"Wait," the young man said. He was Iranian and he had told the girl, who was American, that he was Iranian and not Persian. They had kissed once and then he'd stopped.
"I have to tell you about Mossadegh."
"Not what, who. Mossadegh was a man. He was the prime minister of Iran in 1953. He was overthrown by an American coup. I have to tell you about him because I shouldn't be the only one thinking about him when we kiss."
"I would rather not be thinking about him when we kiss. I would rather you not be thinking about him when we kiss."
"I don't mean thinking about him. I mean he's part of the picture. As long as I am Iranian and you are American, he is part of the picture."
"It's just a kiss."
"Sure. Of course. But a country is just a country too. It's the same thing."
"I'm just going to feel bad if you tell me about it."
"That's all right. Feeling bad is part of kissing. I feel terrible about it. I felt terrible about it a minute ago when we kissed."
She looked at him like now that was just too much.
"I look at it like this," he said. "A kiss is a promise that I'm not going to overthrow any democratically-elected government just for something like nationalizing the oil industry. And I'm not going to go along with anybody else doing it. It's a message to the Dulles brothers that I'm not a part of any of that."
"The Dulles brothers. John Foster and Allen. They were the ones behind it. Eisenhower was just along for the ride."
"You don't think the Dulles brothers kissed their wives?"
"They probably did. I haven't quite figured that out yet. But I think they meant something different when they kissed. I don't think they saw a kiss as a time to be very soft and very hard at the same time. I don't think they saw it as something that was theirs alone and everybody's at the same time."
"I'm going to cry," she said.
"That's all right. Crying is a perfectly reasonable thing to do."
"I feel as though even though I didn't know their names, I knew about Mossadegh and the Dulles brothers. I mean I knew that that was probably what happened. And I knew that you would know their names."
They didn't say anything for a while.
"All right," she said. "I want to hear about it."
He told her about the Shah, about the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, about the poverty of the people who worked in the oil fields, and about the Shah again after the coup.
"Wouldn't you rather kiss an Iranian girl who already knows about Mossadegh?" she said.
He laughed. "Knowing about Mossadegh isn't the only attractive quality a girl can have."
"What is another one?"
"Well, being willing to listen to the story of Mossadegh, for one."
"I'm willing to listen. But I feel like there are so many of those stories that I'm never going to get to all of them."
"That's all right. You can never get to all of them. But you can get to enough that you can have a sense of who you are in the world."
"I don't know if I can get to enough for that."
"Well, one story a day is a good start, if you're willing to listen in the right way."
"What is the right way?"
"The right way is the way that lets a kiss be a kiss, that lets a kiss be all it is. If you feel fearful that you're not going to get to enough of those stories, you should kiss with that fear. You should kiss with some forgiveness of yourself too, but you should kiss with that fear."
"I don't know how to do that. A kiss isn't the time for being fearful."
"A kiss is the best time for being fearful. Think if the Dulles brothers had been able to do that. Think if they had been able to admit that they were fearful of a world that they didn't control."
"What would have happened?"
"I don't know. But they would have been honest about it at least. Maybe their wives would've said, 'It's all right. Let Mossadegh nationalize the oil industry. Iran will survive. England will survive. America will survive.'"
He smiled, and it was the saddest smile the girl had ever seen.
"They would've survived, wouldn't they?" the girl said.
"Yes, they would've."
They kissed, and it was just a kiss, but something was surviving all along the kiss, long and steadily, from its beginning to its end and afterwards too.
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