When does your calendar start? Monday? Probably. Mine starts on Monday these days. A couple years ago, when I worked at a restaurant and ran my own organization, my calendar started on Wednesday, which was the start day of our work calendar. Back in my childhood, when I was in grades 1-5, I had two calendars–one started on the beginning of the normal week, which was Saturday, the day after the weekend in my country, Iran; and, the other one, more important than the first, that started on the day of our visitation with my mom.
The way in which I counted a week was to calculate how many days had passed from our visitation day, and then to calculate how many days left before we go back to the prison to visit my mom again. This calendar lasted for five years until she came home.
In between, for months, the weeks didn’t have a beginning or an end. On Friday, the weekend in my country, only one day would pass; otherwise I couldn’t keep track of the rest of the week. For months, we hadn’t visited my mom. One day, near the end of Fall, my father took my sister and I to buy boots. When we went shopping, I walked close to him so that I could feel Baba’s hand on my head or body. I always walked this way next to him. I recognized the street–we always went through it to get books, shoes, and other things for school–but I still wanted to make sure that Baba was walking next to me. Baba’s hand would touch my shoulder and I would look around me. A short woman with a brown and beige polka-dotted scarf passed quickly by us. I wanted to look at her more carefully, but she was gone too fast. I ran. If Baba said something, I didn’t hear him. But I couldn’t wait. What if it was Maman? I had seen that scarf only on her. How could two people, with the same height and frame, have the same-colored scarf? Maybe all that time that we hadn’t had news from Maman.…
In the midst of the crowd of shoppers, I lost the woman. There was no sign of her, but even if there had been, I had seen only her headscarf, and now I couldn’t see anyone’s head. I became anxious. What if I lost Baba too? He was behind me. What did he ask me? He probably asked me why I had started running in the middle of the sidewalk for no reason. If I had told him I had seen Maman, he would have laughed at me. Maybe he would even have been angry. I didn’t tell him why I ran.
That night, I went to bed earlier than usual. I knew my sister wouldn’t come into the room that early. She was watching a show on TV. I sat facing the balcony. In front of me, there were no tall buildings and I could see the sky. My star, which I always prayed to, wasn’t there. Did that mean that Maman was no longer there? Could I say that my mother had been executed? Suddenly, my star appeared from nowhere, which meant that Maman was coming back, and if she came back.… I heard my sister, who was saying good night to Baba. My bed was near the window. I lay down and closed my eyes. I pictured Maman in my head. I saw a woman in a chador. I walked closer, but she didn’t have a face. I opened my eyes and then closed them again. I saw Maman again, but this time I looked carefully; it was as if she had covered her face with the chador.
A couple of months later, the prison gave us permission to visit our mom. Years later, I realized that it was one the harshest punishments against tens of female political inmates, and it had lasted for almost nine months.
Now, I’m not sure if I really saw anybody on the street that day who wore a brown and beige polka-dotted scarf, but I am sure it doesn’t matter where you are–behind or in front of the bars–either way, you are prisoners, and have been affected by that.