Déjà Vu      
                                                                   
After driving through the crowded morning streets, I
circled the block for the second time and victoriously
slipped into the ultimate parking spot; the one right
across from my office. This unprecedented achievement
brightened my morning and put a smile on my face. As I
was locking the car door I noticed a small-framed man
standing on the sidewalk looking through the window of
an office supply store.

Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with a peculiar sentiment
feeling like a school boy again, a lazy pupil with homework
full of mistakes, a student waiting for a severe
punishment. My palms stung from the soul-piercing pain
inflicted by the angry strikes of the ruler. Confused and
shaken by this sentiment, cautiously I took a few steps
closer to the man who was calmly standing there, utterly
unaware of my suffering, gazing at the contents of the
stationery shop showcase. I knew what the man was
looking at; the ruler with the metallic edges; his favorite,
the very kind that inflicted the most pain on my young
palm.

In third grade, it was the last day of the New Year holidays
and my family had just returned from the vacation in
Shiraz. In the midst of commotion of packing, I’d forgotten
my homework. How do I answer to Mr. Azari? I wondered.
Will he believe that I actually finished my homework? I
wouldn’t blame him he doesn’t believe a word of
Mine as I lied to him every opportunity I had.  
The man staring at the window was my third grade
teacher, Mr. Azari who frequently slapped me in the face
for failing in exams and not doing my homework.

“You are a mule who will never make it! You will end up
pulling a carriage!” The jarring words of my early year
educator ricocheted in my soul.

Now the same man but smaller and slimmer was wearing
a much kinder face before me after over thirty years. The
same man who posted my failing grade on the
blackboard, forced me to stand next to it, and ordered all
my classmates to shout, “Lazy,stupid, failure. Lazy,
stupid, failure.” This humiliation was my daily routine.

I battled through the third grade and passed the final
exams known as Napoleonic style-the lowest acceptable
grade. After the last exam to celebrate my victory, I
burned my books and performed an Indian dance of joy
around the fire. Summer arrived and I had three months
to enjoy life school free. More importantly, I was rid of Mr.
Azari, the torment was over.

My exhilaration did not last longer than that summer
though. On the first day of the fourth grade, the principal
gave us the news.

“I am sorry to inform you that your teacher has passed
away. But you will not be without a teacher for a single
day. Thanks to Mr. Azari, who has graciously agreed to
teach the fourth grade,” he announced.

Normally the death of a teacher was not bad news to me,
but this untimely loss was devastating! My daily routine of
the third grade repeated another year. But I managed to
finish the fourth grade too. Thank God my father was
transferred to Tehran that summer. We moved to the
capitol for good. I was convinced that if I stayed in that
school and went to fifth grade, our new teacher would’ve
died and I’d ended up with Mr. Azari again.

After the fourth grade I never again saw my teacher until
today; but the nightmare haunted me for years to come.
For many years I wished to run into Mr. Azari once as I’d
devised the most evil schemes; the completion of each
one of them would have meant a happy ending to my
lifelong torment. Now it was the perfect time and
opportunity to get even.

Mr. Azari wasn’t too old, but his back curved slightly. His
hands were stuffed deep in his pockets. I stood frozen
contemplating what to do next. I had to do something! I
had to write the ending to the most painful chapter of my
youth. I cleared my throat and nervously approached him.
As I got closer, he sensed my presence, turned around,
and squinted in an effort to recognize me. I stared at my
newly-polished shoes. My heart was pounding under his
intense gaze.

“Hello, Mr. Azari.”

He warmly returned my greeting.

“Hello, I am terribly sorry, but I don’t recognize you. What
is your name?”

I introduced myself but he didn’t remember. I spoke
eloquently, like a pupil making a presentation to the class.

“I am one of your old students. One of the worst and the
most wicked one. I am so glad to meet you again after all
these years. You don’t teach anymore?”

“I’ve been retired for many years. I served in the Culture
Ministry for 36 years and I now looking for a job. The
teacher’s salary was not enough, now you can imagine
how difficult it is with a tiny retirement check I receive with
much less health insurance coverage. I can’t afford to put
meat on our table every day. To hell with the meat, how
do I pay for rent and utilities? Only God can save us now!”

I stood motionless, not knowing how to respond.                

“Please forgive me for talking too much but my students
are like my children. Tell me about yourself. How
much education do you have? Oh, is this your car? You
must be doing well.  Nothing makes me more proud than
seeing
my students become successful. Tell me, what do you
do?”

“I am an architect. The building on the other side of the
street is my company. What a coincidence you are
looking for a job; we are looking for office help. We could
use someone like you. If you have time right now, I’ll take
care of your hiring right now.”

Mr. Azari followed me to my office as a child runs for
candy. I instructed the Human Resources manager to hire
him immediately. Mr. Azari thanked me profusely for the
opportunity and promised to be at work the next
morning.    

I went home early, excited yet perplexed by the day’s
events. I was hungry but didn’t have an appetite. I went to
bed
early but couldn’t sleep. I felt as if I had not done my
homework, something was amiss but what I didn’t know. I
felt as if I’d done something wrong and must face Mr.
Azari in the morning. The sound of his vicious slaps
echoed in my ears. My cheeks flushed red and hot. What
had I done
wrong this time?

I woke early the next morning after an agonizing
insomnia, showered longer than any other day,
meticulously clipped my fingernails, put on my best suit
and carefully combed my hair. I wanted to do everything
right and face my teacher without fear. I went to work
earlier than usual and anxiously waited for his arrival.

Mr. Azari didn’t show. He had never been absent from
class but that day he did not come. He never came. Later
I heard he died that morning.