March 2010

From an early age, I liked to travel to new places because it broke the norm, and in many ways, set me free. The first time I left Iran, I was 10. Mom and I spent three brutally cold months in Brussels. When I talk about it now, she says she felt uncomfortable. She hated being a burden to her son and couldn’t bare to see him struggle. She didn’t like how tiny his place was. She felt, as any mother would, that he deserved better. For me, on the other hand, those three months, despite their coldness, were the most comfortable and gratifying months of my childhood. I have nothing but pleasant memories. I didn’t go to school and had brought all my books with me to teach myself. Mom helped me learn math stuff, but for the most part I did them on my own. My favorite thing was eating European food. I loved eating toast with butter and Nutella. I wasn’t a coffee drinker yet so I indulged in chocolate milk and a variety of European teas. I drank as many cans of soda as I wanted because in Iran they sold soda in plastic and glass bottles for cheap (the cans were pricier). I slept peacefully under layers of blankets because there was no heating. I had dreams about Leonardo DiCaprio because right before I’d left, the Titanic craze had bloomed and my cousins played a joke on me, saying he was going to marry me.
What I never forget is the view from the window, and the view of the lake. I remember the church bells, the first time I ever saw a church. The skies were different, dark, red, and mysterious. The smells were new and fresh unlike the pollution of Tehran. There was a subway train that ran in the middle of the street above ground. It was our main mode of transportation. The first time I witnessed kissing in public, French Kissing to be exact, was on this train. I was by the window and I noticed a couple kissing for a very long time. I didn’t want to stare so I watched their reflection in my window. I thought it strange, but not disgusting. I was just amazed that they could do that in public. When I was home alone, I loved watching T.V. because there were so many channels, uncensored, fun, entertaining programs. I watched television all day. My mother worried. She didn’t know how great it was for me to have such an advantage. We watched Teletubbies together. We thought they were cute and it was a good way to improve our English listening skills.
There was something extraordinary about this new place in my 10 year old mind. Something I couldn’t put my hand on, a feeling so great that wasn’t sad, but merely too great to express. Today, these feelings are more like nostalgia (when I see something beautiful that I know I can’t have). But at that age, this new sensation was just uncommonly good. I was in a place that I didn’t necessarily want, a place I hardly belonged to, but I was completely satisfied. I think that’s the word. I was satisfied. I didn’t want it. I just enjoyed it. It was probably the last time I truly enjoyed something for what it was. There was no nostalgia involved, no obsession to posses it, no desire to become part of it. I guess when you are 10, you don’t care about belonging.
I never felt quite like that ever again. I lived in places, met people, all the while hurting because I knew the moments were transitory. I always knew something would be over when it hadn’t even begun.

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