentle push would have sent her rolling onto the floor. Her daughter-in-law put up with this for a few nights before gently letting her husband know that this arrangement could not continue. Masoud D., normally a reasonable and understanding man, inexplicably lost his temper and his screams echoed throughout the house. The children were terrified and the couple argued like never before. Mahin Banu was torn between life and death, cursed herself for disrupting the family’s life and decided to leave that very day. She packed her suitcase, got dressed and sat in the hallway, waiting for her heart to calm down, for her thoughts to settle and for her to find out where she could go. Returning to Tehran seemed the best option, back to her sister’s house. But the thought of Dr. Younes Khan and his eccentricities? Impossible. She thought of her cousin’s house, forgetting that her cousin had died two months before, which moved her to tears. She thought of her cousins’ and nephews’ houses, but her nephews had gone to America. She even thought of the cemetery, the Jahannam Valley, begging or working as a maid; at least she would be in her own country where she could lay her head on the ground and die. Staying here was out of the question. Fortunately, Manijeh, the daughter of Mahin Banu – known in the West as Maggie – called from London and asked for her mother to be put on a plane to join her that very day, that very minute. An immediate departure was not possible, but a week later Mahin Banu was escorted to the airport feeling like a bird released from its cage and rejuvenated.

The plane was like a home, warm and safe. She had her own seat, all her own. Her place was fixed, irrevocable. Even a single seat on the ground would have sufficed, because she knew it was hers. She ate her meal with little appetite, remembering the old days when meals were served to her – when she still had a status and a social life – and how much she cried when she learned that the old lady’s grandson had been martyred in the war and her son had been committed to a psychiatric hospital. If that had not happened, everything would have been different. Masoud D. had planned to rent a small apartment for his mother and leave her in the care of the old lady, which would have been the best thing for both of them. But who could predict the future? A mortar shell hit the old lady’s grandson and killed him on the spot. The people from Sabzevar arrived and chaos reigned. Representatives of the committee and the Martyrs’ Foundation came with condolences and congratulations. The old lady was taken to her village, given a room and a monthly stipend and it was decided that she would stay there. All this happened before Mahin Banu moved to her sister’s house.

Maggie (formerly Manijeh) embraced her mother with such love and longing that Mahin Banu gasped with pain and joy. Her son-in-law, David Oakley, also kissed her and squeezed her hand tightly. David was a good man whose Jewish heritage contributed to his warmth. Mahin Banu had initially been unhappy with her daughter’s marriage to an English-speaking Jew. She had hoped for an Iranian Muslim son-in-law, but she had kept her opinion to herself and never interfered in her children’s decisions. Still, her heart had been heavy until she saw David’s healthy face and his open, sincere eyes, which lifted a great weight from her chest. She slipped her arm through his strong arm, laughed and suddenly realized how small and simple she was. She barely reached his waist, like a little bird that weighed no more than forty kilograms, maybe less, with delicate bones and pencil-thin legs.

It was raining and the air was chilly. David had a car; he put the suitcases in the trunk and patted Mahin Banu playfully on the tender shoulder. Maggie sat next to her mother and rested her head on Mahin Banu’s aching shoulder. She whispered in her ear that she would never let her return to Paris or Tehran and made Mahin Banu’s heart flutter. She closed her eyes and fell asleep, but dreamed of nothing.

Maggie and David Oakley’s apartment was on the fourth floor and had no elevator. Mahin Banu, tired and sleepy, stumbled along. David found her as light as a feather and lifted her up, whereupon Mahin Banu cried out. She stiffened like a pencil and stayed that way. Maggie laughed. David was in high spirits, carrying his mother-in-law up the stairs like a wooden doll, and Mahin Banu could not blink. She was stunned and did not know whether to laugh, scream or cry; she had never experienced anything like it. She had no natural reaction or ready response to accept or reject this situation. She felt different from herself, transformed into an object, a broom or a chair she had bought at the market, and “being a broom” was a new experience with a world of its own.

Maggie’s house was smaller than her brother’s apartment, with only one bedroom but no children, just a big fluffy dog as big as Mahin Banu. David was rational and methodical, his actions guided by logic rather than emotion, with no fondness for favors. It was decided that Mahin Banu would sleep on the living room couch, and when they had guests, she would lie in their bedroom – asleep or awake – and wait. It was not ideal, but what could be done? Mahin Banu had no objections, she never had. And even if she had had any, she knew it was not the right time to voice them, which made life easier for everyone.

David was a teacher, lectured in economics and meticulously noted all household expenses. Fortunately, Mahin Banu’s needs were minimal, comparable to those of a chick trying to consume even less than the chicken feed. Maggie attended university and studied accounting. The couple left in the morning and returned exhausted in the evening. They had little desire to talk, and when they did, it was about the rising costs and expenses of living. Mahin Banu had no money of her own. On the very first day, at Maggie’s insistent request, she had reluctantly offered her daughter her gold bracelet and ruby earrings for sale. Maggie had said: “No! No way,” and her husband had said, “It’s okay.” Maggie had shouted “No” and then reluctantly agreed, guided by her husband’s advice.

Mahin Banu had learned to converse with herself. She did not understand her son-in-law’s language, and Maggie was forced to speak English with her husband, if they spoke at all. Their dinners were taken in silence. Maggie prepared her lessons, and David Oakley read the newspaper from cover to cover, every page. Then all three sat down and watched television, often scientific or cultural programs, discussions and debates. Mahin Banu stared blankly ahead, unable to see or understand, lost in her own memories, in another place and time. She was alone during the day, keeping the house in order, tending to a few potted plants by the window and spending hours watching the endless rain and the dark night sky. She was also terrified of David Oakley’s dog and spent most of her time in the bedroom until her daughter returned. Sometimes, when the weather permitted, she would venture outside and sit shivering in the park across the street. It was a harsh winter and she fell ill, first with a swollen throat, then the illness spread to her chest. Her coughings were so violent that it looked as if her intestines were going to burst out. Worse still, her coughing disturbed the next door neighbor who was banging on the wall, and Mahin Banu buried her head under the pillow, biting the corner of the sheet and holding her breath.

Everything changed with the arrival of spring. A few rays of sunshine broke through the clouds and warmed hearts. David Oakley took three days off to go on leisurely outings with his wife and mother-in-law, which they all enjoyed. Maggie bought her mother medicine and tonics, and Mahin Banu gained a little weight and thanked God from the bottom of her heart. But her gratitude was short-lived, as the situation soon reversed. It was the beginning of summer. David Oakley spent two summer months in the mountains with his aunt, which made it impossible to take Mahin Banu with him. They rented out their house for those two months to cover the costs, which was understandable, especially given the extra expense of accommodating Mahin Banu. It was quickly decided to send her to Paris to stay with her son, a decision that was made without consulting Masoud D. They put Mahin Banu on a plane and informed her son: “Your mother is on her way.”

The timing was unfortunate, and although Masoud D. was happy to see his mother, he couldn’t keep her, especially not at that time. It was summer and they were on their way to the south of France. As they didn’t have the money for a hotel or a vacation apartment by the sea, they wanted to camp by the water, in the wilderness, in the forest or in a field, it didn’t matter. Taking Mahin Banu with them was out of the question. The siblings argued. David Oakley had several solutions at hand, and after pooling their wisdom, it was decided to take Mahin Banu back to London and put her up there.

Mahin Banu overheard the discussions, though they tried to keep them secret, and she pressed her toes into the ground, wishing he would swallow her. She felt like an unwanted object being passed from one hand to the other, dizzy with confusion.

Firouzeh Khanum, one of Maggie’s close friends, owned a small laundry service. They sought her help. Firouzeh Khanum, who was always cheerful and joking, explained that she lived in a small room with no room for guests, but that there was an empty storage room behind the laundry, windowless but warm and safe. David Oakley agreed. Maggie was annoyed, but had no choice and kept quiet. Mahin Banu also agreed and was anxious to resolve the situation.

The room behind the laundry was damp and dimly lit. Mahin Banu cried all night on her first night there, praying for salvation through death. She asked herself what kept her so attached to life, where her strength came from, and realized that it was her love for her children. She vowed to let go of this love in order to find peace.

Firouzeh Khanum was a graceful woman, strong enough to hold her own against ten men. She had a husband who lived in Tehran, one of those sad, opium-addicted types. Once a year he traveled to the West at his wife’s expense, full of sighs and complaints about the state of the world, depressed, bloated and incapable. In his better days he had been a man of some repute, or so he thought, educated and well-read. But the slightest mishap had broken him and left him scattered and despondent. Firouzeh Khanum, a lioness at heart, had no patience for whining and complaining. She sent her children to England and founded her own company. She was known for her openness and generosity and helped the people around her, especially those who deserved it. When she saw Mahin Banu – with her sweet face and sad, honey-colored eyes – she was immediately fascinated. She did her shopping, took care of her needs, put her to work at the laundry machines and kept her company with Persian books and newspapers.

Karim Khan, Mahin Banu’s brother, lived in Canada. He was wealthy, owned a house and even a garden with a few birds and rabbits. Through an intricate chain of connections – a game of Chinese whispers – he found out about his sister’s dire situation and was outraged. He harshly reprimanded his nieces and nephews, perhaps going too far, but he could not help himself. He ordered that his sister’s situation be rectified. As he had contacts at the Canadian embassy, he arranged Mahin Banu’s visa. He sent her a plane ticket, and before Masoud D. or Maggie could intervene, he called her and insulted them both. As the family patriarch, his word was final and everyone complied.

It was the beginning of winter when Mahin Banu left for Canada. She was looking forward to being between heaven and earth once again and embarking on her longest journey yet, a wonderful experience. She sat by the window, mesmerized by the clear brightness outside. Her seat was warm and cozy, offering her the sheltered corner she craved, safe from intruders. Feverishly, she soaked up the sunlight through the window pane and fell asleep again and again, her head sinking down only to wake up again with a jerk. Her eyelids fluttered open and her gaze went to the horizon, which stretched out into the endless expanse. Below her lay a field of white clouds, bright, light, pure, like an angelic dream, the carefree slumber of the seraphs.

A fellow traveler whispered something to her; she did not understand. She refused the tray of food, turned away, pressed her face against the window pane and drew in the sunlight with her fascinated eyes. She felt thousands of tiny stars twinkling in her thoughts and illuminating her inner self.

The sky was uniformly blue, unclouded by clouds, free of any disturbing interruption or uneven wave, reaching into the furthest reaches of the imagination, to the origin of all things, beyond ordinary forms and prevailing scales. Mahin Banu saw herself at the age of twelve, playing in the garden of Damavand, as snow fell and her fingertips were numbed by contact with the delicate ice crystals. She watched the overwhelming snowfall, the ashen horizon and felt as if her feet were lifting off the ground and floating towards the sky. She loved this game; even in her old age she had not forgotten it. She sat by the window while her grandmother brought her tea and sugar cubes. They both stared like enchanted beings at the uniform white outside and slowly fell asleep. She woke up at midnight when she realized that the snow was still falling and listened carefully. The whole town slept under a white blanket, frozen, like an uninhabited house whose contents were hidden under clean sheets. No sound, just the magical silence of space, filled with nothingness, with the silent presence of God.

Throughout the journey, Mahin Banu sat at the window, feverish and drenched in sweat, but content. She was so sleepy and enchanted by the view that she no longer knew where or who she was. She dozed off, dreamed, woke up, watched, reminisced and drifted off again, spinning in her thoughts. She was in the snow, in the middle of the sky, sliding down slopes, swinging back and forth. She was everywhere, in different times, contemplating or stringing together a thousand versions of herself scattered across the expanse: different Mahin Banus, old and young, in this life and in other eras. She was a woman with the power of infinity, bound together in an eternal recurrence. For the first time, she did not think about her children, the people on the ground, her carpet from Tabriz, her Termehs, her house on Pahlavi Street or her earthly memories.

She was above the clouds, and the infinite expanse slowly permeated her being, seeping into the depths of her soul like the pleasant warmth of autumn, moist and languid. It enveloped her, stretched threads around her and shielded her as if she were in the womb of the universe, protected and beyond time.

Karim Khan awaited his sister’s arrival with impatience. He had resolved to keep her with him, as he was ashamed of the thoughtlessness of his nephews and nieces. When he saw Mahin Banu, he burst into tears because he felt his own isolation and longed for his relatives. He thought about his homeland a thousand times a day, but he always talked himself out of it. When he saw his sister, who was now old, frail and confused, his pain was reawakened. He cursed the estrangement and thought for a moment about returning. He had his own house and garden; he could return to his life and live with Mahin Banu. They were close, had grown up together and had hardly any age difference. Seeing her in such a state shocked him. She was so thin, pale and confused. She looked, but she saw nothing, her mind was absent. When he took her hand, he was startled; it was as if he had a piece of hot bone in his hand. He spoke to her, but she did not hear or understand, her answers were nonsensical. Karim Khan, deeply moved, hugged his sister and kissed her face. He felt himself aging and his heart ached.

When he reached home, he laid Mahin Banu on a large bed and called for a doctor. He informed his children about their mother’s condition and assured them that it was just tiredness, sleeplessness and high blood pressure, nothing serious. There was nothing to worry about and he began to look after his sister. He was excited and upset and did not know where to start. He talked about the past, about their childhood days, about yesterday and the day before yesterday, about himself and his sudden decision to return home. He laughed, overjoyed, unable to believe that he had decided to return, and attributed this sudden happiness to his sister. He did not understand how he had come up with this idea; perhaps the sight of his sister’s confused and lost expression had shaken him. He looked into Mahin Banu’s empty eyes, devoid of familiar memories and rational thoughts, and became afraid. He saw the loneliness in her and shuddered deep inside. He had just realized how alone and helpless he was; standing on empty ground like a strange traveler in a cold, sad train station, with only a fleeting presence. He held Mahin Banu’s hand and kissed it, assuring her that the days of wandering and homelessness were over and that they would return as soon as she had recovered. Mahin Banu closed her eyes and imagined herself sitting at the window of the plane, watching the vast blue sea before her. She fell asleep and dreamed again of the sky flowing like a flowing sea into the bright realms of existence, unaware of how long she had slept. She was thirsty and got up with trembling knees.

Karim Khan was not at home. She looked around without remembering where she was. A soft light filtered through the lace curtain. She walked closer, held on to a chair and paused to catch her breath. She took a few steps and felt as if she had climbed a mountain. Sweat poured down her face. She pulled the curtain aside with a trembling hand. It was snowing and the welcoming silence of the past beckoned to her. Her grandmother had brought her tea and sugar cubes and stood crying at the door. Her grandson had become a martyr. She was on her way to Sabzevar. “Grandmother, wait, let me give you some money for the journey,” she said and reached for the door handle. Tired, she wanted to sit down and looked for her seat. The flight attendant checked her ticket. A cold breeze hit her in the face. She shivered. It was snowing, heavy flakes as big as buttons. She moved forward and her foot slipped. The plane was cold. She could not find her place. She walked on, a white road lay before her.

The snow fell into her eyes. Mount Damavand, majestic and solid, watched her from a distance. Its size reminded her of her father, who stood in prayer and felt the wind under his coat, as if he was touching the sky with his head and rooting his feet in the earth. How wonderful it was to live in the shadow of this towering, awe-inspiring mountain, this man who stood between two marble pillars at afternoon prayer and whose shadow stretched to the ends of the earth. She loved crawling under his cloak, riding on his shoulders, up on the highest peak in the world, far above the earth, the small mud houses and the ant-sized, insignificant people. Looking out the airplane window, she saw the same scene and felt as if she were sitting on her father’s shoulders again, unreachable, not by her scolding mother, not by the grumpy math teacher explaining endless division and multiplication, not by the local policeman tugging on her ear, nor by her husband, nor from her children who cling to her and devour her flesh with animal pleasure, nor from others who impose moral standards and historical philosophies on her, burdening her with the crushing weight of words and measuring her gaze and consciousness with the short ruler of pathetic mathematical limits.

Someone was calling her, perhaps from beyond Mount Damavand. She ran, turned in a circle, turned into a snow-covered road on the left and felt warm. Overheated, she took off her coat, unbuttoned her blouse and lifted her face to the sky, remembering the games of her childhood and laughing. Snowflakes found their way into her mouth; she was in heaven, above the clouds. Below her was Mount Damavand, on the summit of which stood a magnificent armchair made of walnut wood and crimson velvet – just like the one in her father’s study. The flight attendant led her to her seat, her very special armchair! She sat down, small as a child, and almost disappeared into the seat. She wrapped her father’s coat around her and pressed her face against the window pane. The sky was a uniform, crystal clear blue, vast and generous, looking back at her. She listened. There was no sound but the silence of snowfall and the sweet stillness of death.

Masoud D. blamed his sister and held her responsible. She, in turn, complained about Uncle Karim. David Oakley remarked that such incidents are common, spoke of cause and effect and referred to the laws of history and revolution as he has an academic background. Firouzeh Khanum felt a pang of sympathy and then forgot about it. Others endeavored to keep the story of Mahin Banu alive, but it faded away. In the midst of all the turmoil, misfortune, labor and exhaustion, war and displacement, how was one to keep memories alive? Mahin Banu understood this very well. Thank God she was a woman with sense.


About Goli Taraghi

Goli Taraghi, born Zahra Moghaddam Taraghi on October 9, 1939 in Tehran, is a well-known Iranian author who lives in France. Her father, Lotfollah Taraghi, was the editor of Taraghi magazine. She grew up in the affluent district of Shemiran and attended Anoushiravan Dadgar High School before moving to the United States in 1954 to further her education. After a six-year stay in the US, where she earned a degree in philosophy, Taraghi returned to Iran, disillusioned with life in America. On her return, she turned to writing fiction and taught the understanding of myths and early symbols at the Faculty of Fine Arts at Tehran University for nine years before moving to France.

Taraghi was once married to Hajir Dariush, a filmmaker and critic, with whom she had two children before they parted ways.

Her literary career began with the publication of her first collection of stories entitled “I Too Am Che Guevara” in 1969 by the Morvarid publishing house. After the Iranian revolution of 1979, Goli Taraghi continued her writing career in France. One of her stories, “The Great Lady of My Soul”,” was translated into French and named the best story of the year in France in 1985.

In her early works, Taraghi often portrayed her characters as sickly, despondent, incapacitated, isolated and alienated from society and regarded most people as ignorant and superficial. After 1979, however, her stories such as “The Great Lady of My Soul”,” “The Shiraz Bus” and “A House in the Sky” are significant contributions to contemporary Iranian literature, consisting mainly of short stories, with the exception of “Winter Sleep”.

Goli Taraghi was awarded the second Bita Prize in 2009, further cementing her position as an important figure in contemporary Persian literature.

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