Unfinished Story

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.