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Farkhondeh Hajji-zadeh
Iranian Writer, Poet & Publisher
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Photo: Masoud)










Reprinted from:
Global Seminar of Fiction & Dialog Among Cultures
Farokh Negar Pub.
Karnameh
Negar Eskandar-far
2004





Research: Literature

The Barrier
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Short Story
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Farkhondeh Hajji-zadehi: The Barrier

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The sound of the skating wheels came and then a group of boys ran into her chest and slammed her up against the wall. She was holding a yellow folder. It fell from her hand and the papers scattered all over the pavement, where cars were passing by. The words were somewhere between a choked up one and a laughing one came from the boys. Excuse me, he bent over and picked up the papers and handed them of the woman.

The woman leaned on the wall and put her cold hand under her scarf, ski coat, rain coat and sweater and put her hand on the gold key. She was afraid like a few minutes before, when she thought that a boy hit his head on the ground. That was the reason, why the yellow folder fell on the ground in the middle of the alley.

Her right knee locked. She came back and stuck to the wall and her her eyes were pierced on the boy. The sound of the skate wheels went up and down. Every time a boy passed she smiled. In her hand there was a key on a chain. It became warm, in such a way that, when the boy’s hand waved goodbye, the scarf around her neck was not there. In a loud voice she said to the boy, “ that’s enough, go home. It’s evening and you’ll have cold”.
 
Savana was far off and she went home and imagined that mother with her bathrobe of wool warm slippers without socks, on the apartment balcony, with her hands holding her knees. She didn’t sit on any stool or even a plastic stool underneath of her. She always complained that the tiled floors were cold, you’ll freeze, then what did I buy the stool for? And mother laughed , “Snow is behind the mountains”. She knew that mother was not a person that got cold quickly. The stool was more for a mother to show off. She was comfortable. She saw Savana behind the door of the house quietly, talking to his mother in Armenian. She quietly greeted mother with the greetings so that she would be surprised. Instead her mother answered “Why did you come from that way?” I was expecting you from the other direction.

Their house was a three stories Mansion. The third floor was not used as a house that the landlord had a chest closet, a small wood box and things his mother left behind and he kept those things that belonged to his mother there. On the second floor, there is, where she and her mother and husband lived. Mother only spent the winters there. When the spring came, she returned to her village in the southeast of the country. The residents on the first floor were her daughter in law and her youngest son. She looked at the cars on the pedestrian walk and she kicked the stones in front of her, as she reached the front door of the house. A house with a closed door and without mother. She looked inside of her bag for her key. The sound of the singer could be heard from downstairs, from the cracks in the door the sound came and went the alleyway.

The key turned in the lock, but first, she turned her head to see Savana’s hand in his mothers'. She wanted to be with her child. She hesitated on the first floor of the apartment, stretched out her hands to lean on the door and knock on it, but she went up the stairs quickly instead. She took off her scarf, coat, raincoat, and socks. She threw them all on the first piece of furniture in the hall. She wore the glasses and she watch on the table and with the trousers and a thin blouse, that she wore under her jacket, lied down on the couch. She closed her eyes. She knew that if she didn’t close her eyes the mother, who always filled up the hours of watching television would talk constantly. She was bored. In the morning at the office her boss screamed. She didn’t write or read a single line. She thought that she was wasting her time. She was tired. She was bored with herself. Everyday, she telephoned to ask, how her mother was, but mother had too much to talk about: 70 odd years of talking. The woman, who was full of things, that she didn’t say. A few seconds later mother troubled and asked, “Did something happen to you?”, “ No, I have a headache”.
 
The mother put her hands gently on her forehead: “Thanks God; you don’t have a fever. Do you want me to cover you?” The woman picked up her eyebrows. Mother quietly rose and brought her a blanket from the next room and covered her. She gently patted the blanket, wrinkled free and pushed the blanket away and she went to sit on the bed, across the window. She memorized the mothers’ movements. Even the words that her mother were waiting for, a chance to say and she knew exactly, what was in her mother’s mind.

She could not sleep. She felt sorry for her mother and she turned on her side. Take her out for a walk. But its cold outside; she’s tired and the thoughts of dinner changed her mind. She decided to go to the kitchen and call her mother to break the silence. Get up. Mother had collected all of the clothes that she threw on the furniture. The blanket that she threw off of herself was on the bed. Mother raised her voice, “Is there anything wrong.
-No! Something is wrong.
-Did I do something.
-No, mother. What could you have done.
-Then who owes you something.
-I’m not a donkey nor I have fallen off a donkey.
The woman’s voice got louder: What are you talking about mother.
-It’s not your fault that I come from far away to see you.

Mother talked , talked and talked… The woman got upset, made a fist and hit herself in the head, “ Leave me alone”. The mother came with anger, pulled the woman’s hands away. “Why did you hit yourself. I started the fight…

The woman didn’t hear her mother’s voice. Like an insane person, she punched herself in the head and screamed: "Leave me alone. I have to take it from everyone. It’s enough let me die, leave me alone. Do you understand? Let me die, Mother".

Mother came forward. She took tightly the woman's hands. The sound of a deep breath came out of the woman. Her chest went up and down again. She kissed the woman’s forehead. "Poor! why don’t you take pity on yourself?"

The woman cried loudly. It was the first time since her childhood that her mother heard her cry. When her father died, she just sadly sat in the corner, without making any sound. She just moaned: Daddy, Daddy!

Mother ran and got a box of tissues from the table and put them in front of the woman and said excuse me if I annoyed you. What can I do I don’t have a mother to talk to. Who can I tell my troubles to… without finishing what she had to say she began to cry. A smile came on the lips of the woman. After 80 years, she wants to be able to have a mother.

Her smile was removed by her sobbing. I wanted to hold on to her and kiss her wrinkled face. And put her head on her chest. Let’s talk and let’s cry. She couldn’t. There was something like a barrier in the way.

She got up and pulled the tissues out of the box that she put in her mother’s hand and wished that someone would come to visit or call.

The weather was cold. The woman took her hand off of her chest and looked for the blanket. She was uncovered. The room was dark so she jumped up and turned on the light. With the coming of her husband she was thinking about dinner. The pile of clothes were still on the furniture In the bedroom she moved to her dressing table and stared at the picture of her mother in the frame She was wearing a green sweater, a black chador with small flowers and a heavy scarf with the same flowers as the chador, her light brown hair was slightly exposed outside of her scarf. She sat on the wooden bench with green and cream covering and a small Turkmen run was attached to the wall. She brought her lips close to the picture and kissed it bringing it close to her chest. From behind the window she looked at the new rain, stared at it, and listened to the sounds from the first floor. The morning came, just me and my heart. I can tell my secrets to only me and my heart.

The woman went back 28 years ago. The sun was going down after a rainy day in Azerbaijan. The main ally ended and turned into a dead end alley. She saw two small boys 3 years and 4 months and 12 days difference in age in the corner with a blue and white checkered blanket. The oldest son was 6 years and a couple months, with orange sandals called Otafuku, and a small boy in his pajamas and two pieces of cotton in his ears, without socks , with slippers and his face angrier than usual. The woman put the basket in this hand to that. The sound of Splashing water in the sandals of the big boy could be heard. She screamed: What are you doing? Where are you taking the blanket? When she got close by the small boy under the blanket was shaking. She picked up the blanket under her arm, pulling the boys hand who told you to come out of bed? The big boy sobbingly answered, We were coming to wrap you up in the blanket and the boy said Oh you would have died in the rain. The woman laughed and wiped the boys cheeks, and pushed the kids in the direction of the house.

She changed the boys’ clothes took the cotton out of the little boys’ ears. She washed them up. She felt a sense of relief. Without watching the preparation of the bean soup and turned until she reached the dressing table. The gold key was on V necked shirt, exactly above the brown mole in the middle of her chest. She smiled and thought how much this small key needed explaining and went on her own way. Whenever she wanted to understand about life she would do the same thing. The last time, a few years ago, when she bent over to offer the guests tea the key moved on her chest. It went up and down and fell on her chest just above the mole in a way that friends could be heard by all, We have never understood why this key is so connected to yourself. They all joined together. You are telling the truth. Eventually the secret of the key will come out or you’ll have to buy us dinner.

The woman brought a tea tray around and everyone looked at the key and her brown mole. She put the tray on the table. Her finger was on the key on the chain, and she put it between her lips. Now the key was put on her chin. She smiled and told the guests: No, dinner. This is the key to the Garden of Eden.

The woman's lips came together. Their foreheads wrinkled, with their frown lines coming closer together. She wanted them to believe her. The key was put on a gold chain and hung from her neck. When she was a child to economize on paper she used her mind like check notes. But now it’s impossible. Thus she sat behind a desk after several times of writing on paper she realized that she was in the leap year of 8497. So for 8497 days this small key was part of her body. It was only separated from her when she took x-rays, scans or operations. The hospital attendants always reminded her about not having metal objects such as metal , necklaces, earring, safety pins that should not be attached to her. When she forgot the technician would explain. She looked for the lock on the chain.

She hated gold jewels, and anything that was of gold color since her childhood days. She even exchanged her wedding gold for animal lard one day. Thirty years have gone by since then and the small pieces of gold and jewels that she possessed were enclosed in a small wooden box. She never really used them and considered them as something strange attached to her body. Her mother disappointedly looked at her ear lobes. How much trouble I went through to pierce them. Just wear a pair of costume jewelry earrings. She said that ears without earrings were more beautiful. Mother’s ears without earrings reminded her of her youth She screamed, Oh! You know better yourself.

It was only the key and a watch that she was forced to wear to know the correct time that she would always wear. The office service required her to be on time. I never got used to it being on my hand. She often lost it and would spend time without it until she could save some money to buy another one. Her watch was set to the start of the office to the end of its day. It was used when she wanted to go to a special meeting. The watchband was folded in two and placed in the bag of her house. She took it every few minutes to check the time. She was forced to wear it because of office hours. In order to rid herself of old habits she would switch her watch from one hand to the other This was the reason she got used to it. When she wanted to write faster she would take it off and put it on a table. She would lose a lot of her watches, when she removed them to wash her hands at meal time. She lost many watches. For example , she lost a gold watch with a lock that had red, blue and dark blue stones with a lid.

In order to tell the time she had to open its lid. She bought a wristwatch with a white face from the street seller in Arq square. Two years ago on her birthday her sons and daughter-in-law bought one for her. She was careful not to loose it. They selected one with lines and a large face so she could easily see it. She still liked to sit beside her father’s heater and stare at the ticking watch. The rooster’s red head with the blue background that went up and down. During Ramadan the sound of the clock of Mashhadi Soqra that had a handle in the mud and made noise at night. Afterwards Mashhadi Soqra put her head in the hole of the wall in their house and called mother, and mother would say that we hear you neighbor. I hope God gives you everything that you want Mother was used to tell her repeatedly asking about the time. She would tell her 12 times . She laughed quietly and thought 12 is equal to what. From that day on she would somehow stare at the bricks on the floor until she understood that by looking at the floor. Mashhadi Gholi, the second person, who has a watch in the village, brought out his hairy hand in front and says its not any trouble read the number yourself. She held Mashhadi Gholi’s hairy hand in her small hands and looked at the western wristwatch. She now understood, why Mashhadi Soqra uses the word equal for 12 o’clock. She dropped his hairy and sweaty hand She ran towards Ali Sher’ s store, just before the bell rang. He sold halva for just one Rial. It was made by Mashadi Gholi’s dirty hands. She didn’t want any because it was halva mixed with dirt. Eat it yourself.

The woman picked up the gold key and chain in her hand and turned it around gently, but it put pressure on the back of her neck causing her to weep. She looked at the wrinkles around her eyes. She had 14 sons. She counted the white strings of white hair. As she counted her wrinkles she reached the number seven and realized how much she looked like her mother. A few days before the boys had told her how much she resembled her mother. All of them said the same thing and laughed with each other. The small boy told the older boy look Mama looks so much like Granny. Just like granny That’s true. You look just like granny. The woman realized that in the last three years she started to really resemble her mother when she was in her 80’s. She put her hand inside the key on the chain moving it to and fro. She missed her mother and took her picture from her dressing table and sat crossed legged on the bed. She fingered her mother’s picture and touched her mole and said loudly, 8497 days ago in a 5 windowed house at the end of the alley a woman who did not have any wrinkles on her face was sitting down imagining. The middle doors slammed together a little dark skinned colored boy, who had dark green eyes and short red pants , smooth hair and a permanent frown ran to her. He threw a small box towards the woman, and one 20 Tomans bill fell out on the floor. The boy said take it. The hell with it. Are you happy now. He had sold the teapot , turned his face and ran away. The woman understood that he wanted to hide his tears. In confusion, she picked up the box, the small gold key was glowing in the box.

The woman was afraid. The boy had nagged her for one week to give him 20 Tomans. So she didn’t give it to him. The boy cried and said if my father wasn’t in jail, I wouldn’t get it from you and he put his face in his pillow. The woman wiped away her tears and drank a glass of water, and called her oldest son and told him to ask why he wants the money. Give it to me! The woman followed the little boy to his bed pushed away his blankets and kissed his eyelids and she put her hands through his hair We’ll go together and buy whatever you want to. The boy pushed her hands away and slept with his back facing her and told her not to sleep next to him. Now the 20 Toman and the gold key were in front of her. She swung the key in front of the little boy’s face and asked him where did you get this?

I bought it from Dadbakhsh. The woman got the little boy’s hand , put on her slippers and went to Dadbakhsh’s jewelry store at the head of the alley. That day she went inside and he immediately offered her candy from its bowl. Honest to God if you were the customer I would take it back. This little boy came here ten times to ask for the price. Just ten minutes before he arrived the item he wanted was sold You don’t know how he smashed on the window. In front of the window there was a lot of change. She started to feel dizzy and just couldn’t listen anymore .He just wanted the key so he could give it to me. He didn’t sell it to me. The woman picked up her head and saw that Mr. Dadbakhsh was full of tears .She picked up the boy and said I like the key. The boy said that she was a liar and that he got the 20 Toman from his uncle.

She laughed and her tears fell into her mouth and said Honest to God I love the key. She held the boy in her arms the same way she held the picture.

It was evening and the woman got up and put the picture on her dressing table. She took a glance of swana’s yard through the window. She went to the freezer to take out two package of chicken . She cooked in such a way that there would be enough for lunch tomorrow. The next day she had to go to Beheshte Zahra Cemetery. She sent her husband, brother and others towards the car. She stayed, so she could pick up some small stones to knock at her mother’s tombstone, so she could say all that she should have said and never said. After she sat quietly listening to what her mother said.
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Research: Short Stories
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