It is true. I found this story in an Iraqi trench that was full of empty canteens, and a year later I translated it into Persian with the help of a friend who, further to his wishes, I will not name.

The trench was probably hit by one of our long-range missiles. It had collapsed and all one could see was a large crater. The southern floods had still not had a chance to turn its dirt, rocks, and thorns into sticky gray mud so that here and there pieces of rusted metal, faded plastic, or even planks of wood could surface from it, and so that if you were to visit it long after, you could see young green sprouts blanketing the filled-in hollow and in March, the poppy flowers that have grown there too and their red that can be seen even from afar, and how beautiful it is.

I found the crumpled sheets of this story strewn in the dirt next to the corpse of a soldier who was perhaps its author and who had not had a chance to finish it because the ceiling beams of the trench had fallen on his back. As if he had heard the sound of the missile, he had settled for three dots and . . . he had died.

I learned Arabic during the years of war, and it was my friend, a student of Arab literature whose family happened to be among those exiled from Iraq many years ago, who helped me understand the things I didn’t understand. Places that I have left blank or marked with ellipses are exactly as they appear in the original text; it is not that I didn’t know or wasn’t able to find the equivalent in Persian. After all, my friend was there to help me; so much so, that here and there I accepted his guess and assumption of what an illegible or even erased word was. And don’t doubt the last page of this story. Those are exactly the words that he, meaning the Iraqi writer, wrote in Persian.

The editor in chief wanted the original text. I told him the truth: I have lost it.

To be honest, I don’t know what happened to it or where I lost it. I don’t know at all.

He said perhaps someone stole it . . . or burned it after reading it. That is impossible, because every time I read it or translated a page of it, I returned it to the safe and locked the door. Even if someone did steal it, why didn’t they take the Persian translation, too, or why is there no sign that the safe was broken into? No, I cannot accept these speculations. And that is why I didn’t expect the editor to believe my claims either. “It is what it is,” I said. “This is all that’s left.”

He had his doubts, and it’s perhaps because of these doubts that he still hasn’t paid my fee. The one time I called to remind him, they told me he wasn’t in!

In any case, the writer himself titled the story “Rahman’s Story,” and further to the editor in chief’s recommendation, to stay faithful to the original, I have not changed it. Throughout the text, wherever explanations were necessary, I have included them; and of course I stressed to the editor that they should print these in italics so that they will not be mistaken for the main text, that if they don’t, it will not be clear whether it is the writer narrating or someone else. I hope he hasn’t forgotten and hasn’t deleted them.

I still haven’t received a copy of that issue of the magazine. And every newsstand I go to, the vendor either says he doesn’t have it or haphazardly looks around and claims it is sold out.

There is one other copy of the story enclosed with this appendix that I have written and I have mailed it to an address that is unknown to me. Perhaps one of you will receive it!

Now I’m worried, worried because I don’t have another copy of the translation. I’m afraid all the copies might be lost. Like the writer himself who remains lost.

But there is no room to doubt the story, and I don’t. I myself was at the front for years, and without exaggeration, at all the frontlines of battle. Some of the scenes he describes, I have seen time and again. There are passages that perhaps seem strange or, better put, appear exaggerated and unreal. But they are true. The editor said, “What will the readers say!?” I replied, “The one who reads the story will be the final judge.”

 

. . . When I returned behind the earthwork, I saw him standing over the man, holding his bayonet with its tip pointing at the ground. He was straddling the Iranian prisoner of war and looking into his eyes; they were open and their whites gleamed in that sunburned face. I froze. I dropped the canteen and water poured out on the cracked earth and immediately sank in, leaving behind only a dark stain under the mouth of the flask. My eyes were fixed on that wet arch that was steadily growing lighter until it became the color of dirt. He leaped over, picked up the canteen and shouted, “What are you doing! You’re wasting all the water!”

Still clutching the bayonet, he raised the canteen to his lips and gulped down the water in one breath. Then he shook it for the last drops to fall on his face, which he was holding up to the sky. His eyes and mouth kept opening and closing to catch and devour every last drop. “Where did you find water?” he asked. “I’m talking to you! I said where did you find water?”

“Why did you kill him?” I said.

He looked nervous. He turned and stood with his back to me. Then he kicked a lump of earth with his left foot, raising dust in the air. “It was his own fault,” he said. “He made a jump for the bayonet . . .”

“But his hands were tied.”

“It was your fault,” he said. “You told me to tie his hands in front of him.”

 

When he was tying the Iranian soldier’s hands, I said, “Tie them in front of him, otherwise you’ll end up having to feed him.” He wrapped the rope around the man’s wrists a few times and made a tight knot. Then he motioned toward the prisoner’s dirt bike—the kind they jump with and are better suited to the desert and rough terrain than to paved streets—and said, “If he wasn’t wounded, he would have made a run for it.”

I had tried to kick-start the motorcycle, but it wouldn’t start. He had jumped and grabbed the handlebars from me. His right leg was bleeding, so he had to use his left leg to crank the starter pedal . . . Finally, he took the cap off the gas tank, put his ear against it, and shook the handlebars. “The damn thing is empty,” he said. “It’s bone-dry.”

“Even if we could turn it on,” I said, “it would be useless. It wouldn’t carry all three of us. Besides, your leg is wounded and I don’t know how to ride a motorcycle . . .”

“It wasn’t going to be the three of us,” he said.

And he put his hand on the rag he had tied around his thigh and burst into laughter. He had ripped open the right leg of his pants, it was soaked with blood all the way down to his boot and each step he took I could see his leg, drenched with red and black blood . . .

“How are we going to get back to the front?” I said. “We’re completely lost.”

“Instead we found one of them, and under this scorching sun we can make him suffer . . .,” he said. “Hey, you! What’s your name?”

The Iranian soldier just stared at him. He reached into the collar of the man’s white undershirt that was no longer white, lodged his tongue between his teeth, and yanked off his dog tag. He stumbled back a few steps, then he took off his own dog tag and put it around the prisoner’s neck and laughed out loud. Again, he staggered back a few steps. He held the prisoner’s tag with his thumb and index finger and raised it to read the name. The glare of the sun’s reflection on the metal shined in his eyes and he hurled the tag to the ground, turned his back to us, and started pacing. I picked up the dog tag and read the name. He turned around and said, “Did you see what the damned man’s name is?”

“What’s wrong with it?”

He looked at me. Then he sneered and sat down on the ground. He said, “It makes no difference to me.”

“What makes no difference to you?” I asked.

He didn’t answer. As he was untying his boot laces, he stuck his finger in the hole on the side of one boot and said, “God knows how many of these I have worn through.”

He had been at the front for more than five years. Others said, “He’s mad. His tour of duty is over, but he won’t go back home . . .”

Our soldiers (not the volunteers who stayed five or six years) had to be at the front for about two years; and toward the end, when their discharge became uncertain and they were told to stay until the situation became more clear, they found it harder to endure—especially for an unknown length of time. The result was repeated reports of unidentified gun fire, bullets that had ricocheted and injured an arm, or those that had directly hit a big toe, which qualified one for a few months of medical leave. But in the end, even if there was no stray bullet and luck was at work, they would say, Discharged!

The first time I asked him, without saying a word he reached into his shirt pocket and took out a folded photograph and showed it to me. He was standing in the middle with his arms around his two brothers. He was older than them, with a mustache that was thicker and darker than theirs . . . it made the whiteness of his teeth more glaring. The uneven fold of the photograph had left a thick diagonal line across his cheek, like a scar left by the rapid slash of a dagger or a blunt switchblade, with the white of the crack stretching from his lips down to his exposed chest. The one called Ghader, or perhaps Rahim, the one who was standing to his right and seemed to be the youngest, resembled him.

When he returned from his first leave, he never went again. “Where would I go?” he said. “. . . if all that’s left of an entire town is bricks, what would there be left of our house . . .”

I heard that when he reached the military police checkpoint, he wept in front of the entire detachment. He fell to his knees and clawed at the earth. I never saw him cry for his brothers, nor for a friend or anyone else. It seems that was the only time. Then one night when we were on patrol duty around the infantry unit’s bulwark—we were the second shift and it was a full moon—he said, “The eight months I was confined to bed felt like eight years . . . the damn thing had hit me on the head and neck and my back was riddled with holes . . .” Then he took that same photograph out of his pocket and showed it to me in the moonlight. “This was Ghader,” he said, “and this one was Rahim. And my mother, who they had pulled out unharmed, died of sorrow before the fortieth-day ceremony of their passing . . .” I saw the reflection of the moon glisten in his eyes. From that night on, I stopped asking him why he wouldn’t go on leave. He said, “. . . this is why I’m here!”

I remained silent. He was saying, “. . . and how about you? Did you think I’ve gotten used to the measly army pay, or that I’m here to fight for my flag or, I don’t know, for my motherland? . . . No!” 

He said, “I lost two people, I’ll take two people . . . with this very bayonet. And if not, then with this!” And he pointed to the rifle on his shoulder.

“Your mother died, too!” I said.

“All mothers die of sorrow.”

At night, we would look out at the horizon that was brighter than all the earthworks around us. Far away, it was all flaming red, with a yellow blaze that seemed to flicker on and off. It was only when the sound of exploding mortar shells and missiles stopped for a moment that we would realize what a racket they created. Rahman would say, “Poor Naft-Shahr.” I would say, “Well the other side could say the same thing.” And he would reply, “They’re right, too.”

Other than me, no one knew why this seventy-percent-wounded soldier, everyone wishing they were in his place, had stayed and insisted on staying. When you looked at him from behind, you could see where the shrapnel had hit him on the head; it had left a bald spot the size of a dirham. There were several depressions on his neck, just like the hollows in your cheeks when you suck them in or the ones left on a lump of dough right after you pull your fingers out, and pinkish-red flesh had bulged out around them.

He had said two, and I witnessed the first one myself . . . the soldier was holding up his white undershirt and kept saying, “Al-salam, al-salam . . .” He didn’t know Arabic and said some things in his own language. There is no shame in this; prisoners of war always do it to save their life. It’s called “dissimulation.” Rahman was aiming at the man’s chest, watching him, and he kept shouting, “Come forward, come forward . . .”

I was waiting for the soldier to reach us when I heard Rahman shoot. At first I thought his rifle had gone off by mistake, but when he burst into laughter, I realized, No, he intended to shoot . . . I went over to the man. He had died instantly, his eyes open. With my thumb and middle finger, I closed his eyes. I had to bury him. I looked at his dog tag. Rahman’s bullet had ripped off half of it and only a few letters remained. I threatened Rahman that I would report him. He was putting on the soldier’s boots. At first, he snickered. Again, I yelled, “I will report you!”

Regardless of all the reports that warrant an investigation, when the culprit is taken away and you never see him again and later if you dare ask about him they say he was transferred and then they look into your eyes and ask, “How come,” it’s ridiculous to report a soldier for shooting a prisoner of war. Besides, you’ll never know if the report you filed ever reached anyone or not!

He threw the boots toward me and said, “They’re too small for me.”

 

When he gave up on starting the motorcycle, he hurled his boots at the Iranian prisoner and said, “Give me his boots and put these on him.”

I was kneeling in front of the soldier. He was looking at me; his sparse mustache was lighter than his skin and his lips had swollen from thirst. His boots were new. I untied them. I looked at his large feet, a sign of nascent puberty. Both his big toes were bloody and he had calluses on the back of his heels. I put Rahman’s boots on his feet. He didn’t move. Rahman said, “Don’t bother lacing them.”

“He won’t be able to walk properly,” I said.

“Who cares . . . go take a look around here and see if you can find any water.”

His head was down and he was drawing lines in the dirt with a stick. Crosses and curves, to the right and the left, and then he would scratch them out. His lips were parched and cracked from thirst and with all the blood he was losing I didn’t think he’d want to or be able to do anything to the prisoner. And the man’s hands were tied and he posed no danger to Rahman either. They say those wounded by a bullet shouldn’t drink water. But this wounded man could die of thirst before dying from the bullet in his leg. I had to go, and only in one direction, in a straight line, hoping to come across a corpse—Arab or Iranian didn’t matter—so that if a canteen with some water, even a small amount, remained on his belt, I could take it and walk back the same straight line.

I was some distance away from the earthwork when I saw a corpse. Even though I was dying of thirst and my boots felt heavier by the second, I ran toward it … his walkie-talkie’s antenna was crooked, his thumbs were hooked under his backpack’s tarpaulin shoulder straps, and he had fallen facedown. I was too late; not long ago someone else had found him and with one swipe of their bayonet had slit his combat belt and taken his canteen. Disappointed, I looked up . . . but there was still hope. There was another corpse up ahead and a few more farther away, wearing the enemy’s khaki or our darker-colored uniforms. One of them was sure to have a canteen with enough water to quench my two-day-old thirst. I went from one to the other, taking their canteens if they had one and shaking them . . . finally, I heard the sound of water. I didn’t look at the corpse’s dog tag. What difference did it make. He had a canteen and it was half-full. I didn’t drink. I just unscrewed the top and sniffed; I smelled warm water and dank condensation, and I walked back the same straight line I had come.

 

He didn’t ask whether I was thirsty or not. And he already knew the Iranian prisoner of war no longer felt any thirst. “Why did you kill him?” I shouted again.

I lunged at him. He was heavy and strong, but he had lost a lot of blood and was sapped. We wrestled, I landed on top and sat on his chest. I looked into his eyes and their dark gleam; without him saying anything, I knew what he was thinking about. He used to sit quietly in the corner of the trench, light a cigarette, and, ignoring all the noise around us, he would blow smoke rings in the air. When we returned from our night patrol, he would sleep on the lower bunk and each time I softly whispered his name he would say, “I’m awake.” I would hang my head down over the edge of the top bunk and see the glint of those two black marbles in the darkness of the trench. It was as if he was staring at the ceiling beams. I liked him. His eyes were kind, except when the photo album in his mind would turn to the page with the picture of the three of them, him standing in the middle . . . and then, his eyes no longer had that steady and familiar shine.

I took my hands off his chest and threw myself on the ground next to him. My closed eyes quieted down in the dark shelter of my hands. A moment later I raised my head. Gripping his right leg and dragging it along, Rahman was limping away in some unknown direction. I knew if he continued he would collapse and die before he even reached the second earthwork. I shouted, “Go! The hell with you. Let yourself bleed so much that you fall flat on your face and die!”

He paused, but he didn’t turn his head. He climbed up the earthwork and an instant later, as if sinking into the earth, he went down the other side, and then there was just the cover of the sun that was as infinite as the earth around us. I was left alone, thirsty and with a corpse I had to bury. I was digging the earth like a desperate man digging for water. It wasn’t dark yet, the sun was making its way closer to dusk . . .

Yes, with mess gear and a bayonet one can dig a hole as big as a person, and if it happens to be too small, one can make it wider and wider.

I picked up the Iranian soldier and carried him over to his grave. He was heavy, but not as heavy as Rahman, especially when he and I got into a scuffle and just when I was short of breath he would with one quick spin throw his entire bulk on my chest. I was about to gently put the corpse down on the ground when I heard the sound of laughter in the distance. I thought, It’s Rahman, he’s coming back! Then I heard a second voice and realized there were several soldiers heading our way. But you can’t tell from the sound of laughter if a man is an Arab or not . . . I left the corpse of the prisoner right there and I ran all the way behind the earthwork Rahman had climbed. I didn’t wait around to see how many they were. What difference did it make if they were two or three or five?

Behind the earthwork, I saw Rahman’s trail: his blood had trickled on the ground and its trace turned and went behind the earthworks up ahead. I followed him. I thought, If you are alive, forget it, but if you are dead, there is a lot I want to say to you.

And now that the trail of your blood has led me to you, I see that yes, you have fallen flat on your face and died; just as I had shouted behind you when you left. I don’t know how you managed to drag yourself this far with a leg that had turned black and a body drained of blood. These last few meters, there aren’t even bloodstains on the ground! . . . Your head . . . turn it . . . I want you to see me. I’m still alive. But my hands don’t have the energy to dig a second grave, especially not here. I have to take you back to where we were. My legs can still bear it. We will go back the same way we came. But why have you clawed at the earth? Open your fist . . . come here . . . up . . . on my shoulder . . . you’re so heavy! Your prisoner weighed less than you, he was as light as a stalk of hay. He’s even lighter now. Because you killed him. And those men, possibly his friends, didn’t give me a chance to bury him . . . I had dug his hole when I heard them in the distance and ran over here. If they were the enemy, given the direction they were coming from, it’s obvious that you limped all this way in the wrong direction. Look, you should have gone that way, behind those dirt hills . . . don’t be afraid . . . it was just a mortar shell. In this barren wasteland . . . The border must be close by. Why did you move? I know you’re not afraid. You’ll fall. You weren’t afraid from the start. But who knows, perhaps when we die we have more fear . . . And don’t worry about them. They must have left by now. If they saw him, I doubt they realized he was Iranian. And he’s wearing your dog tag. Unless a friend recognizes him by the whites of his large eyes. If they thought he was an enemy soldier, perhaps they didn’t even spare his corpse. He doesn’t have anything, you took everything he had. And not as a souvenir! Perhaps thinking that he’s an enemy soldier, they riddled his corpse with bullets and threw him headfirst in the hole I dug. Or they tore open his stomach . . . and this time it was with one of their own bayonets. You shouldn’t have done it. What sin have any of us committed? So what if he was a lookout . . . If I were in your place, dead as you are now, I would want a friend or even a stranger to dig a hole and bury me, and to hang my dog tag on a dried-up branch or a metal pole he has found nearby and stuck in the ground next to my grave, so that just like all the others, there will be something left for them to return to my family. Isn’t that how they returned the remains of Abdullah and my other friend? A casket that big and only a few bones and a dog tag . . . And everyone buries their dead. They must, otherwise the desert will be inundated with corpses. Look around you! Look into the distance, those two rounded hills. It’s like a face that once had clear skin and now there are freckles on its cheeks and nose and lots of black, gray, and yellow moles . . . But, why did you kill him? Now I know why you sent me off to search for water. I should have told you to go yourself. But no, your leg was hit by shrapnel. I had to go. Would you both still be alive if I hadn’t gone? No, perhaps only one of you! How was I to know? When I came back, I couldn’t believe it. What happened to those kind eyes? Was that first guy your brothers’ murderer? Or this poor slob who was barely a youth? So what if he was a lookout? It’s not as if he was the one who gave them the target position of your house. As a matter of fact, he was probably not even ten years old when it happened . . . They shoot. There are mortar shells and bullets. Night and darkness. On whoever’s head they land. And even if they fall in the desert, it doesn’t make any difference. Not to them and not to us. Just like these mortar shells. That leaves only luck, which Ghader and Karim didn’t have. These two guys didn’t have any either. Otherwise . . . Look, this is your blood here; it’s as if you have lined the road with it . . . did you take your shirt off because of the heat or because of its weight? Here it is. You’ve thrown it on the ground and walked away. With . . . your weight . . . I can’t . . . bend over . . . besides, it’s of no use to you now. What difference does it make if your boots are old or new? Or why they’re always late distributing the canned rations, or even whether it’s night or day? Forget about watches, which you wear one on each wrist, like the enemy soldiers did at the start of the war. We could tell how many prisoners of war they had taken by the number of watches they wore on their wrists and held up for the camera with a big smile on their face. I know yours isn’t war booty, it belonged to Ghader or Rahim. Even you don’t remember . . . Don’t be restless, we’ll get there. I’m lighter. You, too. But you’re quiet again, just like the times when you would sit in the corner of the trench and not talk . . .

 

They had thrown him facedown in the hole and they had hit him on the back of the head with a clump of dirt. I gently put Rahman down on the ground. I brushed the dirt off the Iranian prisoner’s head and turned his face. It was injured. I looked at Rahman. His face too was cut from having hit the ground that he could no longer see. The sun was about to set, so that a few minutes later the brightness and glare of all that commotion could again be seen on the horizon.

There was enough space for both of them. If they lay side by side, there would only be room for a bayonet blade between them. I threw a fistful of dirt on their faces and as I went to pick up another fistful, I saw his shirt tossed to the side. He always kept the photograph in his left pocket. Whenever he wanted to wash his clothes, he would carefully take it out and, holding it with both hands, he would walk over to his ammo box. He would unlock the box and without looking at them he would tuck the photograph in the folds of a towel and he would again close the box. We all had an ammo box instead of a footlocker for our clothes and gear, and whoever was discharged would pass his on to a friend. I took the photograph out of his pocket and before unfolding it I closed my eyes for an instant. By the time it lay open, the sky was dark. The sun was gone and following a blast, a flare appeared in the sky, and as it descended, for a moment everywhere was bright. Rahman was standing in the middle. His left arm was around one of them and his other arm was around the one called Rahim, or was it Ghader, the one who resembled Rahman . . . No, it was the prisoner of war! It seemed to be him standing there, smiling, with Rahman’s arm around his shoulders . . . My eyes were blurry and I couldn’t see their faces clearly, and by the time I closed and opened them, the flare had extinguished. I looked at the corpses and at the moonless sky.

I had to put the photograph somewhere, on the chest where it had always been. It was dark and their faces, injured and caked with blood and dirt, looked alike. Waiting for another flare to brighten the sky, I sat right there on the parched earth with my legs crossed and I let my eyes rest in the shelter of my hands. There was a sound. It seemed another flare had been shot into the sky for me to see clearly. My eyes, covered by my hands, were calm, and in the glow of that flare I knew where I had to put the photograph!

I sat on my knees and with the heels of my hands I pushed the mounds of dirt piled around the hole back into it. Then with my palms I smoothed out the surface so that a passerby would know that the earth was not alone, that a soldier’s grave was there, and perhaps he would pause for a moment. I had to get up, stand on my heavy legs and look around in the darkness of night, hoping that the glint of something would draw me to itself, so that I could take it and hammer it into the ground at the head of that nameless grave and hang the dog tags from it. But there was only Rahman’s bayonet and the empty canteen. I grabbed the bayonet with both hands and with all my might I plunged it into the ground a few times … no, there was no miracle, no spring gurgled to the surface, not even a drop of water seeped out. The bayonet firmly sank halfway into the earth. I wrapped the chains of the dog tags around its handle a few times and put the canteen on the ground next to it.

I had to write on their grave, “The burial place of Rahman and . . .” No, I didn’t cry. When you are thirsty, the fountain of your eyes runs dry. I had to get up and walk in some direction to find a trench where I could stay until someone showed up. And I didn’t want water anymore! Right there, next to the grave, I let myself fall back facing the sky and . . . I fell asleep.

 

I saw myself sleeping in an unfamiliar trench. From the corner of its roof the sky was visible, and thirsty me, I was lying on my back, looking up at the ceiling beams . . . the trench was littered with canteens, but each one I picked up—with both hands so that I could gulp it down in one breath—it was empty. One by one I raised them to my lips and smelled the stale vapor that wafted inside. I shook them so that if there was a single drop of water left, it would fall on my lips and let me sense the pleasure of quenching thirst. There wasn’t, they were all empty; until I saw a large canteen that was cool and full of water. In one breath I drank it all. The mouth of the flask was so wide that half of the water was pouring out on my face and clothes. It was such pleasure, the cooling of eyes and lips and the water’s heavy chill deep in my parched throat . . . but an instant later there was again thirst and desperation for water that had me writhing . . . Crawling, I grabbed all the sheets of paper around me. I wanted to write on all of them, I am thirsty, I am thirsty, thirsty . . . I realized that everything that had come to pass was appearing before my blurry eyes: Rahman, the Iranian prisoner of war, the earthworks we walked across; and there was someone else with us, it was Ghader, or perhaps Rahim. Then I saw the bayonets and Rahman’s bullet and the Iranian soldier’s dog tag and the heels of my hands that ached and were swollen. There were sounds coming from every direction, loud sounds. Someone was crying. He turned around and I saw that his face was camouflaged with dry mud and his eyes were gleaming like a pair of white marbles. At the far end of the stripes on his cheeks, two vast rivers were flowing; it was as if a child with a slim twig had etched two furrows on a dirt map along the course of the Tigris and Euphrates, and another had poured a bowl of water at the mouth of the rivers to wash away the dirt and pebbles in their path. And then, all of a sudden, under the beating sun the water had dried . . . I looked at the sheets of paper, they were all blank, and I had to write down all that I was seeing so that if I forgot my thirst after a sip of water, I wouldn’t imagine that it was all a dream, an illusion, a fantasy. I started from behind the earthwork, from where I was walking toward Rahman with the canteen of water . . . I wrote, I wrote it all . . . there was no end to the sheets of paper strewn around me, and each one that I blackened, I tossed in a corner and picked up another one . . . until the paper ran out and only one blank sheet remained for me to write the final sentences that I had to write. Perhaps someone would come and find me and read what I have written . . . I wrote: I am alive. I have gone to sleep from thirst. If you pour a bucket of water on my face I will regain consciousness and drink, drink water . . . it is hot here, it is scorching, scorching . . . I am your friend. I like you, whoever you are. I have written in your language so that you will know I’m not dead. I’m alive. But I have lost my dog tag. Arab or Iranian, what difference does it make? I’m thirsty and your canteen is full. Gently call me. I have forgotten my name. Say, “Rahman.” Whisper it quietly. I will wake up. I will wake up. I hear a noise . . .

He had written these final sentences in both languages—in Arabic and Persian—so that whoever found him would know that he is alive, that he is thirsty. And when he heard the howl of the missile through the open roof of the trench, he had settled for three dots and . . . he had died.

"داستانِ رحمان" © Hossein Mortezaeian Abkenar. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2013 by Sara Khalili. All rights reserved.

 حقيقت دارد. من اين داستان را در سنگرِ يك عراقي پيدا كردم كه پُر از قمقمه هاي خالي بود و يك سال بعد با كمك يكي از دوستانم، كه به خواست خودش نامش را نمي آورم، از عربي به فارسي ترجمه كرده ام.

 سنگر احتمالاً با توپِ دوربُردِ ما منهدم شده بود. همه چيز فرو ريخته بود و فقط گودالِ بزرگي ديده مي شد كه هنوز سيلاب هاي جنوب مجال نيافته بودند تا خاك و خار و سنگش را به گِلي چسب ناك و خاكستري بدل كنند تا از هر گوشه اش آهنِ زنگ زده اي، نايلونِ بي رنگي، يا حتي تخته پاره اي بيرون بزند، كه اگر بعدها به سراغش رفتي جوانه هاي سبز و ريزِ علف را ببيني كه سطحِ گودالِ پُر شده را پوشانده اند و اگر بختَت بزند كه فروردين باشد شقايقي هم روييده است كه از دور هم مي تواني قرمزي اش را ببيني، كه چه زيباست.

 ورقه هاي مچاله شدۀ اين داستان را كه لابه لاي خاك مدفون شده بود، كنارِ جنازه اي پيدا كردم كه شايد، خودِ نويسنده بوده كه الوارهاي سقفِ سنگر افتاده بود روي كمرش و مجال نداده بود تا تمامش كند و انگار صداي سوتِ گلولۀ توپ را كه از دورترها شنيده بوده به سه نقطه اكتفا كرده بود و... مُرده بود.

 زبان عربي را من اين چند سالۀ جنگ ياد گرفتم و اين دوست كه دانشجوي ادبياتِ عرب بود و اصلاً‌ خانواده اش از رانده شدگاني بودند كه از سال ها قبل به ايران آمده بودند، كمكم مي كرد تا هرآن چه را كه نمي دانم، بدانم. آنجاهايي را هم كه خالي گذاشته ام يا با سه نقطه مشخص كرده ام، عينِ همان چيزهايي است كه در متن بوده است، نه آن كه ندانم يا نتوانسته باشم معادلِ فارسي اش را بيابم؛ چون او بود، تا كمكم كند، آن چنان كه حتي جاهايي حدس و گمانِ او را به جاي كلمه اي ناخوانا يا اصلاً پاك شده، مي پذيرفتم. اما به صفحۀ آخرِ اين داستان شك نكنيد: عينِ كلماتي است كه او، يعني آن نويسندۀ عراقي، به فارسي نوشته بود.

 سردبير نسخۀ اصلي را از من مي خواست. به او راستش را گفتم:‌ نمي دانم كجاست. گمش كرده ام.

 راستش هيچ نمي دانم چه شد؛ چه بلايي سرش آمد؛ يا كجا گمش كردم. هيچ نمي دانم.

 گفتند:‌ شايد كسي آن را دزديده... يا بعد از خواندنش آن را سوزانده اند. امكان ندارد، چون هر بار بعد از خواندن و ترجمۀ صفحه اي از آن، دوباره توي صندوق مي گذاشتمش و درش را قفل مي كردم. تازه اگر كسي هم آن را دزديده باشد چرا ترجمۀ فارسي اش را نبرده است يا مثلاً چرا اثري از شكستنِ قفلِ صندوق نيست؟ نه، نمي شود اين حرف ها را به اين راحتي پذيرفت. به همين خاطر است كه من هم از سردبير انتظار نداشتم كه حرفِ مرا بپذيرد. گفتم: همين است كه هست. فقط همين ها مانده.

 او شك داشت. شايد به خاطر همين شكّش است كه هنوز حق التحرير مرا نپرداخته. يك بار هم كه زنگ زدم تا يادآوري اش كنم گفتند نيست!

 بگذريم. اسمش را خودِ نويسنده «داستانِ رحمان» گذاشته و من به رغم توصيۀ سردبير، براي آن كه به متنِ او وفادار بمانم، نامش را تغيير نداده ام. لابه لاي متن و هر جايي از داستان كه توضيحاتي لازم بوده، نوشته ام و البته آن روز به سردبير تاكيد كردم كه حتماً توضيحاتِ مرا به صورتِ مورّب چاپ كنند تا با متنِ اصلي اشتباه نشود؛ كه اگر نكنند معلوم نمي شود كه هموست كه روايت مي كند يا ديگري است. اميدوارم از يادش نرفته باشد يا حذف شان نكرده باشند.

 هنوز نسخه اي از مجله به من نرسيده. از هر كيوسكي هم كه سراغش را مي گيرم، يا ندارند يا اتاقك شان را سرسري مي گردند و مي گويند تمام شده.

 يك نسخۀ ديگر هم هست به ضميمۀ همين تكمله كه مي نويسم و فرستاده ام به نشاني اي كه نمي دانم كجاست. شايد برسد به دستِ يكي از شما!

 حالا نگرانم. نگران، چون نسخۀ ديگري از ترجمه را ندارم. مي ترسم تمامِ نسخه ها گم شده باشد، مثل خودِ نويسنده كه هنوز گم است.

 اما جايي براي ترديد نيست، من هم ترديد ندارم. خودم سال ها در جبهه ها بوده ام و بي اغراق در تمامِ خطوطِ مقدم. بعضي صحنه ها را كه او توصيف مي كند بارها و بارها ديده ام. صحنه هايي هم هست كه شايد عجيب باشند يا بهتر بگويم اغراق آميزند، آن چنان كه غير واقعي به نظر مي رسند. اما حقيقت دارد. سردبير مي گفت: خواننده ها چه مي گويند!  گفتم: به هر حال، قضاوتِ نهايي با كسي است كه داستان را بخواند. 

 

وقتي برگشتم پشت خاكريز، ديدم بالاي سرش ايستاده. نوك سرنيزه اي را كه توي دستش بود رو به زمين گرفته بود. پاهايش را به دو پهلويِ اسيرِ ايراني باز كرده بود و داشت به چشم هايش نگاه مي كرد. اسير ايراني چشم هايش باز بود و سفيدي چشمش توي آن صورتِ آفتاب سوخته، برق مي زد. ميخكوب ماندم. قمقمه از دستم افتاد و آبش شُر شُر ريخت روي خاكِ ترك خورده و به سرعت فرو رفت و فقط لكۀ نمناكي زير دهانه اش باقي ماند. چشمم به آن منحنيِ نمناك بود كه آرام آرام كم رنگ مي شد تا آن كه به رنگِ خاك درآمد. پريد و قمقمه را تندي برداشت و گفت: «چه كار مي كني! همۀ آبش كه هدر رفت.»

 سرنيزه هنوز توي دستش بود. قمقمه را بلند كرد و يك نفس خورد. بعد تكانش داد تا قطره هاي آخرش هم بپاشد روي صورتش كه رو به آسمان گرفته بود. چشم ها و دهانش مدام باز و بسته مي شد تا هر قطره را توي هوا بگيرد و فرو دهد. گفت: «آب از كجا گير آوردي؟... با تواَم، مي گم آب از كجا گير آوردي؟»

 گفتم: «چرا كُشتيش؟»

 مضطرب بود. دور خودش چرخيد و پشت كرد به من. بعد با پاي چپش كوبيد زير كلوخي كه خاك بلند كرد. گفت: «تقصير خودش بود، پريد سرنيزه رو برداره...»

 گفتم: «اون كه دست هاش بسته بود.»

 گفت: «تقصير تو بود. تو گفتي دست هاشو از جلو ببندم.» 

  

دست هايش را كه مي بست، گفتم: «از جلو ببند وگرنه مجبوري خودت بهش غذا بدي.» طناب را چندبار دور دستش پيچيد و محكم گره زد. با سر اشاره كرد به موتور تريلِ اسير ايراني. از همان موتورهاي پرشي كه بيشتر به درد بيابان و جاده هاي ناهموار مي خورَد تا خيابان هاي آسفالته. گفت: «اگه سالم بود، زده بود به چاك.»

 من هم هندل زده بودم اما روشن نشده بود. پريده بود و فرمان را از دستم گرفته بود. از پاي راستش خون مي رفت و مي بايست باز با پاي چپ هندل مي زد... آخر سر درِ باك را باز كرد و گوشش را چسباند به دهانۀ باك و دو دستي فرمانِ موتور را تكان تكان داد. گفت: «بدمصب خالي يه، خشكِ خشك.»

 گفتم:‌ «اگه روشن هم مي شد فايده نداشت. سه تَركه نمي شد رفت. تو پات زخمي يه و من هم كه موتورسواري بلد نيستم...»

 گفت: «قرار نبود سه تركه بريم.»

 و قاه قاه خنديده بود و دستش را گذاشته بود روي پارچه اي كه بالاي رانش بسته بود. لنگۀ راستِ شلوارش را كه جر داده بود، تا روي پوتين ها خوني بود و با هر قدمي كه برمي داشت پاي آغشته به خونِ سرخ و سياهش تا بالاي زانو پيدا مي شد.

 گفتم: «حالا چطور برگرديم خط؟ پاك گم شديم.»

 گفت: «عوضش اين عَجَمو پيدا كرديم تا زير همين آفتاب، داغش كنيم... هوي، اجنبي! اسمت چيه؟»

 اسير ايراني زل زده بود توي چشم هايش. دست كرد توي يقۀ زيرپيراهنِ سفيدش كه ديگر سفيد نبود. زبانش را لاي دندان ها گذاشت و زنجيرش را كشيد و كند. چند قدمي لنگ لنگان عقب رفت. بعد زنجيرِ خودش را از گردنش درآورد و انداخت به گردنِ اسير ايراني و قاه قاه خنديد. باز چند قدم عقب رفت. با دو انگشتِ شست و اشاره، پلاك را جلو چشمش گرفت تا اسمِ رويش را بخواند. انعكاسِ برقِ آفتاب كه از روي پلاك به چشم هايش تابيد، پلاك را محكم كوبيد روي زمين و پشت به ما شروع كرد به قدم زدن. پلاك را برداشتم و اسم رويش را خواندم. سرش را برگرداند و گفت: «ديدي اسمِ اين بد مصّب هم چيه؟»

 گفتم: «مگه اشكالي داره؟»

 نگاهم كرد. بعد پوزخندي زد و نشست روي زمين. گفت: «واسه من كه فرقي نمي كنه.»

 گفتم: «چه فرقي؟»

 جواب نداد. بندِ پوتين هايش را كه باز مي كرد انگشت كرد توي سوراخِ بغلِ يكي از لنگه هايش و گفت: «خدا مي دونه اين چندمين پوتينه كه پام كرده ام.»

 بيشتر از پنج سال بود كه به جنگ آمده بود. مي گفتند: «ديوانه ست، خدمتش تمام شده اما برنمي گرده خونه اش...»

 سربازهاي ما اما، نه آن هايي شان كه به دلخواه مي آمدند و پنج شش سالي بودند، نزديك به دو سالي را بايد در مرز مي ماندند و آن اواخر كه رفتن شان معلوم نبود و گفته بودند بمانيد تا اوضاع روشن تر شود، دوام آوردن شان آن هم تا نامعلوم، مشكل بود و نتيجه اش مي شد گزارش هاي پي در پي از تيرِ ناشناسي كه از كنارِ بازويي كمانه كرده بود يا گلوله اي كه مستقيم خورده بود به شستِ پا و استحقاقِ چند ماهي استراحت پزشكي داشت كه آخرش هم اگر گلولۀ غيبي نبود و اقبالي دركار مي بود، مي گفتند ترخيص!

 بار اول كه از او پرسيدم، بي آن كه چيزي بگويد دست كرد توي جيبِ پيراهنش و عكسِ تا شده اي را درآورد و نشانم داد. خودش وسط ايستاده بود و دست انداخته بود دور گردن برادرهايش كه دو تا بودند و دو طرفش. ازشان بزرگ تر بود، با سبيل كلفتي كه پرپشت تر از دوتاي ديگر بود و سياه تر... و سفيديِ دندان هايش را بيشتر توي چشم مي زد. شكستگيِ نامنظمِ تاي عكس، انگار كه زخميْ باشد از ردِّ تند و ناگهانيِ دشنه يا ضامن داري كُند، خطي ضخيم و مورّب روي گونه اش كشيده بود كه سفيديِ ردش از شكافِ لب ها تا روي سينۀ بازش آمده بود. آن كه اسمش قادر بود، يا شايد رحيم، هماني كه طرفِ راستش ايستاده بود و كوچك تر از همه به نظر مي آمد، شبيه خودش بود.

 از مرخصيِ اول كه برگشته بود، ديگر نرفته بود. مي گفت: «كجا برم؟... از يه شهر، آجرهاش مونده فقط؛ چه برسه به خونۀ ما...»

 مي گفتند به دژباني كه رسيده بود، پيشِ تمامِ گروهان گريه كرده بود: به زانو نشسته بود و خاك را چنگ انداخته بود. من اصلاً نديدم كه گريه كند به خاطر دو تا برادرهايش، يا مثلاً براي دوستي يا كسي. انگار همان بارِ اول بوده. تا يك شب كه بيرونِ خاكريزِ يگان گشت مي زديم. پاسِ دو بوديم و ماه، بدرِ كامل بود. گفت: «هشت ماهي كه بستري بودم، برام مثل هشت سال گذشت... لامصب خورده بود توي سر و گردنم. پشتم هم سوراخ سوراخ بود...» بعد همان عكس را از جيبش درآورد و توي مهتاب نشانم داد. گفت: «اين قادر بود، اين هم رحيم... مادرم را هم كه سالم بيرون آورده بودند، چهلم شون نشده دق كرد!...»  ديدم كه نور ماه توي چشم هايش برق زد. از آن شب، ديگر نپرسيدم چرا نمي رود. گفت: «...حالا واسه همينه كه اينجام!»

 سكوت كردم. مي گفت: «...تو چي؟ تو فكر كرده اي به حقوقِ بي غيرتيِ ارتش عادت كرده ام يا اومده ام بجنگم براي پرچم يا نمي دونم واسه خاكم؟... نه. خاك نداده ام كه خاكي پس بگيرم. هر چند كه حالا خاك شده اند...»

 مي گفت: «دو نفر داده ام دو نفر مي گيرم. با همين سرنيزه. اگر هم نشد، با اين!»  و اشاره كرد به تفنگي كه روي شانه اش بود.

 گفتم: «مادرت هم كه مُرد!»

 گفت: «مادرها همه، دق مي كنند و مي ميرند!»

 شب ها به افق كه نگاه مي كرديم روشن تر از تمامِ خاكريزهاي نزديك مان بود. آن دورترها فقط سرخي بود كه التهاب داشت و نورِ زردي كه به نظر خاموش و روشن مي شد. صداي انفجار توپ ها و موشك ها كه براي لحظه اي خاموش مي شد تازه متوجه شان مي شديم كه چه غوغا كرده اند. رحمان مي گفت: «بيچاره نفت شهر!»

مي گفتم: «خب، اونها هم همينو مي گن.»

مي گفت: «اونها هم راست مي گن.»

 به جز من كسي نمي دانست اين مجروحِ هفتاد درصدي كه همه آرزو مي كردند به جاي او بودند چرا مانده است و همچنان بر ماندن اصرار دارد. از پشت سر كه نگاهش مي كردي جاي تركشي كه به سرش خورده بود به اندازۀ يك دِرهَم مو نداشت و پوست سرش كه سفيدتر بود به چشم مي زد. پوست گردنش هم چند جايي فرو رفته بود و انگار كه لُپ ها را تو بدهند يا انگشت از تودۀ خميري بيرون آورده باشند، گوشتِ قرمزِ صورتي اش بيرون زده بود.

 گفته بود دو تا و آن يكي را خودم شاهد بودم:‌ زيرپيراهن سفيدش را بالا گرفته بود و مدام مي گفت ال سلام، ال سلام... عربي نمي دانست و چيزهايي به زبانِ خودشان مي گفت. عيبي نيست؛ اُسرا هميشه براي حفظِ جان شان همين كار را ميكنند. مي گويند «تقيه» است. رحمان سينه اش را نشانه گرفته بود و مراقب بود و مدام داد مي زد كه بيا جلو.

 منتظر بودم تا او به ما برسد كه صداي شليك رحمان آمد. اول تصور كردم گلوله خودبه خود در رفته اما وقتي قاه قاه خندۀ رحمان را ديدم فهميدم نه، زده... رفتم بالاي سرِ جنازه. در دم با چشم هاي باز مُرده بود. با انگشتِ شست و مياني چشم هايش را بستم. مي بايست چالش مي كردم. پلاكش را نگاه كردم. گلولۀ رحمان نيمي از پلاك را كَنده بود و فقط چند حرفش معلوم بود. تهديدش كردم كه گزارش مي دهم. داشت پوتين هاي او را مي پوشيد. اول پوزخند زد. دوباره داد زدم: «گزارش مي دم!»

 بگذريم از گزارش هايي كه موضوعش جاي پيگيري دارد و طرف را كه مي برند ديگر نمي بينيش و بعدها كه جرئت كني و بپرسي، مي گويند منتقل شده و به چشم هايت نگاه مي كنند و مي گويند: «چطور مگه؟» خنده دار است گزارش دربارۀ شليك به اسيري كه تسليم شده. آخرش هم نمي فهمي نامه اي را كه نوشته بودي اصلاً به دستِ كسي رسيده يا نه!

 پوتين ها را پرت كرد به طرفم و گفت: «برام كوچيكه.»

  

از روشن شدنِ موتور هم كه نااميد شده بود، پوتينش را پرت كرد روي سينۀ اسير ايراني و به من گفت: «پوتين هاشو در بيار، اينها رو پاش كن!»

 دو زانو نشسته بودم جلو اسير ايراني. داشت نگاهم مي كرد، با لب هايي كه از خشكي كلفت تر شده بود و سبيلِ كم پشتي كه روشن تر از صورتش بود. پوتين هايش نو بود. بندهايش را باز كردم. به پاهاي بزرگش نگاه كردم كه نشانه هاي بلوغِ تازه رس بود. هر دو تا شستِ پايش خوني بود و پشت پاهايش پينه بسته بود. پوتين هاي رحمان را پايش كردم. هيچ حركتي نكرد. رحمان گفت: «نمي خواد بندِشو ببندي.»

 گفتم: «نمي تونه خوب راه بره.»

 گفت: « به درك. بذار بميره... تو برو اين دور و بر ببين مي توني آب گير بياري.»

 سرش پايين بود و با تكه چوبي روي خاك خط مي كشيد. ضربدر و منحني، به چپ و به راست مي كشيد و بعد درهمش مي كرد. لب هاش از خشكي ترك خورده بود و با آن همه خوني كه از پايش مي رفت گمان نمي كردم بخواهد يا بتواند كاري بكند. اجنبي هم كه دست هايش بسته بود و براي او كه تنها مي مانْد خطري نداشت. مي گويند مجروحِ تيرخورده نبايد آب بخورد! اما شايد اين مجروح پيش از آن كه از زخمِ گلوله هلاك شود از تشنگي مي مُرد. بايست مي رفتم، آن هم فقط در يك جهت، به خط مستقيم، تا شايد به جنازه اي برخورد كنم – عرب يا عجم فرقي نمي كرد- تا اگر قمقمه اي به كمرش مانده باشد و آب، حتي اگر بند انگشتي باشد، بردارم و به همان خطِ مستقيم برگردم.

 

 كمي از خاكريز دور شده بودم كه جنازه اي را ديدم. با آن كه از لَهلَۀ آب مي مردم اما با پوتين هايي كه هر لحظه سنگين تر مي شد به طرفش دويدم... آنتنِ بي سيم اش كج شده بود و انگشتِ شستِ هر دو دستش زيرِ بندِ برزنتيِ كوله پشتي اش بود و با صورت افتاده بود روي زمين. ديرتر رسيده بودم، انگار ساعتي پيش از من، ديگري به او رسيده بود و با يك فشارِ سرنيزه، فانسقه اش را از پشت كمرش دو نيمه كرده بود و قمقمه اش را برداشته بود. نااميد سرم را بلند كردم، اما هنوز اميد بود. جلوترها جنازۀ ديگري افتاده بود. و باز دورترها، چند تاي ديگر، با لباسِ خاكي يا تيره تر. يكي شان حتماً قمقمه اي داشت تا اين عطشِ دو روزه را بخواباند. از يكي به سراغِ ديگري مي رفتم. قمقمه را، اگر بود، برمي داشتم و تكان تكان مي دادم تا مگر آبي داشته باشد... سرانجام از قمقمه اي صداي آب آمد. پلاكش را نگاه نكردم. چه فرق مي كرد كه خودي مي بود يا نه. قمقمه بود و تا نيمه هم آب داشت. نخوردم. فقط درش را باز كردم و بو كشيدم؛ بويِ آبِ گرم و بخاري كه دم كرده بود به مشامم خورد و به همان خطي كه آمده بودم، برگشتم.

 نپرسيد تشنه ام يا نه. اسير ايراني را هم مي دانست كه ديگر تشنه نيست. داد زدم: «مي گم چرا كشتيش؟»

 به طرفش هجوم بردم. سنگين بود و قوي اما از خونِ رفته بي رمق شده بود. به دو غلت رويش افتادم و نشستم روي سينه اش. به چشم هايش نگاه كردم؛ با آن برقِ سياهش، بي آن كه چيزي بگويد مي دانستم چه فكر مي كند. هميشه گوشۀ سنگر كه مي نشست، ساكت، سيگاري روشن مي كرد و بي اعتنا به صداهاي ديگر، دودش را حلقه حلقه به هوا مي داد. از گشتِ شبانه كه برمي گشتيم، روي تختِ پايين مي خوابيد و هر بار كه اسمش را آرام زمزمه مي كردم، مي گفت: بيدارم! سرم را از لبۀ تخت آويزان مي كردم و دو گوي سياه را مي ديدم كه در تاريكيِ سنگر برق مي زد. انگار به الوارهاي تيرۀ سقف نگاه مي كرد. دوستش داشتم. چشم هايش مهربان بود، مگر زماني كه آلبومِ ذهنش ورق مي خورد و مي رسيد به آن عكسِ سه نفره كه خودش وسط ايستاده بود... و اين بار چشم­هايش برقِ آشناي هميشگي را نداشت.

 

دست ها را از روي سينه اش برداشتم و خودم را روي خاك انداختم. چشم هاي بسته ام در كفِ دست هاي تاريكم آرام گرفت. لحظه اي بعد سرم را بلند كردم. رحمان، پشت به ما، دستش را به پاي راستش گرفته بود و لنگ لنگان و پا كِشان به سمتي مي رفت كه معلوم نبود به كجاست. مي دانستم اگر برود، به خاكريز دوم نرسيده از پا مي افتد و مي ميرد. داد زدم:‌ ‌«برو به درك. بذار انقدر ازت خون بره كه با صورت بيفتي زمين و بميري!»

 مكثي كرد اما سرش را برنگرداند. از خاكريز بالا رفت و لحظه اي بعد انگار كه در خاك فرو رود به پايين سرازير شد و ديگر فقط ظلِ آفتاب بود به وسعتِ تمامِ زمين كه دور تا دور ما را احاطه كرده بود. تنها مانده بودم با جنازه اي كه بايد تشنه خاكش مي كردم. با دست هاي خالي، انگار كه تشنه اي به دنبالِ آب در قعرِ زمين بگردد، زمين را مي كندم. هوا هنوز تاريك نشده بود و خورشيد مي رفت تا به غروب نزديك تر شود

 بله، با يك سرنيزه و يك يقلاوي هم مي شود گودالي به بزرگيِ يك آدم كَند و اگر كوچك بود پهن و پهن ترش كرد.

 اسير ايراني را بلند كردم و تا نزديكِ قبرش آوردم. سنگين شده بود اما نه به سنگيني رحمان، آن هم موقعي كه سرشاخ شده باشيم و در بزنگاهِ تنگيِ نفس، به يك غلت سنگيني اش را روي سينه ام انداخته باشد. خواستم او را آرام روي زمين بگذارم كه از دور صداي قهقهه اي آمد. گفتم: رحمان است كه برگشته! صداي دومي شان را كه شنيدم فهميدم چند نفرند. معلوم بود كه نمي دانند كسي اين اطراف است. اما از صداي خنده كه نمي شود فهميد عرب است يا عجم... جنازۀ اسير ايراني را همان جا رها كردم و يك نفس تا پشتِ خاكريزي كه رحمان از آنجا رفته بود دويدم. نماندم تا بشمرم شان كه چند نفرند. دو يا سه، يا حتي پنج نفر هم اگر بودند چه فرق مي كرد.

 پشت خاكريز ردِ رحمان را ديدم؛ خونِ بدنش بود كه از جراحتِ پايش ريخته بود روي زمين و پيچيده بود تا پشتِ آن خاكريزهاي روبه رو. به دنبالش رفتم. گفتم: «اگه زنده باشي هيچ، ولي اگه مرده باشي باهات حرف ها دارم كه بزنم.»

 

و حالا كه ردِّ خونت مرا تا بالاي سرت رسانده، مي بينم بله، با صورت روي زمين افتاده اي و مُرده اي، درست همان طور كه پشت سرت داد زده بودم: ...بميري! اما نمي دانم با اين پاي سياه شده و اين بدنِ بي خون، چطور خودت را تا اينجا كشانده اي؛ اين چند مترِ آخري كه ديگر اصلاً لكه اي هم از خونت نيست!... سرت... را... برگردان... مي خواهم مرا ببيني. من هنوز زنده ام. اما دست هايم ديگر ناي كندنِ يك گورِ ديگر ندارند؛ آن هم اينجا. بايد ببرمت همان جايي كه بوديم. پاهايم هنوز طاقت دارند. از همين مسيري كه آمده ايم برمي گرديم. آخر ديگر خاك را چرا چنگ انداخته اي؟ مشتت را باز كن... بيا... روي... دوشم... تو چه سنگيني! اسيرت سبك تر از تو بود، مثل پرِ كاه. حالا سبك تر هم شده. چون تو كشتيش. دوستانِ احتمالي اش هم مجال ندادند تا من خاكش كنم... چاله اش را كنده بودم كه از دور صداي شان آمد. من هم آمدم به سمتِ تو. از جهت صداي شان، اگر اجنبي بوده باشند، معلوم است كه اين همه راه را، لنگ لنگان، اشتباه آمده اي. نگاه كن بايد از اين سمت مي رفتي. تا پشتِ آن تپه هاي خاكي... نترس. خمپاره بود. آن هم توي اين بيابانِ برهوت... معلوم است كه مرز نزديك است. چرا تكان خوردي؟ مي دانم نمي ترسي. مي افتي. از اول هم نمي ترسيدي. اما چه مي دانم، شايد آدم كه مي ميرد ترسش بيشتر مي شود... نگران آن ها هم نباش. حتماً‌ تا حالا ديگر رفته اند. اگر ديده باشندش شك دارم كه بفهمند ايراني است. پلاكِ تو هم كه توي گردنش است. مگر دوستي، از سفيديِ چشم هاي درشتش بشناسد. شايد اگر تصور كنند كه دشمن است، به جنازه اش هم رحم نكنند. چيزي كه ندارد، همه چيزش را تو برداشته اي. براي يادگاري كه نه! شايد به خيالِ اين كه دشمن است با گلوله سوراخ سوراخش كنند بعد با سر بيندازند توي همان چاله اي كه من كنده ام. يا اين بار با سرنيزۀ خودشان شكمش را پاره كنند. اما تو نبايد مي كردي. مگر چه گناهي كرده ايم؟ ديده بان بوده كه بوده... اگر من هم بودم، حتي مرده مثلِ همين حالاي تو، دلم مي خواست دوستي، يا بيگانه­اي، برايم خاك را بكَند و چالم كند. پلاك را هم به شاخۀ خشكيده اي يا ميله اي كه از اطراف پيدا مي كند و توي خاك فرو مي كند، آويزان كند تا مثلِ همۀ آن بقيه، چيزي براي خانواده ام باشد تا پس بفرستد. مگر جنازۀ عبدالله و آن دوستانِ ديگرم را همين طورها تشييع نكردند؟ تابوتي به آن بزرگي با چند تكه استخوان و يك پلاك... هر كس هم مرده اي را كه مالِ خودش است چال مي كند. بايد چال كند؛ وگرنه بيابان مي شود پرِ جنازه. دور و برت را نگاه كن! آن دورها را ببين؛ پشتِ آن دو تپۀ مدور؛ انگار صورت صافي بوده كه حالا روي گونه ها و بيني اش كك مكي شده، پر از خال هاي سياه و خاكستري و زرد... آخر چرا كشتيش! حالا مي فهمم چرا مرا فرستادي دنبالِ آب. بايد مي گفتم خودت بروي. اما نه، تو پايت تركش خورده بود. خودم بايد مي رفتم. يعني اگر نمي رفتم، هر دوتان الان زنده بوديد؟ نه، يكي تان شايد! چه مي دانستم؟ وقتي برگشتم پشت خاكريز، باورم نمي شد. پس آن چشم هاي مهربان چه شد؟ مگر قاتلِ برادرهايت همان يك نفر بوده يا اين مادرمُرده اي كه سن و سالي هم نداشت؟ ديده بان بوده كه بوده. گِراي خانۀ شما را كه او نگرفته بود. اصلاً آن موقع شايد ده سالش هم نبوده... مي زنند. توپ است و گلوله. شب و تاريكي. تا بيفتد روي سر چه كسي. وسطِ بيابان هم بيفتد فرقي نمي كند. نه براي آن ها، نه براي ما. مثلِ همين خمپاره ها. فقط مي مانَد اقبال، كه قادر و رحيم نداشتند. اين دو نفر هم نداشتند. تو هم نداشتي. وگرنه... ببين، اين ها خونِ توست كه اينجا ريخته؛ انگار جاده را با خونت خط كشي كرده اي... پيراهنت را،‌ از زورِ گرما درآورده اي يا از زورِ سنگيني اش؟ ايناهاش، اينجا افتاده. انداخته اي و رفته اي. با... سنگينيِ... تو... كه... نمي توانم... دولا بشوم... تازه به دردت هم نمي خورد. ديگر براي تو چه فرق مي كند كه پوتين هايت نو باشد يا كهنه؟ يا كنسروها را چرا دير تقسيم مي كنند؛ يا اصلاً شب است يا روز. چه برسد به ساعت كه مثلِ اجنبي هاي اولِ جنگ به هر دستت يكي بسته اي. از ساعت هايي كه به مچ بسته بودند و با خنده جلو دوربين مي گرفتند مي شد فهميد چند نفر را به اسارت گرفته اند. مي دانم غنيمت نيست. مالِ قادر بوده يا رحيم. خودت هم يادت نيست... بي تابي نكن، مي رسيم. سبك تر شده ام. تو هم همين طور. اما باز هم مثلِ هميشه كه گوشۀ سنگر مي نشستي و حرف نمي زدي ساكتي.

  

ديدم او را با صورت انداخته اند توي همان گودال و كلوخي را از پشت كوبيده اند به سرش. رحمان را آرام روي زمين گذاشتم. خرده هاي كلوخ را از پشتِ گردنش كنار زدم و سرش را برگرداندم. صورتش مجروح بود. به رحمان كه نگاه كردم صورت او هم از برخورد با زميني كه ديگر نديده بود زخمي شده بود. خورشيد مي رفت غروب كند تا، دقايقي ديگر باز نور و تلألو همۀ آن صداها كه به گوش مي رسيد در افق ديده شود.

 براي هر دوشان جا بود. شانه به شانه اگر كنار هم مي ماندند فقط تيزي سرنيزه اي جا بود تا بين شان قرار گيرد. مشتي خاك روي صورت هر كدام شان ريختم و تا مشت ديگر را بردارم پيراهنش را ديدم كه گوشه اي افتاده بود. عكس را هميشه در جيب چپش مي گذاشت. لباس هايش را كه مي خواست بشويد عكس را آرام از جيبش بيرون مي آورد و دو دستي تا كنار جعبه مهماتش مي برد. قفلِ جعبه را باز مي كرد و بي آنكه نگاه شان كند لاي حوله اي مي گذاشت و دوباره درِ جعبه را مي بست. هر كس براي خودش جعبه مهماتي داشت كه به جاي صندوقِ لباس و وسايل بود و اگر قرار بود ترخيص شود به ديگري كه دوستش بود مي داد. عكسِ تا شده را از جيبش بيرون آوردم و تا بازش كنم براي لحظه اي چشم هايم را بستم. وقتي بازش كردم تاريك بود. خورشيد رفته بود و از پسِ صدايي، منوّري به جايش به آسمان رفت و تا پايين بيايد لحظه اي همه جا روشن شد. رحمان وسط ايستاده بود. دست چپش روي شانۀ يكي شان بود و ديگري كه نامش رحيم بود، يا شايد قادر، همان كه شبيه رحمان بود... نه، اسير بود! انگار او بود كه دستِ ديگرِ رحمان روي شانه هايش بود و لبخند مي زند... چشم هايم تار شده بودند و چهره ها را به وضوح نمي ديدم. تا ببندم و بازشان كنم، منوّر خاموش شده بود. به جنازه ها نگاه كردم و به آسمان، كه ماه نبودش.

 عكس را مي بايست جايي، روي همان سينه اي مي گذاشتم كه هميشه بود. تاريك بود و صورت هاي شان با آن جراحات و خاك و خونِ‌ به هم آميخته يكي شده بود. تا منوّرِ ديگري همه چيز را روشن كند همان جا روي همان خاكِ خشك چهار زانو نشستم و چشم ها را روي كفِ دو دست خواباندم. صدايي آمد. انگار منوّرِ ديگري پرتاب شده بود تا من همه چيز را ببينم. چشم هايم ميان دوكفِ دست، آرام بودند و در آن نورِ منوّر دانستم كه عكس را كجا بايد گذاشت!

 به زانو نشستم و كپه هاي خاكِ دور تا دورِ گودال را با پاشنۀ هر دو دست، به گودال ريختم تا پر شود. بعد كفِ دست ها را روي خاكش كشيدم و هموارش كردم تا اگر عابري از كنارش گذشت بداند كه خاك، تنها نيست و قبرِ سربازي اينجاست و شايد لحظه اي درنگ كند. بايد بلند مي شدم و روي هر دو پاي سنگينم مي ايستادم و اطراف را نظاره مي كردم آن هم در اين تاريكيِ شب، تا شايد برقِ چيزي مرا به طرفِ خودش بكشاند؛ بردارمش و بكوبم بالاي اين گورِ ناشناس و پلاك ها را آويزانش كنم. اما فقط سرنيزۀ رحمان بود و قمقمۀ خاليِ آب كه در نداشت. سرنيزه را دو دستي گرفتم و با تمامِ قدرتم چند بار در خاك فرو كردم... نه، معجزه اي در كار نبود و چشمه اي هم كه بايد نجوشيد. حتي قطره اي آب هم بيرون نزد. سرنيزه تا نيمه در خاك فرو رفت و محكم شد. زنجيرِ پلاك ها را چند حلقه اي دورِ دستۀ سرنيزه پيچيدم و قمقمه را هم كنارشان گذاشتم.

 بايد روي خاك شان مي نوشتم محلِ  دفنِ رحمان و... نه، گريه نكردم. آدم اگر تشنه باشد چشمۀ چشم هايش اشك ندارد. بايد برمي خاستم و به سمتي مي رفتم تا سنگري پيدا كنم و همان جا بمانم تا كَسي بيايد. آب هم ديگر نمي خواهم! همان جا كنارِ گور، خودم را به پشت، رو به آسمان رها كردم و... خوابم برد.

  

ديدم در سنگري بيگانه خوابيده ام كه از گوشۀ سقفش آسمان پيداست و من كه تشنه ام به پشت افتاده ام و الوارهاي سقف را نگاه مي كنم... سنگر پر از قمقمه بود و هر كدام را كه با دو دستم برمي داشتم تا يك نفس سر بكشم خالي بود. يكي يكي به لب هايم مي رساندم شان و بوي آبِ دم كرده را كه در فضاي خاليِ قمقمه مي پيچيد مي شنيدم. تكان شان مي دادم تا اگر قطره اي آب هم باشد روي لب هايم بريزد تا لذتِ دفعِ عطش را حس كنم. نبود و هر چه بود خالي بود تا آن كه قمقمۀ بزرگي را ديدم كه پر از آب بود و خنك بود. يك نفس، تمامِ آبش را خوردم. دهانه اش آن قدر بزرگ بود كه نيمي از آب هايش روي صورت و لباس هايم مي ريخت. لذتي بود خنك شدنِ چشم ها و لب ها و سنگينيِ‌ خنكِ آب در تهِ گلوي خشكيده... اما لحظه اي بعد باز عطش بود و لَهلَه آب كه پيچ و تابم مي داد... به خيزِ سينه اي كاغذهاي اطرافم را به سمت خودم كشيدم. مي خواستم روي تمام شان بنويسم من تشنه ام، تشنه ام، تشنه... ديدم همۀ آن چه كه بر من رفته بود يك به يك جلو چشم هاي تارم ظاهر مي شوند: رحمان و آن اسيرِ‌ ايراني و آن خاكريزهايي كه از روي شان مي گذشتيم؛ ديگري هم با ما بود، قادر بود يا شايد هم رحيم. بعد سرنيزه ها را ديدم و گلولۀ رحمان و پلاكِ آن اجنبي و پاشنۀ دست هايم كه از درد ورم كرده بود. از همه سو صدا مي آمد، صداهاي بلند. كسي داشت گريه مي كرد. سرش را كه برگرداند ديدم تمامِ صورتش با گِل خشكيده استتار شده و چشم هايش مثلِ دو گوي سفيد مي درخشند. در تهِ شيارِ گونه هايش دو رودِ بزرگ جاري بود، انگار كودكي روي نقشه اي خاكي، با چوبِ باريكش، مسيرِ دجله و فرات را با دو خطِ عميق كشيده باشد و ديگري كاسه اي آب را از مصبِّ رودها جاري كند تا خاك و سنگ ريزه هاي سرِ راهش را بشويد و بعد در ظلّ آفتاب تمام آب هايش به يك باره خشكيده باشد... كاغذها را كه نگاه كردم روي تمام شان سفيد بود و بايد همۀ اين ها را كه مي ديدم مي نوشتم تا اگر تشنگي ام با جرعه اي آب فراموش شد تصور نكنم كه همۀ اين ها خواب بوده است و وهم و خيال. از پشتِ خاكريز شروع كردم؛ از آنجا كه با قمقمۀ آب به سمتِ رحمان مي فتم... نوشتم؛ همه را نوشتم... كاغذهاي اطرافم تمامي نداشتند و هر كدام را كه سياهه اش كامل مي شد به گوشه اي پرت مي كردم و كاغذ ديگري را برمي داشتم... تا آن كه كاغذها تمام شدند و فقط صفحه اي سفيد، ماند تا در سطرهاي آخرش، آن چه را كه بايد، بنويسم. شايد كسي بيايد و مرا پيدا كند و اين ها را كه نوشته ام بخواند!... نوشتم: من زنده ام. از تشنگي به خواب رفته ام. اگر يك سطل آب روي صورتم بريزيد به هوش مي آيم و آب مي خورم، آب مي خورم... اينجا گرم است، آتش است، آتش... من دوست تان هستم. دوست تان دارم. هر كس كه باشيد. به زبان شما نوشته ام تا بدانيد كه نمرده ام. زنده ام. اما پلاكم را گم كرده ام. عرب يا عجم چه فرق مي كند. من تشنه ام. شما هم كه قمقمه تان پر از آب است. آرام صدايم كنيد. اسمم را فراموش كرده ام. بگوييد «رحمان». آرام زمزمه كنيد. بيدار مي شوم. بيدار مي شوم. صدا مي آيد «...»

 عينِ همين جملات را به هر دو زبان نوشته بود. هم به عربي و هم فارسي؛ تا هر كدام كه پيدايش كردند بدانند كه زنده است. تشنه است. و صداي سوتِ گلولۀ توپ را كه از آسمانِ بازِ سنگر شنيده بود، به سه نقطه اكتفا كرده بود و... مُرده بود. 




Hossein Mortezaeian AbkenarHossein Mortezaeian Abkenar

Hossein Mortezaeian Abkenar, born in 1966, published his first work of fiction, a collection of short stories titled The Concert of Forbidden Tars, in 1999, followed by The French Perfume, which won the 2003 Yalda Award for the best collection of short stories. His first novel, Scorpion on the Steps of Andimeshk Train Station, or Blood’s Dripping From This Train, was published in 2006 to great acclaim. The novel received the Golshiri Award and the Mehregan Award for the best novel of the year, as well as the Vaav Award for the year’s most unique novel. Abkenar has also written several screenplays, among them for the film No One Knows about Persian Cats, directed by Bahman Ghobadi and awarded the Special Jury Prize Ex-aequo in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. Abkenar’s books are banned from sale and publication in Iran. 

Translated from PersianPersian by Sara KhaliliSara Khalili

Sara Khalili is an editor and translator of contemporary Iranian literature. Her translations include Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour, The Book of Fate by Parinoush Saniee, Kissing the Sword: A Prison Memoir by Shahrnush Parsipur, and the forthcoming Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons by Goli Taraghi. She has also translated several volumes of poetry by Forough Farrokhzad, Simin Behbahani, Siavash Kasraii, and Fereydoon Moshiri. Her translations of Mandanipour’s short stories have appeared in the Literary Review, the Kenyon Review, the Virginia Quarterly Review, EPOCH, Words without Borders, and PEN America.