Jafar says goodbye to the policeman who knocked on his door a while earlier. He goes to the dining-room where his eyes come to rest on the table, laid for dinner with Hadi when he comes home from university. He will have to get used to his meals without his son from now on.
He paces quickly around the room. When the day started, his life moved along a path below a pallid sky. That sky is now dark. It is impossible to see the road ahead, even less to know its direction. There is, however, one thing of which he is certain, and he must hurry for everything to be ready before Hadi comes home. His pacing stops when a familiar sharp pain sits like a heavy stone in the centre of his chest. He takes in a long breath and, slowly, walks out of the room.
It is the same ache that struck his body the day he left the home of his ancestors. Since then, the colour and scent of the pomegranate trees in the cool of the night were to exist only in his dreams. Once he heard the rumors of the oppression to come with the arrival of Khomeini in Tehran from Paris a few days later, he accepted the offer of help from his cousin in London and told his wife Anahita to get ready to leave. Anahita, goddess of water, filled Jafar, the river. Now, the water in the river flowed far away from home, carrying them and their son, Hadi.
They had escaped the political turmoil in their own country, but they could not hide from the one in their new home. The water goddess Anahita evaporated in the fire of an IRA bomb explosion. Anahita left Jafar with a pain in his chest worse than ever before, little air to breathe and a child with no mother.
Since that day, Jafar has seen the growing blaze rise from underneath his son´s feet to validate his Persian name. ´To plant a bomb must be easy. The IRA does it frequently, ´ Jafar often hears Hadi say, whether awake or asleep. Anahita´s words then dance in his head: ’I am the water that fills you, Jafar, the river. For our journey, we need fire. We will call the son we are to have Hadi. ´
Jafar now has everything ready for a new journey for his son and sits by the dining table expecting him to arrive any moment. When a while earlier he saw the policeman at his door, his own silent words moved fast in his head: ´I know why you have come. Tell me quickly what you have to say´. He stood in silence waiting to be told that his son was either dead or a suspected terrorist in the Manchester Arena bombing being reported in the news all day. He found a moment of quiet amongst his tumultuous thoughts to be able to hear that his son´s name was on a list found amongst the belongings of those involved in the Arena bombing, although he was not considered a participant in the attack.
When Hadi arrives, Jafar says “The police were here today asking about you.”
“The police?” Hadi whispers.
Jafar takes a big gulp of air to lighten the heavy weight on his heart and explains what the policeman said. Then, he waits for Hadi´s response.
“I was given instructions to take part in today’s bombing but I refused. I couldn’t do it. I can prove I was not at the Arena and I have witnesses to confirm it. I want you to believe me, dad. Do you?” Hadi says urgently.
“I couldn’t do it,” he repeats. “I´m a coward,” he adds despairingly.
“You are not a coward. There is huge bravery in your refusal.”
Jafar gets up and takes some papers out of a drawer.
“Hadi, those people who have your name on a list will not be kind to you and will demand you agree to plant the next bomb. This is what is to be done. Here you have your passport and your airfare to fly to Tehran tonight. Your luggage is ready.”
“What are you saying?” Hadi gasped, eyes wide open.
Jafar raises his voice firmly to repeat what he has just said, and Hadi knows there is nothing else to be done.
“My cousin will take you to catch your flight and there will be family waiting for you at the airport in Tehran.”
“How about you? Us?”
“I will join you soon” Jafar says hesitantly.
Once Hadi leaves, Jafar returns to the dining-room. He folds his arms on the dining table and allows his head to rest on them. The acute pain on his chest feels like a shard of glass cutting his heart into pieces. He is very thirsty and fatigue blankets every corner of his body. His heavy eyelids come down, slowly, like curtains once the play is finished. Anahita is sitting in the shade in the patio and promises to satiate his thirst with the syrupy red liquid of the many fruits raining from the surrounding pomegranate trees.
Mercedes Freedman wrote as a child and dreamed of being a journalist. The unforeseen led her to becoming an English teacher and later a psychologist and psychology teacher, but the flame of writing never went out and regained strength over time. She lives, as always, in love with art in everything, from a Velázquez to a small stone on the beach, and writes stories, sprinkled with the magic of South America, that emanate from her own experiences. She dreams of being a good storyteller.
Visit Tale Tale by Mercedes Freedman to read more of her writing.
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