By Ali Sadri
October 1, 2003
Sleepless night, third in a row. I sit in my room, staring at
the wall. Above the mattress hangs a Persian miniature illuminated
by a solitary candle. It is a window to a flower garden enveloping
a single cypress tree. In the foreground sits a young woman with
her ankles tucked beneath her fleshy thighs. Her arms are extended
holding a bowl of something, which she is conceivably offering
to an out-of-frame lover. Her eyes are large and shaped like
almonds. Her eyebrows are exaggeratingly arched and meet in the
middle. Her lips are shaped like a rose bud.
I hesitantly turn
and look in the opposite direction as though checking for a ghost
and find the long shadow still stretched
on the wall. The sight of it makes my spine tremor. "You're
still here," I begin to speak to it, lie down, and curl
into a fetus position.
"I do not recall my age. I must have been
no more than four feet tall when you became ingrained forever
in my memories."
"Though I sit here alone, I am not really alone
for your shadow is stretched on the inner wall of my very existence.
If I am
speaking to you now, it is because I no longer can numb my senses
with wine nor bring about artificial sleep with pills. Nor can
I pretend I do not feel your incessant stare as I trudge along
this life's razor's edge. How many times have I sought
answers within myself to no avail? Now you must face these
questions you might have even asked yourself in secret, however
infected and repulsive they may seem. You must face the flesh
behind this fluttering light -- the flesh that we both remember,
and that which had once seemed without a soul."
"Many years have gone by, much has happened, but not all can
"I read a story in the paper one summer day, when still in
Tehran, and when I was no more than nine years old: My neighbor
brought the front page of Kayhan and pointed
to an ominous photo of a man who was large and horribly scary.
rapist and murderer who had escaped from prison. The police were
looking for him, and through the newspaper they warned parents
and begged for information on the fugitive. Contrary to my friends,
I was not the least frightened. Newspapers, scary movies, strangers,
dark alleys, old toothless men, witches and sorcerers all seemed
harmless, remote and fantastic. I did not believe in genies,
and with slightest worry, I simply shrugged my shoulders for
strangers were the least of my worries."
"One must admit that even a shadow was once innocent and free
of impure thought. How much impurity does a child have? A boy
with wondering eyes, hopes,
and promise -- an Iranian child, hair thick, black and wavy, eyes shaped like
almonds, lips like a rose bud. I've been gazing at this old black-and-white
photo where a suppressed smile fights to brake through."
"You are deluded. Delusions imbued in one who is oppressed
and caged where religion infects every molecule of the brain
and every cell of
"Does this dark image on the wall resemble an animal;
a cat, a dog or an ape? From my point of view it looks almost
human. Did I not see you standing
gazing at the moon? One who carved Ten Commandments into a stone? One
who is given a choice? But how often have you found yourself
crawling under rocks, eating dust? I see and remember all, and
that is my curse."
"You are diseased, disease of conceit, disease of deceit. You
are an imposter, a robber of youth, a pillager of innocence,
and an incurable cancer that
eats at my soul. All of your belated good deed is in vain. Good mixed with
is still evil, and no matter how much one begs to recompense, one will
always remain a monster. And turning to God and religion does
not wash away sins."
Multitudes of sin are kept hidden behind curtains, whispered
only through tiny cracks. Religious oppression is rooted from
its theoretical core,
flooded long ago from the desert by the sword, and through wide-open
gates, only to exit painstakingly through a needle's eye. Culture
language displaced, thought desecrated. Everything sacred was lost.
shadow although a product of shame, and who is now stretched
on the wall like an alien beast, is quivering with self-inflected
to blame for your sorrow, your dark past, and your disease."
"I indulge in the fantasy of 'justice-will-prevail', not in
the next world to come but in the current. That which we see,
breathe. The one we're accountable for."
"It is not up to you or I," a hollow voice rose from the wall
making me shiver through and through.
"I paid for my mistakes," he continued.
"My conscious is clear
and I am free except within your imagination."
"Free how?" I
"Free of guilt," he said.
"But you've never been forgiven," I
"I've been forgiven by God," he said.
The shadow has now moved
onto the opposite wall and has increased in size and agility,
as if he were delivered
from years of
air of conceit and pretentiousness as he uttered his
words with complete confidence.
"How can transgressions directed at me be nullified
by another?" I asked.
"It is not your place to forgive,"
said the shadow. "You demand a trial inside an emotional court
hold on to things, but your holding on will only
make me stronger."
"Your words do not deceive me," I said to the
shadow as my eyes followed him creeping across the ceiling
a snake. He paused
far over on the left side of the wall, fidgeting
restlessly as if he were adjusting
endlessly his balance. He spoke again with an
air of arrogant precocity:
"My concern is the domino effect that you impend."
nothing," I said and began pacing the room like a mad man.
"The domino effect
of is in
permeates each successive day of my life.
I am a prison for your disease, soon to
become its grave. You fabricate your innocence
by calumny. Your superficial convictions
are as hollow as your shadow on the wall."
Indifference and insincerity defies clemency altogether. If
one has caused afflictions
by an impulsive detachment
a wolf's skin at a moment's notice, and
all for a fleeting moment of mere
well, then one must not entertain the slightest
possibility of reconciliation with not
only oneself, but also
with any God of
any religion. As
if turning to primeval myth frees us from
"Do you see the miniature
painting above my bed?" I reach up, yanking it off the
violently in the
more than a Shahrzadian fantasy conjured
up by repressed minds. Those
who are deluded by them are bound for
disillusionment. Some absolve themselves
and rise to
a higher level, but others let themselves
be driven by primitive impulse and stoop
as an insect.
closed his eyes, and with his arms
extended in anticipation, he stepped forward and
touched gently the surface
the wall. He
and his palms broke through. There
debris fell softly, and he smelled damp concrete
earth. A burning
permeated his flesh,
and the darkness
inside his eyelids turned to a kaleidoscopic
interplay of bright red, yellow, and
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