Fiction

Fereshteh Molavi

2 Comments

 YOU GOT CONFUSED, BABY

Yes, you’re still within me, baby, a comfort like you’ve always been, since the very moment when you were just a single cell as lonely as I am now. You believe me, don’t you? Let the rest of the world not believe that I have nobody either on the Earth or on Mars. “Ma’am, you missed the part about your companion,” said the receptionist, chewing gum with her mouth wide open. Returning the form to me, she kept on chewing with a squishy sound. I explained I was an alien in US. “Where are you from?” she asked, shifting to a sucking sound. Having said I’d come from Toronto, I paused for a second to await the next question a black-haired immigrant would expect to hear. “But where are you from?” she asked so tenaciously that I forgot my conventional anger. “From hell,” I said with a calm snigger. She bewilderedly gave up, began chewing rhythmically with a slapping sound, and droned in a metallic voice, “Sorry, I cannot make you an appointment, unless you have somebody to accompany you.”

I look around the waiting room to check if everybody has a buddy. In the alcove a young blonde, newly married, I bet, is sitting like any very pregnant woman exhausted by her heavy load. She has two attendants: an elegant middle-aged woman, still in good shape, with radish cheeks and perpetual smiling look; and a very young freckled guy with short amber hair in a well-tailored navy blue suit, who looks as uneasy as any soon-to-be first-time dad. In the right corner, close to a counter with coffee, it’s the realm of a woman in her late 30’s, with arms crossed on her bulged belly, head leaned back against the wall, and eyes half opened to fugitive dreams, half closed to present surroundings. Shiny brown in her turquoise sari, she spreads her charms, like a mother goddess, over her territory populated by three pre-schoolers circling her feet on the floor, chirping and chatting nonstop. Can they take care of their mom? Or, will their dad be here after work? On my left side I see another mom with her little girl, hanging around restlessly, not knowing how to entertain herself. The woman is flipping through a tabloid unenthusiastically. With her purse in her lap, I cannot measure the size of her tummy. I can see, though, they are Hispanic. A few seats away, in the corner, a young dark-skinned woman, curled up in a wide leather armchair with her folded knees besieged by her crossed arms, looks around with big brown eyes full of fear and confusion. She’s also not alone. She came in with a leggy guy. He’s probably gone out to smoke, for his tight jeans pocket bulged with cigarettes and lighter. Or, maybe he’s gone to the lobby to buy a coke from the vending machine. Sooner or later he’ll be back, and regardless of what the young woman feels or thinks, he’ll be her companion.

When the nurse explained that the operation would not be done if I couldn’t find anybody to be with me, I was caressing my belly to assure you that I have no bad feelings for you. Believe it or not, I’m telling you the truth, baby. It’s true, though, that the first moment the doctor told me about you, I panicked — exactly like the other time, when I was as young as the two young women in this room and as horrified as the dark-skinned one now staring at me with her frightened look. This time, after the first shock, there were tides of sorrow, pity, disappointment, and the like, coming and going, pushing, pulling, depressing, oppressing. Then there came a time of emptiness, when I was nothing but a void. This brought along a surrendering, not unpleasant at all. No, I was never angry at you. How could I be mad at you who’ve been within me such a long time, so quiet, so hidden, so deep! The other time, I have to say, the wave of shock became a flood of anger, and nothing else.

Well, it was neither the right time, nor the right place — the same nightmare my mom and dad had experienced, this time cloaked in a molla’s guise. Then, I was not scared about what was going to happen to us. But he panicked the instant he heard the result of the test. He was too embroiled in his political activities — doomed to come to an end soon after the horrible mass slaughter of opposition groups — to wish to be the father of a baby who might be born or grow up in a jail or in hiding. No, I was not afraid of what was happening around me. It could only make me furious, and it did. The external disaster was not the only target of my fury, though. I was angry at myself for not being careful enough to prevent pregnancy. Down there, in the gynecologist’s dim waiting room, I felt frantic, while avoiding his terrified look.

 The leggy guy is now back; he’s leaning his sagging right shoulder against the corner, as if he tends to keep his distance from the young dark-skinned woman. He’s in a slightly curved posture, twisting away from her, like a young tree submitting to an invisible pressure. He looks sad, though, rather than angry. The woman is still as motionless as a bronze statue, except that her big eyes full of fear and confusion move around gently. She seems to be uninterested, if not disinterested, in his presence. Or, maybe, she’s just drowned deep down in her concealed world, where there is no space for the other.

“But we need others,” said the nurse, briefly, in response to my long boast that “I take the responsibility. I can take care of myself, without bothering others. All these years, I’ve managed to live a lonely life. How come you cannot see this rhino right in front of you? …” All in vain! I gave up — just because you’re growing inside me blindly and brutally. The first person that came to my mind was my American landlady, the only one around me with free time. Safe and sound in her eighties, she does whatever she likes, including driving, which always results in a minor collision. But she could not be expected to take care of me as a companion in the hospital. Instead, I talked to my housemates, Franca and Shalini. They both offered their assistance. None of them, though, can be here at the time I’m going to be taken to the operation room; they will be here, some hours later, to take care of me. Shalini doesn’t drive; yet, she insisted on coming with Franca when she would be back from her work at Hartford and Franca had returned from visiting her son in New York. The arrangement was eventually, though reluctantly, accepted by the hospital. It was the nurse who smilingly said, “Well, what can we do with you in such a bizarre situation!”

I didn’t tell her that there is nothing bizarre under the sun. She’s a ‘right’ creature undeserving of a headache caused by the ‘absurd’ thoughts and words of ‘wrong’ animals like me or the one who first uttered this eternal truth. Definitely, you have no idea about eternity. Neither do I, baby. I do know, however, the meaning of ‘wrong’ and ‘right’. Not that I’m a learned animal. No, simply as a very humble creature, I’ve lived an absolutely ‘wrong’ life. You don’t understand what I mean, baby, do you? I couldn’t understand, either. I mean what my dad said the day I went to the hospital to see my mom after a horrible night, the first one I had spent without her at home.

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2 Comments

Susan N. August 16, 2016 at 1:54 pm

The story, “You got confused, baby”, could be explored from different aspects. For instance, from the narrative point of view or from the aspect of the labyrinth technique in storytelling or even examining the title of the story, because it is a rich story.
However, the intertextuality has played an important role in giving a philosophical view to the story. In the story there are couple of times that the author states “… there is nothing bizarre under the sun”, and at the end she finishes her story with “After all, you are all my labour and toil here under the sun”.
These statements led me to check in the book of Ecclesiastes, verse 2:26, titled “The futility of all endeavour” from the Oxford Study of the Bible which discusses the idea that it is impossible to understand and interpret God and divine ways, as humans we can only aspire to reach a higher station in life yet life offers no distinctions we are all prisoners of our fate, and there is no distinction rich or poor , fool or wise, wrong or right at death, no matter what we have achieved under the sun (on earth).
However the narrator (protagonist) of the story tries to understand, interpret life under the sun, and explain the mystery of life to her baby. Feeling peace and confidence, she begins her story by saying “you’re still within me, baby, a comfort like you’ve always been…”. She doesn’t care what the wrong or right time, place, guy, creature is, who human or animal is, what the fool or wise means; she has lived her life and earned all her labour and toil on earth, although her foetus is not even a completed baby. She has created her own life. She has “no idea about the eternity” but as a “humble creature” she interprets life and its morals through the story.
P.S. I loved the word play that was made by “wrong” and “right”!

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Taghi Abdolhosseini April 11, 2017 at 10:38 am

I came across this accidentally. As I started, I couldn’t stop till I finished it! Very interesting. However, I have to read it again!

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