|This wide-eyed nightmare
A short piece on prison
October 23, 2002
Everything got easier after the rape. The punches hurt a little less.
The boiling water poured on my face daily, stung a little less. Every meal of moldy
bread and rock hard feta cheese tasted better. Even the nipple hardening showers
with rats the size of footballs became refreshing.
When they stuck me with fifteen-inch needles filled with truth agents, I didn't even
wince, nothing could be worse than rape. Elnaz came back after two sunsets. Her bald
head covered with bandages. Without a word she rejoined all of us by crawling into
a corner, her knees pressed against her chest. I never heard her speak against the
Mujaheddin, holy freedom fighters, but this time was different.
She was broken. They penetrated her adolescent womb until she agreed to be their
snitch. To betray the only family she had left, us, in the corner cell. No longer
could I hold her in my arms while she softly prayed for her mother to rescue her.
She was now a jaasoos, spy, her words would never be heard by my crippled
Every few hours one of the Sisters would come by and kick us in the mouth for whispering
to each other in the darkness. I hadn't seen my reflection in months but I knew at
least six of my teeth were gone. It had all become routine.
Sometimes brother Jafar would come take us away. He turned towards Mecca five times
a day to pray. Every once in a while he would pray before raping one of us. This
didn't offend me at all. At that point I no longer believed in god. At least not
the god I remember as a little girl, that image of a bearded old man sitting on a
golden throne listening so compassionately to my prayers. For me, god died a long
There were plenty of nights I would wake up screaming. Nightmares haunted me in my
sleep. These weren't the type of nightmares I could forget; they stayed with me all
the time. Sometimes I'd see my mother crying on top of my dead body at my wake. Her
prematurely drooping brown face covered with clear wetness. I'd grab her and tell
her to get up, that I was still alive! I couldn't believe she wouldn't notice me.
In fact no one at the funeral would, except for one little girl. She was tiny, maybe
six or seven years old. Unlike everyone else she didn't wear black. Her white peasant
dress was the opposite of her long black braids that ran down to her waist like hanging
Persian snakes. Above everyone's sobs I heard her innocent laugh; it was all too
familiar. The miniature ring finger on her right hand was pointing at me as if she
knew my idle attempts were in vain.
As I got closer, her laughs became unbearable; they rung in my ears like the sound
of tragic news. I couldn't take it, so I grabbed her. I would shake and slap her
helpless face. I would kick her small body until blood accompanied laughter. Pretty
soon, breathing stopped. I looked down on her lifeless body and it became clear.
I was her.
That's when I yelled aazaadi, freedom, at the top of my lungs. As soon as
my eyes opened, the truth dawned on me. In this damp, sinister room, I was in fact