Poker—like a god emerging from the fog, fragment by fragment—appears in the doorway. There is a glint in his eyes, mischievous and small. A glint produced by optic nerves, innocent and pure like a newborn rain.
He is barefoot and has brought two kites with him. Without a word, I stare at him. Light and agile, he springs to the middle of the living room.
The Afghan Groundskeeper says, “A kite is man’s yearning to wander.”
Akhenaten says, “There is the image of a god in their lost figure . . .”
I say, “. . . perhaps the image of a bird.”
Poker is sitting on the floor, preparing the spools. We need open space to fly the kites. Something that isn’t available in the living room. I leave and return with a large piece of sky. Poker has prepared everything and is waiting. I climb up on a stool and pin my big sky to the ceiling. Poker gives me one of the kites. Then he takes a few small breezes from his shirt pocket and releases them in my sky. The kites fly into the air and the spools spin in our hands.
“I wish Benyamin were here.”
Benyamin—a young, small-statured, agile man who we met in the temporary army camp inside Iran’s borders.
Now, Poker reminds me of him and a storm starts to rage inside me . . . How could anyone anywhere in the world fly a kite and not remember Benyamin?
Recycled paper. Benyamin had a kite made of recycled paper; small, as small as the palm of one’s hand. There was a drawing of the Star of David on his kite. A small drawing that sometimes glowed at night and Benyamin would hide the kite in his shirt so that the brightness of his naked star wouldn’t be discovered inside the dark frontiers of Iran.
At the camp, we spent most nights together. We slept, we woke up, we didn’t fight, and we died. Benyamin would often secretly fly his kite just a few meters off the ground and away from others’ eyes. A brief outing, with the enthusiasm of the small spool stifled. A brief roam around a sky wounded at war . . .
We had to evacuate the camp quickly and we hadn’t seen Benyamin since a few minutes before a defensive attack led by the Iranian army. Only a handful of people from our detachment had survived and it was not unlikely that during the foray . . .
The last time we saw him, he was running toward the hills east of the camp. Poker had motioned to him to come back. But as he ran and put greater distance between us, he pointed to something hidden under his shirt.
There was a fear in me. Another fear in Poker. Someone inside me was worried. Someone else inside Poker.
With a small piece of insanity in our pocket, we searched for Benyamin’s life among the dead. But it was as if he was so dead that he couldn’t even be found among the corpses.
It was stupid. Here on earth, we were searching among the corpses for someone who was floating several meters above the earth, like a paper kite. Light. Free. Drifting.
The hills . . . perhaps . . . this was the last possible place. We ran toward the hills. Anxious. Hopeless. Worried. Black blisters had blossomed here and there on the slopes. Each time I saw one, something crumbled inside me. Something else inside Poker.
We ran madly among the hills so that a paper kite, hovering a few meters above the ground, would bring us to a sudden stop. A kite that was peeking from behind a boulder and seemed to be hiding something behind it. Neither of us spoke. We didn’t even look at each other, lest one of us transformed the doubt in the other’s eyes into certainty.
Poker was erratically, laboriously, making his way through the blisters. I set off behind him, with a little delay . . . perhaps a thousand years. There was no sound coming from anywhere. A young boy inside us was flying a thousand paper kites in the sky. A thousand hidden stars.
. . . Poker stopped. I stopped. Poker was somewhere behind a boulder. He wasn’t moving. It took a thousand years for me to reach him. We stood side by side and looked at the blister that had blossomed on Benyamin’s chest. A blister blossoming in the air bittered by almonds . . .
Benyamin was still holding his spool.
A kite was flying inside me. A kite inside Poker . . .
. . . Poker and I spent the entire afternoon in each other’s eyes. Until he, like someone who suddenly becomes aware of a great carelessness, quickly gathered his breeze from my sky, tucked it in his shirt pocket, and like a god disappearing in the fog, disappeared in the doorframe.
I pulled down the kites, folded up my sky, and left the stool sitting in the middle of the living room.
From من سبز میشوم ، میوه میدهم ، انجیر © Payam Feili. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2013 by Sara Khalili. All rights reserved.