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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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Take Me Into Your Dreams, Maria!

 

by Seyyed Ali Shojaee


 

                Maria’s days started at night and her nights began in the day. It has always been this way, and still is. Mother cried and Father cursed when Maria no longer went to school. 

                “I’ll go to school at night, when you are asleep.” 

                It has always been this way and still is. She wouldn’t play with anyone, wouldn’t click or talk with them. 

                “I’ll play with the children at night, when you are asleep.” 

                Maria’s day began at night. Mother just sighed when Maria didn't even set foot in a sewing class. 

                “I know of some place, I’ll go there myself. At night…” 

                Father broke inside when he saw girls her age going to college, but Maria’s days would begin at night.

                “I’m busy studying; it’s not a good time to entertain suitors…” 

                Mother winced and flinched and cringed when Maria didn't even look at her delightful suitors’ faces. It has always been this way and it still is. 

                When doctors, tests, x-rays and medicines proved to be no use, we pursued holistic healing, physicians and herbalists…but when the tincture of this, and the tea of that, and the root of the other, and the bud of another proved to have no effect, we resorted to geomancers and fortunetellers and soothsayers and exorcists, and in the end, they all said the same thing; to coordinate with Maria’s dreaming as she coordinates with your wakefulness…that Maria’s days begin at night and her nights begin in the day…it has always been this way and still is. We accepted Maria’s sleeping. 

                The school... 

                “I’ll go at night.” 

                College…sewing…class…parties…weddings…funerals 

                “I’ll go at night.” 

                We all did whatever we could to wake Maria up…Mother, Father, us sisters, brothers…but 

                “Nights…” 

                One of these nights when we were all asleep, a suitor came for Maria. 

                “He’s a decent, young man from a good family; he has a profession, a small shop at the end of Nasser Khosrow Street and can support himself. Is he kind? Of course he is. He would love to have a wife and children.” 

                Maria wore a white shawl at night, made up her face, and went to sleep. 

                Her suitor came and went and they talked with each other until she finally agreed to marry him. 

                “Father, would you mind if I say ‘yes’?” 

                Maria invited us to her wedding. We weren’t able to go, but that night we wept until morning while she was smiling in her dreams. 

                Maria’s days began at night and her nights began with our days.

                Then she began asking mother and us sisters for recipes for her husband; how much vinegar to use for making pickles, how much sugar for jams and jellies, and how to make halva. She would practice knitting scarves. She would braid her hair at night and tie them with red ribbons. Her cheeks blushed brighter and her smile lasted longer as she let her braids frame her face on the pillow. Although we were all awake, her life began when she went to sleep. 

                When Father’s work and income started to improve, things got better for us; our dinner table became more colorful and our life became easier; but Maria was still doing the same things she had always done. She didn't even buy any new clothes: “My husband doesn’t like me to accept any help from my father. He’s a proud man. He tells me he’ll buy me anything I want himself, no matter how difficult, he has his pride.” 

                Maria’s days start at night and her nights begin in the day. We never got used to it, but we tolerated it. And when Mother quit crying and Father quit cursing and realized that Maria could not be pulled from that abyss of sleep, Maria began to think that it was we who were enslaved by wakefulness and she did everything she could to take us by the hand and lead us…. and she made us promise to visit her at home where her husband was eagerly waiting to see us, it wasn’t nice that after all these years since their marriage we hadn't even set foot in their home …and a thousand other mind games she played to lure us in even though we all knew that Maria’s life only existed in her sleep, while we were awake. Even one day she sent her brothers out of her room, and happily whispered softly in mother's ear giving the good news of her pregnancy… 

                “My husband cannot contain his joy since he found out. I told you how much he wanted a wife and children.” 

                And she would fill our palms with candies and speak affectionately to each one of us and then take out our loose, long clothing from the closet. 

                “My husband doesn’t like me wearing tight clothes with a bulging stomach. He’s a man and he has his pride.”

                And at night before sleep she would take our hands and place them on her stomach to feel the baby’s kicks. She is pregnant in her dreams as her eyes grows heavy.   She moves to her husband's embrace who had been at the shop since morning and was now arriving home tired and hungry. She would serve him tea and set a small dinner table for him and be his darling wife and relieve his fatigue and make him satisfied and content so that one day at the shop he would not…  And our eyes were always full of tears and we never did anything but sigh. 

                We tried everything to wake Maria…Father, Mother, us sisters and brothers…but 

                “My pains have begun, Mother. I feel so alone. I wish I had you here.” 

                And one of those nights when we were asleep, Maria’s pains started and she delivered her baby girl, not a girl, rather an angel with golden hair and blue eyes and skin as fair as snow, and lips like a flower that would bloom into a beautiful blush color. She was sure before she grew old enough, people would be rushing to arrange for her future hand in marriage.

                “My husband swears he would never forgive me if someday I took my eyes off of this beautiful flower for even one second, she is so desirable.” 

                We saw Maria less often as she would put her head down on the pillow two hours before three, her long hair spread out around her and her drowsy eyes telling us, “My breasts are full of milk, and it’s painful for me and my poor innocent daughter who is hungry.” 

                And we made Kaachi[1] for Maria, and oh how her daughter drained the energy out of her and weakened her. The housework, the scrubbing and washing and laundering of diapers all by herself with a baby …and Maria’s days began at night and her nights began at day. 

                In the blink of an eye Maria was pregnant with her second child, and we had not been able to wake her and even though we were coordinating with the situation, and had even gotten used to it, we still never believed it. 

                We saw Maria still less, for she was only awake and alive in her sleep with two children, one that went to school and the other that made mischief at home. If she looked away for even a second, the child might get hurt. She was always worried about the kerosene lamp in the kitchen and the pond in the middle of the courtyard. As innocent and quiet as her daughter was, her healthy strong boy was that same amount mischievous and always getting into trouble, and she couldn’t look after him properly and take care of the housework at the same time. 

                “Thank God my husband is doing well in his work…which is certainly a blessing of the children…he bought two or three shops in a row and made them into one, and hired a few apprentices. I always knew that he would stand on his own feet and he won't accept help from his father or brothers. And now his good reputation has spread all over the bazaar. I was saying that thank God his son is healthy and strong, and I cannot both look after him properly and do housework, and my husband works hard from early morning until late at night." 

                Maria’s days began at night and her nights began in the morning. It has always been this way and now our days have become too short for her and her nights too long for us. The New Year was close and she had to clean the house, change the water of the courtyard's pond, wash the quilts, bake cookies and go shopping at Sepah Salar Street for new shoes and bags. 

                “Haj Agha said that I’ve been staying home too much these past few years taking care of the house and children and that it’s a good time to go somewhere. God willing at the beginning of the holiday we’ll pack up for a trip or a pilgrimage. Thank God the children are old enough now and it won’t be too hard to take them along.”

                When the New Year came, Maria went to sleep for the trip her husband promised her, and we never understood whether Maria went on a trip in her sleep or to sleep on a trip, for she never returned.

Maria’s days began at night and her nights began in our day. It has always been this way. And now that she has been sleeping for years, we are still waiting for the day Maria awakes, wondering what is real – were we living in her dream or were  her sleeps our dream?

 


[1]Kind of Iranian sweet which is specially made for women who have delivered a child.