The Snowman and You
My Dear Dad;
I know you can’t talk anymore. I tried to speak with you today on the phone. Your nurse gave the phone to you. You made some sounds. But, nothing that you said made sense. I miss talking with you, Dad. I miss hearing your voice and listening to all the nice things that you used to say about me. I miss hearing you say “I love you!” over and over again.
I guess this is simply how life works. One day you die even if you are still alive. You might feel that you are dead, but you are not. You are still breathing. I could hear your breath on the phone. I know you will become healthy once again. I know that somehow magically the authorities of the Islamic Republic will let you leave Iran and reunite with us. I could already imagine how it would feel to embrace you for hours. At first it might be a bit strange when we see each other. But I promise you that in a short while we will begin to talk about all these years for hours.
Remember how when I traveled to Iran in 2005 for ten days to see you, we felt very strangely about each other’s presence at first. We had not seen each other since 2001 and too much had happened during those years. One summer day in 2001, you drove me to the airport, hugged me in tears and kissed me goodbye while keeping my hands in your strong hands. You said to me, “You will only make me proud. I know it!”
We never thought that you will be taken away from us in this surreal way; kidnapped and disappeared in clandestine prisons of Iran. That day when I left Iran for the first time in 2001, the last thing that you quietly said in my ear was: “You will be back in Tehran just in time for us to make our snowman of the year.” It was a promise that neither one of us could keep. Our life was going to get shattered into pieces and we just didn't know it. Eight years later, I am still waiting to make another snowman with you.
When I came to Iran in 2005, I felt alienated from you. Strangely, I blamed you for having grown old. I did not like all the wrinkles on your face. I remember that first night in your apartment when I felt uncomfortable in your arms. But as soon as you began to pat my hair like the old days, I found my lost home in your arms. Remember? I fell asleep on your lap that night. I know how much you wanted to tell me about all those unimaginable ways in which you might have been tortured in prison. Thankfully, you never told me anything. I didn’t want to know. I still don’t want to know. We only talked about your painful memories of prison in silence. Sitting in the lounge of your apartment, we would drink our hot tea in absolute silence. All we could hear was the sound of our spoon with which we were stirring small sugar cubes in our tea. This fragile silence was crowded with terrifying stories of torture, terror, separation and loneliness. Despite the life and dignity that we had lost, we were still hopeful. I could feel hope in your words and gestures.
Now you can’t walk, talk or maybe even remember us anymore. Who knows what goes on in your thoughts? I hope to God that you remember how much I love you. It has been lonely without you calling me every night and asking me about all the details of my daily life. I keep dialing your home number and cell phone and no one responds. I sometimes even pretend that I am talking with you. Too many days are passing by in despair without you in my life.
Last night it snowed here. I went to my friend’s house to celebrate the longest night of the year (Yalda). By the end of the night snow had covered everywhere. We all stayed at my friend’s house for the night as it was impossible to drive. In the morning we stepped outside to play in the snow and make a snowman. We built a nice snowman; not as good as the ones that you and I used to make together in Tehran. We used to spend the entire day outside making our snowman. We always wanted to make the best snowman in the neighborhood. Remember? I remember how we disagreed about the nose of our snowman. I preferred putting a carrot for the snowman's nose and you preferred to put a cucumber instead.
As soon as my friends and I left two small pieces of wood for the eyes of the snowman, the snowman began to look at me kindly. I felt as though he was trying to communicate some things to me. I think he was trying to tell me that you dream about me when you fall asleep in the hospital. I think the snowman was trying to tell me that you still love me. I think the snowman wanted me to know that you are still hopeful that we will one day see each other again. I put a curved slice of watermelon for his mouth. He began to smile. It was such a natural smile. His smile resembled the smile that you and I would try and create for our snowman.
It was a bittersweet time out in the snow with my friends. Looking at the infinite whitenss of snow made me miss you even more. As soon as I felt the painfully familiar nostalgia and anxiety, I bent and reached for a handful of snow. I squeezed it in my hand and put some in my mouth. It felt cool. It melted in my mouth.
I vividly remember the first time you took me out in the snow. You reached out for some snow and asked me to taste it. I was scared. I had never seen anyone eat snow before. I was hesitantly curious to taste it. You grabbed my hand, put some snow in my hand and said, “Azadeh, you should sometimes try the things that people tell you not to try. Come on, taste it! Go for it! Look how pretty it is!” I put some in my mouth, smiled and said, “It doesn’t taste like anything, Dad.” You laughed and said, “Well, you could give it your own taste. How about the taste of chocolate?” Then, you put some more snow in your mouth and said, “Man, this totally tastes like chocolate. Try some more!” That day, you knowingly broadened the tiny world of a five-year-old girl.
Twenty years later in a viciously different time and space, I put some snow in my mouth, tasted it and let it melt for a few seconds. I turned around to look at the snowman. My friends were throwing snowballs at each other. The snowman smiled at me with a striking glow in his eyes. The snowman told me, “Talk to your dad even if he can’t talk with you anymore. Keep talking to him. He will hear you.” The snowman said, “You are his most beautiful dream. Never let him down!” The snowman kept smiling at me until one of my friends threw a huge snowball at his head and the snowman lost his head in front of my eyes.
Oddly, I am used to losing friends in this comically tragic way. I watched the snowman die while he was still smiling. I took the smashed slice of watermelon that was the snowman’s smiley mouth from the ground and patted it a bit. His smile felt soft and alive. I think I am going to continue to smile for as long as you remain deeply depressed and silent. I will continue to smile until you join me in smiling. I will smile and tiptoe into all of the dreams that you will have of me in that small and quiet hospital room in Tehran. Your nurse says that sometimes you grin just a tiny bit when she mentions my name.
P.S. The snowman says hello.