Unfinished Story

“Artists are inspired by the events of their lives, by
nature, by people around them and by society at large.
Like scientists who utilize physical laws and
mathematical equations to explain physical
phenomenon artists resort to painting, music and poetry
to express their feelings, intuitions and to portrait their
emotions and insights…”

The bell rang and class ended. The professor was in
midsentence when every desk in the room jostled with
squeaky noise. The slamming books gave the sting of
getting slapped in the face to Mitra.  The students left
the room and left the young woman alone as the
professor erased the blackboard. Dust filled the air.  

After class she strolled back to home and just like other
day she passed by the bookstores inundated with
heaps of books behind windows; books she wished she
had time to read and then turned into a less crowded
street much quieter than the main boulevard. Every day
when she reached to this point her mind would
pleasantly wander and she plunged into a reverie
rendering her unaware of the long road to home.

“Artists see the world differently. Their keen senses
perceive deeper impressions of the environments and
their intuition springs into action. They paint, carve,
write, or play their unique visions. They observe the
most insignificant of events under the sensitive
microscopes of their minds…”

Mitra was lost in her daydream pondering her professor’
s lecture when a terrifying screech of automobile brake
petrified her in place. She witnessed a young man
violently tossed through the air and collapsed lifelessly
on the pavement.  Her gaze was fixated on the victim’s
body. The driver rushed out and kneeled over the
victim just to see the victim was already dead. Paralyzed
by what just happened she took a few steps closer to
the body. The driver looked up at her with fear and
sorrow in his eyes. Neither one knew what to do as it
was too late to revive the lifeless victim.

In a matter of seconds a large crowd gathered around
the scene; a man searched the victim’s pockets for
identification and found nothing but a few twenty Toman
bills and a wrinkled handkerchief. Soon an ambulance
arrived at the scene and the medics carefully removed
the body. The chattering people drifted away and the
commotion morphed into a morbid emptiness, the street
returned to how it looked before the tragedy as if
nothing had occurred minutes before. There was not
even a drop of blood on the pavement reminiscent of
the dreadful loss of life.

In the midst of her hazy wonderment, Mitra noticed a
little black notebook on the other side of the street,
teetering on the edge of the sewer filled with filthy
water. She sprinted over and picked it up before it fell
into the stream. Her trembling fingers frantically opened
the booklet and fanned through pages but she was too
horrified to read anything and she was not certain if the
writing belonged to the dead man anyway. But if it was
she could find a name or address to identify him.

She rushed home as she was fleeing the crime scene
hiding the notebook, her prized possession under her
jacket and kept her eyes locked on the cracked
pavement to avoid the inquisitive gazes of the butcher,
the shopkeepers, and neighbors. Upon arrival at home,
she ginger walked into her room and locked the door
pretending not to hear her mother shouting, “Why are
you late today dear?”

Once again Mitra hastily opened the notebook to the
first page and started reading. But she couldn’t
comprehend a word of what she read. Frustrated, she
thumbed through the pages of the book desperately
looking for clues and when none was found she
furiously tossed the cursed manuscript on the floor;
dropped her face into her hands and wept in agony.  
Minutes later she gathered her strength and more
determined than before attempted to read. It looked like
a story of a sort written in a sloppy handwriting.

*****

“He walked upstairs to his favorite café and sat down in
his usual spot and set the book on the table and started
reading the newspaper. The cozy coffee shop was filled
with
the aroma of Amphora pipe tobacco and French coffee.
The air was so heavy that the whirling smoke emanating
from the next table formed a thick cloud in the air.

“Mr. Bijan; what would you like to drink?

“Black coffee please.”

A few minutes later the coffee mist moistened the lower
corner of his newspaper. Bijan grudgingly folded the
wet paper and lit a cigarette, took a deep puff and sent
a series of concentric rings of smoke into the air.

“One of Fellini’s best films is playing in theaters now,” a
man at the other table said.

He was a man Bijan had met in this café, they
occasionally talked about similar subjects before.

“The London Philharmonic is also performing next
week. We are getting some culture. He then, he
scratched his nose, fanned his fingers through his thick
hair.

“Today something interesting happened to me. As I was
walking by the bookstore on the corner, I hit my head
on the awning metal post. It was an awakening moment
for me, an accident. This is what we need in our lives
my friend, a drastic event,” Bijan continued.

The other thoughtfully nodded in agreement.

“I like the cozy ambience of this café, it reminds me of
cafes in Paris. He then fished a 20 Toman bill out of his
pocket, slapped it on the table.

“See you soon,” he said walked downstairs.

*****

Here a few pages were left blank.  Mitra flipped through
those pages rapidly and kept reading.

*****

Bijan drove home. The sidewalks were inundated with
people. A teacup peddler was bashing a cup on his
counter to demonstrate it was unbreakable. Thirst-
quenching homemade yogurt drinks were bottled in
Coca Cola bottles yet they were intentionally made salty
enough to make customers thirstier. He glanced at the
shoe store. Shoes hung in midair like cutoff feet.

Disgusted with swindlers, he rolled up the windows and
turned up the volume on his car stereo and listened to
classical music immersing his spirit in the soothing
melody. After driving a long way to the northern
neighborhood of the city, he arrived at home. The
gardener opened the massive iron-gate for the man of
the house and he rolled up the wide drive and parked in
front of the mansion and walked up to his room on
second floor. The lavishly decorated room was had an
oversize window that opened to the garden yet
completely covered by a thick satin maroon curtain.
Bijan flicked on the desk lamp. The spotless white bed
sheets seemed like shrouds in morgue waiting for a
corpse to wrap. In the corner was a mahogany
bookshelf with a few books carelessly leaning over on
each other and on the top shelf there was a antique
gramophone with several shining black records.

As Bijan settled into the old leather chair facing the
hidden window lighting a cigarette, he heard a gentle
knock on the door.

“Son, are you home?”

“Yes, mother. Come in.”

She came in and sat on the bed facing her son.

“Would you like something to eat?

“No, I’m fine, thank you.”

“How was your day my dear?”

“As usual.”

“The colonel was here today,” his mother said.

‘What does this idiot want from us now?”

“Don’t talk about him that way please, he is family.
Besides, he is willing to pay us fairly for the lands in
Narmak,” she gently said.

Her son tapped his cigarette on the arm of his chair and
nodded.

“So that’s why he was here!”

“I think we should consider his offer. God bless his soul,
your father always said that the real estate we buy
today would help us tomorrow,” she said.

Bijan mashed his cigarette into a heavy marble ashtray.

“If you feel like doing this, I have no objections.”

His mother rose slowly from the bed then paused
suddenly.

“Oh! I almost forgot! The gardener said your Nanny
Zarin is ill. Do you remember her? She nursed you
when you were a baby.’

“God knows how long has it been since I’ve seen her
last.”

“It must be over 30 years,” his mother says.

“Yeah, I remember last time I saw her was when I went
with father to collect rent from his tenants in South of
Tehran. I love to see her again.”

“She really loved you and your brother. The first time
we sent you to Europe it seemed as we were separating
her from her own son. She was asking the gardener
about you. Yes, it’s a good idea if you visit her. From
what I’ve heard, she is not doing well.”

“I will, I love to see her again.”

The next morning the gardener wrote her address and
Bijan went to visit his nanny. To reach her home all the
way to Sothern part of the city, he drove for more than
two hours. He must have passed the slaughterhouse
because the stench of dead animals saturated the air
and swarms of flies were visible like a thick dark cloud.

On the last stretch of his long commute he made a few
more turns in the maze of secluded alleys and entered
a narrow street with sewage running down in the
middle.  His car filled the width of the alley.  He checked
the address and stopped in front of a shabby house,
got out and knocked on the badly rusted metallic door;
although it was half-open he knocked again; since there
was no response, he loudly asked for nanny Zarin.

When he became certain no one would come, he
entered through a dark and tight hallway into the little
yard and noticed a room to his immediate right with a
heavy cloth covering the doorway. He nudged the
curtain aside.

“Is anyone home?” He squinted his eyes and scanned
the bare room with nothing in it but a charcoal grill in
the middle and an opium bong.

“What do you want?” The emaciated man with dark skin
slouching on the floor called upon him with a muffled
Voice.

“I am looking for Zarin. My name is Bijan. Does she live
here?”

“No, she doesn’t anymore.”   

“Do you know where she is?”

The man stretched his torso and grabbed the violin
from behind a pillow.

“Zarin does not greet visitors anymore. She passed
away last week.”

A few moments passed in silence as Bijan processed
the sad news.

“Bijan! Hum, it’s been more than 30 years since I saw
you.”

“Do you know me?’ Bijan was startled.

The man in the lurking in solitude propped the old violin
on his shoulder and played a tune.

“The season of flowers, the season of flowers…’

Suddenly tears of joy stung Bijan’s eyes.

“Is that you Nader? Do you remember one day you kept
repeating those words until Zarin smacked you on the
head shouting: “Why do you keep repeating these two
words? Season of flowers is not a song, you idiot.”

The two childhood friends burst in laughter.

“Nader, you have changed a lot. I can’t believe you are
the same silly rascal you were as a kid.”

“But you sound exactly the same to me, a polite and
well mannered boy.”

As Bijan sat down next to his friend, he looked at his
face closely just to see his eyes were opaque.

They talked for hours of their sweet memories. Bijan
told Nader every detail of his life, his summer trips
abroad and his long stays in Europe. He spoke of his
brother’s
suicide, a topic he’d never discussed with anyone esle.
Nader told him of his life’s unfortunate circumstances,
his opium addiction, incarcerations, the disease that left
him blind and the recent death of his mother Zarin.

From that day forward, Bijan visited Nader at least twice
a week.  With him, he felt rejuvenated and his revived
old friendship gave him hope and optimism. With Nader
he was cheerful and uninhibited. There was nothing he
wouldn’t tell his friend. One day Bijan took his childhood
friend to his house. On the long commute he asked
about his job.

“I’m a musician. I play the violin in weddings. Sometimes
drunkard idiots who have no respect for my art throw
orange peel and sunflower seeds at or make sarcastic
comment me but I don’t give a damn about them. Fact
of the matter is that I always get to eat the wedding
gourmet cuisine even before the bride and groom! I can
recognize the colorful lights in darkness of the night.
They remind me of stars. I usually throw a couple of
shots of vodka down my throat, get in my artistic mood
and perform. I’m a talented musician and to hell with this
uncultured nation who does not appreciate art.”

*****

A few more pages were blank here. She rubbed her
tired eyes and her head hurt. She wished she could go
to bed and sleep but how could she now?

*****

When they arrived Bijan helped Nader out of the car
and walked him up the stairs to his room. Then he left
him alone to prepare a cup of tea. Nader slowly walked
around the room, softly groped the furniture to find his
way around. He touched the thick curtain. The air was
stuffy. He struggled to open the window while speaking
to himself: Bijan, you need to breathe fresh air and
enjoy the bright light.

The window finally opened to the lush garden, a gust of
fresh air inundated the room and blew the ghostly bed
sheets off the bed. Bright light illuminated the room.
Bijan now was standing in the door frame mesmerized
by the rays of hope in his life. He’d never seen the true
colors of his furniture in natural light. Through his wide
open window, he watched a red bird singing in the tree
and admired the hypnotic elegance of the dancing
leaves on branches.

Nader overwhelmed with the gentle breeze caressing
his face, swiftly grabbed his violin and played a joyful
tune. And his friend, who could not suppress his delight,
sang to the music but the rough and untrained voice of
the vocalist did not sit well with the artist. The frustrated
musician finally stopped the music.

“You’re a horrible singer. Where the hell did you learn
how to sing so terribly?”

“Please forgive my lack of professionalism master.”  

They both burst in laughter.

Commuting between the two locations in South and
North of the town became a cheerful routine in their
lives.

“You know Nader, I’m, writing our story, writing about
our childhood, our good memories together, our
reunion and everything in between.  I’m sure there are
many out there who can relate to us. And the best of all
is that you will be my hero,” Bijan told his friend one day.

*****

That was it, the rest of the pages were all blank. It was
an unfinished story. Mitra was devastated, Poor Bijan, I
wish he’d finished his story. Oh my God! What should I
do with this unfinished story? May be I can find Nader?
But how can I find this a blind street violinist in a city this
huge?

Nader reminded her of their own maid’s husband but
she’d never seen anyone like Bijan except in movies.
She collapsed on the bed, mourning his death the
entire night.

The next morning she locked herself in her room to
grieve in solitude. It was the afternoon when she
managed to face herself in the mirror. Her hair was
knotted in clumps; black mascara was running across
her eyelids and down to her cheeks. She looked
ridicules to herself but she wasn’t in the mood to laugh
at her own appearance. She was too exhausted and too
miserable to care.

She walked downstairs. As she reached the last step
her mother who witnessed the clownish appearance of
her daughter screamed in disbelief.

“Oh my God! What the hell is this? Who are you and
what have you done to my daughter?”

“Leave me alone mother.”

“What is wrong with you today? You must be sick. Don’t
you dare go out looking like clowns? You go to college
this way, and kiss finding a husband goodbye.”

“No mama, I have to go to school.”

Mitra didn’t exactly know why she had to go out but she
was compelled to do so. She felt obligated to do
something but what? She had no clue.  She rushed out
of the house and walked towards school until she
arrived at the same long street. The horrifying traffic
accident, the notebook, and now more than anything
else the unfinished story of Bijan and Nader was
haunting her. She plunged into an ethereal state not
knowing what was going on.

She approached the accident site. Everything was
surreal. The cracks on the walls were widening to suck
her inside. People were walking slower than usual. She
put the palm of her hand on her forehead, feeling dizzy
and burning in fever? I’m about to faint.

A morbid silence filled the street. Everyone was going to
an eerie sleep where they stood. She felt as if she was
walking in the clouds. She glanced at her watch. It had
stopped. The pages of the newspapers froze in the air,
fanning in a non-existent breeze. A flung cigarette
hovered above the sidewalk. Now everything was
frozen. Mitra was the only one capable of moving. She
reached the exact location of the accident. Her heart
was pounding out of her chest when she realized, “It is
yesterday afternoon!”

She frantically searched in the crowd, looking for Bijan
determined to save his life. The morbid silence was
broken by the sound of an approaching car. She
feverishly screamed, “Bijan!” and ran to the middle of
the street to save his life.  Her vision was blurred and
she was lightheaded and everything was happing in a
peculiar haze. She heard the familiar screech of car
brakes, her knees buckled and she
collapsed slurring the name Bijan.

*****

When she regained consciousness and opened her
eyes, she was in the middle of the street circled by a
crowd. A young man helped her get off the ground.

“You fainted in the middle of the road. You’re lucky the
driver saw you from a distance and stopped in time. But
why were you screaming my name when you were
unconscious?”

Mitra was speechless as she saw Bijan and his blind
friend Nader leaning over her.  

“You need to rest for a while. Let’s go to this café,”
Bijan said pointing to the building across the street.  

He helped Mitra get off the ground and held her by the
arm. His blind friend followed the two. They slowly made
their way up the stairs of the café.

“Is your favorite table available?” Mitra slyly remarked
with a chuckle.

Bijan looked over his shoulder, puzzled. They sat and
ordered coffee.

“I had a friend who came here often. Yesterday a car hit
him exactly where you fainted today,” Bijan said,

He paused to light a cigarette.

“Unfortunately, he didn’t survive. He was a publisher
who was supposed to publish my book after I finished it.
My manuscript was with him at the time of his death; it
was lost in the pandemonium.”

Mitra smiled and pulled the notebook out of her purse
and gave it back to its owner.

“Please finish it, it will be an interesting story,” she said.