Tuesday, November 14, 2006

My Bird

I translated an excerpt of My Bird, a short novel written in Farsi by Farbia Vaafi. This book was published in Iran and has won a few literary awards inside Iran.
* explanation: Since this piece is about 'friday', let me explain for my non-Iranian readers that in Iran Friday is the weekend for us. So basically Friday resembles Sunday in Western societies and many other nations.

An excerpt from: Vaafi, Fariba. My Bird. Nashr e Markaz(Central Publishing Company), Tehran, Iran, 1381 Solar/Persian year (= 2002), p 56-59

Translator: Azadeh Pourzand

Chapter 20

Friday means the sound of the hawkers who sell second hand furniture, watermelon, vegetables, shopping baskets and cleaning mops. They go around the neighborhood and yell in their speakers about the items at the back of the trunk. Friday means the loud sound of the TV and Amir’s long, lazy yawns. Friday means repairing the flush in the toilet. Friday means long evenings and seeking excuses.
The ceiling of the room resembles a strainer through which the musical sound of bricks, chalks and metal is dripping. Mr. Hashemi’s daughter is dancing. I could tell from the way she is beating her feet against the floor. Amir looks up at the ceiling as if he is about to see an entire orchestra up there.
Shaadi says, “Maamaan(Mom), do you like me better or these vegetables?”
Shahin says, “They bought the stereo just today. It’s one of those cool ones”.
I say, “I like you better”.
“Hashemi, God’s poor creature. A balloon is about to burst in between his legs and yet he goes and buys a high-tech stereo”
Amir has developed a new obsession and that is to find the contradictions of people’s lives.
“They are tenants and yet they commute with private cab services. They are always fighting over money, but the scent of their expensive perfume fills the staircase”.
“Maamaan (Mom), me or the ant?”
The volume of the music increases. Now, the sound does not only come from the ceiling. The walls, too, are broadcasting foreign techno-type music.
“I like you better”.
“We are all a bunch of villagers with that same village culture of ours. Even if they put us in these western-looking small apartments…Only our bodies are here. We still yell at each other from our windows. We could hear each other’s fights and dramas through the windows, walls and different corners of these cage-like apartments”.
“Baba (Dad), do you like me better or a rock?”
“A rock… Like I was saying, we hear each other cry. We can’t even prevent our insignificant dreams and wishes from escaping these thin walls”.
“Baba, do you like me better or a sugar cube?”
“A sugar cube… We know whose phone is ringing. We know who sleeps till noon and who stays up late at night”.
“Baba, do you like me better or a dot?”
“A dot and words and a line and a sentence ”.
Shahin leaves the room quietly.
“Do you like me better or Ayda?”
“ Ayda. Have you not run out of battery yet?”
“Do you like me better or Ayda’s mom?”
“Of course, I like Ayda’s mom better”.
Ayda’s mom is behind the door. Amir whispers, “Weren’t we just talking about her?”
“Sorry to interrupt. Do you have some onions that I could borrow?”
I gave her onions and shut the door.
“There you go. Now this is the one who wears a gold necklace around her neck and covers her face with makeup. Look how she comes everyday, apologizes and ‘borrows’ onions and potatoes and a bowl of oil”.
Shaadi goes to the yard. Ebi is standing at the door of the garage. The kids have gathered in the yard and are offering their coins to him. He receives the coins, orders them to line up and sings for them one by one. The siren of the fire truck, a song by Gogoosh-the most famous female singer of Iran-, the sound of the dripping drops of tap water, the siren of the police car….Ebi’s hair is long. He is wearing an old and loose coat. His performances are ridiculously short.
“Equal to what you pay me”.
Kids clap for him and laugh. Money bills are being thrown in the yard and a woman’s voice follows from one of the upper floors, “the harbor dance”.
Amir says, “The difference that you have with other people is that they pay for what they watch and you don’t. Have you not gotten tired yet?”
I move away from the window. Where should I go? Where should I not go? There is no space…not even enough for being disoriented. If you are not standing at the window, then you would only have two other places to go: the lounge and the kitchen. Our back yard is at the end of the apartment and it’s high never-ending wall hits the end of the world.
I say, “I have gotten tired, indeed. Now what do you say?”
I have said it way too late.
Amir says, “What? Tired of what?”
“of everything. of this life”.
Now that I have let myself think, I realize how nostalgic I am. Sorrow has grown like a balloon in my heart. Tears fall off my eyes.
“of this apartment…of these Fridays”.
“I’d say we should leave this place”.
I want to say “of YOU”.
I do not say it. Saying this word ruins everything. To punish me for not saying it, this pronoun hits itself against all sides of my head, “you, you, you”.
“See, now you are starting to agree with me”.
I don’t know what he is talking about. Though, for being so tired of him I feel guilty. I want to curse this feeling that would not leave me alone wherever I go and is closer to me than my sister. Shahla and Mahin are not always around, but this feeling never leaves me alone. I get closer to Amir and put my head on his chest. It’s too hard. I bring my head a bit down. Amir pats my hair. I think to myself: I always mislead people in their understanding of my feelings. The thought of me being so tired of Amir would not even cross his mind.


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