It seems like my random sharing might be becoming a trend on this blog. So this here is a creative non-fiction piece I wrote last year for creative writing class, so everything in here is completely true and real and from personal experience. People's names have been changed, even though it wouldn't really matter if they hadn't been. The only name that hasn't been changed is my sister's, because she knew I was writing this and I got consent from her so there's that. Places and events mentioned are also unaltered.
Home is Where the Heart Was
I’ve been thinking about something, thinking that maybe I should go home. I miss home. My mind leaves, trying to create new memories, to get something out of nothing. As I reach my imaginary street intersection, I start to notice differences. Everyone looks different. Did they…?
A young man with an orange backpack, always running. Everyday as I wait for my bus, I see him. I know he’s not late. I saw him in Alizade’s, the convenience store a street over from mine, once. It was the same time, I had gone there to get some lead. In he walked; tall, dark hair, dark clothes; no color on him besides the blinding neon orange of his backpack. He stood there for a moment as if he couldn’t remember why he was there before he bought a notebook and promptly walked out. He’s not late to where he’s going, he wouldn’t have time to spare for a convenience store that way. No, he just likes to run.
Two busses pass me by as I wait. The first one is a faded blue, almost the same color as my own bus. It used to be a red herring, before I learned to differentiate the blues. The second bus is usually an ugly brown, but sometimes it shows up as a red one. Those are the days the driver has to take care of his mother; she’s sick. A friend of mine rides that bus and speaks to the driver occasionally; she waves at me everyday as the bus passes by, her face leaned against the window, her voice trying to break through the glass to reach me.
Sometimes I go to the other bus stop near me. It’s just a street over, after all. Right in front of Alizade’s. I remember the girl who would stand there. She was a grade below me, quiet until her sharp wit cut you off; that was when you noticed the slight mischievous glance in her pistachio eyes, the hazel in the inner region of her irises expanding as she laughed at you. I can’t remember her name, but it meant something close to ‘mercy giver’.
None of them are there anymore.
No. These are not the same people I used to see everyday. These people are all the same, unknown to me. There are new buildings, and a missing one. Alizade’s is gone, in its place lies a grocery store.
No. This is not the home I wanted to go to. But that’s not a home I can go back to. That home stopped existing, one change after I left. I can’t go to this home, it isn’t there anymore.
Another home then.
Anna holds my hand in the car, and we dodge MZ’s bites. He is five, and a wild troublemaker. Sometime’s we throw him to the passenger seat, shaking our head at Pearl. “We’re too tired today,” we yawn together. She holds my hand and we joke about bumps in the road, talk about nothing and everything. A bad driver passes by. We look at each other and simultaneously say it: “If only we were in the pickup truck,” then we burst out into laughter, and her honey brown eyes glint. A joke, courtesy of my dad. His work car is a pickup truck, which was our family car, once upon a time. It’s white, still gleaming even though it’s old and beaten up. When we’re driving in our new car and a reckless driver passes by, my dad narrows his eyes slightly, then mutters: “if only I was driving the pickup truck.” That is to say, if he was in the pickup truck he would hit the car. Yeah right.
We pass another bump. That’s the last bump in the road to school. The air is visibly brown; it’s one of those days. One of those days where there is so much dust you can barely breathe. Anna takes two masks out of her school bag; she knows I always forget. A car passes us, coming from the direction of the school. “Let’s go back, school’s obviously out today.” Anna jokes, flashing me her wide grin, a slight dimple forming on the left corner of her mouth, and I give her the look. We do this everyday, even when the air is clear. Well, as clear as it can get in Ahvaz. No matter how good she is at school, she doesn’t want to go. Neither do I, the difference is, if it was optional I would still go. I’m that kind of person, unfortunately.
We glance at LP’s empty spot in the car. She changed schools a few weeks into the school year, finally convincing her parents to let her go to art school. I’m happy for her, but I miss her so much. She moved recently too, so I can’t walk to her place anymore. I barely see her, and it saddens me. Last year, in 8th grade, was when we became friends. I had known her for a while, friend of a friend sort of thing, but we weren’t anything more than acquaintances. I can’t remember the exact day, but it was either the Day of Tasu’a or Ashura. Those are the ninth and tenth days of Muharram, and Iran, being an Islamic country, forces the students to take some time out of their class to sit outside and grieve. Stupid, I know.
It was raining that day, and everyone was sitting on the stands in front of the classes, as they were shielded from the rain, columns holding up extra pieces of roof that were the second floor. I came out of class late, trying to cut the experience as short as possible. I sat in the first empty spot I found, which was next to LP. Both of us were pissed about this, and I could see her rage, fighting to break out. I spoke to her about it, and pretty soon, we were ignoring the ceremony and discussing politics, religion, and how they tied into our school system. I have detailed accounts of that day in my journals. I remember the exact moment I realized how special she was; she spoke with such passion, putting feelings into words that I hadn’t even realized I had felt until she described them.
It was the Day of Tasu’a, I remember now. We sat together for Ashura as well, and repeated the day before. Before a week had passed, she was one of my closest friends. She was fiery passion, full of thoughts and ideas, but she could also be a soft flame. The days when we bought Falafel sandwiches and shared a bottle of coke, softly speaking until we realized we shared music opinions and got excited. She would go red very fast, her tanned skin gaining a pink hue as soon as she started to laugh; impossibly big almond eyes squinted half shut as a stray tear escaped.
Angel never liked LP, and LP didn’t like Angel either. In fact, not many people did. I was probably her only actual friend in 8th grade. She was soft and lovely, but insensitive. Her wings were sharp, and always open. She felt her parents didn’t love her, and I could see why she thought that, at least of her father. He doted on her younger brother, sometimes even completely ignoring Angel. She was so hurt, always looking for someone to love her, never knowing how to seek. She didn’t like herself as well as she should have, complaining that she was too skinny, her nose too big. It seemed like superficial whining, but I knew better. I knew how insecure she was about those things; how insecure she was about a lot of things. She didn’t like my other friends, she felt they would take me away from her.
Oh, sweet Angel. Sweet Angel with your dimples as deep as the grand canyon and lashes that framed your black eyes, as thick as could be. Sweet Angel, crying on my shoulder then trying to laugh it off, as if your feelings aren’t valid and it’s ridiculous that you even have any.
They made it work for me. The three of them would play nice, even though LP and Anna didn’t like Angel; they wouldn’t show it in front of me. That was home, sitting on a desk holding Anna’s hand, as LP and I fangirled about music and Angel copied my math homework.
That’s lost; can never be regained, not in this way. Home will never be that again, but it will be them; my friends.
Another home then.
I’m seven and crying. Dad just yelled at me, and I feel as small as I could ever be. I curl in on myself, wrapping myself between the several blankets that lie in the closet next to me. I don’t close the closet door; there’s no need. The room’s door is closed, and it’s not like anyone cares enough to check what’s going on anyway.
She did though.
She opens the door, helps me out of the closet and onto my bed; holds me until I’ve cried all the tears my feeble body could produce. She doesn’t say anything, but she doesn’t need to. All I need, all I will ever need is her arms. I don’t need to tell her what happened, dad already spoke to her about it. I mumble some incoherent words in the middle of my sobs, words I don’t understand but she does. I bathe in the warmth she emits, and her perpetual scent of comfort wraps around me like a blanket. Mother; loving and caring, the only one to hold me as I cry.
I’m twelve and in class. The teacher hasn’t showed up yet, and Angel is moaning about how her crush doesn’t like her. I look at the clock. It’s ten-thirty; it should be any minute now. Nervousness and anger bubble inside me. I want to turn around and scream at Angel. Scream at her that while she goes on and on and on about her stupid crush my mother is in Tehran, about to have her head opened up.
I don’t say anything. I just sit, staring blankly at the clock. I know she’s scared. She had told me, a few days before she left. She was scared of head surgeries, scared that someone would mess up and she wouldn’t be right in the head ever again, scared that she would die.
I would try to reassure her, but what did I know? They tried to hide it from me when it first started, before it was a brain tumor. They tried to hide it from me that she had cancer, but once she started the chemo, I knew. I would stay up so many nights waiting for her to come back from her chemo sessions, even though she would be upset at me because it was a school night. I would hug her when I saw her look down at her chest in slight distaste, as if her battle scars made her less of a woman. I couldn’t do anything besides hug her, as she would hug me; nothing between us but love. But love wouldn’t keep her alive.
I’m fifteen. We’ve moved from Iran; left behind a home, a life. But she is with me, and so I endure. She is here and therefore I am still at home. But she’s in the hospital, and I get a call from Anahid in chorus. It’s bad, she tells me softly. I didn’t know what this new development was, how would I? I look up brain lesions after the phone call ends, and put it into context. I stifle sobs in the bathroom until lunch ends, then I go back into class and pretend nothing happened.
It’s March 5th, 2015. I’m looking at my health notes in preparation for the midterm that is next week. Mom is in bed, as she always is these days. The lesions did their work fast. At first she had trouble moving, and then she was bedridden. After that came the slowed speech, and now she barely knows what’s going on. Her eyes open from time to time, and it’s similar to a disinterested child; she can’t understand what’s going on or put it into context. I suppose this is what they call a vegetative state. It burns, to see her fall apart like that. To have to hear the sound of her impairment everyday with every breath. The oxygen mask makes a loud noise when she breaths, and it hurts because I know she hurts. I know that it pains her to breathe, that she is uncomfortable and in agony. I know that dad wants to transfer her back to the hospital soon because he doesn’t want her to die here.
I’m looking at my notes and I freeze. I hear it; or rather, don’t. The sound of her breathing mask stops, and it’s like the world does as well. Then my aunt’s crying and screaming and dad’s frozen as I call 911, and Anahid and I push down on her chest as the lady on the phone instructs us to. Then there are more people and everything is hectic and I want to be with her but the ambulance takes her body away from me, shuts it behind metal gates and drives away. The cops ask me questions : our names, social security numbers, phone numbers, etc. I can barely breathe; my legs are shaking. I forget my answers as I’m giving them, and the cop speaking to me says it’s ok.
It’s ok. It’s not.
I can’t cry, I’m suffocating. There’s so many people around me; family members that show up and cry, or hug me and tell me they’re sorry. I’m shivering.
I can’t breathe.
Not this home. I can’t have this home, in any way ever again. My first home is dead, gone.
I don’t want to think anymore.
Moods: semi-permanent state of having no clue about anything