The Rock Garden

The dirty little boy with a shaved head submerged both hands under the water, caught a gold fish and swallowed it whole. I saw the fish struggle before he lowered his hand to his mouth, holding his face up to the sun. I didn’t react. He was trying to be cool for a city girl. I was 7 or 8 and a tomboy, always acting like things don’t surprise me. I have no idea what city it was in, this “bAgheh sangi” we were visiting--apparently the creation of a madman. It must have been down south somewhere cause it was hot and humid--nothing green.

Rocks hung from wood structures--all sizes--small rocks, large rocks. They were planted into the sand--these rock trees. Rock leaves everywhere. Heavy like a burden of guilt. Heavy like a madman’s mind--or a genius. Other people were with us but I’m not sure who they were. Was it my dad’s friend whom I had peed on once as a child? Was it the guy who looked perverted?

(In Tehran, I once caught a father stroking his grown daughter’s thigh as she slept in his arms late at night at a party. Others were present too but didn’t see it or didn’t want to see it. Or maybe it was normal.)

The shadows were long--our shadows mixed with the shadows of the rock trees. It was hot and my shoes were open-toed. The sweat pushed my feet forward and my toes extended passed the front edges of the shoes. That was always the case. I had large feet for an Iranian girl and I was always made fun of. Not by strangers--by family members. Especially mom and dad. They said my feet were the size of a baby’s coffin--“ghabreh bacheh.”

When I grew older and the decisions weren't entirely my mom's, I stopped wearing open-toed shoes. For years. Many years. But they say that with age you become more comfortable with yourself. So eventually I started wearing open-toed sandals. But always with nail polish because my mom thought it was ugly without. Comes to think of it, it wasn’t because I was comfortable with myself. It was because I met a guy whom I liked and he thought sandals were sexy.

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