Photograph via Flickr by kamshots

Bijan woke to the voice of the muezzin calling people to prayers, fell asleep, and woke again to his mother’s quiet voice in the living room. So often he heard her in his dreams. But this was real. He was in Tehran, in his mother’s house, with her just a room away. It had taken so many years and so much searching to track down his mother whom he had not seen since he was eight years old.

He pushed off the multicolored patchwork quilt and got out of bed. Out of the window he could see the Alburz Mountains surrounding Tehran and the fruit trees in the courtyard. On the mantle stood a photograph of his mother holding him. He must have been about six or seven years old, not long before his parents were divorced. She was looking at him with an expression of longing as if anticipating that she might be losing him. And then, his father, taking advantage of unfair family laws and corruption in the legal profession, had gained full control of him. He’d made sure Bijan never spent time with his mother and soon he moved his mosquito repellent business to Tabriz, far away from Tehran.

When Bijan was fourteen years old, his father sent him to boarding school in America, because he and his stepmother did not get along. Bijan knew that his mother remarried, but he had no knowledge of her new last name, nor her whereabouts. Finally, just months before his current visit to Iran, the mother of an Iranian friend he met in Palo Alto led him to his own mother.

He dressed and went into the living room. His mother took him into her arms and kissed him, and they exchanged the words they had exchanged so many times already the last several hours, over and over.

“Bijan, I’ve been so deprived of you.”

“Mother, it’s a miracle that I’m with you.”

She served them breakfast—tea, sangak bread, cheese, fruit. Ahmad, her husband, had left early for his work and would not return until the evening. Bijan was happy to have this time alone with her. He had arrived past midnight from Palo Alto and they had not have that much time to catch up before exhaustion took over and they went to bed.

“You’ve grown up, all on your own, apart from me,” she said as they began to eat.

“Oh, Mother, you were always in my heart.”

“I had a period of happiness with your father when you were born,” she said. “Our mutual love for you brought us close.” She sighed. “But that didn’t last.”

As Bijan listened to the details of his mother’s feelings of loss the whole time, her efforts to get him back, her hopes that she would one day be united with him, he thought how similar his own state of mind had been.

From a dark recess a scene came forward in Bijan’s mind. Her mother had bruises on her arms and one on the side of her face from which she bled. Mommy, you’re bleeding. What followed was wiped out from his memory.

“I never believed that your father would be able to totally cut me off from you,” she said, bringing him back to the present.

As Bijan listened to the details of his mother’s feelings of loss the whole time, her efforts to get him back, her hopes that she would one day be united with him, he thought how similar his own state of mind had been.

Bijan spoke of how fragmented his existence had become because of being cut off from her, how eventually he began to see his father for who he really was, selfish, volatile, cruel. “Do you still dream of acting?” he asked.

“That desire was beaten out of me. I teach at an elementary school. Ahmad has a carpet shop. He goes to villages and buys them and resells them. We’re different. But he’s kind to me.”

Bijan’s mind kept drifting to the past: when he was in first grade, before his father took him to Tabriz, during one recess, his mother approached him in the school’s courtyard. She picked him up and held him in her arms. He had stiffened. His father had told him many times, Your mother may one day come to your school. Do not ever talk to her or go anywhere with her. She’s a bad woman. Do you understand? Bijan had struggled to break away from her. She had put him down and started to cry. He just walked away from her, though he could feel pain in his heart. His father was not a big man; he was thin and short. Still he gave the impression of being very strong; he frightened and silenced him, forced him into obedience.

Once when he was visiting from boarding school his father took him to Tehran for two days to attend to some business matters. On a walk together, his father pointed to a photo of an actress on a cinema billboard and said, Your mother wanted to be an actress…a whore. They entered Laleh Zar, once a red-light district and then dismantled by the new regime, though a few brothels remained, operating illegally. Bijan was shaken by the atmosphere of the place. It was lined by peeling, grim buildings and houses. Women in garish clothes and heavy make-up lurked in doorways or hung their heads out of windows. A few of them beckoned to him and his father. In one spot a group of men had gathered around a woman who was lying on the ground, her body jumping up and down with spasms, her eyes sunken. An epileptic fit, his father said. From a venereal disease, the destiny of prostitutes. I saved your mother from that destiny. His father seemed very complicated, menacing. On that visit his father often came home long after midnight, drunk, and told his new wife Mamideh that she was no longer attractive, that he was better off with a whore than with her. This was said behind the shut doors of their bedroom but Bijan could hear them.

“Bijan, my dear, you’re quiet,” his mother said now.

“I’m sorry, mother. I was just thinking of my father. I haven’t told him I’m visiting you. I don’t want to see him.”

“Do what’s best for you.”

After they finished breakfast, his mother had to go to her school, which would be in session until the end of June. He decided to go out and explore the city that he had not seen for years. It was unusually cool for June in Tehran and he could walk comfortably everywhere. Soon he was enveloped in the hectic, contradictory energy of the city, with cars, motor scooters, and bicycles racing by in an unruly way, with people pushing and shoving, in arguments on nearly every street corner. East and West mingled everywhere. Women going against the rule of hijab, and wearing their scarves halfway over their heads, walked side by side with others covered up thoroughly in chadors. Stores carried merchandise illegally imported from Western countries alongside traditional Iranian goods. Western music, though banned, still flowed out of some shops, intermingling with the melodic traditional Persian music that poured out of other shops. It was amazing how people kept up their spirits in spite of the years of tragedy: revolution, war, government oppression, and economic turmoil.

A few teenagers in blue jeans were standing under the shade of a tree and singing in a jesting tone, “We have no Lycra! We have no cola! Death to Amrika!”

After walking for a while he took a taxi to his old neighborhood where he had lived with his parents before they separated. He still remembered the name of the street, Martyr Abad, and the fact that it was near a park. At the park’s entrance, a magician, an old graying man, was closing his hands over a bird and then opening them to reveal it was no longer there. Instead, it chirped in a box several feet away from him. Children gathered around him and hurled exclamations of amazement.

As he walked along the street, he remembered a childhood friend, Noushin. The two of them had played together freely on the streets—she was not yet nine years old, so she did not have to cover up and could play with a boy. He wondered if Noushin still lived on this street. Her family’s house had been adjacent to his. Both houses had wooden doors and lion-head knockers. He found the houses and stood on the sidewalk across from them, hoping someone would come out and he could ask about Noushin. He could hear voices from the inside but no one came out. Should I knock on one of the doors? But then what would I say?

He left the street and did more exploring, stopping in some art galleries. Then he bought a deli meat sandwich and a yogurt soda sitting on a bench in a little park. A few teenagers in blue jeans were standing under the shade of a tree and singing in a jesting tone, “We have no Lycra! We have no cola! Death to Amrika!”

When he returned his mother was back too.

They sat on a rug she spread by the pool in the courtyard and talked. Fish tumbling in the water and sparrows chirping in the trees mingled with their voices.

“Remember Noushin Partovi? I used to play with her when we were children. Do you have any idea where she is, what she’s doing?”

“Noushin. Yes, she’s married, has two children. They don’t live in Tehran anymore… Do you have a girlfriend in America?”

“Yes. Her name is Jill. She’s a designer for a fabric company.” He felt himself blushing. He forced himself to go on, “The truth is she’s incomprehensible to me in some ways.”

His mother was listening intently, seeming eager to hear more, but sounds of footsteps in the hallway interrupted them.

Ahmad came in, holding a loaf of bread and a net shopping bag with yogurt and fruit in it. He put it down on the kitchen counter that extended into the living room. In a few moments, they sat around the dining table to eat. His mother put food on everyone’ plates. The air became filled with the scents of pomegranate-dressed chicken stew and saffron rice.

Ahmad began addressing Bijan more, as if getting used to his presence. “Even people in the bazaar now wish we would reconcile with America. The sanctions against us are hurting.”

“I wish a dialogue between the countries were possible,” Bijan said. He had lived in America and Iran each for fourteen years, half and half.

Ahmad’s face became thoughtful and then a smile came into it. “But we shouldn’t talk about sad things. Talat and I have been counting the days until your visit.” He turned to Bijan’s mother and put his hand on hers. “It’s wonderful to have Bijan with us, isn’t it Talat joon?”

“It’s like a dream,” his mother said.

After dinner, they watched a program on TV about Joseph, revered in Islam along with Jesus, as a prophet. Then they withdrew into their bedrooms. Bijan fell asleep only after he was able to shed the recollection of his childhood anxiety when his mother went into the bedroom with his father.

A few days later Bijan stood by a crowd, protesting the arrest of an outspoken professor at Tehran University. Spontaneously he combined his voice with them, shouting, “Free Mehdi Arjomanadi.” The Revolutionary Guards were not in sight yet. He noticed a young woman wearing a colorful scarf, only covering her hair halfway. His heartbeat accelerated—her large hazel eyes and curly brown hair reminded him of Noushin. He turned to the woman and asked, while aware of the absurdity of it, “I’m sorry to bother you, but is your name Noushin?”

The woman smiled. “No, Farideh.”

He introduced himself and added, “I’m visiting from America. I had a childhood friend, Noushin. Interesting coincidence, she had a sister, Farideh. Her last name is Partovi.”

The crowd began to disperse, everyone running away frantically. Bijan did the same and soon lost sight of Farideh.

Farideh smiled. “No, I don’t have any sisters and my last name is Kargari.”

Sirens sounded and then Revolutionary Guards holding water hoses and rifles appeared on the scene. The crowd began to disperse, everyone running away frantically. Bijan did the same and soon lost sight of Farideh.

When he returned home he told his mother about Farideh resembling Noushin. “I wish I could get to know her.”

“I’ll try to track her down for you. There aren’t that many Kargaris in Tehran. But you know if you meet her, it means you’re committing yourself to marriage.”

“She didn’t seem very traditional.”

“Still it’s a risk for her. And her family, no matter how open-minded, will want to protect her and their name.”

Bijan sank into himself, thinking how in the hotel in Istanbul, where he had stopped overnight on the way to Tehran, a wedding was taking place in the suite next to his room. On the way downstairs to the lobby, he had paused and looked inside the suite. The bride and the groom stood in the middle of the room, looking into each other’s eyes with loving expressions. He had felt wistful for a real relationship. It struck him, as it had been with frequency, that there was something missing between him and Jill, a real intimacy. She seemed to view him as a foreigner with some cues to his character missing, as he felt about her.

“If I talk to her, get to know her even a little, I could consider a serious relationship.”

“I guess you and Jill are breaking up,” his mother said in a quiet voice, as if talking to herself.

“We were on and off. I think she sees other men too. We aren’t that open with each other; that’s one of our problems, lack of intimacy.”

“I’ll do my best to find Farideh.”

It was amazing to Bijan, but his mother tracked down Farideh’s family in a week. She said she had asked all her friends and one of them knew a couple by that last name who had only one daughter and her name was Farideh. She found their phone number from information. She said that was amazing too, as information was very inefficient. “Everything is lined up to make it easy,” she said, in an upbeat manner.

She arranged with them that she and Bijan would go to their house and they would talk. She put on a headscarf, a rupush, and he his blue-and-beige striped shirt and beige pants. He parted his hair in the middle, which he thought was flattering. In the mirror, he could see the strong resemblance between himself and his mother. He had her oval face, large brown eyes, and high cheekbones. They were both thin. He liked the resemblance; it made him feel like an extension of her.

On the way they stopped at a florist and bought a bouquet of aster flowers to take over. It was like when he was a child and she took him places. His heart beat wildly with happiness.

They soon arrived to a house with a latticed wooden door, in the middle of a cobble-stoned street with the water gurgling in the narrow gutter between the sidewalk and the road, running along it. She knocked and a woman opened the door, with an expectant smile.

“This is my son, Bijan,” his mother said. “And this, Bijan, is Tooran, khanoom.”

“Come in, come in,” Tooran said.

They followed her through a courtyard with four flowerbeds and a pool, to the living room.

Farideh, now wearing her headscarf fully to cover all her hair and a darker rupush, was waiting.

She had an innocent air, and yet was bold in the way she looked into his eyes, with an expression that said she had a wild spirit, in spite of her circumscribed life.

Bijan’s mother gave the flowers to Tooran. Tooran and Farideh left and came back in a moment with Farideh carrying the flowers in a vase, her mother a tray with tea, pastries, and fruit on it. Farideh put the vase on a mantle and Tooran arranged the food on the table and they all sat on chairs around it, Farideh next to Bijan and the mothers across from them. As the mothers talked, mainly about friends in common, he and Farideh engaged each other in a conversation, first a little hesitantly and then opening up.

“Do you like living in America?” she asked him.

“Yes, except for missing home.”

“I want to talk my father into sending me to graduate school there. I’ve been working at the airport since I graduated from college a year ago and I know English. I have a travel thirst; that’s why I took that job.” She smiled. Her smile was dreamy, like his mother’s years ago when she talked about her wish to become an actress.

At one point the two mothers got up, went into the courtyard, sitting on a rug spread by the pool, leaving Bijan and Farideh alone in the room. Tooran had shut the door. Farideh took off her headscarf and rupush. Her hair, thick and wavy, the same color as her eyes, tumbled over her shoulders. She was wearing a yellow blouse and a brown skirt, flattering on her. Her figure was full and soft—like a Botticelli painting, he thought. She had an innocent air, and yet was bold in the way she looked into his eyes, with an expression that said she had a wild spirit, in spite of her circumscribed life. There was an enchanting scent of rose water about her.

He yearned to pull her to him and kiss her but he restrained himself. No matter how wild her spirit, she might take offense.

“You must have had many girlfriends. America is so free,” she said. He contemplated America is so free. Was that an invitation to a kiss or warding off a kiss? Farideh was as hard for him to read as was Jill, but in a more alluring way, making her all more attractive.

“Yes, but nothing has lasted,” he said.

They heard footsteps; their mothers came back into the room and they all lingered there, suddenly all of them quiet, the mothers, Bijan and Farideh, trying to keep what occurred to themselves. Bijan and his mother left.

Outside, his mother said, “Tooran doesn’t feel it’s right for you to see Farideh alone again, unless you get engaged. She herself wouldn’t mind it but her husband is very strict.”

He was quiet, thinking how strange to commit to someone he just met. Yet he felt a yearning for her already.

That night in bed he tossed and turned. If I propose to Farideh, I will need to stay on in Iran much longer than a month to arrange things for marriage and getting a visa for her to take her to America as my wife. But then what is the urgency in going back? He could take time off from driving his taxi for a while. In spite of the fact that he had a tendency to squander money on impromptu trips—plus his taste for the expensive: designer clothes, fancy restaurants—he had saved some money. Maybe if he were married he would change his profession again if a job became available. After he had gotten a degree in petroleum engineering, he had a hard time finding a job. As his friend Hassan said, “All good jobs go to WASPs around here. Even Jews and Hispanics have a hard time. But Iranians are at the bottom. They have to be desperate to hire us.” After a year of working at some engineering-related jobs, Bijan, Hassan, and two other Iranian friends, all also with degrees in one field or another, had started a taxi company together. Times were tough and instead of hiring drivers, they drove themselves taxis. But driving a taxi didn’t make him immune to prejudice. Some passengers asked him disturbing questions such as,Do you know how far Iran is from making a nuclear bomb? or Why do you call yourself Persian?

He fell asleep without reaching a resolution.

In the morning, Farideh’s mother called and talked to his mother.

“They liked you,” his mother told him, “as I expected.”

A little later Farideh called and his mother handed the phone over to him. “I’m not supposed to be calling you,” Farideh said to him.

“I’m so glad you did.”

“I’m not used to calling like this, but my mother told me I could this time. She liked you.”

“This all makes me happy.”

The rest of the conversation was brief and disjointed but he was moved that she had called him.

As the day wore on, he craved to see her again. He was losing his hesitation about proposing to her.

Farideh’s father, Ali, invited Bijan to a kebab restaurant. The restaurant, in the center of Tehran, was lively and crowded, mainly with families. Posters of historic gardens and palaces hung on walls. The two of them sat in a corner and talked, with Ali asking Bijan many questions.

Music came on from a radio. Golpar, a female singer, sang a song Bijan remembered from a long time ago: Oh my dear, we have to make up for lost time! We have only one life! Let us make up for lost time! Days rush by and before we know it is the end!

They were surprised that a man who had lived in America for years was not wealthy.

After lunch, Ali patted Bijan on the back and said, “You’re a nice man. I think you’ll treat my daughter well. We have to let the mothers cement out the details.”

When Bijan returned home he sat with his mother in the living room and they talked about the details of the engagement and wedding. They agreed that Bijan would guarantee a forty-thousand-dollar mehrieh, money that the groom would agree to pay the bride in case he divorced her. In turn Farideh’s father, the wealthy owner of a chain of hardware stores, would buy them an apartment in Tehran as the dowry; they could live in it any time they visited from the United States. His mother had made them agree that Bijan would pay the mehrieh in installments, as he did not have that much money yet. They were surprised that a man who had lived in America for years was not wealthy. There would be an engagement party at a garden that his mother and Farideh’s mother had agreed on, and his mother would be taking on that expense. “I’m proud to do that,” she told Bijan who wanted to pay for it. They would get legally engaged while they were preparing for the wedding and that was when Bijan would give the first payment, amounting to $5,000.

As Bijan was going through the steps Jill kept coming to his mind. He wondered if he should call her and break up with her formally. But that would be so hurtful to her, long distance. Wouldn’t it be even worse to marry Farideh without even having a discussion with Jill? He kept changing his mind in favor of one direction or the other. Caught in a paralyzing state of indecision, he did nothing.

Soon after all the details between his and Farideh’s family were settled, they had an engagement ceremony in Farideh’s parents’s house, which was the custom.

After the mullah left, her parents allowed Bijan to be alone with her but only for a short time. Her father had whispered to him, “I know you’ve lived in America for many years, but you must be aware of how conservative our society is. We’ll be disgraced if we give her too much freedom.”

Bijan had nodded, not having any desire to argue with Ali, a man he felt distant from, as he did from his own father.

As soon as he and his mother returned home the phone rang.

His mother picked it up, and uttered few confused questions. Then she turned to him and said, “It’s for you. It’s from America.”

Just her voice reminded him again of his problems in the U.S.

It must be Jill, he thought, the only person to whom he had given his mother’s phone number. “I got your postcard. Why are you staying there so long?” she asked.

“It’s hard to explain on the phone.”

The insincerity must have registered in his voice. “Is something wrong?” she asked.

“No. I’m just disoriented.”

After exchanging a few more awkward sentences they hung up. Just her voice reminded him again of his problems in the U.S. Still, in spite of that, hearing Jill’s voice had thrown him into a state of panic about marrying Farideh, a girl he barely knew.

That night again he had a hard time sleeping. He woke a few times with his heart beating rapidly. He would have to get out of marrying Farideh. He rose from the bed and went to the window. The mountains were clearly visible. A breeze was blowing, making the tree leaves rustle. After a while he calmed down enough to go back to sleep. But as soon as he woke in the morning the doubts were back again.

When alone with his mother, after Ahmad left, he said, “I’m sorry but I can’t go through with it. I’m not ready for marriage, to anyone.”

“Bijan, you’re already engaged, legally.”

“I know.”

“Do you want to think about it?”

“No. I’ve thought about it enough.”

“Then I have to let the family know immediately, if you’re sure.”

He nodded.

“I’ll go there in person to tell them,” his mother said, looking distressed, but trying to sound calm, he could tell. He hated putting her through this, but his own sense of panic was so strong, it made it hard for him to offer at least some kind of solace, or a better explanation to her. He was miserable to be disappointing his mother and hurting Farideh but he could not bring himself now to go along with the marriage that had seemed so desirable just the day before.

When his mother returned she told him, “Farideh wasn’t there herself, so I spoke to her mother. Farideh will have other suitors, she’s very desirable. You know that you’ll lose the $5,000.”

“I guess that’s a price I have to pay for my indecisiveness. But I must talk to Farideh, I can’t just break off like this.” Farideh had told him, It’s always better if I call you. My father might answer. He asked his mother to call first and then he would speak to Farideh.

“Salaam,” Farideh said to him in a friendly tone.

“I’m so sorry,” he said. “But my life is so unsettled.”

Farideh immediately understood the meaning of this call. “Don’t worry. You’re used to the American way of life. I don’t hold anything against you.”

Bijan could strongly sense that Farideh was covering up her disappointment and hurt feelings. “I’ll miss you,” he said, to console her but meaning it too. Throughout the day he was struck with a barrage of emotions—a sense of loss, guilt, relief.

That evening Ahmad seemed upset as they sat down in the courtyard to have dinner.

“Ali came to see me at my shop,” he said, addressing Bijan. “He was furious. He said the least you could do is to give Farideh the mehrieh.”

“Do I really have to,” he mumbled, thinking that’s the least I could do, after what I put Farideh and her family through. “I’ll send them the money when I return to the U.S,” he said. He knew his father would bail him out of this if he told him what had happened—if only to win him back. But he had not even told his father he was in Iran. For a long time now they had been alienated. Neither Ahmad nor his mother had much savings.

“Ali threatened to go to court and demand that you be put on the blacklist, so that you can’t leave Iran until you’ve paid the mehrieh. He’s going to say you lived in America and now you came and tainted his daughter’s name. You know we don’t have an American embassy here to help you.”

They all sank into silence. Goldfish tumbling in the pool and a stray cat mewing on the street filled the silence. Wisps of clouds raced across the sky, passing over the full moon.

“The worst that can happen is they’ll return you to Iran,” Abdollah had said.

“Are you sure you don’t want to marry Farideh?” Ali asked.

“I’m sorry. I’m just not ready for marriage.”

“I want my son to be happy,” his mother said.

Suddenly Ahmad came up with a solution. “There are ways of escaping Iran. It’s fairly common in fact to leave illegally. I can arrange that for you. You have to pay someone who makes all the arrangements but it isn’t $40,000. I can help you out with that. You can pay me back later.”

Bijan, complying with the idea of escape, took the plane from Tehran to Kish, a free port on the Persian Gulf. He paced the wharf as he waited for Abdollah, the man who would help him with the process. Abdollah would take him to the other side of the Gulf and hand him over to another man who would take him across the Dubai border into a city there. He would easily return to America from Dubai. “The worst that can happen is they’ll return you to Iran,” Abdollah had said. Of course Abdollah would try to minimize the risk. He had a lot to gain: $6,000, a great deal when transferred into toomans. He had already received a quarter of that and the rest would be given to him when Bijan was safely across the border.

Then his heart gave a painful beat, thinking of the tearful parting he had with his mother. How disappointing this all must be to her. She had not said anything to make him feel guilty but that was probably because years of separation made her idealize him, accept anything he did. Or maybe she was afraid she would push him away; lose him, if she criticized him in any way. He had felt so close to her and now he was leaving her in this terrible way.

He wondered if he should turn around and go back, but he was caught in a terrible state of indecisiveness. He looked at his watch again. He had taken an early plane from Tehran, to make sure he would not be late but now Abdollah was late. He sat on a bench facing the Gulf. Before him was endless motion in the water: waves bubbling up and receding and all sorts of boats going by—freighters, oil tankers, and passenger ships.

Another fifteen minutes passed but there was no sign of Abdollah. Restlessly he got up and began to walk. He passed clusters of palms, redolent with dates and coconuts and then a rose garden, as he entered the main square. It was hectic with people swarming around carts and shops. His uncertainty about escaping the marriage was increasing. It wasn’t just his mother now he was worried about. It was Farideh too. Did he really want to hurt the lovely Farideh? Abandoning Jill, who had had all sorts of affairs, who even now, he was sure, occasionally dated other men, would not hurt her as much as breaking up with Farideh.

A therapist had told him, You’re indecisive because of what you went through as a child, losing your mother. Yes, he was weak, indecisive and irresponsible. The therapist had added, Your father made you feel you were abandoned by your mother. That belief that she abandoned you has made you insecure, afraid to commit. She was right. He often tried to cover up that insecurity by acting arrogant and even callous.

He had looked in the abyss inside himself and was frightened of the primitive forces that lurked there. He could not allow them to live inside him. It would destroy him.

After his parents were divorced, for days he had thought his mother was hiding in a room in the new house his father had moved him into. He woke in the middle of the night sometimes and went from room to room looking for her, turning on the lights. Gradually a dark hole, a vacuum, opened inside him, which became filled with his father’s condemning words about her. She doesn’t love you, his father said over and over again.

As he walked in the crowded square, he could not separate his thoughts about his mother from those about Farideh. He was harming the vulnerable girl as his father had wronged his mother.

A moment later, he thought this wasn’t a moral choice. It is a matter of what I am beginning to sort out in my heart. The spark of attraction he felt for Farideh could grow into a steady flame, he was sure now. And the union had the extra benefit of pleasing his mother and bringing him closer to her.

He had looked in the abyss inside himself and was frightened of the primitive forces that lurked there. He could not allow them to live inside him. It would destroy him. He had to go back.

As he circled towards the bank he saw a tall, bearded man approaching the bench, where he had agreed to meet Abdollah. He quickly turned around and went in a different direction from him.

In Palo Alto, his American friends would never understand why he married in this hurried way. They would view him as a man from another planet.

Nahid Rachlin

Nahid Rachlin attended Columbia University’s MFA program on a Doubleday-Columbia Fellowship and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. She has published four novels, including Foreigner, Persian Girls: A Memoir, and a short story collection, Veils. Her stories have appeared in about fifty magazines. One was produced by Symphony Space’s Selected Shorts and was aired on NPR radio stations around the country. She has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and PEN Syndicated Fiction and Bennett Cerf awards. Her website is

3 Comments on “Bijan

  1. This is a compelling story, and I was immediately absorbed. I felt all Bijan’s indecisiveness with him, all his pain, all his desire to be home with his mother and his changed culture. Beautiful. A good window in on the current Iran.

  2. In both Bijan and in the rest of Nahid Rachlin’s writings, I like how she explores the Persian tradition of arranged marriages, themes of mother/child separation and reuniting through the lens of Iran’s culture. I was extremely moved by this story.

  3. Beautiful story! Bijan gained insight into his own heart. I loved the resolution. Bijan and Farideh are similar in that they respect their culture but want to live in a wider world.

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