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Mom’s Conspirasy

By @kaku

Innocnet

 

I went to the holy shrine of Abdul-Azim. On my way back, I saw a young cleric sitting in the corner of the apron, with people gathering around him, asking their questions. I walked over and sat among them. After he finished answering an audience member, there was a silence. The head of the young cleric turned around, and in the end, his look reached me sitting near him. His expression suggested he expected me to ask a question. His gaze remained on me, as if he were remembering a classmate from high school with a horrible relationship between them. “What’s the kinship caused by breastfeeding?” to get rid of the young cleric’s look, I said. The young cleric, who wore the expression of someone who takes themselves too seriously, frowned and twisted his face into a nasty expression at this question. “Yes… it’s called Rada, or a milk relationship, meaning that if a woman suckles a boy and a girl, they can’t marry each other, even if they are not biological siblings. Of course, there are conditions to meet. Breastfeeding a kid for a short period of time does not make a difference…. The kid must be breastfed at least fifteen times by one woman… If another woman breastfeeds the infant too, or the infant eats food, her breastfeeding comes to nothing. Another important thing: if a woman gets pregnant after adultery, her milk will not create any relationship between her kid and the other kid she is breastfeeding. And one last, the two kids must be under two.”

“Well, what if they are not sure? I mean, after they grow up, they are not sure everything had happened the way you said?”

 He gave me a look as if I were the dumbest person in the universe. “Nothing.”

“Nothing? “

“Yes, they are not close relatives unless four women or two men testify that they have seen them being suckled by the same woman.”

******

Putting the mortar on her knee, sitting cross-legged, my mom was crushing cinnamon or cardamom. I walked into the kitchen, fetched a bottle of cold water, took a swig, then perched opposite her with the bottle. She rolled her eyes and looked at me. “You drop dead; how many times have I told you don’t drink from the bottle? Use a glass. “

“I put that in the refrigerator myself… Mom, how long have you breastfed Tahere?… How many times? “

“Many… many times.”

“Well, how many?”

“For a month, my cousin was sick… I went to her home and nurse her and breastfeed her baby.”

“Did she eat food too?”

“I assume they gave her infant formula.”

“Are you sure that your breastfeeding has happened in an effective way?”

She stopped crushing and looked at me. “What do you mean, an effective way?”

“If the baby is being breastfed by another woman, or they give her or his food, it makes your milk uninfluential.”

My mom looked away, “By the way,” she muttered. “Sometimes a neighbor woman came over and breastfed her.”

I smiled. “There you go… plus, you said she drank infant formula, too. “

“Now, what is all this about? What do you want to get at?” demanded my mother.

She stood up and walked into the kitchen to unload things she’d crushed into a small tin.

I walked up and stood next to her, drew the bottle out of my mouth, and, gulping a mouthful, said, “From the jurisprudence point of view, the conditions for kinship differ… Today I went and asked. He said that you must ensure that the baby has been breastfed fifteen times without interruption, which means that there must be no food or other woman’s milk in between these times.”

My mom picked up the tray of rice, placed it on her lap as she sat, and said, “I don’t know, son. I breastfed that girl for a month. She is like a daughter to me, though her mother…”

And she fell silent and went on monitoring the rice to make sure it was clear of any grit-like substances. I stared at my mother’s chubby cheeks, then brought the mouth of the bottle to my mouth, took another swig, and said, “If Tahere and I are not brother and sister…”

“Well.”

“We could even get married.”

“Don’t go there, my son; it’s sinful.”

I looked down again at my mother’s hand, checking the rice so that she made sure it was clear and clean. “Now, what’s up? Who’s told you these things? Souveida?”

“About what you two are in a pique again?”

“Go away and mind your own business… Come on… Don’t you want to go to the shop and help Hassan?”

“Mom…”

“Yes?”

“I love Tahere so much…”

My mother at once held her hand above my mouth and said, “quiet… stop it… Come on… Get the hell out of here, or I’ll beat you to death.”

“Why?”

She slapped me in the face. “God **** you, why are you such an ill-omened kid? Aren’t you going to stop these embarrassing hook-ups? … Look, boy… I can’t bear it, for god’s sake, if you start this new case, I’ll cut you away from me… You won’t be my child anymore.”

My mother’s finger was pointing at me in a threatening way, and her eyes had grown large. My mom thinks my being ill-omened caused my marriage to fall apart, I thought to myself. I felt ill-omened. I had the feeling of someone who wanted to marry his sister.

I went to my room and imagined myself married to Tahere. I imagined something like Tahere’s dream, having a kid with Tahere, pretty, healthy. Ah, Tahere.

Why should love stories be so complicated for me all the time? I thought to myself. Could I make it clear to anyone that we could get married? What, by the way, is Tahere’s opinion?

In the following days, I noticed a change in my mother and sister’s demeanor; they looked at me as if I were a pervert.

Whenever I passed by my sister, she drew her shirt down unconsciously and adjusted it. Whenever I entered the home, if they were in the middle of a conversation, they went quiet and gazed at me the way they would stare at a stranger popping into their home. To them, as if I could do anything bizarre. Those days I kept carrying around the feeling of a pervert. In the end, I told myself, “Ignore them; when I see Tahere, everything will change; she’ll give me a feeling of purity.”

Tahere’s mother hit the button on the door phone, and I walked up the stairs. She opened the door a fraction, framing just her body. At once, I noticed she was looking at me like my mother and sister. We greeted each other. I looked past her through the house. “Tahere is home?” I asked.

“Nope,” she replied swiftly.

“Where is she?”

“She’s gone to Mashhad to meet her father.”

Didn’t you come here, so that she doesn’t go to her father’s? I thought to myself as I repeated her sentence under my breath.

“Why didn’t she answer her phone?” I asked again.

“I don’t know,” she replied, her gaze fixed on me.

I took this behavior to heart. “Goodbye,” I expressed coldly and walked down the stairs.

“Next week is her engagement,” she called out when I was on the landing.

“Well, congratulations,” I said and shrugged.

If everyone wanted to be indifferent to me, I would be indifferent to all; I could be indifferent to the whole world. I walked down the stairs.

Two days passed this way, message after message, call after call, but she wasn’t accessible. I walked up to my mom. “Mom, did you say something to Tahere’s mom?” I said.

“About what?”

“I don’t know… She acted so weird the other day.”

Leaning over the bar counter of the kitchen, having the remote in hand, she flicked through TV channels. “Who the hell are those people you make a fuss over?” She spat, peering at me. “Didn’t I tell you they are worthless people? You think I couldn’t have struck up a friendship with them in these last fifteen years? I didn’t find them worthy. You humiliate me when you go there. Because these are…” She lowered her voice.” Her mother in Shiraz was the kind of woman who opens her arms for all kinds of men. Men were gossiping about her a lot in their crowds.”

“Who?”

“Suveida’s mother… These people, my son, are people who set tongues wagging for anyone who hangs around with them. This uncle of yours, uncle Jabbar; she spread a lot of dirty rumors about him when she was young. She had driven him crazy, the same as she did to a dozen of other people, too…”

“Oh-huh… Mom… Did you say anything to Suveida or not? “

“What, for instance?”

“Whatever.”

My mother reverted to her fighting mood and, with her defying voice, declared, “Yes. I told her to collect her daughter from my boy’s life. What were these things she taught him? That we are not siblings? I suckled her with my own breast. Is it appropriate to say these things to your brother?… It won’t surprise me though, considering the tribe she comes from.”

“What’s it to that poor girl?” I shouted.

My mom thrust the remote into my mouth. Releasing a long yell, I tossed the remote away, and it smashed after hitting the wall. Until that moment, no one had released such a yell in our home. I walked to the wall, picked up the clock, and flung it toward the kitchen; my mom dodged. The clock collided with the wall nearby her and exploded into pieces. My sister ran and reached my mom and hugged her.

I burst out of the home, leaving my mom and sister to stare behind me with bulging eyes. They were facing a new part of me. Maybe my mother remembered my father’s youth; in those days, she very often swept the pieces of glass, sniffing.

When I was walking down the stairs, I felt I was no longer attached to my mother and sister.

                                                                            ****

It was midnight. Sitting on a stool, I scrutinized the sky and its large round moon. There was a mug of tea and a thermos next to me. The moon appeared vapory and vibrant as the smoke of the cigarette between my fingers bellowed before my eyes.

A poem was being recited in my mind; Oh, moon, of the smoke rising from the chest, of the sigh leaves the liver, there’s a gauze of sorrow diffusing you.

Again, I looked at the shimmering cigarette, then at the moon. Now, my having Tahere is like my reaching for that moon, I thought, even though just a few days ago, I could even lay her down in a vast cuddle and sail her through peaceful dreams within my arms. “Fell in love the poor swan with the moon/ you praying hands/ free it/ let it fly.”

I thought if I wanted to lose something, it’s enough to fall in love with it; my ill-omened love would push it away from my reach at once. Even if I fell in love with this moon, it wouldn’t bathe the Earth with its light anymore. Again love, like an incessant, ominous nightmare, was back to my nights.

In front of Tahere’s image, standing before me in a long spangled purple dress, looking at me innocently, I promised it would be the last love of my life.

“Don’t thee know what’s love’s business with us?/ does it assume my pain its gain?/ who knows the language of this ominous owl singing overnight, falling not asleep all till dawn/ like the fever of the lover/ the lover’s night is the owl night, and the owl night is ominous/and… **** off… I can’t stand your nonsense ”

Last time when I held my mom, taking her out of Elnaz’s home, my heart trembled. After that, too, my heart trembled whenever I heard footsteps on the stairs, and I felt it was Elnaz, whenever I heard someone calling a girl, “Elnaz.” whenever…

When I recalled my classmate too, my body shivered. But this time, whenever I remembered Tahere and her love, and even when the thought of not having her hit my mind, I felt I had no fear. I felt no fear, sadness, or agony, as if I had been vacated. As if love was a villain who, brandishing a bloody dagger, stood staring at me in the distance as I sat on the stool, utterly carless and fearless.

There was a chime from my cell phone; I drew it out of my pocket and looked down. “Hi, Shahin, what’s up?”

The message was from an unknown number.”You?/Monire/where are you Monire? I sent a lot of messages to you/ sorry. My mother had seized my cell phone/why?…”

A few moments without answer. “I’ve missed you/me too. I wish you were in Tehran/I’m in Tehran /your mother said you were in Mashhad/No, I was not. Shahin, what has happened? What are our moms talking about? /about what?/ nothing, skip it. What about you? What’s up? How are you doing? /so, you’ve been hiding from me all along, huh? /No, I was busy /that day I came to your home, your mother did not welcome me. Why has all the world gone mad at once?/ you pardon her, she probably was about to leave for something urgent/ Tahere, I need to see you/ no way, it’s night now/ when it’s night, the moon appears.”

A few moments passed without an answer. Then, “Ok,” it piped.

She was clip-clopping her shoes against the asphalt toward me from a distance, her expression seeming grumpy and upset, her eyes cast down. When she approached me, Tahere raised her head again, stretched out her hand, and shook my hand just with her fingertips. We didn’t kiss each other as we usually did. We only said a few words of greeting.

“Shahin… Why don’t you come in.”

“You’re getting married?”

“My mom said that suitor who was coming for a year… she said we’d better not hold him up anymore. Good boy, has a shop…”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Her gaze traced something in the dark behind me, and she gave me no answer.

“Do you love him more than me?”

“What do you mean?”

I pulled her hand and pressed her against my body, “Do you love him more or love me more?”

Her face crumpled. “You.”

“Would you say yes if I proposed to you?”

“Shahin, you and I… can’t get married.”

“If we could… if they had not given us the same milk?”

“Shahin, that’s a sin, let go of me…”

She extricated herself and stepped away from me. “So, my mom was right.” Then she barked, her temper rising, “Why would you go and say those things about me to Aunt Radna? Huh? I treated you like my brother, I never tried to seduce you, I never wanted anything perverted to happen between us, Did I?”

She held her hand near her eyes and started crying. I got close to her. “I didn’t say these things,” I said.

She punched me in the chest.” **** off.”

And I stood watching her cry. Every now and then, someone would pass and give a bad eye to the two of us standing at the top of a dark alley. I got closer. “I didn’t say anything bad about you; these are all our moms’ conspiracies.” I said, then next to her ear, I whispered, “Don’t you know me? Huh?… do you believe I’d be like this? “

She raised her head, her honeyed eyes moist and crimson. “So, what about my mom saying you said things about marrying me? That’s a sin. “

She said.”Yes.” I barked with absolute certainty, “because you are not my sister, got it?”

She stopped crying and gazed at me, surprised, her nose red and her eyes wet. “What do you mean? Who said so?” she asked.

“Look… these are a bunch of stupid women who think they can ban all over the world from love with their milk-full breasts. Look, kinship conditions don’t exist in any breastfeeding, got it?… look… can you walk with me a little? Let’s go somewhere and be seated for a short while… huh? “

“My mom doesn’t know I slipped out… She thinks I’m in my room, asleep.”

We sat on a bench on the sidewalk along the street, with a street light glowing above us. It was late; there were not many people passing by. Tahere was quiet and thinking after I had explained the subject. “Shahin,” she mumbled. “Now, what’s happening?…. I had this little happiness for having the slightest kinship with you, but now, you took away even this from me.”

I slid off the bench and kneeled before her knees. “No… we must not let anything separate  us from each other. We need to take action against it. We’ll do everything to be together forever, all right? You don’t worry about anything… I’ll set everything up… You just postpone the engagement; I’ll bring moms around.”

I again sat back next to her, took her hands, and put them on my lap. “Just tell me… are you ready to spend the rest of your life with me? Like you saw in your dream? A dream that was true. “

She was quiet, looking down at the ground.

“Are you ready?” I asked again.

“I swear to god Shahin, even now, I think I’m dreaming… All of a sudden, everything became such a mess that…”

“I’m so sorry about it; I messed up your life too. So just promise to postpone your engagement party.”

*****

Haj Agha mumbled, “Yallah,” and entered the home; I followed after him. Haj Agha sat on the ground, gathered the hem of his cloak under his legs, then greeted the four women in front of him briefly. Initially, Haj Agha explained all of the conditions necessary for this type of breastfeeding; then, he asked my mother if all the conditions required were taken into account for hers.

“Yes.” My mom said. And she said that, although she did not know the conditions, her breastfeeding had happened exactly the way Haj Agha had explained. Then she answered all of his questions with confidence; Souveida confirmed her, too.

Haj Agha turned to face me. “According to the testimony of these two ladies, it seems that there is a kinship between you two.”

I walked Haj agha to the door and went back into the room. “Mom… how cruel you are. How can you lie so easily?”

“Assuming you two aren’t Mahram, what’s your point?”

I fell silent, the four of them staring at me; a while passed. “Well, let us know, pure and simple, what do you want to make out of it?” said my mom.

“I’ll get straight to the point… I want Tahere.”

“What do you mean, I want Monirh?”

“I mean, I want to marry her.”

“With the best will in the world, you can’t marry her, or it’ll be over my dead body,” Souveida said.

“You want to marry your sister?” said my mom, then jumped to her feet and sprinted off toward the kitchen. I saw her body stoop, straighten, and with a club in hand, sprang toward me. She raised the club, Tahere shrieked, my sister hurried to catch her hand. She struck the club forcefully against my arm. I made no reaction. My mom again struck my arm; I just glared at her with my large, terrifying eyes. My mom had held her eyes on me too, obviously surprised and rather aghast. All four women seemed somewhat dumbfounded. Tahere came and clung to me. Her hand stroking my arm, she put her head on my shoulder and dissolved into tears with a stifled voice, rubbing her eyes against my chest. My mom’s eyes were locked on me.

Tahere’s mother came to her side, took her arms. “Tahere, honey… Come on, dear… We’re guests tonight… Don’t cry sweetheart, come on, let’s go.”

And she separated her from me, frog-marching her to the door leading to the yard. She was still sniffing.

My mother walked after them, and my sister approached me. “You OK?… it hurt?” Stroking my arm, she asked through pursed lips.

I drew her hand away and turned my head toward those three moving to the door.

“Why don’t you stay for dinner, dear, Suveida?” my mother said, then her eyes flickered toward me. Souveida flicked a glance at me too.

“No, my sister, we oughtta be going. Salim and his family have come from Europe; my sister has invited us to her home…” she said, seeming distracted, looking at me.

Tahere wheeled around, passed between the two women, and walked up to me. She took my hand, and with the trembling voice of a pampered little girl, talked to me, “Shahin… Shahin… will you come to me again? Won’t you?… will you come with me when I’m going to buy my wedding dress? Won’t you?”

I nodded gently.

“Shahin…” she sniffed. “Look… look what I made for you.” She took a small doll that resembled Famil—e—Door from her purse and held it out to me; I took it. She ran a hand under her eye, her lips pursed. Then went on with her trembling, rather childish voice “It took me a whole day to sit tight and finish it for you… So that you come to me again… I thought you liked Famil—e—Door, you do, don’t you?”

“Indeed, I do.”

“will you come to see me again?”

“Yes, I will.”

I was tempted to pull her to me and hug her, but those three were inspecting our movements. As I had just patted her hand the first day, this time, too, I just stroked her hand. Her mother walked up to us and pulled her, and keeping her eyes on me, walked her away from me.

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