Friday, December 20, 2013

Email from Azadeh Moaveni December 12, 2013


*Azadeh and I met in Beirut October 2000. Two weeks after I came back from Egypt, having met and fallen in love with Ali.

I have been thinking about those early days since you wrote to me, and the details are trickling back to me slowly. I think when you and I met, you had just returned from the trip to Egypt where you met Ali for the first time, and had the legendary, marathon, until-dawn conversation that cemented everything, though in a tentative way, because there was so much to work out and so much more to learn about each other, despite having connected in some incredible, once-in-in-a-lifetime sort of way. 

So I remember teasing you with Ali M, because you were so moony crazy in love, that you had this perpetually dream-like expression, and would disappear into your phone exchange romantic texts, and then resurface, to suffer through our teasing but enjoying it all nonetheless. 

I remember wondering what on earth he would be like, as you'd arranged for him to come visit you in Beirut, and do you remember what we did to your apartment? I wager that you devoted as much energy and love to preparing for his arrival as a whole clan would invest in receiving a new bride. Was it spring? The season escapes me now, but when I think back, I remember the vivid colors of your apartment, the sea all turquoise in the background and those buttercup yellow walls and all your gorgeous antique furniture, getting it all ready to greet him. I think that apartment embodied you more than anything else, it embodied your independence, and your passion for the city in which you lived, and your boldness in living alone, way up high at the top of that building, and introducing him to all that was like introducing him to a family, a family that was made of your friends and the city itself, almost.

So he arrived, and was charming, and you both seemed totally entranced by each other, which was a great relief, since you hadn't seen each other since Egypt and there was great anticipation around that magic being recreated. Which it was. So there were fresh flowers on the table and delicious things in the fridge, and Rana and I made ourself scarce, so that you and Ali could be alone. 

Where did we meet the next morning, was it at Ristretto? Where all the friends came to meet him, and he passed every single person's test because he was so witty and kind and articulate and warm. I think everyone was partly suspicious, because it seemed like a love affair from an epic poem, something ancient and sentimental, and such things never happened anymore, not like that anyway. But then it seemed like it was real! I think it was that morning at brunch that I realized what made it so profound between you two. It was clear from the very beginning that you were mindlessly in love, but somehow also instantly best friends who connected on many many layers beyond finding the other person exquisite. 

Those were the early days, and then the first few months after seems like a blur. I was back in Tehran at one point, and I remember you called me from Cairo in tears. You had moved there, but were in a new apartment on your own, and it all seemed so abrupt and was probably unnerving, as you'd transplanted yourself, given up that apartment that was you, to explore this new life that you knew you would be starting with Ali. I was so impressed by your courage, because it was clear that you knew this was the love of your life, your partner destined and gifted by fate, but you still had to go through that path of getting there. 

The memories that come after that initial visit are cluttered in my mind. Ali M and I came to visit you in Cairo, do you remember? We came to hang out and see how things were going, I think we were both a little worried that you might be feeling wobbly (and i think you had moments of that), but it all seemed not to matter at all when you and Ali were together, because every single moment I can recall when we were all together, when you and Ali were together, in those months before you got married, you were both radiantly happy, sharing little looks at dinner and tilting your head toward each other and utterly enmeshed in the other's very existence. It was amazing. 

And then so soon you were married, and moved into that Zamalek apartment where Nabeel had his own room and tricked me into reading him extra bedtime stories and it seemed like you had instantly become a family, in this seamless, extraordinary way. What are the moments I remember? 

Do you remember that day we drove down to the south, and we stopped at that cemetery, and you were looking for a relative of yours buried there. It was not a small place and you couldn't find the gravestone, it was a hot day, and we were all looking and you were so distraught that you couldn't remember or find it. I think Rana and I gave up and sat under a tree. But Ali kept on searching and searching and you finally found it together, and you looked so calm and secure in that moment, with him beside you, having found what you were looking for. I guess that's what you went on to do for each other, seeking and building at each other's side. 

I'm sorry it took me a day or two to write this. It was hard looking down into the past like that, now that he is gone. My heart aches for you, my Ranwa. I'm here when you need me. 

I'm including below a poem that I love, read it some time when you have a moment. It is by Forough Farrokhzad, Iran's great woman poet. 

My whole being is a dark chant
which will carry you
perpetuating you
to the dawn of eternal growths and blossoming
in this chant I sighed you sighed
in this chant
I grafted you to the tree to the water to the fire.

Life is perhaps
 a long street through which a woman holding
 a basket passes every day

Life is perhaps
a rope with which a man hangs himself from a branch
life is perhaps a child returning home from school.

Life is perhaps lighting up a cigarette
in the narcotic repose between two love-makings
or the absent gaze of a passerby
who takes off his hat to another passerby
with a meaningless smile and a good morning .

Life is perhaps that enclosed moment
when my gaze destroys itself in the pupil of your eyes
and it is in the feeling
 which I will put into the Moon's impression
 and the Night's perception.

In a room as big as loneliness
my heart
which is as big as love
looks at the simple pretexts of its happiness
at the beautiful decay of flowers in the vase
at the sapling you planted in our garden
and the song of canaries
which sing to the size of a window.

this is my lot
this is my lot
my lot is
a sky which is taken away at the drop of a curtain
my lot is going down a flight of disused stairs
a regain something amid putrefaction and nostalgia
my lot is a sad promenade in the garden of memories
and dying in the grief of a voice which tells me
I love
your hands.

I will plant my hands in the garden
I will grow I know I know I know
and swallows will lay eggs
in the hollow of my ink-stained hands.

I shall wear
a pair of twin cherries as ear-rings
and I shall put dahlia petals on my finger-nails
there is an alley
where the boys who were in love with me
still loiter with the same unkempt hair
thin necks and bony legs
and think of the innocent smiles of a little girl
who was blown away by the wind one night.

There is an alley
     which my heart has stolen
     from the streets of my childhood.

The journey of a form along the line of time
inseminating the line of time with the form
a form conscious of an image
coming back from a feast in a mirror

And it is in this way
that someone dies
and someone lives on.

No fisherman shall ever find a pearl in a small brook
which empties into a pool.

I know a sad little fairy
who lives in an ocean
and ever so softly
plays her heart into a magic flute
a sad little fairy
who dies with one kiss each night
and is reborn with one kiss each dawn.

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