The Silent Growth of Trees (Chapter Three continues)

interrogation room

My mouth still smelled like raw garlic when we were finally called. Mr. Farsi walked fast and I followed him. It was only a few doors away. He let me enter first.

The courtroom had nothing to do with my expectation. Not like courtrooms in American movies, the only ones I’d ever seen.

Smaller than Turgey’s office, the room was filled with cheap iron cabinets and too many chairs facing each other by the walls. The surface of the judge’s small black desk was almost empty. Hakim Beyfendi, a skinny old man with gray beard, miniature glasses and wrinkled shirt, stood by the window, self-absorbed.

The outside was foggy and remote.

Mr. Farsi approached his desk, and after they spoke, he returned to my side. “Now we wait for the officer,” he said.

Which one? I thought, and glanced at Hakim Beyfendi. “He looks nice,” I said.

The judge stared at the open page of a black folder, looking busy and important until the door swung open and Turgey came in. Hakim Beyfendi dropped what he was doing, rose hastily and offered the best seat to the officer who had slapped me. A guard brought them hot tea. Turgey leafed through the papers, sipping it. They didn’t talk, but Turgey read and signed every paper presented to him, then left the room.

The judge waved at us, inviting me to sit in the same chair where Turgey had sat. Hakim Beyfendi smelled like tobacco, and his voice was smoky.

“Fake passport. Fake entry stamp. Attempting to bribe a Turkish officer,” Mr. Farsi said.

The list of my crimes.

“Inspector Turgey has already reported your improper behavior during the interrogation,” Farsi said. “As a result of your actions, you are going to be tried.”

It sounded like a verdict. I was stunned. I couldn’t remember any misbehavior. I wished I could say a word. “May I?” I asked.

Farsi interrupted me. “You will be given the opportunity of defending yourself at the court,” Mr. Farsi said. “Once the preliminary investigation is done, you will be transferred to the main prison to wait for your trial.” Then he made me sign the same papers that Turgey had already approved.

My first encounter with justice ended with a series of signature as my admittance to my sins. I didn’t protest. I didn’t argue. I didn’t deny. Nobody asked me a question. Nobody expected an answer.

# # #

We left the courtroom and followed a new guard. We passed other prisoners and other translators, all following look-alike guards.

“You said it was going to be just a formality,” I said. “What kind of court was it? What kind of judge is he?”

“He’s no judge,” Mr. Farsi said in a whisper. “I told you to call him Hakim Beyfendi, but his job, basically, was getting your signature. That’s all.”

The guard walked too fast and Mr. Farsi sounded out of breath. We reached a small room with no desk, only chairs.

The guard left.

“I should have refused to sign,” I said.

“Don’t think too much about it,” he said. “Before you even entered that room, you had already confessed, my dear. Your fake passport is enough proof for them.” Mr. Farsi moved closer. “What do you think?” he whispered. “This place is just an airport facility. A temporary place, a transition zone. None of the people here has any real authority.”

I stood up. “Then who has this authority?” I asked. “Who’s going to save us?” I thought I sounded too desperate.

“No authority will ever save you,” he whispered, glancing around. For the first time, he stood too close, looking straight in my eyes, and for once, he didn’t shy away from me and strangely, I felt protected, believing he understood my anxiety. The sun had disappeared behind the dirty glass of the small window of the waiting room. His face had darkened. “You’re not the first Iranian to get caught,” he said. “You’re not going to be the last one either. I have lost count and I don’t plan to start over.”

That number was just another statistic, I thought.

“You have to wait here,” he said.

“Wait for whom?” I asked.

“Nobody,” he said. “You’re done. But I’m the translator for other Iranians. I should leave now.”

“Don’t leave me,” I said.

Mr. Farsi smiled out of pity. “I’ll be back to take you to your friends,” he said and rose.

All of a sudden, the door burst open and a man wearing black sunglasses was thrown in, his hands cuffed. He didn’t shout when he fell. Mr. Farsi rushed outside to catch the guard. I was too astonished to follow him.

The man dragged himself along the ground. Soon, he sensed my presence and grabbed my right foot with his tied hands. I couldn’t move.

“Have pity of me, Hekim Bey,” he said. Another Iranian, I thought.

“I’m just a blind man.” he said, and like a worm, he pulled himself up toward my legs. His sunglasses had fallen on the floor and his eyes looked like strange holes. His weight swayed my balance. Scared, I stumbled backward toward the chairs, dragging him with me.

“Forgiveness, my judge,” the man screamed. “Please listen to my last request. Go see my family. Go tell them how these Turks are treating a blind person.” He was shouting like a madman.

“Who are you?” I asked, wavering.

Stunned, he let go of my legs. “You’re a woman,” he said and began to cry. “Such an honor,” he said, grabbing both my feet. “You remind me of my dear wife,” he said pressing my toes. I pushed him back, but he didn’t give up.

“Go to Dezful,” he said. “Go find my woman and my four boys. In the bazaar, everyone knew where Javad Barzgar’s Jewelry was. Between the fourth and the fifth block of Gold and Antiques row, and my house was at the second floor.” His words were lost in his wailing and ranting. “My last request, my judge.”

I didn’t have the strength to tell him I wasn’t the judge.

“You have no idea what blindness does to a man,” he said.

Was it really blindness? I thought. “Did the Turks do this to you?” I asked.

He shook his head. “No, it was war,” he said. “Dezful’s bazaar is ruined now.” He sighed. “Ruined like my wealth, Hakim Bey. But you’re a woman. You cannot understand.”

My legs were numb. He grabbed the bottom of my jacket. His handcuffs pressed on my knees and his whole body hung off my waist. He was heavy. Stepping backward, I finally reached a chair. As soon as I sat, he threw himself on me with his last force and rested his head on my lap. He was crying without any pride. Hesitantly, I placed my hand on his head and stroked his hair, a fake gesture of compassion.

“Everything’s God’s will,” he said, sounding resolute. The sweat fell off his forehead. “We all pay for what we’ve done in the past. When I was a child, my father beat up my mother and God gave him dementia. So we had to bind him, my father, with chains to his bed.” The blind man began his tearless crying all over again. “And we lived altogether in one small room, where he shouted and cursed us all the time. It’s how I grew up. We ate onion soup and old dry bread every day.” He wailed like a dying dog.

I felt nauseous.

“I worked so hard to be someone,” he said, “but God punished me for what I did to my own father.” He raised his frightening head. “And now, all I have left is my aaberoo, my dignity,” he murmured. “Look, look at me, Hakim Bey. How can you send a broken blind man to prison?”

I looked at his eyes and fought hard not to fall inside its holes. I wanted to cry. Farsi wasn’t back yet. The blind man was all over me. His hand was cold and his filthy nails had ruined my jacket. His saliva, his sweat had marked my skin. His breath stank. I felt entrapped in his shame.

It took a long time for Mr. Farsi to return, followed by a guard. They pulled the man away from me while he begged them for his salvation. I was still shaking, as if I had seen a jinn.

“Wrong room,” Farsi said with an uneasy smile, his face too red. “This guard is new.” He stepped forward. “Stop worrying over the blind man.”

I nodded.

Mr. Farsi sat near me, looking nervous. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “Before I leave, I have to chain you to the chair.”

I didn’t say a word. Sharp drops of rain hit the window and brown lines of dust and dirt slowly slid on the glass to remind me that I was a prisoner.

Staring at the morose light through the rain, I couldn’t feel my hand anymore. I just shrugged, resisting the urge to stand up, to drag my chair, to reach the window, and to rest my forehead on the cold glass.

I let them chain me again, my legs still sore, trembling with fear and pity.

# # #

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About lifeacrossthesun

Writer/ 2011 PEN USA Emerging Voices fellow
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