Perhaps, I have already told you that some years ago I used to work in a small factory located in the south of Tehran. It was close to a large oil refinery plant, and a large cemetery, too. My home was uptown, in a wealthy neighborhood. Unfortunately, the neighborhood of that small factory and refinery and cemetery, so called south-town was poor. The streets were not very different to those of the north-town, but the lifestyle was.
I used to call a taxi for commuting to my workplace every day. You know I am not very fond of driving especially for such long distances. I called an agency close to my home every morning to take me to my workplace and, at the end of day, I called another agency close to that factory to take me back. Uber or Snap and such virtual agencies were not established in those days. A whole year long, I repeatedly made this trip, and experienced a recurring pain, every day.
You know, I am a terrible speaker, because I used to talk to drivers all the time during those travels.
A few drivers worked in each agency, so each day of the week one of those drivers came with his own car. But sometimes it so happened that a new driver only came for that trip and did not come back. I presume he moved to another place or had been hired somewhere else and hopefully not struck with illness or other misfortune.
Did I say pain? Yes, everyday pain, you know, I am a terrible speaker. What we talked about during each trip was different depending on the driver and the direction. The drivers of each direction had some differences in their ages, habits and so on. Most of the drivers from the north-town agency were middle aged, retired men. As such, their conversations’ focuses were normally illnesses like backpain, knee pain and/or inflation and how to manage their income. The drivers from the south-town agency were almost the opposite—mostly very young men, many of them jobless, hopeful to become educated, wealthy, and sometimes suffering from a breakup because of unstable income and social position. Those who never reappeared to drive me home, likely faced such struggles or misfortunes. Did I say some drivers just came for one trip and disappeared after that? Yes, it happened.
One incident surely stuck with me. One afternoon, in a hot and long summer day, a very young man came with his car to drive me home. He was a new driver, well dressed, shaven, with neatly combed hair. Well, you know such boring days when sunrays scorch that godforsaken oil refinery alongside the cemetery. I don’t remember how our conversation started. Though it was clearly not a two-sided conversation he was probably talking to himself most of the time; and didn’t so much need an audience to believe him, he just needed me to help him aspire to more.
He recounted how he finally had found his mother, who was living in Denmark. At one of the Internet Cafés established around the city in those days, he had been sending some emails to someone he presumed was his mother. Never having seen his mother —he had been raised by his father in early childhood, then later by his uncle or aunt. (It was hard for me in this heat to keep track.). He seemed deeply sad, but he was pretending to be happy because he had access to the internet and was self-assured and educated enough to send and receive emails. He talked about moving to Denmark as if it were next door. Although I am a terrible speaker, I was mute, totally mute at that point and unable to join in the conversation.
Do you remember when we spotted a butterfly and tried to catch it, we had to hold our breath and avoid making any noise, worried about losing the butterfly? Then the butterfly was scared and flew away as always. Conflicted with my inner thought and feelings at that moment, I was afraid of saying the wrong thing and ruining his dreams.
We left the oil refinery close to that cemetery behind, and up to having almost reached my place, he was talking about how he was sure about the future and his mother in Denmark. Suddenly, his car rattled, slowed down, and eventually stopped in the street. Those godforsaken cars. I’m not even sure how they were able to get around the city in those cars. Left with no better choice, we jumped out of the car and together pushed it to the curb. He had to call a mechanic. He was going to call another taxi for the rest of my trip. I paid him and, after a warm thank you, I declined and said I’d like to walk the rest of the way. Although we were still a bit far from my home, it was possible to walk. After a few steps I turned, I don’t know why, but I turned, then saw that he was walking desperately around his car, looking downward. My last memory of him is him kicking his car tire angrily.
- Do you remember those butterflies you had pinned them on a cardboard and said we should not touch them. One day I tried to catch one of them with two fingers, like when we were trying to catch them in the garden. Although I held my breath and moved my fingers very carefully. I caught that the wing of butterfly had been changed to a little powder that stained my fingers only.
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Mansour Noorbakhsh writes and translates poems in both English and Farsi, his first language. He tries to be a voice for freedom, human rights and environment in his writings. He believes a dialog between people around the world is an essential need for developing a peaceful world, and poetry helps this dialog echoes the human rights. Currently he is featuring The Contemporary Canadian Poets in a weekly Persian radio program https://persianradio.net/. The poet’s bio and poems are translated into Farsi and read to the Persian-Canadian audiences. Both English (by the poets) and Farsi (by him) readings are on air. This is a project of his to build bridges between the Persian-Canadian communities by way of introducing them to contemporary Canadian poets. His book about the life and work of Sohrab Sepehri entitled, “Be Soragh e Man Agar Miaeed” (trans. “If you come to visit me”) is published in 1997 in Iran. And his English book length poem; “In Search of Shared Wishes” is published in 2017 in Canada. His English poems are published in “WordCity monthly” and “Infinite Passages” (anthology 2020 by The Ontario Poetry Society). He is a member of The Ontario Poetry Society and he is an Electrical Engineer, P.Eng. He lives with his wife, his daughter and his son in Toronto, Canada.
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