As we approached the security-guard filled nook nestled in the middle of the mile-long driveway to my dad's parents' home, the driver stopped. I took advantage of the guard's order to the driver to stop the car for a security check, and jumped out.
The guard had to do this to all visitors before permitting entrance to the compound. I began to run up the driveway towards the main gate of the house to look for the tree that bared so many memories for me. My cousins and I had made the carvings on the Sequoia tree. It has always been my Mamani's, my paternal grandmother, favorite tree.
It sits on the outside front left corner of the main entrance. It can also offer shade for the delivery people during the hot days. The Sequoia tree was adjacent to an uber-trendy door buzzer, next to a high-tech speaker-system with a camera that I couldn't have missed.
Papa-joon has always been very up to speed with technology. He is proficient in emailing, downloading, and even uploading. I've heard through the years that he was the first to buy a TV on their block as my mom and her siblings were growing up. He's clearly a gadget-obsessed boy deep down.
Their fascination with technology is nothing new, I suppose. My grandfather more so than my grandmother that is. Though, ever since my father passed, Papa-joon has become more obsessive about his toys. Maybe it helps distract him from his loss. Keeping busy helped me through a lot of it, I know that much.
I finally reached the tree. At first glance I found the markings I was looking for. I was standing there mesmerized by the tree when the driver pulled up.
'Rob!' I shouted, but he seemed to be passed out in the front passenger seat of the car.
He must have been experiencing some major jet-lag. He was sitting in the front seat because we were taking a very large vase as a gift for my grandparents. The vase took most of the backseat space, including mine. I brought my finger up to my mouth and made the universal hand signal for 'be quiet' to the driver. You know, the pointed index finger over the nose gesture.
I reached into the car with my free hand through the driver side window and just as I was reaching out to honk the horn, to wake Rob up when... 'BUZZ!!!'
The big metal gate doors started to open. Someone from inside had buzzed us in as if timed specifically to the detriment of my would-be prank.
'What?' Said Rob. 'What's going on?' I figured he was saying by reading his lips through the noise of the opening gate and car.
I gave him an upward nod through the noise. He immediately recognized that the motion meant for him to get out of the car and head towards me and the tree that I was now pointing to.
'Can you believe it's still here?' I said almost feeling the sparkle in my own eyes from enthusiasm. 'Look, it's all here. Everything that Roya and I had carved out is still here. I'm really proud of my grandparents for letting this gigantic tree in its wounded aesthetic hang out around these formal grounds. Lover, are you listening to me? What are you looking at on that side? Did you find the crazy-looking smiley faces with the bullets drawn on their foreheads? Lover?'
As I tried to say his name or nickname again, no sound would come out of my mouth. His sometimes green eyes were filled with tears.
'Lover,' he said back sympathetically and softly in his sexy masculine voice as he grabbed my face in his strong hale hands. 'I'm so glad to be here with you and be able to see and feel your past. I can't believe this is your father's hand writing. This is the closest I've physically felt to him, other than the intangibles you've shared. Now I believe that I've been apart of your experiences and memories, but as an invisible man,' he said as he moved his well-groomed hands from my face down to my shoulders and wrapped me tight in his bulging arms and began to kiss me softly. His eyes were closed. His kiss was palpitation-inducing and inviolable. I was barely able to talk or laugh off the tears since my tears had already begun their stream down south. However, the fact that I was crying was great, because Dr. Adler said that I needed to cry it out to be able to fully deal with the loss of my father. Then unanticipatedly, I felt his teardrop on my right breast as it dripped from his cheek. Lucky tear to have made it that far, past all the Hejab garb I was wearing. I quickly tried to wipe the droplet off, and realized that I hadn't buttoned my Manteau all the way - leaving the top two buttons open. Oops.
'You know the 'moral police' will come and take us to their prison-like police station, then give us a good whipping and make us get married, if the security-guard notifies them of our public displays of affection?' I attempted to say as I pulled away.
'But we are married already,' said Rob with an informing smirk.
'I know, well maybe they'll make us do it again and we won't be able to serve liquor at the ceremony, and we both know how much you would hate that' I said sarcastically. We both shared a laugh.
He turned me around and held me from behind. He held me in a way that allowed both of us to put our hands on the now infamous tree, where my initials were still visible above my dad's.
Right in the heart of the tree is where my dad had helped me carve out my initials next to his own, when I was five.
We stood there to feel the moment as a smooth breeze came, swept through my hair, and got trapped in my headscarf. Damn headscarves don't even give the wind a break. While the breeze that got into my sleeves traveled quite well through my body sending me to a shaky two second long chill. I think my dad was there, in spirit, to greet me.
'Nazy! Is dat you honey?' My grandmother shrieked as she stood atop the crown stair of their Alborz mountain-top monstrosity's open atrium in the cutest broken English accent ever.
'Yes, hi Mamani it's us. We'll be right there, can you please send someone to help us with our stuff?' I said looking at Rob take in the view.
'Sure assalam,' my grandmother said.
Rob quickly turned to me with a raised eyebrow, indicative of a question, and mouthed 'assalam?'
'Verbatim? It's Persian for 'my honey'.'
'I thought assalaam-o-alaikom meant hello?', asked Rob, whispering this time.
'No, Mister Ig Norante. That's Arabic, not Persian. Plus they're completely different words. One is a greeting and the other is a term of endearment,' I said with a smile and gave him a quick peck to redeem my brash remark.
'Nazy and Rob peleeze come inside, my favorite new couple. I have a esspecial soorprise for you. Der's somebody here vaiting inside to see you two,' Mamani said as she pulled out this huge remote control with at least two-thousand, well maybe only forty, buttons on it.
She punched a couple of keys and a few seconds later Kian, the eldest son of my paternal grandparents' live-in family of help showed up. Kian also happened to be my playmate whenever I visited my grandparents' Tehran home-base as a child. We were only a few months a part, with Kian being the elder. We grew apart though once I left Iran for the US as a second-grader.
'Kian!' I said both excitedly and hesitantly. I hadn't seen him in years because the last time I was in Iran, he was off fulfilling his mandatory military obligations. As he walked towards us our eyes met and I realized it really was him. 'Kian,' I said again this time with more certainty. 'This is Robert my husband, you can call him... '
'Rob, you can call me Rob. Nice to meet you', Rob interrupted me as he stepped over in front of me and gave the boy a very firm handshake.
'Very nice to meet you Sir, and Madame it's nice to see you as well,' he said sounding British.
'Wow, your English has improved Kian. I guess it has been a long time since we saw one another last,' I said initiating the steps towards the atrium.
'Yes, it has been a bloody long, I mean, pardon me, a very long time Madame indeed,' he said again confirming my suspicion with his usage of British terminology on top of the accent as he signaled to me with his eyes asking where our 'stuff' might be.
I answered by looking at the back seat of the car whilst giving him another handy upwards nod, all of which meant: right there, in the backseat of the car.
'So, were you doing your obligatory time in the UK? Or did Papa-joon pull some strings for you to be able to go abroad or something?' I asked trying not to sound too nosey or interested.
'Actually, Madame I have the bullocks-filled tapes of famed British-Iranian Satellite TV-personality Zal Milani. He's taught me every bloody English word I know,' he said with almost too much zeal.
'His program is very helpful. You know he even teaches curse words in English too,' Kian blabbed as he started piling the overnight bags and vase onto his dolly.
'Really?' I said trying to seem intrigued by such a great find on his part.
'Spot on. Madame, he also teaches words that girls like to hear on dates.' Kian said while he was pulling out the big box with the vase in it from the back seat.
Rob watched on.
'Well, he is certainly a national asset for the Persian community worldwide, that's for sure,' I said trying not to sound too noticeably cynical, as Rob and I took our final steps on the ultra-wide stairway.
'Naznaz! I can't believe you're here!' My cousin Roya screamed, as she was running down yet another marble hallway toward us. Iran is abundant with stones of all kinds, especially marble. So it is not uncommon for homes to be plastered with marble. Roya's lustrous and satiny-black was pulled back in a neat pony-tail was swaying from side-to-side as she bounced en route. Her arms wide open. I was wrapped in them before I knew it.
She was squeezing the hell out of me. She was kissing my cheeks with sisterly passion. I didn't mind though, I've always been a sucker for attention like that. Also, since she's one of my favorite cousins on my father's side, I was more than happy to hug and squeeze her right back.
Roya has always been someone I looked up to. She's beautiful, smart, and super friendly. She can get along with anybody, whereas I can barely get along with myself at times.
'What are you doing here? I thought you were in Rome taking classes at GIA, did you finish your jewelry design class?' I said excitedly.
'I'm on holiday love!' she replied back even more excitedly.
'Hi Rob! It's so nice to see you again. Wow, you're looking even more bloody handsome than the last time I saw you two! She's a lucky girl this one,' she said, moving onto Rob for some more hugs and kisses, in her British accent.
Maybe that's why I think she's smart, because she speaks with a British accent. Note to self: talk to therapist about Roya's British accent and its effects on my standards for judging IQs.
Before she even got a chance to stop hugging and kissing Rob twice on the cheeks, she came back to attack my cheeks again. She's always loved my cheeks. She doesn't care who may be around, or where we might be. As far as I can remember, Roya has been doing this to me since I was four and she was eight.
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