I feel tired tonight. I actually feel soar and my body aches from all the walking and working out in the gym. I’m not in the mood to write. I just want to go to bed. It was a beautiful day; I think I’m going to love the fall. The leaves fall, a new season begins; it’s a fresh start to get rid of the summer. In sociology we talked about how human beings can never really be alone because we always have internal thoughts about other people. Even in dreams they’re with us. But I still think I’m alone…and I don’t like it too much. Sometimes I just want to belong to someone. I want someone to have power over me; I’m tired of making my own decisions.
Welcome to my new life at George Mason University. To put it bluntly, I love college. I love that no one yells at you for being late. I love the fact that no one tells you what to do or what not do, and that you have total control over everything, well, almost everything. On the first day of classes Nura and her older sister picked me up around 8:15 am and I made it on time to my 9 am lecture on Environmental Science. The professor is awesome. She wears her hair in a long ponytail with short bangs, and wears skirts with flowers. She is sweet and doesn’t play rough. I have no worries about this lady. The class however, was rather shocking. Over 200 people! That was new to me!
There is a lot of walking at Mason. And I mean a lot. I have burned more calories in the last three days than I did in three Gym sessions. The college kids are too many to count. They smoke their cigarettes passionately like kids who chew on candy and like to listen to their iPods. During my long walks to classes I get to breath in the fresh, yet humid air of what summer has left behind. At least I don’t have to walk in the cold hallways of high school, although sometimes I miss them…
Enough of that. I carry lots of textbooks, but I have learned that I can leave them at home! There is no way that anyone would mistake us for upperclassmen from the heavy bags on our backs and the books we carry.
On my second day I was depressed because I was charged with 589 dollars worth of books on my checking card. I still can’t get over it! For once I actually understand the value of money.
My Sociology teacher is a guy who speaks pretty fast. He asked us where we thought he is from. I guessed in my head that he might be from New York. I was right; he was from Brooklyn. He is an interesting guy and obviously loves his job. I always appreciate a little humor here and there. Most of his examples were about Canadians. I forget why that was.
I love my Government, Democracy to be exact, teacher. He is 37 (yes, a girl actually asked his age, quite nonchalantly I might add). He is Asian but was born and raised in San Francisco. He is bold. If that makes any difference. He is funny, sarcastic and his favorite movie is the Matrix; I never understood that movie. He said “Fuck it” at one point in class. I love this guy.
Let’s see. I make my own lunches because I refuse to pay from my credit card. I can’t even look at my card anymore because I’m afraid all my money will vanish into thin air. But of course my mother cooks! If Nura doesn’t have a break at the same time I do, I eat by myself. I have made friends though, really I have. In each class I’ve made at least one friend. My mother should be proud. I barely see Swati. But we do meet after classes end.
I am the most talkative person in the car. So as we drive through the lights and traffic and accidents of rush hour, my companions don’t have to worry about getting bored. But don’t get too excited. I don’t say a word in any of my classes.
I sleep late. Wake up not too early and constantly harass my former HS English teacher with emails before my ride arrives. I think he should add me to his spam mail. Or not! I am enjoying these days and think that it’s going to be an exciting life. “It” being college life.
I forgot to mention the boys. The boys…there are too many of them. Lots of hot guys. Lots of cute, preppy, white boys in pink t-shirts…yep, college is great!
One last note: I am so proud of us. We’ve been going to the campus gym everyday since Monday.
There is one thing that makes me miss high school. And that is the fact that professors don’t really care about you. They may see your face in between all the others but then you’re gone and they go on with their day. Like I’ve said before, who am I going to bug now? Who is going to read my blog?
I hope you all still do. I really do.
Thanks for reading. Tomorrow I have a three hour lab! No comment on that.
I add a tea spoon of sugar to my coffee. Did I ever mention that I don’t drink coffee? Today it was my second day. Yesterday I had coffee and I liked it because it wasn’t bitter; I had added plenty of milk and sugar. I was looking for a new taste. Tea was getting a bit trite.
Mom was sewing earlier today. Back in Tehran, that’s all she did. She did embroidery passionately. The task was effortless; she had become an expert. Now she is reading Nafisi’s book in between her college book on parent education.
My credit card bill is on the table. I’ve spent most of my money on Starbucks; I should cut back on Lattés.
Classes start tomorrow. But let’s not talk about that now when I can tell you about the gorgeous sun that’s out and the warm wind that traces its path. It’s a lazy day. I have no chores, no tasks, no plans. I am just enjoying the unbearable lightness of being…
Last night, before I headed to bed, I stood on a chair on my balcony and felt tall. I was chewing a delicious stick of chocolate ice-cream. I wasn’t wearing much and I was bare foot. I was a bit nervous, standing so tall, so close to the edge; I was scared that the wind would take me away…
How would you sum up the five irrelevant, short paragraphs above? How would you conclude your point? Did I even make a point? No…I just felt like talking about coffee and since I had no where to go with that, I figured I might as well tell you about the rest of the day. So there, I’ll end it now.
Today I slept walked through the city. I strolled down M street and Wisconsin Avenue, passed a dozen shops, tried on 300 dollar dresses that I knew I couldn’t afford, drank bubble tea and a smoothie, and sat by the Potomac River, watching the sun set. I say slept walked because when you’re alone and you have the power to do absolutely anything, you feel like you’re dreaming but you know you are awake. There’s so little time in the day that I feel like I have total control over what happens. In reality, at home, at school, at work, things are arranged to a certain degree. Plans are made, appointments are arranged; there is some sort of order to everything. But when I found myself alone and unaccompanied in a little city where people move about within every second and life happens so quickly, I was free. I was a free bird, breaking rules as I wished, crossing any street I chose to cross, picking any road I wanted, timing myself as I wished. The world was mine and that’s when I felt like I had it all. I’m trying to avoid clichés, exaggerations and corny phrases, but that’s how I literally felt. Like I could do anything, be the woman I am, be gorgeous and single and feel the breeze and the wind going through my hair. Six years passed and I never once did what I did today. I never had the courage to ride the bus alone, put my own money in, and not feel awkward. I am glad that today I finally found the courage to do what I always wanted to do, to walk alone and spend a day with myself. I gave my heart to the city and believe it or not I can give it to New York some day. Life is good. All you have to do is ride a bus full of strangers and be a traveler.
I could have written this like a story. I could have added a little color to the dresses. I could have picked names for the streets I crossed and the stores I window shopped from. I could have made you feel like you’re walking in my shoes, feeling the wind, hearing the cars passing and the music I listened to. I could have written this a thousand different ways and it probably could have been better. But, I didn’t. I chose to write it without the details. I wrote it for me and for once I want you, the reader, to just experiment this on your own. Besides, one style of writing would be boring, wouldn’t it?
“I blog…therefore… I exist,” says an Iranian blogger.
And I, here in America where no thought police exist and I’m bound by nothing, where I can say and do as I please, feel the same. I am addicted to my blog, the diary that I candidly share with the world. Without my words I don’t exist. In Iran, people are punished and harassed because of their smiles, their thoughts, their words, their appearances; everything they do is censored. So they blog. That’s how they think, that’s how they become alive. In the blogosphere they learn to unveil, reveal, expose their deepest desires, thoughts, feelings. Why shouldn’t they? Why shouldn’t they be free to bare it all, like we do here in this world? For so long they have dealt with bars, walls and chains, and now in this beautiful world of blogs, they can speak from the heart, from the soul, about anything, about anyone. They… exist.
When we are forced to obey our enforcers and live in humility, when everything becomes politics, we sometimes abandon our personal, private lives. In writing we find that sense of existence, that sense of being, that sense of living for who we really are. Therefore we exist and become dreamers in a world where dreams are illegal.
On a sunny Tuesday afternoon I’m listening to the soft, seductive voice of French singer Carla Bruni. I have no idea what she is saying and yet I am intrigued enough to repeat the same song over and over again. I like the way she pronounces each syllable, each word. French is a beautiful, fascinating language. I find it soothing, charming, sexy. Sometimes I secretly wish I were a French girl. I am Amélie Poulain, skipping rocks in the river, collecting oddly shaped stones, making people happy. Then I fall in love with a handsome French man and we live happily ever after in Paris…
I step out of the car and immediately smell a familiar, yet surprising sweetness; chocolate. We are welcomed into Leila and Hooman’s Pennsylvania home, just a couple of blocks away from the Hershey Chocolate Factory. On our way we passed a small farm with a dozen cows, reminding us that we had entered a farm town. So I didn’t expect buildings and in fact saw none. Leila and Hooman’s town house is small, with a tiny doorway, two rooms and a small living room. I love your house! I exclaim to Leila. On the balcony we drink tea from little cups that came all the way from Tehran. There is a nice breeze but the temperature is almost 90 degrees. I don’t know if it is because of the smell of chocolate or knowing I’m away from home, but I’m too happy, almost unreasonably. But that’s how a good life should make you feel, right?
Inside the Chocolate Factory I buy different kinds of sweets. Hershey’s Kisses are packaged in various ways and I’m happy to give them away as gifts. I’ll give one to H, I decide. He loves chocolate.
The day ends quickly, but sweetly. It’s delicious, this world of chocolate. We pass Chocolate Avenue and head back inside their home. They treat us with more tea and we drink passionately. We talk of American life. Why it’s beautiful and tragic at the same time. For now, Leila’s American life isn’t a pretty picture. She misses her parents, her home, her old life. No matter how delicious Mr. Hershey’s chocolates are, they lack the sweetness of her mother’s homemade apple pie.
In America, I have learned to indulge, appreciate, ferociously devour life’s little sweets. I have learned to be excited over a piece of chocolate, over a little avenue called Chocolate. In America, I have fallen in love with myself, my creations, my imaginations, my ability to comprehend comedies, like those of our everyday life.
Can you show me a cocktail dress? I need one for my wife. Sure, I say, right this way. I show him a plain, sleeveless dress. No, something less lesbian, he says. I chuckle and point out another dress. This might work; I’ll have to go get her.
He never came back. It is very rare for customers to come back once they’ve left the store, even if they say they will. So this is my job. I greet strangers, quietly shouting the hated phrase, hi, how are you? Or can I help you find anything today? Or what size are you looking for? Or let me check in the back for you to see if we have any more. Blah blah blah. Sometimes I hate greeting them. I want to leave them alone. Give them their privacy so they can decide on their own. Before this job, I was always annoyed when sales people said hello. And now it is my job to annoy people. But I have to say that there are some who smile back and ask me how I am. They even ask for my opinion and allow me to show them what we have in the store. I find interesting people. I meet women who like a dress but don’t buy it because their boyfriends don’t approve. I meet women who try 10 different things and leave the store empty handed. I meet women who let me pick everything out for them. I meet angry people who ignore me when I say hello and people who politely smile but walk away immediately. It’s a strange world, the world of buyers. People are fascinating. They have methods. Some are pickier than others. They find a little spot on a pair of pants and refuse to buy it. But I love my job. I love being helpful. I like opening the fitting room doors, getting to know my customers, their habits, their likes and dislikes. Today I was ringing up a family of four from Montréal. They spoke French and I had to ask if they came from France. No, we’re from Canada, the dad says. I’ve been to Toronto I say. I love French, I add. Do you speak Spanish? Well, I’m taking it as a class, I say. Spanish and French are very close, the dad says. Yes, I know. I’m excited by this family because they speak perfect French and they remind me of my good times in Europe. I wish them a good day and watch them leave.
Have a nice day, I dutifully say and smile. I don’t think I’ve ever had to smile so much in one day.
We cross the street, passing a beggar whose body is paralyzed and is listening to classical music that comes out of a little radio. I’ve seen him before, in the same spot, listening to the same beats, hardly blinking. I’ve always wondered what life means for us. And now as I pass this man, this man who has given up on living and is only breathing with Mozart and Bach, I wonder what life means for those like him, for the beggars and the poor. What does life mean for the woman I see sitting on the curb, always holding a cup and shaking it as people pass by? Did they have dreams once and what made them give them up so easily? Isn’t America the land of dreams? Isn’t America the heaven we all prayed for? Surely they must have learned at some point in their lives that here in this land they can hold a job, at least a mediocre one to start with, make some money and find a cheap place to live in. Surely they didn’t dream of begging on different corners with plastic cups and cardboard boxes. Did they?
It seems as though the orchestra of life has failed this poor beggar; the only orchestra that he lives with is that of Mozart’s. Maybe it is in this symphony that he feels his heart beating.
The tables are set. The glasses filled with ice and water, the music just the right volume, the waiters ready to take orders from perfect strangers. There is something unique about the atmosphere of a restaurant. A special bond is formed between the waiters and the diners. The waiters know how to follow orders and the diners know exactly what to order. But there are a few who don’t know what to get, those are the indecisive group who always depend on someone else to make decisions for them. So they hesitate when the waiter asks if they’re ready. They slowly and shyly order something that caught their eye or was easy to pronounce and let the waiter do the rest of the talking. And that’s how they form a bond; whether they’re aware of this fact or not, this simple intervention brings them close. The waiter has crossed a line and is now one step closer to the person he is serving. He may overhear conversations as he serves the food, he may learn a few things here and there and if he is doing a especially good job, he may even be invited to reveal pieces of his personal life. He will be a person to share a laugh with, a friendly, welcomed intruder.