There is a story behind each myth. Myths are supposed to be about the dead people, but our family’s favorite myth was about me. The way the family tells the story, I wrote my first word at age three, and the word was “Cinema.”
We lived in a small town in Mazandaran and my father was respected and well known. He was a busy man and I, as a little girl, craved to spend more time with him.
My father took me every Thursday night to the only movie theater of the town. Our family had its own special reserved seats. Row nine, seats 10 to 14.
Every time we drove down the main street, I looked for that place. The brown brick building with an orange fluorescent sign at its side. I would stare at the letters forming the word “Cinema.” I could find it from afar, could recognize its shape, and I envied anyone standing in the black line waiting to buy a ticket. I would gaze at the colorful posters of actors and picture their adventures in my daydreams.
It was the place of the only holy ritual I knew.
I used to sit on my father’s lap – even if the seats beside him was empty -- and watch his face instead of the huge bright screen. I could raise my hand to touch it, or I could whisper in his ear. It was the place where he couldn’t get mad at me for being who I was. It was the place I cried in silence, watching my father weeping every time the hero of the movie died -- and I smiled every time my father laughed the way he never laughed at home.
I loved to go to Cinema. I loved its darkness, its thick, heavy air, its deafening noise and its chunky silence. I adored its anonymity, its opacity and dullness, its light and its shadows, the smell of its grassy cookies and rotten food, its smoky mood, its wet velvet seats, its careless crowd who resembled everyone I knew, but they could cry or laugh at the same time as my father. This was the same petty crowd my father -- while sitting so close to them -- usually ignored. It was the only place I forgot my loneliness and he forgot his. The only place I was truly with him – pretending to be his only daughter-- even if he acted as if I didn’t exist.
I remember I was four, or three as the legend says.
The day I became too old to sit on his lap, and I became so tall others couldn’t ignore me, my father stopped taking me with him. I sat on the edge of our front doorstep and watched him leaving, going farther and farther, becoming almost a mirage or a phantom. I sat there alone, buried in futility, robbed of my private holiness.
“Father, I’m thirsty,” I said. It was almost the end of the movie.
My father wiped his face with the white handkerchief my mother had sewn for him. He stroked my hair, his eyes fixated on the big screen.“Don’t cry,” he said. “It’s just a movie.”
I leaned against his warm chest and pretended to wipe my face with my sleeve. I smelled the familiar scent of his jacket and drank the happiness like a stream.