It was around eight.Vahhab entered the corridor. He had been resting on Rahila's bed since the sunrise. He had smelled the perfumes of Kashmir and had been rummaging in white dresses.
Inadvertently he took a dress which was silk, above the bust had been embroidered as pale as the white moon. He recalled the night that Rahila was in that dress, it was a busy, special night. She had worn her hair in a bun with daisies clipped over.
Cousins from Moscow and Georgia and Caucasian relatives all had gathered joyfully and were busy dancing.On a large table there were drinks and starters. Rahila was standing far from the crowds.She was smiling, for hardly ever she smiled and it was one of those occasions. Vahhab went to her and pulled her sleeve:" Aunt Rahila!"
Rahila lowered her head, the child was immersed with the cooling fragrant of her perfume:
"Vahhab, are your hands clean? You're making a stain over my dress."
Vahhab smelled his hands:
"I've just washed them up!"
Rahila touched the child's head with her delicate hands:
"Would you fetch a glass of apple juice for me?"
Vahhab dashed off and took a glass. The light of candles had made a rainbow spectrum over the shaped pillar.
He screwed the cork and poured some in a glass, following he handed it to Rahila.
A drop of apple juice suddenly spilt over Rahila's pleated skirt.
Vahhab's cheeks went hot, he ran to his room and fell over the bed; hiding his face with his hands.
The sound of music, laughter and conversations was being heard from the garden. Moments passed by quite slowly.
Late at night, Rahila went to Vahhab's room, sat beside him and said that the stains had been cleared away. Vahhab's eyelids were heavy, he placed Rahila's hand over his head:"So, would you forgive me?"
In a nimble movement Rahila got up, opened the door, turned back and smiled :
"You haven't done anything wrong!"
She undid the hair pin and loosened her hair over her shoulders. she left the room. Vahhab didn't figure out the reason of her joy in that lowly party. He recalled the faces of young men there, none of them deserved her.
Vahhab looked around in exhaustion. As if he were recollecting one thousand years ago. Abundance of light had blinded him. He fluttered his eyelashes for several times.
The corridor was full of people. They chattered and they inconsiderably laughed out loud.They were shoving each other and their steps were overheard in the arcade.
From the opposite direction in the corridor, a woman in a yellow dress, big and bulky with tousled hair,face flushed and sweating with dimples over her cheeks came across smiling.
The teeth large and stiff, breasts heavy and huge; her buttocks moved up and down while walking, she stood across from Vahhab:
"Good afternoon, you sissy boy! Is it the time to get up?"
Vahhab stepped back, cleared his throat: "I'm afraid it's a personal affair."
The woman laughed so loud that the pigeons flew off. Confronting Vahhab, she pinched his ear:"Get away from my way! Who are you then?!"
The woman said with a sudden movement of her breast and buttock as if she were running a whole house: "Be careful! Rebel Shoukat's speaking!"
The woman kicked Vahhab and knocked down the man to the ground. Her body had the evaporating smell of poached eggs and rotten vegetables. She stared into his eyes, twirled her left eyebrow:"Get up and don't spoil yourself! Move your ass and your damned body, you lanky skin-and-bone!"
Yavar and Qouqan stepped into the corridor.The woman in yellow was going to slap Vahhab. Qouqan caught her arm:"Oh sister Shoukat, drop the charges off for their time is over!"
Soukat loosened her hair , marched and yelled:
"To make for what they've done I'm a wet blanket and joy killer!"
Yavar looked at her parrotlike profile, her cheeks were flashy red and her beefy double chin was vibrating .
" Sir Vahhab has never enjoyed his life."
She knitted her straight eyebrows :"You swine, shut up your mouth! Open your ears !there's no sir here ! I'll teach you a lesson if you repeat it!"
She lifted her left leg and kicked into the air, below her skirt ripped off, vibrating hair in her nostrils, gasping :"Aren't you scared of me?"
She hit a blow on Yavar's hand, the old man's knees were shivering:" Yes sister! I'm scared!"
She grinned : "Well-done now!" (She shrugged her shoulders and looked at the open seams of her dress). I'll sew it. Fetch a needle and thread!"
Yavar went to his room and brought the sewing storage box.
Shoukat was sitting on the burgundy furniture, her hand placed under her chin, she looked into the garden. Yavar with his trembling hand gave her what she had wanted, she raised her eyebrows :" Should it be yellow?"
Yavar murmured:"For your skirt's yellow."
Sister Shoukat grinned:"It doesn't matter,give it to me!"
She lifted her left knee and bent down her head, in a carefree manner, she started sewing.
A broad-shouldered man with a flamboyant countenance and black eyes, pressed on short forehead and climbed down the stairs. He minded Shoukat and stood erect:"Good morning sister, How did you sleep last night?"
"Always first-class! I was dreaming a big brown bear. (She chewed the end of string.) A big brown bear, what's the hint?"
The man twirled his moustache and straightened it; with a sinister smile he said:"A sign of victory."
Shoukat lifted her head:"I suppose so!"
The man's lower lip , bruised and flagged, jerked:"Good luck!"
Sister Shoukat moved the corner of her lips :"You got up at noon again!"
The man lowered his head and went to the river bank at the end of garden. Shoukat looked at Vahhab:"You see this big man? He is ashamed now, sorry for his past. For three months he had been working in a public house , washing the floors. He was a mayor in the past, a prestigious job, within a week he repented and now he feels sorry for the past and why aren't you?"
Vahhab smiled: "It's clear, I wasn't a mayor."
Shokat threatened him with her index finger."Being jobless is worse than that. (Vahhab ignored her)get closer. How many books have you piled? (She yelled)Where on earth is Borzu?"
A flimsy young man, red-haired entered the room.On the first night Vahhab had seen him on the sandy path.
The man looked at him rummagingly; observed him from head to foot. He coughed deliberately and said:
"You can't sleep at night, is that right?"
His bulging amber and small eyes behind glasses were shinning. Gesturing an owl, he looked at Vahhab.
Vahhab felt dizzy , before his eyes, all colours and eyes were intermixing. Some drops from the hollow wood of the ceiling were dribbling. The energy from the yellow dress was wavering and penetrating in him.The fog was penetrating inside the open windows. It gave a blurred look to people. He touched his cheeks and the sweat bit his hair's roots, his scalp was itchy.
"I cannot sleep."
Borzu moved his glasses :"Yeah, it's clear. Being worthless and vain; such a pointless life.Just eating and sleeping. You should pay the price(He took a glance on Shoukat.) I have no more than three hours for sleeping. Half of the days I'm in the dark room, an assistant of photography and for the other half I go to the university. I should study in the extra-hours. I sleep at two mid-night and get up early in the morning like an alarm. (He looked at Vahhab) Life is hard Mr. Spoilt!I send money for my mum and my handicapped sister. They live in a remote city. When the weather's bad and it snows, I cannot manage to receive the letters. (He touched his skinny neck as if his neck registered for his power.) But you noble man have two thousand books (He opened his fingers and moved them before Vahhab's eyes.)Just for you yourself ! All nonsense, you've sucked them like a sponge. Who has benefited that? Because you're conceited and fruitless. (He knitted his eyebrows) When I was a child, I didn't eat and I paid for the books and I stayed up and read them overnight right in the flimsy light of the lanterns."
He touched Vahhab's shoulders and pushed him to the corridor.Shoukat stepped forward, all three women entered. The woman turned around her heel. She looked around as if she was seeing a place for the first time:"
What a big chamber, you were enjoying yourself; dances, parties, such women! I'm ashamed of recalling them. New clothes and every day in front of mirror to practice how to laugh and flirt and charm others, how to twist eyebrows and to display your moustache, how to blow off the smoke of cigar towards women, you've assumed yourself an important person?! A caliph from China or something? You admit so?! How many times a day do you have ice-cream?(She gulped down her saliva). I tasted ice-cream ten years ago.I saw it in the cafes. I told myself that why are these people eating foam?!"
Vahhab said with a gaped mouth:"I'm sorry that I had ice-cream, but about what I wear, I've never given it a damn. It's been years that nobody has come to our house and there's been no feast here. The long hours of the day has tediously passed by to the night."
Shoukat knocked on Vahhab's nose:
"You bastard liar!"
"You can learn it out of people."
Borzu took a seat. Moving his glasses, he looked at Vahhab, as if he were watching a new creature:
"What made you happy?"
Vahhab touched his wet forehead and noticed Borzu's shoe-laces.The student jumped down and turned his pale face to the light:"I'm talking to you, answer me!"
Vahhab turned back:"Aborrahman the caliph hadn't seen fourteen days of happiness, let alone me! I haven't seen so many happy days and I haven't learned how to live happily!"
Shoukat sat on the wooden hand of armchair:"You all speak in a way that we're supposed to pay you and you call it manners!"
"I'm an individual and not a group."
Shoukat laughed out loud, you precious gem(She took a glance at Borzu) and he is proud of himself."
Borzu nodded:"That's why he's desperate."
The hinges of the door were creaking, the mayor peeped in and twisted his untidy moustache:"May I?"
Shoukat murmured:"Is there a duty?"
Arms crossed, the mayor entered and came forward, his old shoes were squeaking. Shoukat yelled:"How many times should I tell you?! Change your shoes!"
The mayor's upper lip looked droopy:"They've taken all I've got, I haven't got any others."
Shoukat kicked the armchair, pieces of cherry furniture have been chipping and signs of some cracks appeared:"You deserve that ( turned to the student ) fetch a pair of boots from the warehouse."
Hadadian lowered his head:"May I sit down?"
Shoukat didn't answer.The man went to the below corner of the table and took a sit, sat down on the armchair, one leg over another, he breathed a sigh of relief:
"Such weather! Rains pitchforks! Cats and dogs and the fog is dense! everybody's wet!"
THE HOUSE OF THE EDRISIS , a novel by Ghazaleh Alizadeh
Translated from original Persian to English by Rosa Jamali