My brother called the other day. I was a bit surprised. We don’t talk much. Life has been busy and our relationship has been reduced to quick chitchats, consisting of a few words and not much content. We sometimes go for months without talking. Dealing with kids, wives, demanding jobs, the in-laws, and everything in between, leave us both with no time or energy to keep the communication channels open.
He sounded stressed on the phone.
“What’s wrong?” I asked him.
“Well, you know, shit hit the fan with Kami. We got issues,” My brother said.
Kami is my brother’s teenaged son. The kid is a bit strange and very shy. He is one them kids who wear only black and walk around in long trench coats and military boots. He scares me.
“Drugs!” I asked.
“No, he has not left his room in a week. He’s not going to school. He doesn’t talk to anybody.”
“Well, is there anything I can do?”
“Actually, yeah, come over. See if you can talk to him. He might respond to you. He always liked you.”
Shit! I was afraid he would say that. What the hell can I do? I can’t even talk to my own kids without getting in a big fight. I have a bad temper and I’m just not good at emotional bonding stuff.
“Are you sure? I mean, you think he will talk to me?”
“He might. I’m desperate.”
“How about the school counselor?”
“Nah, he needs family.”
“How about your wife? What does she think?” I asked.
“She thinks you’re an idiot, but what the hell does she know.”
“Okay, I’ll be there.”
I sort through different scenarios in my head as I drive to my brother’s house. What could be going on in Kami’s mind? How should I start the conversation? What if he is on drugs? What do teenagers talk about nowadays? What the hell am I doing?
My brother opened the door. He looked like hell.
“Thanks for coming over,” he said.
“Sure thing. So, where is he?”
“In his room. The room stinks. I can kill him. I swear I’ll kill all of ‘em, and move back to Iran.”
“Okay, take it easy.”
I knocked on the door. No answer. The door was unlocked. I walked in. He was in bed, motionless.
“Hey Kami. You okay, dude?”
“Don’t call me dude,” Kami said while laying there.
The room did stink. I looked around to find a place to sit. The only chair in the room was buried under a mountain of black clothes. I cleared the chair and sat down.
“Leave. I don’t wanna talk to you,” Kami said.
“Well, your parents are concerned. They wanna know what they can do to help.”
“Tell ‘em to leave me the fuck alone. And just to let you know: I never liked you. I think you’re a bully just like my dad. You guys are all a bunch of assholes.”
Well, the kid is honest. Gotta admire that. I pulled the chair closer to the bed.
“Listen, can I be frank?” I said. “Well, I never liked you either. I think you’re a spoiled brat who was given too much too early. You never earn your keep. That’s why you don’t appreciate your parents and everything they have done for you.”
“Do I look to you like I care?”
Under normal circumstances -- just about now -- I would do exactly what my dad would have done: I would have kicked his ass to next winter. But in this country, you can end up in jail for doing your parental due diligence.
“Just tell me what’s wrong. That’s all I’m asking.”
“I have depression, you ape. Do you guys even understand what that means? I hate my life and everything in it. I’m having a meltdown at age fifteen and it’s all my parents’ fault.”
Okay that did it. I can’t take this anymore.
“Depression!!” I exclaimed. “What the fuck ARE YOU depressed about?”
The kid slides back against the wall, startled. I guess I got his attention.
“I … I …”
“Depression my ass. Do you know who should be depressed? Huh?” I shouted.
“Kids your age who live in Iran. They should be depressed … not you. Kids in Iran who put up with bullshit everyday of their lives. With outdated education system, with poverty, with no facility to exercise, with no prospect for better life, with no jobs waiting for them, with no chance to go to college, breathing polluted air every day, fighting off drug dealers on street corners, wondering if their parents can pay the water bill, freezing their asses off in cold classrooms with leaky roof, living in one-bedroom shacks with their seven other siblings. They would do anything to be in your shoes.”
“But, it’s a medical condition,” Kami shouted back.
“Get your ass out of the bed before I send you to the hospital with a real medical condition.”
“You got it…”
I grabbed Kami by the shirt and pulled him off the bed. It got ugly after that. I tangled up with the kid and started chocking him. The poor kid turned blue.
“I’ll beat the depression out of you … you little shit. Think of me as the Iranian exorcist,” I shouted while tossing Kami around the room.
Few weeks later Kami was diagnosed with clinical depression and started taking medications accompanied by weekly sessions of therapy. I guess the kid was right. Though not entirely cured, I heard he’s actually doing better.
As for me, my brother has not spoken to me since and his wife has put a restraining order on me!
I don’t exactly know what made my brother think that I could handle this situation delicately. He knows that I’m my father’s son and like many hot-blooded Iranians, I too believe that every complicated life situation can be fixed with a good beating, which explains why we don’t have any depressed or gay people in Iran.