I was five months pregnant when my father-in-law died.
I didn’t care, and I didn’t shed a tear for him. He had shown courtesy to me during the long years of our marriage, and not much else. My mother says that is all one should ask for, and it may be true, but it doesn’t lead to warm and affectionate family relationships. The most genuine emotion he had ever displayed towards me was joy when I was away over night for my work, for that meant his son could go and stay in his father’s house, and it would be like he had never married and moved out. Indeed, to be fair, neither sets of our parents ever fully digested the fact of our marriage, no doubt a contributing factor to the brilliance of our relationship, shining on like a huge crazy diamond for ever and ever.
Anyway, I was glad that my huge belly exempted me from attending the funeral and mourning ceremonies, it was the depth of summer, and the graveyard in Tehran is far south, in burning desert heat. I told my in-laws I was sorry, and I was sorry that he wouldn’t see his unborn grandchild, but really, I didn’t care one way or another.
They held another ceremony for him closer to where he lived, a local memorial of some sort. I could not escape that, I had to go, as I was. I had no black scarves and veils. My brother came and picked me up from our place. He drove a small red fancy car, a present for getting into a prestigious university in a prestigious field. He played Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” in the car, very loud. I remember feeling overwhelmed by the precise hypnotic music. We stopped in Haft-e Tir, a large square filled with large shops selling scarves and manteaus and other clothes deemed necessary for women before they can appear in public. There is no parking, so my brother stayed outside, while I went in one of those shops to buy a black scarf. I chose a beautiful one, sheer black fabric embroidered with black ribbons and sequins, small compensation for having to go to a mosque in the heat of mid-summer, to attend a memorial for dead dude who never cared for me, nor I for him.
I actually enjoyed myself at the memorial. A pretty pregnant woman is always more interesting than a dead old man, and I was showered with attention and care. My own relatives were there too, and I remember succumbing to a fit of uncontrollable giggles with my aunt at the discovery that she never knew the full name of my in-laws until it was announced over the loudspeaker, while my mother made faces at us to stop laughing.
There is no point to this memory, and writing it out has not brought closure. But I do not have to hear the opening bars of Come As You Are, to have a flashback to that day, leaning heavily back in my brother’s red car, the golden boy still a fetus floating in my body, shopping for black scarves, melting in the summer heat. Even driving round those streets takes me back. Now, seven years later. I think perhaps that day was a swerving point, one of many in my life, in which my priorities were crystallized, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.