Soil

They took Somayeh last night; lifeless and heavy above the hands of male strangers. Is there any difference between your death and the death of your twin sister? For 63 years, you have opened your eyes on each other every morning. She has always stood by you. As if a part of your body is torn apart. These are what you cry out to those coming to visit you. You lay your head on their shoulders and shed tears. Maybe, you would feel ashamed to make such noises, but, well, people are people. If you don’t cry enough, they would be like, “See? She was jealous of her twin sister for sure. Now, she is happy to inherit all the family’s property.” Even that spinster, Mahboubeh, who feels she is a philosopher every now and then, once told you that human being tends to be unique. One doesn’t enjoy seeing his dual on earth. Totally unique!

When you’re 63, death does not seem so far. When grandpa died, it was over for you. You felt like it’s the end of the world. Thoroughly astonished, you used to stare at sunshine every morning, which lightened the whole world with passion every time. As if the most beloved one of yours never existed. You’d become speechless: no more exists? Where is he then? When Mother died, you didn’t think of where she went. To her parents, most probably. Of course you cried. “She eased finally”, you thought cruelly, “an end to her parallel boring days”. Death was crawling down the generations of your family one after another, and was reaching your generation. Wordless and smooth. It took friends and colleagues, spouses, cousins, and now, your twin sister.

As kids, you promised one another to arrange every life event together, exactly alike. Your wedding dates, your bride dresses with all the details and even the underwear, your jobs, your children’s gender and age, and finally your deaths. You wrote it on a piece of paper and signed the bottom with a drain of blood from tip of your small fingers. You buried it under the persimmon tree, for which you shared a great love. But nothing went as planned, not even one. Her death is the last promise broken, you think. Back then; merely thinking about Somayeh’s death would make you cry. You would find a corner to cry your heart out. Later, you both confessed. Somayeh used to cry for your death in the same place; behind the curtains of living room. At that time, thinking about death was sharper and more hurting than how facing it feels now. In fact, everything used to be brighter and more vivid back then. When Somayeh cried, her tears transparency caught your eyes. Everything is colorless and synthetic now; like you and Somayeh, no, you are the only oldie here. Like you; colorless, dried up with dark and opaque tears.

There would come times when you feel a huge hollowness. The empty place of the one who has lived every single moment of your life by you. One with the same age, same height, and same face, a three dimensional picture mirrored in front of you, but… You shouldn’t say. Even thinking about this is a sin. But…, sometimes you feel a strange sense of relief. After all these years, today is the first day where there is no one like you in the world. The new sense of uniqueness. You can only find your image in the mirror, nowhere else. You smile at the mirror.

You were only 10 minutes older than Somayeh, but because of those 10 minutes, you played the role of older sister for 63 years. Close relatives used to comment that you did look older. People are like this, they tend to compare and contrast every two things in the same perspective. So did they to you and Somayeh. The most identical twins on earth! They murmured that you are more beautiful, clever, or stylish. You even looked taller, they’d say. They thought they were making you happy. But it was a torture. You were the same height. You’d measured it for tens of times. You didn’t want her to get offended by such words. When being admired, you used to deny. Or change the topic. You kept yourself deprived of the joy of people’s admiration for whole your life. Not that you didn’t enjoy but the joy was a sinful one… with Somayeh, who used to be somewhere around. You were keeping close eyes on the neighbor’s wife, on aunt or her husband and you could see how Somayeh crushed inside and outside, as if she wanted to melt down.

You gaze at the large wreaths of white flowers and you can hardly believe they are for Somayeh. Last day, suddenly a large number of people rushed there to your house and laid Somayeh on the ground, wrapped her in her thick etched blanket; crocked etched coffin with (Allah Akbar) was gone on the shoulders of people in black.

Her bedspread was like that of yours. You bought it together from Isfahan.  It was green, full of red and brown patterns with the golden threads. Quickly, they wrapped her in the pattern which she used to love. As if they wrapped you in that.

You have become a phantom and were watching your funeral rituals.

She said it was as we have been discriminated from the very beginning, my name is Somayeh and yours is Soudabeh. Listen to their resonance. Everyone likes your name more. It sounds more stylish, and melodious. You used to ask what difference they had. You are called Somi, and I Soudi. The only difference is an M changing to D. She laughed and gave you a hug. It was full of joy. You enjoyed her laughing. You couldn’t put an end to the wishes of a fifteen-year-old girl, sky was their limit, reckless and unrestrained, but yours had a limit, being like Somayeh.

After receiving your diploma, both have participated in college entrance exam. You both have decided to become a teacher. You were accepted, but not Somayeh. You hugged her, promised that she would be accepted the following year. You studied college lessons alongside the entrance lessons with Somayeh. She was accepted too. It was as if you have been accepted anew.

One year after acceptance in college, you celebrated another acceptance in college. One year after your graduation, you celebrated another graduation. With Somayeh.

Everyone liked you both to be in every party. You sang the song with your song booklets and Somayeh came with her joke booklet. The more polite jokes in parties where there were young ladies and the blue jokes for the school female teacher parties. Her face skin glittered and she blushed. She burst into laughter and put her face into the sofa cushion used to put on her legs to cover her belly. Even if you didn’t find the joke funny, you would surely be laughing at her joyful laughter out loud. With each smile of her, the colorful bubbles would be floating in the air, one after another. That was how her laughter sounded. The round and colorful bubbles would come out of her throat and fill the room, touched the face of people and tickled them. Everyone laughed with Somayeh and you started singing. The bubbles would get a pinch of your voice and spread everywhere in the room.

You’d never be able to see the bubbles again. Never would it be possible for you to sing like those days.

Upon finishing your studies, your mother forced you to marry. As if you were the older one. Somayeh had another year to go. You said it was too soon. Amirhossein was one of your mother’s distant relatives. With the agreement of your mothers, he came to pick you up from school a couple of times. He had a warm voice and spoke excitedly, as opposed to your serenity. Your father had passed away and your life was in need of such warmth and excitement. You felt like betraying Somayeh who was completely unaware of those dates. At each intersection, by opening the door of each café, your heart would have filled with anxiety. After one date or two, Amirhossein’s look also changed. More stunning and penetrating. You’d got butterflies in your stomach with his every glance, it was like pulling thin threads out from the palm of your hands. For continuous years, you just contemplated over those looks and the feelings you have had. On Tuesdays, when you came out of school, you could feel your heart beat faster. Both felt embarrassed. He used to open and close his fist as if his fingers have gone numb. Like he wanted to hold your hand.

But he never did.

The youth think everything was obsolete those days, dusty and worn-out. Like the black and white movies. Or at most like the American movies of the 70s with the yellow and brown filters on all the colors. With a thin layer of gloomy dust. Like Golnar song. They think no one have fallen in love, no one have got a trembling heart, no one had coffee and ice cream quite often, just to spend a couple of more moments together. You tell them how vivid everything was. Lively and colorful. You tell them about the cinemas you used to go together. About the Western movies you used to watch for tens of times. About the love you had for Clark Gable and how precise you memorized the details of Sophia Lauren’s dress and make up, so that you can imitate later. They enjoy hearing your memories. They tell you how different you are from the ordinary mothers. Not even close to old women. What you are picturing for them, seems like today. Not of mother’s worlds. Full of the daughters who were polite to the elders, and always asked for permission for going out. Those who didn’t even give a glance at young gentlemen, never shouted, and never stretched their legs before their parents.

They say that is why I have never married. There were no kids to pick on them.

Once you have been to a restaurant. You ate dinner at 6 p.m. because you had promised to return home before sunset. You were eager to experience dining with him. Somayeh also would arrive home at 7 and you wanted to get home sooner than her. Amirhossein was nervous. To you, his hair and eyelashes have been curved more than usual and his eyes were dim. You have been thinking of this scene for ages, maybe your fantasy broke through this memory. Maybe he didn’t look that desperate. Maybe the weather wasn’t like that: The air surrounding you so thin that renders breathing hard, and that surrounding him so thick and dense, seemed like he was brandishing his hands and legs in a colorless tar. You annoyed him, he didn’t look directly to your eyes as usual, his head was inclined, and he wanted to break up for good. Surprised, you asked how come. You have told before. You said Somayeh and I had promised each other. Wait so Somayeh could finish her studies and get to know someone and get into a serious relationship, with Amirhossein’s younger brother, for instance.

You might not remember the rest clearly. The image of Amirhossein who made his way through the invisible tar and stood upright. No, maybe he had taken his last mouthful of kebab, wrapped carefully with the last leaves of basil in between of bread. You were both watchful for your tears, which were almost about to fall, right there in the middle of the restaurant, and that silly smile coming to your face after noticing the angry face of the bread morsel in his hand.

Stingy are all their relatives, mother explained later.

This is only now that you dare to say such things. The half kebab sandwich. Somayeh’s fat belly. Never mentioned those, not even in the most private jokes of yours, you never told her she was fatter. Even a bit.

You should be going to the cemetery. To the new sections. The arid land filled with evenly shaped holes, which are smaller than the height of an average person. People would grow shorter after death, probably. Nothing would happen if their legs would be bent a bit. At least there would be enough room for others as well.

If you could get a sight on this land from above, most probably it would look like a huge khaki grate. You haven’t gone to participate in ablution ritual. You simply can’t endure watching washing your naked body, being moved from one side to the other like a piece of lamb in hands of a butcher. They show you the grate hole in which Somayeh is buried. The grave next to her ought to be bought, before it is occupied. Many people had come sooner than you. Everyone’s waiting for your arrival to reach out and sympathize, they are waiting to embrace you in turn and cry in your arms.

You cut off your oversentimental speech short. Make your mourning smoother. Amirhossein is standing over there. After all these years. This is where the old relatives ask about one another. Over the graves.

Somayeh is being brought. Wrapped in white sheets. They place her in the very narrow and cramped hole of her. Does she feel comfortable in there? One or two people throw themselves on the soil and start to moan loudly. You must be doing these right now. But you are not capable.

You move away from the grave. A strong wind stars blowing. Someone is reading the Quran. The low sound of weeping. Women are pulling their scarves and veils down to their eyes. White tissues go back and forth within the black veils. A hand touches your index finger. You fix your gaze at the shoes next to you. A pair of dusty manly shoes. You don’t need to raise your head up. You already know. Amirhossein is he. You press his hand. It is broad and rough. You feel the wrinkles. The warmth of his hand and all the feelings which are running through the entire body of yours from your left hand. “So, this is how it feels”, you wonder to yourself. This is it. The feeling of holding hands of a man.

Using a shovel, someone’s covering the grave with soil. The wind sends the lighter sands to the sky, rendering it hard for you to breathe. Your eyes are irritated. You wipe the dust off your mouth with your hand.

What difference it makes, you wonder. No one gives a damn. You are resting here under the ground beneath the pouring soil. Somayeh is standing right over there; filled with shame and bewilderment, she is holding Amirhossein’s hand tight. No one could ever tell. Even Amirhossein himself wouldn’t have a clue; the hand he is holding is that of Somayeh’s.