Aziz Motazedi

At The Park

Translated with the help of the author by

 Lorrie Beauchamp

 

I’ve been waiting for her a long time. The weather is fine, but every now and then, cottony white clouds like huge rumpled sheets cover the cheerful sun, creating a beautiful play of light and shadows on the green grass of this park.

I’ve become quite a daydreamer, and I suspect this is due to my loneliness. In fact, I daydream a lot since I lost my ex-wife.  I had even become sad, pesky, bad-tempered and lazy.  Things are better now. My new wife is younger, fresher, and prettier than my poor dead wife.

Perhaps that’s why my new wife doesn’t love me as much as the other one did. Yes, this must be it. Of course, she doesn’t see it that way, but I do.  Right now, for example, she has left me and gone out with her friends.  Maybe she will be back in half an hour… maybe one hour.  We have not been separated for much longer than an hour since we met.

She always asks me to go with her, but I don’t like crowds. I would rather be alone with her.   Who knows?  Perhaps this very need of mine has increased her desire for the company of others. She called me a nag once. This was right after our honeymoon, barely a week into our marriage.

I almost got angry, but I decided not to, so I started to sing loudly. Without saying a word, she stepped away from me. I understood.  I know that she doesn’t always enjoy listening to my love songs. My ex-wife, on the other hand, praised my voice all the time. Different strokes for different folks, as they say.  I remember thinking to myself -- look out, you’re getting angry again.

It’s better not to think these thoughts. Before, I had less spare time. Now, because of all the leisure time I have, I am sitting in this park filled with fear and watching a shameless killer. Maybe it would have been better to go with the girls for a stroll by the sea, but…well, so what, I didn’t want to!

Just two weeks ago, on this very lonely corner, I witnessed a savage, horrible rape.  Maybe the girl was in a romantic mood when she wandered off, walking right into that dangerous area. It was her fault. When I arrived, he had pushed her onto her back on the hood of the car, with a knife to her throat. He raped her, threw her off, got into the car and left. Say what you want, but in my opinion the girl made a mistake. She should not have gone all alone into that deserted area. No reasonable person would; I think she must have been crazy.

Now, take this one, who is shamelessly staring into the policeman’s eyes. I noticed him the day before yesterday, going into the grocery store on the other side of the park.  Right in front of the cowardly customers, he put a bullet in the merchant’s head, emptied the cash register and ran away. I am sure it was him.  After all, I saw him very clearly when he came under this very tree and pulled the black stocking off his head. You may ask--why didn’t you call the police? Or why don’t you say something right now, to the policeman who’s here every day?

Well, it’s none of my business, that’s why. Anyway, who wants to get involved in such tedious problems? We are all worrying more about how to fill our stomachs. Am I lying? Has any one of you had the energy lately to change the world?

I am sorry for that mother, though. Look at how she’s left her innocent children to play on the grass, with a killer hanging around.  The nice, friendly policeman says a few words to them and leaves. Our friend the killer smiles at the policeman and then at the girls. The younger sister sits on the swing, the older sister pushes her.  

Mister killer is even friendlier and more polite than the policeman. He gets up from the bench and goes to help the older sister. With his powerful hands he pushes the younger sister up into the air, each time more forcefully, again and again. The girl screams from both fear and pleasure. The mother looks up from her book, watching through her dark glasses. Suddenly, it seems, she is filled with fear.  She leaves her book on the table and goes toward her children.  Mister killer feigns an innocent and pleasant look.  I have to admit, he is a good-looking young man that could easily fool you. The woman smiles and puts her hand on the rope of the swing. The swing slows down. The killer nods and, with a nice smile, goes on his way.

The woman tells the children to come to the table for lunch. She pulls out sandwiches from a bag. The children start eating with gusto. I am hungry too, but I don’t know how much longer I have to wait.

The clouds part in the sky and tender spring sunlight fills the mountains, the plains in the distance, and the park. My heart is warm with love for her, but she still hasn’t come back. Maybe she never will. To be truthful, she is later than she has ever been.  But I am a daydreamer; lazy and impatient. I should give her the benefit of the doubt.  She is so thin, tall, and graceful.  At this very moment, she is probably walking with her friends on the seashore, frolicking and laughing at the idiot that I am. Let them laugh! When you have decided not to be upset, you are not going to change your mind. Look at how these rude children push one another on top of the slide. The savages!

I know it looks as if I am angry. And maybe I am, just a little, but I am not jealous. Everyone knows this. And even if I were jealous, at least I’m not a hypocrite. If she doesn’t love me, she’d better say so in plain words that I can understand. I promised myself that if she ever did, I’d pick up my gear and be on my way. I don’t like hypocrisy and deception. She better not be thinking this way.  It would be a pity.

Anyway, why the mystery?  If she wants to be with someone else, she should just tell me. I would do the same for her. Of course, I know that it’s not that simple. What then? Would she like to be with someone else?   It hardly seems likely; we’ve already made so many promises to each other.

Up until now, I’ve danced to all of her tunes.  She doesn’t like my dancing, though, and has told me so, both in plain language and in more subtle ways.  In any case, we’ve had good days and nights together. Perhaps it would have been better if I had explained from the very beginning that I am not as cool as she thinks I am.  It might have been better that way.  Then I would not have this reputation for being ill-tempered.  If she leaves me one day, with this reputation I’m doomed to be lonely and celibate for the rest of my life. 

Of course, whatever else may happen, this is nature’s unwritten law: If you listen to nature, you will never be alone for very long. There will always be someone to save you from your loneliness.

So, you may ask, if I know how to sing lullabies so well, why don’t I help myself fall asleep, then?  And if I’m spending so much time thinking about love, friendship, and flexibility, why am I sitting here by myself with nothing to do, just watching that mother and her children, who are eating their hamburgers at a picnic table?

The answer is simple. I am not alone. I am waiting for my new wife, my new love!  You would wait too, if you knew how extraordinary she is, and if you were here in my place. Perhaps you would even fall madly in love with her too. Well! I hope that you won’t entertain such notions. But let’s make this clear right here and right now – I am not a macho male.  And let’s move on.

What am I saying? Why hasn’t she come back? I am getting bored. It’s better not to think about it…

The girls have finished their food. They want to go back to playing their games. The mother stops them, saying “You can’t swing and slide on a full stomach!” She seems like a strong-minded mother. But children don’t normally accept orders that easily. These two are exceptions.

“What shall we do then, Mom?” says the older sister.

 “You can sit down and play Snakes and Ladders. I’d like to read and sunbathe.”

“But we want to play on the swings!”

“Do as I said. After eating, only Snakes and Ladders.”

The youngest sister was about to cry, but the older sister, who knew her mother better, took her sister’s hand and they went to sit by the table. The mother took a blanket from her bag, spread it on the grass, picked up her book, cleaned her sunglasses and stretched out on her back, her chest facing up to the sun.  She is a young attractive woman. I wonder where her husband is?  He never seems to be around. Perhaps he’s on a trip, or they are divorced, or he’s dead. In any case, I know from my gut that he is not nearby.

The children are playing Snakes and Ladders. I am dozing off from idleness.  Well, well, look who’s coming now.  Such a grand lady, good day to you! What brings you here?  How nice of you to think of this poor destitute…

“Hi, have you been waiting long?"

"Waiting?  I haven't moved from this spot."

"Is that my fault? If you don't want to join in the fun, should I pay the price?"

“The price? What are you talking about? I thought we were husband and wife. The ink on our marriage certificate hasn't even dried yet. It's only been a week since we got back from our honeymoon, and all you can think about is having fun with your own friends. Do you ever ask yourself how your ill-fated widower is feeling?"

"Well, I’m here now, and you better stop reminding me of your past life. Aren't we happy together? Anyway, I didn't want to leave you alone. You said you didn't feel like walking. You prefer crawling into a corner and feeling sorry for the dead! What can I do? I’m in the prime of my life; do you really expect me to give up fun and pleasure? We missed you, honestly. We had lots of fun. The sea was a bit rough, but we swam anyway. The weather’s lovely, isn't it?"

"Oh lord!  I should remember who I’m addressing. Madame knows that I've been sitting in this lonely spot, waiting for her, and Madame has gone off for a stroll... swimming with a bunch of lousy friends, and now, upon her return, she's graciously talking to me about how fine the weather is."

I guess my voice went up in volume, because she gave me an angry look and started indignantly to walk away. I followed behind her.

"You see, you have no answers, and now you want to sulk!"

She turned and blocked my way.

"You are overreacting. What makes you think that you can push yourself into my life so quickly, shouting directions at every turn?"

"Directions? Who’s giving directions? I’m just protesting, that’s all."

"Shame on you, look, they are all staring at us..."

She was right. They were all looking at us -- the mother, the children and a couple of passers-by. I became silent and turned my back to them all. When I looked again, the mother was reading her book, the children were playing, but the passers-by were still staring at us.  After a few long moments they stopped staring, releasing us from being exposed to their sick curiosity. I very nearly got angry again, but drew in my reins once more.

"So! You think I’ve pushed myself into your life, and you’re telling me that you never cared for me very much to begin with? If that’s the truth, then just tell me, wouldn’t it be better to just end everything?"

She looked at me curiously, as if I had caught her by surprise.

"End? End what?"

"End this half-baked, apparently amorous relationship, which is helping no one, neither you nor me."

"It’s as simple as that? All your promises, vanished into thin air? Only yesterday you were saying that you'd give your life for me."

"So what? You don't seem to need my love..."

"How do you know that I don't need your love?"

"Because whether I’m around or not makes no difference to you!”

"Says who?"

“Says no one. I got it all by myself."

"You understood it all by yourself?  Well if you’re so bright, why aren’t you a star?"

"The lord made his creatures in many ways, and by the hand of fate, this is who I am and this is who we are!"

I had tears in my eyes. I was about to cry, but my pride would not allow it. I was sulking, and I felt like pushing to the end, but I had doubts as well. My heart was aching for a kiss. Perhaps my voice was trembling. She looked me over from head to toes, and suddenly burst out laughing.

"Look what a scene you’ve made. And all because I went out for half an hour with your friends, who, as it happens, are all trustworthy.”

"I do not trust anyone!"

"You do not trust anyone because you are jealous.  Yes, I figured this out about you very quickly, and I am very sorry."

"Think what you want!"

"You’re jealous and lazy! Am I right? Not once have you done what I’ve asked you to do.  You don't know what kindness is. You don't even have the ability to love!"

She was exaggerating. I had to defend myself.

"If I didn't love you, I would not even respond to your demands."

"OK, I’ll give you that, you are not lazy with your responses, but honestly, you have always been paid back for your advances."

"What do you mean by that?"

"You know quite well what I mean!"

"If you mean that I like making love to you, well, I won’t deny it. That’s just normal.”

"Who’s talking about what’s normal? I’m talking about our marriage and our relationship."

"So am I! Did I ever ask you to do anything that was offensive or abnormal? You are certainly as enthusiastic as I am!”

I was cursing myself. I didn't know what to say. In a very short time she had pinpointed my weak points. I was twisting inside like a serpent.  She suddenly started to laugh.  I snapped at her.

"When did you become such a happy soul?"

"It’s my mother's legacy.  As for my father, he wasn't very happy, but he wasn't ill-tempered either.  He wasn’t like you at all."

She laughed and laughed and laughed. I was about to burst out laughing too, despite my anger and disappointment, but I did not, because a diabolical thought had occurred to me.

"Let’s stop arguing. Now that you’re back, let’s stop talking this way.”

"Talking which way?"

"All this blaming and criticizing."

"If you stop, I will too.”

"Very well.  Please forgive me. To be truthful, all this waiting just made me tense.  If you see me as someone who doesn’t want to be around others, it’s just because I want to be with you and only you. All the time."

"So be with me!  Who’s stopping you?”

"You’re right, you’re right! Oh, my wife! Let’s make love!"

"Make love? Where?"

"Right here!"

"Oh my! You really are crazy!"

"Don’t start that again, or I really will get angry."

"Go to hell! You can get as angry as you want, kill yourself with anger if you want! Do you understand what you're asking of me? You want to do it here? In front of all these normal people? What a stupid idea.  Aren’t you embarrassed?"

"Embarrassed? About what? Have I robbed someone? Have I killed someone? Have I raped someone? You call these people normal?  Why?  They conduct all their savagery, their crimes and their cruelty in public by daylight, but to make love they hide in the dark. If that’s the case, I’m proud to be crazy.”

She had no response to this. Two new passers-by came along, looked at us with curiosity, but luckily they didn't get the gist of our conversation and continued on their way.

You can choose to believe me or not about this next part. Some children are far crueler than most grown-ups. I'm talking about the girls. They were staring and watching us, and suddenly the older sister rushed at us, screaming.

At first we thought that a bee had stung her or a snake had bit her, but no. She was coming straight at us. For an instant I felt only danger, with all my being. I wasn’t afraid for my life – what’s better than dying for love?   But to be trampled under the feet of a spoiled girl is no honourable death. 

My beloved and I started to run across the grass, but she wouldn’t give up. Like a flying death she was upon us, pushing and shoving this way and that.

Off we flew, up to the first branch of a tree, far from her reach. I had no idea what her problem was, or why she was rushing us.  She is probably as ignorant as the rest of them – because really, how can they know what pigeons are going through, as they grumble and coo?