Weird Wednesday’s Black Oranges

By Freshta Azimi

You put your hand in your left pocket and find nothing to buy oranges with, and it makes you crumple every day. You’re always thinking about oranges and everything related to oranges and the orange that you picked from inside the cooler that your mother put on top of the cupboard where Yalda’s and Lida’s hands couldn’t reach. You almost fell from happiness feeling it round in your hand and the chair tipped over, like what fell from that building in Mashhad where your father works and the bones that broke in him when it landed. Not to worry, family. I’ll be fine, he writes. His bones will mend and he can work again. But what did you do? You didn’t tell your mother. You would have given this orange to your father, oranges are healing, but there was unemployment in Afghanistan and he had emigrated to Iran, to Mashhad, to work and send back money so that you could study. Your age is two digits, old enough to understand your father isn’t on holiday. No one hires smugglers for a holiday! So what did you do? You gave that orange with books to Tamim to read. Is that a kind of ingratitude for the sufferings of the father? With Tamim at the orange open-head tricyle near the public library of Herat you see Professor Afsanah Vahidyar a few steps away and you both blush and go the other direction, deciding to make up for your absence in English class by working harder every night. After buying two kilos of oranges with your own money for strength and stamina you manage and soon you can face Professor Vahidyar with a confident smile. You’re never more happy than when attending class with all your work done. At the next meeting the students will read out loud what they’ve written. That day was busier than any other Wednesday. Ms. Niksir, Ms. Rajaei, Mr. Monir, the lovable Hazara guys of Gabriel, and many other poets, writers, and university professors you didn’t even know, were there. Your teacher, Mr. Qadri, who praised you when he saw that you couldn’t not fall in love with poetry, smiled from across the table and looked at you admiringly, like those smiles and compliments that he gave to Atefeh whenever she read and you were jealous in your heart, even though you loved Atefeh. Now you received his smile that looks like chocolate in the hot sun under the tent of the sixth class ”B,” between that terrible smell that was a combination of the plastic on your head with the UNICEF mark and the forty kinds of sweat and perfume of your teacher, by Adele Jan, the same as another teacher many years before who’d given you an award and after class was over you were so excited that you forgot to mark the check-out book in the office and threw yourself into the arms of your father, waiting outside as the teachers and girls from the sixth to the twelfth grades left school to return to their homes. You proudly showed your father the prize and your report card that shone with a hundred high marks and he kissed you and took you for half-the-day without thinking about work and together you ate ice cream with an indescribable passion in the Four Seasons Ice Cream shop, which had not yet built a wall between the men and women, between fathers and their daughters, between all those who were in love, and as he did every year, your father promised you that next year you will be top of your class. He will buy you a used laptop. You enjoyed his dreams and in your head tried to arrange the scores and goals to get you there, writing them out in beautiful handwriting in your notebook, planning the steps you would take to reach the top, brick by brick. He had raised your ambition, your hopes, and your expectation. He loved your imagination. And you had taken a selfie in your father’s arms next to the Eiffel-Tower-in-your-mind as you described to him the day when he would touch the black stone in the Kaaba next to your mother and her mother so that he was excited and you were fucking excited. In the end, your father made you promise to hide your happiness until the time when he got his contract money and the whole family could eat ice cream, so that Yalda and Lida can complain that they want Shirikh while Farhanaz gets upset and says that dad loves Freshta more. You answer your father with the pride that you’ve been told to hide, and that shows itself in the sparkle of your eyes, that the cost of the ice cream is on you next time. He hugs you. Again your father puts your head against his chest and you know that he is praying that your hard work will pay off one day. And you said Amen from the bottom of your heart. You knew that every time the kindness of your father’s breath crawls into your hair, he is praying. Then, staring at you with his face younger than ever, he held out his hand and said: “I accept! And if that’s the case, I’ll bring you here every month and I won’t charge you any rent.” You laughed as he laughed and you put your hand in his hand and said, “Accept!”

3 July, 2023