I ran from Eye-ran
By Pejman Mosleh
April 20, 1999
I knew the officer had asked me a question and was now expecting an
answer. But what could he be asking me? Where are your parents? When did
you leave Iran? Do you speak English?
"Yes." I confidently replied.
The Lester B. Pearson International Airport immigration officer looked
deeply into my eyes. His lips did not move but his eyes were telling. "I've
seen your type." He picked up the phone and rang out a request. The
word "translator" echoed in his pronouncement. A minute or so
later, a slouching man with a lifeless expression appeared. He cast a dead
glance at me and waited.
"Country of origin?" This time, I understood the foreign tongue
and did not wait for the defunct newcomer.
"E-run." I said gingerly.
"Where did he say?" I felt slighted.
"He says he's from Eye-ran." The translator's morbid accent
"Age?" I didn't allow the translator to say anything.
"Eighteen." I said in Persian and to the translator this time.
The officer began filling in form after form. I talked about the desert
I had crossed, the scorching heat, the small pond near the border, the
fish inside the pond and the silence of the sands sullied only by the farting
The officer looked up listlessly from his paper work: "Anybody's
waiting for him outside?"
I moved to Woodbridge, a predominately Italian town, north-west of Toronto.
I had one resolution: to learn the new language as fast as I could. My
practice began from the moment I left home in the morning to go to school.
I would greet the jogging senior citizens:
" ..... ?"
I would stride down the Pine Valley Drive. Grand Highway 407, the first
bar coded highway ever, was still under construction in those days. The
scenery that only a week earlier sported an emerald glint was gradually
being tarnished. I made several friends at school almost instantly.
"Hey Page! Where are you bombing next?"
"Tell us about your wives back home."
Every afternoon, I came home with a bag full of new words: drag, snag,
toke, scum, lackey, tapped with a wealth of novel F words.
I can still remember one late afternoon on my way home after school,
finding myself being watched by a fox at the site of the future highway.
It was a rude fox:
"Filthy two-legged. See what you've done to our habitat."
"Don't blame me for this. I'm fairly new around here."
"Shut up! You disgust me." And he dwindled back into the construction
mess behind him.
School year was half finished when I met Carla. I was working on a project
with a group of students in the school cafeteria. I casually turned to
a group member and asked for a "rubber". Everyone burst out laughing
except for her. She was passing by, but tarried to politely correct me:
"An eraser you mean." And she gave me hers.
I had more than enough reasons to fall for her right then and there.
Carla and I saw each other from time to time. I helped her with her math
and she corrected my writing. More importantly, she understood my half-baked
English better than everyone else. I only sought a good opportunity to
talk to her about us. I did not know what I was going to tell her but when
she invited me to her birthday party, I felt the proper venue had finally
I treaded my way home that day on clouds. Below me, the unfinished highway
lay naked under Pine Valley Drive. I noticed a protesting deer, yelling
as loud as she could:
"Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame."
"You hang out with the fox, do you not?" I shouted.
At Carla's, everyone was happy to see me:
There she was. Accommodating as usual. She introduced me to her parents,
her arching nonna and to Tony. I leered at him with suspicion. With his
long hair and pair of ear rings, he actually resembled Carla. I scowled.
Carla hit me on my shoulder and took me for a tour of the house. She showed
me all the rooms, the basement with its jars of tomato sauce and the backyard
where the tomatoes were grown in the summer. I was elated once again. When
I felt the right moment had arrived, I didn't falter.
"Tiamo." I whispered into her left ear.
"Thanks." She was serene.
I don't think she heard me though. Her nonna had called her out of nowhere
and she was gone. I joined the rest of the party.
"Hey Page! Where did you park your flying carpet tonight?"
"Next to your snowmobile." And I muttered my first string
of F words: "Freak face."
The party went on but Carla had been missing for a long time. I looked
around the house, checked the basement and asked her nonna if she had seen
"Che bello!" She replied as she pinched my cheek.
I went to the backyard. The moon was a cauldron of bubbling pasta sauce.
Knowing two languages is like being two people at the same time. I had
read this somewhere before. At the end of the backyard, I saw Carla's ghost.
She seemed to be two people already. I strained my eyes and recognized
Tony's long hair. I could see his arms and legs and those of Carla's, all
flailing like a panting octopus. The sight of the heaving marine beast
inundated my mind with a nocturnal image from the past; the fish I had
seen swimming in the distant desert.
A few days later, I saw an unsuspecting worker by the highway, urinating
behind a piece of Caterpillar equipment. The afternoon sun was doing a
mediocre job trying to heat the earth. Approaching him, I asked: "Have
you seen a fox around?"
"A fox?! No."
"How about a deer?" He gave me a suspicious look and said
"I ran from Eye-ran" was first published by the UC review
of the University of Toronto.
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