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Words Without Borders “stands as a monument to international collaboration and a shared belief in artistic possibility.” 
— 2018 Whiting Literary Magazine Prize Citation
from the July 2013 issue



In this short story, a woman is unraveled by a long white thread.

She had still not taken off her right shoe when she saw it on the doormat. A long white thread. She ran the tip of her shoe over it a few times. The thread twisted and coiled like a scrawny worm and again stuck to the mat. She tried again. This time, like a boa that has devoured an elephant, it arched and hid among the bristles. She bent down to pick it up, but instead she picked up her shoes and put them on the shoe rack.

Her body felt clammy. All the office memos could stick to her skin with no need for push-pins. She imagined herself covered with sheets of paper. Without so much as glancing at her, the employees would stand there and read the notices and they would turn her like a rack in a clothing store and move along. Her handbag was still hanging from her shoulder and the umbrella was still in her hand as she scrutinized the apartment for any possible changes. The arms on the clock had moved close to each other on the four and five. Her husband Noori’s trousers lay folded on the sofa. Time and again, she had said, “Don’t you think it would be better if you hang them in your closet?” And every time Noori had replied, “Of course it would be better.” She turned and again looked at the white thread. It now looked like four identical hills with a dusting of snow. She went to the bedroom, undressed, turned on the air conditioner and stood in front of it. Her body absorbed the cool air, relishing it. She pulled herself away, took a towel, and went and hung it up in the bathroom.

She went to the kitchen and held a lighter to the burner under the kettle, but as her other hand moved toward the knob on the gas stove, she changed her mind. She put the lighter back in its place, gulped down a glass of cold water and walked out. The thread was still there. This time it looked like the jagged line of her EKG. She walked over to the doormat and picked it up with two fingers. She looked through the peephole in the front door. Quietly, she opened the door, held it ajar with one foot, placed her other foot out on the stone-tiled hallway and shook the doormat. She started to cough. This time she shook the mat more vigorously. But just like a leech, the thread had stuck its suckers to the mat and wouldn’t fall off. She leaned further out and beat the mat against the staircase railing several times. The doormat slipped from her fingers, fell on the floor, and suddenly, with a blast that sounded like an explosion, the door slammed shut behind her.

She looked at herself standing there outside the closed door with her legs spread wide and wearing nothing but her panties. A flood of scorching hot liquid coursed through her body. Nothing could be more ridiculous. She glanced up at the second-floor landing; the wide-open window looked like a petrified gaping mouth. She could hear her pulse pounding in her temples. Her gaze shifted several times between the window, herself, the doormat, and the closed door. She couldn’t believe it. She tried to cover herself with her hands. But every part of her nakedness they covered left another part exposed. She continued her pantomime for a while. Then helplessly she leaned back against the wall and the light switches, slid down, and squatted on the floor. The doormat was lying there in front of her; the white thread looked like smirking lips. Accepting the fact that she was sitting there naked in front of the door was no easier than having had to accept the fact that her father had had a heart attack. A few years ago she received a telephone call in the middle of the night, and driving all the way to Sadatabad she had almost rammed into the freeway guardrails and the parked cars along the streets a hundred times.

When she raised her head, there were two red circles on her knees. She felt as though all the blood in her body had surged up to her face. She fanned herself with her hands. No, it wasn’t a nightmare or a fantasy. She was one step away from her home and leagues away from the safety on the other side of the door. What sin was she paying penance for? She thought, But I’m always so . . . I’m always . . . and she desperately looked up at the reflection of the Van Yakad prayer on the glass panel on top of the door. She prayed no one would show up in the hallway. No, no one should see her in that state. She was the one who, before leaving the apartment, with her handbag slung over her shoulder and her umbrella in her hand, always looked through the peephole before opening the door. If she heard footsteps or saw someone, she would wait until the person had passed. Then she would quietly open the door and walk out. She would slide her sunglasses down from the crown of her head onto her nose and turn the key in the lock for the latch to slide back and for the door to close without a sound. She would hurry down the four steps that led to the foyer and when the building’s front door closed behind her, she would exhale with an audible whoof. If she was unlucky and came across anyone, with an “excuse me” that only she could hear, she would narrow her body like a cat, slip past the person, and quickly walk out of the building. With long strides and without opening her umbrella, she would walk to the intersection at the end of the road, and only when she was finally sitting in a taxi would she again release the air in her lungs with an even deeper whoof. She had never thought about these escapes, but she knew she enjoyed them. In a way it was like being trapped, experiencing fear, and then suddenly finding herself free and in a space that belonged only to her. That was it. There was no other explanation for it. Perhaps if she told someone . . . no, she shouldn’t.

Her husband often said, “You’re always beating an escape, fleeing. You should live in a cave.” Then he would purse his lips and squeeze them shut and when he opened them again he would say, “I feel sorry for the people who work for you.”

But it wasn’t like that. She was comfortable with her staff and had no problems with the clients. What’s more, even when people in other departments had difficulties or wanted to complain about life and work, they always found her door open. Hadn’t she helped the clerk in the archives department get a mortgage when his wife threatened to divorce him if he didn’t buy a house? Hadn’t it taken her only a day to arrange for the company driver’s supplementary insurance? And who was it who found the janitor’s crippled son a job at the telephone exchange? Of course, Noori could be right most times and about most things, but not about this. Still, every time she tried to defend herself, he would simply say, “That which is evident need not be discussed.”

None of it mattered now. Whatever had passed before, she was now sitting half-naked in front of the door, running her fingers over the red lines and the fine grit stuck to her backside. It was as if those thin hairy legs with shapeless flabby muscles belonged to someone else. Blue and black veins, resembling little lumps of colored yarn, had clustered here and there on her thighs and on the sides of her knees. Why had she not noticed them before? She ran her hands over her stomach. It felt like a sack with thick yogurt sagging at its bottom. Instinctively, she folded one arm across her stomach and reached up with the other and took the hair clip out of her hair. Straight reddish-brown hair cascaded down over her breasts. Fortunately, she had not cut it short. It was like the odds and ends one stores in the basement for years and then one day they suddenly come in handy.

She got up and lifted the doormat. The damn thread had now bunched up and looked like the veins on her legs. She wrapped the mat around her and thought she must look like the woman in the advertisements for individual saunas, sitting inside what looks like a barrel, with her head and feet sticking out. Just then, the significance of what her husband had recently told her began to dawn on her. He had looked her up and down and said, “What were you and what have you become? Oh, it’s wonderful to see how some women tend to themselves and take care of their looks.”

She heard footsteps. Someone was walking down the stairs. The closer the sound grew, the more she cowered and shrunk into herself. She clutched the doormat tight as if it was her late mother’s dress and she squeezed all her fear and horror into it. She was becoming one with it. The sound of the footsteps stopped. The doormat’s bristles were sticking to her skin. Disgusted, she pulled it away from her.

Soon, she started hoping someone would actually come along. At first, the person would surely be shocked and would try not to look at her. She would ask for a bedsheet to cover herself and then she would explain everything that had happened. She did a rough calculation. There were seven apartments in the building; if an average of two people lived in each unit, that would total fourteen residents. On a summer evening, there would be approximately three people coming and going in the building every hour until at least eight or nine o’clock. She thought, Even the crows return to their nest at sunset. So, where was everyone? She remembered the words to an old popular song: At dusk when the lights go on . . . It was as if someone was humming it inside her head.

She took a deep breath and sighed. With all her being she wanted someone to open the building’s front door and to slam it shut behind them. Where the hell were all those inconsiderate people who on her days off ruined her afternoon naps by slamming the doors, with the clip-clop of their high heels, and the thump-thump of their heavy boots, which had become popular among the youth? She dropped the doormat, dug her nails into her thighs and again crouched down on the floor. Perhaps Noori was right to accuse her of being a nitpicker and a pessimist.

If only he would somehow have a premonition that he had to return home, then he could say whatever he wanted to her. He could call her stupid, thoughtless, absentminded, and obsessive. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that she needed the safety and security that existed on the other side of the door. Noori, a former chess champion, was going to retire in a year, but he was still chasing the dreams of his youth. He even claimed he had beaten Kasparov twice and had conceded the game to him three times . . . She thought, I won’t argue with him anymore, I won’t say that he never even met Kasparov, much less competed with him.

Every day when Noori returned home from work, summer or winter, he put his briefcase in front of the sofa and went to the park to play chess under the gazebo. Even if the sky fell to the earth, his routine wouldn’t change. In fact, to Noori everything was like a chessboard, black or white. And he believed all people were good until proven otherwise. Everyone was wonderful, but only as long as they paid their apartment’s monthly maintenance fees on time, didn’t take his parking space in the garage, and didn’t leave their garbage bags out in front of the building.

Again, she heard footsteps. The owner of the feet walked a few steps and stopped. She pressed herself against the wall and gripped the doormat. There was a thin black line on the wall facing her. The neighbor’s five-year-old daughter had placed the tip of her pencil on the wall and drawn a line all the way up the stairs. Six months ago when the family was moving in, Noori saw their cartons of books in the garage and elatedly announced that at last there was a worthwhile, respectable couple living in the building. They became Mr. and Mrs. Intellectual. And then one Friday Noori’s voice reverberated through the building, exclaiming, “Woe to the society that the likes of them are its intellectuals.” At times like these, he would deliver his famous line—“Life is a stage for defeat. If you lose, you lose; if you win, you still lose.” He always repeated this when he got into an argument with her or when one of life’s white chess pieces slipped into a black piece’s square. But no, with two children in university she didn’t want to think about which one of them was a win or a lose for the other one. She had given up thinking about these things a long time ago.

She looked at the doormat. The thread had bent into a V. She pursed her lips.

She saw the shadow of a man behind the stained-glass panels of the building’s front door and heard the jangle of keys. She suddenly felt hot. She didn’t know why or how she dashed down the four steps, turned right, and bolted down the six steps of the rear staircase, but within seconds she was huddled under the parking garage stairs, gasping for air. She never expected such fast action from herself. But why had she run? She should have stayed there and asked the man to fetch something for her to cover herself with. Then she could have explained how she got stuck in front of the door and asked him to call a locksmith. Would he have believed her? No, she thought, he would have probably supposed the building manager’s wife had rushed back from a rendezvous with someone in the building in such a frenzy that she had forgotten her clothes and her keys and he had caught her in the nick of time.

She thought how strangely the mind works; before any of these random thoughts occurred to her, her brain had ordered her legs to run and triggered her instinct to hide. It was good that her brain had not consulted with her. What would she say to Noori after he heard the rumor? This was different from everything else about her that he complained about. After all these years, Noori had not even come to accept the umbrella she carried every day and held over her head in snow, rain, and sun. He still groused, “Woman, you make me look conspicuous. An intelligent person doesn’t behave this way.” But she no longer felt the need to explain everything to him and knew better than to try to justify every little action the way she used to do.

There was total silence. It was as if the dust of death had been scattered over the damn building. What if she knocked on the door of the intellectual neighbors’ apartment? But no, the woman would probably jump to other conclusions. If Noori was right in believing that they were only acting like cultured people and were in fact even more backward than his old childhood nanny, it was not wise to ring their doorbell looking like that. The woman would probably look through the peephole and one of two thoughts would immediately occur to her; either that the building manager’s wife always went to their apartment half naked to seek out her husband when she was not home, or, at best, that the reclusive conceited woman had gone mad and would likely pounce on her, claw at her face, and beat her if she opened the door. But she didn’t know any of the other six families that lived in the building. She wasn’t even sure she would recognize them if she saw them. The only reason she had met the intellectual couple was because Noori invited them to their apartment one night so that under the pretense of discussing the building’s rules and regulations and maintenance fees he could size them up. She had brought them tea and sat with them for a few minutes and then, claiming she had to call her son, retreated to the bedroom.

She didn’t know how long she had been standing under the parking garage stairs. Why had she not thought of the janitor? She should ask him for a coat or a robe and send him to fetch a locksmith. The curtains with the large red flowers in the window of the janitor’s small cement room in the garage were drawn, but she could see the glow of a lamp inside. She shuddered. No, the deprived opium-addicted Afghan louse would probably get turned on seeing her like that and he would grab her and drag her inside. Hadn’t these people committed all sorts of crimes across that sprawling city? She had never trusted the man’s Moghul-looking eyes. But Noori had said the miserable man was from the Hezareh tribe, that they were Shia Muslims and harmless, and that they were always blamed for the misdeeds of the Taliban and the Pashtu. He had heard this from the Afghan himself and in merely half an hour he had even picked up the man’s accent . . . ugh!

With tiny hurried steps, she tiptoed back to her apartment. She could hear the telephone ringing inside. As though she had just remembered the predicament she was in, she glanced down at the doormat wrapped around her and her breathing became more rapid. She closed her eyes. It was probably Maria calling. She usually called early evenings and often without saying hello gasped, “Mom, I’m dying, I’m so depressed.” Otherwise, if she asked her daughter how she was, Maria would raise her shrill voice and say, “How can anyone be in this stinking far-flung province?” She knew what her daughter’s problem was; she wanted money, again. Unbeknownst to Noori, she would send her some. They all knew how to play her. The girl would say, “I have food poisoning and my friends had to take me to the hospital.” And although she knew this was just a ruse, she would involuntarily say, “Oh no! Again?” She always thought, Perhaps this time she really does have food poisoning! And if she ever said, “But I just sent you some money,” or something along these lines, she would have to immediately hold the receiver away from her ear for the girl to shriek, “It’s all because of you. You’re the one who insisted I come here. As a matter of fact, I will drop out of the university tomorrow and move back to Tehran.” The threat was always enough for her to give in and say, “Fine, fine my dear. Don’t upset yourself. I will deposit some money on your debit card tomorrow.” In a way, she was relieved that Maria wasn’t there just then. She took a deep breath and a smile spread on her lips.

The best moments were when she closed the door to her office, put her feet up on the glass desk, closed her eyes, and a memory from years ago emerged from somewhere deep in her mind . . . she was always enraptured on the afternoons when her son’s math tutor—a man with small piercing eyes—came to the house. She sighed and a wave of pain and pleasure rippled through her body. She looked at her bulging kneecaps and bit her lip. She folded her legs and hugged the doormat tight against her.

It had grown dark outside. She felt a little safer; nightfall was shielding her. Again she heard footsteps. She stood up against the wall and closed her eyes tight. She felt her tears retreating out of fear or perhaps desperation. Now her husband’s arrival had become her nightmare. Perhaps if she were in his place and found her half-naked in front of the door, she too would be horrified and shower her with whatever words spewed out of her mouth. She thought, At first Noori’s eyes will grow wide and then without uttering a word he will quickly look up and down the hallway, open the door, and shove her inside.

The air felt stale and stifling. She thought she heard the telephone ringing again. Cool air was wafting out from the narrow gap under the door. She sat down on the slightly raised door threshold and slumped back. Suddenly the door flew open and swallowed her. She was lying flat on her back. She looked down at her legs spread apart outside the door and at her torso lying inside. She got up, closed the door and turned on the light. The sofas with pleated blue covers, the white voile curtains flapping in the breeze from the air conditioner, the crystal vase with two stems of artificial flowers . . . everything looked strange and unfamiliar. It was as if she had never lived in that apartment. She threw the doormat down next to the door. The white thread was not there. She bent down and looked again. No, it was as if there never was a thread stuck to the doormat. 

“گریز” © Behnaz Alipour Gaskari. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2013 by Sara  Khalili. All rights reserved.



هنوز پاي راستش را از كفش بيرون نياورده بود كه روي  پادري ديدش. نخي سفيد و  بلند.  چند بار نوك كفشش را روي آن كشيد. نخ مثل كرم باريكي پيچ و تاب خورد  و دوباره همانجا چسبيد. باز امتحان كرد. اين بار انگار ماري بوآ كه فيلي را بلعيده باشد، قوز كرد و  خودش را لاي تار و پود پادري قايم كرد. خم شد تا با دو انگشت برش دارد ولي، به جاي آن كفش هايش را برداشت و گذاشت توي جاكفشي.

بدنش چسبناك بود. مي شد همة بخش نامه هاي اداره را بي نياز به پونز و سوزن روي آن چسباند. خودش را با بدني پوشيده از كاغذ تصور كرد كه كارمندهاي اداره مي آمدند، روبه رويش مي ايستادند، بي آنكه نگاهي به او بيندازند، اطلاعيه ها را مي خواندند و او را مثل رگال لباس فروشي ها مي چرخاندند و مي گذشتند. هنوز كيف روي شانه اش بود و چتر توي دستش و، داشت تغييرات احتمالي خانه را وارسي مي كرد. عقربه های ساعت روی چهار و پنج رسیده بودند به هم. شلوار شوهرش،ساعي، تا شده روي كاناپه بود. بارها گفته بود  بهتر نيست بذاريش تو كشوي لباسات؟ و هر بار ساعي گفته بود معلومه كه بهتره.    برگشت دوباره به نخ نگاه كرد. حالا شبيه چهار  تپة يك اندازه با قشر نازكي از برف همانجا به پادري قهوه اي چسبيده بود. به اتاقش رفت. لباس هاش را درآورد. كليد كولر را زد و جلوي باد ايستاد. تنش باد را مي مكيد و حظ مي برد. زود خودش را كنار كشيد. حوله اش را برداشت و برد توي حمام آويزان كرد.

فندك را برد زير كتري. آن يكي دستش رفت روي پيچ اجاق گاز  ولی منصرف شد.  فندك را سر جاش گذاشت و  ليوانی آب سرکشید. نخ همانجا مانده بود. اين بار شبيه منحني نوار قلبي خودش بود. پادري را با دو انگشت برداشت. از چشمي در بيرون را نگاه كرد. در را بي صدا باز كرد. يك پا را جلوي در  حايل كرد و آن يكي را روي سنگ پاگرد گذاشت و پادري را تكاند.  به سرفه  افتاد. اين بار با شدت بيشتري  تكاند.  نخ مثل زالو بادكش هايش را فرو كرده بود  و جدا  نمي شد. جلوتر رفت و آن را چند بار كوبيد روي نرده. پادري از بين دو انگشتش سرخورد و افتاد پایین  و در با صدايي شبيه انفجار به هم كوبيده شد.

به خودش نگاه كرد كه نيمه برهنه و با پاهاي از هم گشوده،  جلو در بسته ايستاده است. جریان آبی داغ توی تنش منتشر شد. مضحك تر از اين ممكن نبود. نگاهش چرخيد به پاگرد طبقة دوم،  پنجره  مثل دهاني وحشت زده باز بود. با هر دو دست كوبيد روي سرش. ضربان قلبش را توي شقيقه هاش مي شنيد. باور نمي كرد. نگاهش چند بار روي پنجره، خودش، پادري و در، رفت و برگشت. باور نمي كرد. سعي كرد با دست ها خودش را بپوشاند. دست هاش هر جايي را كه مي پوشاند ، جاي ديگري  را بي حفاظ مي گذاشت. حجم دست ها كافي نبود. مدتي به نمايش پانتوميمش ادامه داد. بعد كمرش بي اختيار روي پريزهاي برق سر خورد و نشست پاي ديوار و چمباتمه زد. پادري جلو او روي زمين پهن شده بود و نخ سفيد مثل طرحي از لبخند به آن چسبيده بود.  باور اينكه آن طور عريان پشت در نشسته باشد، كمتر از باور سكته كردن پدرش نبود. چند سال پيش نيمه شب خبرش كرده بودند و تا خودش را برساند سعادت آباد، صد بار نزديك بود به گاردريل هاي اتوبان برخورد كند و يا به ماشين هاي پارك شدة  توي خيابان و كوچه بكوبد.

سرش را كه بلند كرد مهر دو دايرة سرخ   روي زانوهاش جا انداخته بود. انگار تمام خوني كه در بدن داشت راه كشيده بود توي صورتش. با دست خودش را باد زد. خواب و خيال نبود. او يك قدمي خانة خودش پشت در مانده بود و فرسنگ ها از امنيت آن سو فاصله داشت. مكافات چه چيزي را قرار بود پس بدهد؟ با خودش گفت آخه من، من كه هميشه... من كه اين همه...  با التماس به وان يكادي كه سايه اش از پشت شيشة بالاي در پيدا بود، نگاه كرد. آرزو كرد سر و كلة كسي پيدا نشود. نه، نبايد كسي او را در آن وضعيت ببيند. او بود كه هر وقت مي خواست از خانه بيرون برود، با كيفش روي شانه و چتر توي دستش  اول توي چشمي نگاه مي كرد. اگر صداي پايي مي آمد يا كسي توي دهانة چشمي ظاهر مي شد ، صبر مي كرد تا بگذرد . بعد در را باز مي كرد.  عينك آفتابيش را از بالاي سر مي سراند روي استخوان گره دار بيني اش،  با كليد زبانة قفل را عقب مي كشيد و در  بي صدا بسته  مي شد. چهار پله را پايين مي رفت و در ساختمان كه پشت سرش بسته مي شد، نفسش را با صداي هوفي بيرون مي داد. اگر بد شانسي مي آورد و در لحظة خروج با كسي رويرو مي شد، با يك ببخشيد كه فقط خودش مي شنيد، گربه وار باريك مي شد،  راه مي گرفت و بيرون مي رفت. تمام كوچه را تا سر خيابان بي آنكه چترش را باز كند، با قدم هاي بلند طي مي كرد و آن وقت توي تاكسي بود كه نفسش را با هوفي عميق تر بيرون مي فرستاد. هيچ وقت به دليل اين گريزها  فكر نکرده بود. ولي، مي دانست كه از اين كار لذت مي برد. يك جور گير كردن،  ترسيدن و بعد ناگهان خود را در فضاي آزاد احساس كردن. فضايي فقط متعلق به خودش. همين بود. توجيه ديگري نداشت. شايد اگر اين ها را به كسي مي گفت...، نه نباید می گفت.

شوهرش مي گفت تو آدم گريزي، آدم گریز.  بايد بري توي غار زندگي كني. بعد لبهاش را سفت به هم فشار مي داد و وقتي بازشان مي كرد، گفته بود بيچاره اون كارمنداي زير دستت.

اما اين طور نبود. با كارمندها راحت بود. با ارباب رجوع مشكلي نداشت. تازه، هر كس حتي از قسمت هاي ديگر اداره كه سر مي خورد و درد دلی یا گلایه ای داشت،  در اتاق او به رويش باز بود. مگر وام مسکن كارمند بایگانی را جور نكرده بود كه زنش پیله کرده بود طلاق بگیرد. بيمة تكميلي رانندة اداره را يك روزه درست كرده بود. پس ترتيب استخدام پسر معلول آبدارچي را توي تلفن خانه  كي داد؟  البته ساعي ممكن بود خيلي وقت ها درست بگويد اما، اينجا اصلا حق با او نبود. هر وقت هم خواسته بود از خودش دفاع كند، ساعي مي گفت آن را كه عيان است چه حاجت به بيان است.

اينها ديگر اهميتي نداشت. هر چه بود او حالا پشت در نشسته بود و به رد شيارهاي سرخ و شن ريزه هاي روي نشيمنگاهش دست مي كشيد. انگار آن پاهاي باريك پرمو با ماهيچه هاي شل و بي شكل  متعلق به ديگري بود. رگ هاي آبي و سياه مثل گلوله هاي ريز كامواهاي رنگي، جا به جا روي ران و كنار زانوهاش جمع شده بودند،  چرا  نديده  بودشان؟ به شكمش دست كشيد كه مثل ماست چكيده  ته كيسه اش توده شده بود. بي اختيار با هر دو دست شكمش را پوشاند. كليپس را از موهاش برداشت. موهاي شرابي  صافش روي دو سينه ريخت. چه خوب شد كه كوتاهشان نكرده بود؛ درست مثل خنزر پنزرهايي كه آدم سال ها توي انباري خانه اش نگه مي دارد و بعد يكهو يك جايي به كارش مي آيند.

 پادري را با دو انگشت برداشت. نخ لعنتي حالا خودش را جمع كرده بود. عين رگ هاي تاب دار روي پاهاش. آن را جلو تنش گرفت.  فكر كرد بايد شبيه آگهي تلويزيوني سوناي خشك تك نفره شده باشد كه زن را توي چيزي شبيه بشكه نشان مي داد كه از سينه تا ران هاش را پوشانده بود و سر و دو تا پايش بيرون مانده بود. حالا معني حرف شوهرش كم كم داشت توي ذهنش باز مي شد. براندازش كرده بود وگفته بود چي بودي و چي شدي؟ آدم حظ مي كنه مي بينه زن هاي مردم چقدر مراقب سر و شكلشان هستند.

صداي پا بود. كسي داشت از پله ها مي آمد پايين. و هر چه صدا  نزديك تر مي شد، او بيشتر در خودش مچاله مي شد.  پادري را مثل لباس مادر مرده اش، به خودش چسباند و همه ترسش را در آن جا داد. داشت با آن يكي مي شد. ولي صدا يك جايي قطع شد. موهاي پادري به تنش چسبيده بود. آن را با حالت بيزاري از خودش دور كرد.

ديگر واقعا دلش مي خواست سر و كلة كسي پيدا شود. طرف حتما اول شوكه مي شد و سعي مي كرد  به او نگاه نكند و او حتما خواهش مي كرد تا ملافه اي برايش بياورد و بعد همه چيز را برايش توضيح مي داد. سرانگشتي حساب كرد. هفت واحد آپارتمان؛  اگر به طور متوسط توي هر كدام فقط دو نفر زندگي كنند، مي شود چهارده نفر. تازه توي غروب تابستان لااقل  تا هشت و نه شب بايد هر ساعت سه نفر در رفت و آمد باشند. با خودش گفت حتي كلاغ ها هم غروب ها برمي گردند لانه. پس كجا بودند؟ بعد كسي توي سرش زمزمه كنان خواند غروبا كه مي شه روشن چراغا... نفس عميقي كشيد و از توی حلقش گفت هه!  با همة وجود دلش مي خواست يك نفر در ساختمان را باز كند و با قدرت آن را به هم بكوبد. پس آدم هاي بي ملاحظه ی این ساختمان لعنتی کدام گوری اند که چرت بعد از ظهر روزهای تعطیلش را با كوبيدن در و تلق تلق پاشنه ها و گرومب گرومب پوتين هاي سنگيني، كه اين روزها جوانك ها مي پوشند، حرام مي كردند. پادري از دستش افتاد و ناخن هايش را فرو كرد توي ران هاش و دوباره نشست. شايد ساعي راست مي گفت كه او بدبين و ايراد گير است.

كاش  اين مرد به دلش مي افتاد و برمي گشت خانه. اصلا هر چه دلش مي خواست بگويد. بگويد كودن، بي فكر، فراموشكار، وسواسي. مهم نبود. مهم اين بود كه به امنيت آن سوي در احتياج داشت. ساعی قهرمان سابق شطرنج، يك سال مانده بود  بازنشست شود  ولي، هنوز دنبال روياهاي جواني اش بود. ادعا مي كرد دو بار كاسپاروف را برده  و  سه بار هم بازي را به او  واگذار كرده ... ديگر با او جر و منجر نمی کند كه او و كاسپاروف  هيچ وقت هم دوره نبودند كه با هم مسابقه داده باشند.

  هر روز كه ساعی از شركت برمي گشت، برايش تابستان و زمستان نداشت، كيفش را جلوي كاناپه مي گذاشت و مي رفت زير آلاچيق پارك شطرنج. آسمان به زمين مي آمد، برنامه اش به هم نمي خورد. اصلا ساعي همه چيز را مثل صفحه و مهره هاي شطرنج سفيد و سياه مي ديد. مي گفت همة آدم ها خوبند مگر آنكه عكسش ثابت شود. آدم ها معركه بودند ولي تا وقتي كه جاي ماشين او را توي پاركينگ نمي گرفتند، شار‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍ژ ماهانه را به موقع پرداخت مي كردند و يا كيسة آشغالشان را جلوي در رها نمي كردند. صداي پا را دوباره شنيد. صاحب پاها از چند پله بالا يا پايين رفت و انگار یک جایی ایستاد. او خودش را به ديوار چسباند و پادري را بغل كرد. خطي باريك و سياه روي ديوار روبه رو  بود..

دختر پنج سالة همسايه طبقة دوم، مداد را گذاشته بود روي ديوار و يكسر از طيقة پايين كشيده بود  تا بالا. شش ماه قبل كه آمده بودند، شوهرش با ديدن كارتن هاي كتاب توي پاركينگ  ذوق زده گفته بود بالاخره يك زوج آدم حسابي آمدند توي اين ساختمان. بعد اسمشان شد  زن و شوهر روشنفكر. يك روزجمعه صداي ساعي توي راهرو پيچيده بود كه مي گفت واي به حال جامعه اي كه روشنفكرش اينها باشند. ساعي  اين جور وقت ها جملة معروفش را به كار مي برد و مي گفت زندگي صحنة باخت است  اگر  ببازي كه باخته اي و اگر ببري هم باخته اي . اين مال وقت هايي بود كه بحثشان مي شد يا وقت هايي كه مهرة سفيدي پايش مي لغزيد توي خانة سياه. ولي نه،  ديگر با داشتن دو فرزند دانشجو دلش نمي خواست فكر كند كدام يكي برد و كدامشان باخت زندگي آن يكي بوده اند. مدت ها بود ديگر به اين چيزها فكر نمي كرد. نخ شبیه حرف دال روی پادری خم شده بود. دندان هاش را فشار داد پشت  لبش.

سايه اي را  از پشت دو رديف شيشه مشجر آپارتمان ديد و صداي چرخش كليد را شنيد. ساية يك مرد. تنش داغ شد. نفهميد چطور خودش را رسانده بود توي پاركينگ و زير پله ها كز كرده بود. نفس نفس می زد. اين سرعت عمل را اصلا از خودش انتظار نداشت. چرا فرار کرده  بود؟ كاش مي ماند و  از مرد مي خواست برايش ملافه اي مي آورد و بعد خواهش مي كرد سراغ كليد ساز برود. ماجراي پشت در ماندنش را براي او تعریف می کرد. ولی  او  داستانش را باور مي كرد؟ نه، حتما فكر مي كرد زن مدير ساختمان از راندو وو  برمي گردد و لابد آنقدر هول بوده كه كليدش را هم جا گذاشته و او سر بزنگاه گيرش انداخته. فكر كرد مغز چه كاركرد عجيبي دارد قبل از اينكه همه اين فكرها ظاهر شود او به پاها فرمان دويدن و به احساس فرمان پنهان شدن داده. خوب بود كه مغز با او مشورت نكرده بود. تازه بدتر از آن  با ساعي چه مي كرد كه خبر دهن به دهن مي چرخيد و مي رسيد به گوش هاي او. ولي اين موضوع، با همه چيز ديگر فرق داشت. ساعی هنوز بعد از ده سال عادت نكرده بود به چتري كه زنش هر روز با خودش مي برد و زير برف و باران و آفتاب روي سرش مي گرفت. ساعی مي گفت مرا انگشت نماي خاص و عام كردي. آدم عاقل از اين كارها نمي كند زن.  نه، ديگر نيازي نمي ديد برايش توضيح بدهد. می دانست نباید مثل سابق براي هر كار كوچكي توجیه بتراشد.

انگار خاك مره پاشيده باشند توي اين ساختمان لعنتي. چطور بود برود  در خانة همسايه روشنفكر را بزند. ولي نه حتما زن خیالات دیگری می کند.  اگر قول ساعی درست باشد كه اينها اداي آدم هاي متمدن را درمي آورند و پشت پرده از  دده پيرة  او  هم عقب افتاده ترند، صلاح نبود برود بالا.  لابد اگر در مي زد، اول  زن از چشمي نگاه مي كرد و در لحظه دو تا فكر به ذهنش مي رسيد يا اينكه كار هميشگي اوست كه در غيابش با اين شكل و شمايل مي آيد سراغ شوهرش يا در بهترين حالت فكر مي كند اين زن منزوي مغرور، ديوانه شده  و اگر در را باز كند بعيد نيست بپرد به او؛ صورتش را چنگ بكشد و بگيردش زير مشت و لگد. ولي غير از آنها كسي را  توي اين ساختمان نمي شناخت. آن هم به خاطر اين بود كه يك بار ساعي تعارفشان كرده بود توي خانه تا به بهانة توضيح دادن قوانين آپارتمان و شارژ و اينها ببيند چند مرده حلاجند. آن شب برايشان چاي برده بود. چند دقيقه هم نشسته بود و بعد  به بهانة تلفن زدن به پسرش خودش را رسانده بود به اتاق. ولي از شش خانوادة ديگر نه  چيزي مي دانست و نه  مطمئن بود اگر آنها را ببيند خواهد شناخت. پنجرة پاگرد دوم دهاني بود پر از تاريكي. نمي دانست چه مدتي آنجا ايستاده است. چرا به فكر سرايدار نيفتاده بود؟ بد نیست ملافه اي  از او  بگيرد و بفرستدش دنبال كليد ساز.

 پردة اتاقك سيماني سرايدار با گل هاي سرخ درشت كيپ  تا کیپ كشيده شده بود و حباب روشن لامپ از پشت آن پيدا بود. بدنش لرزيد. اين مردك افغاني محروميت كشيدة بنگي با ديدنش حالي به حالي مي شود و لابد دستش را مي گيرد و مي كشد تو. مگر كم توي اين پايتخت گل و گشاد جنايت كرده اند؟ از اول به آن چشم هاي مغولي اعتماد نداشت. همه دست اين ملت را خوانده اند. ساعي مي گويد بيچاره از قوم هزاره است. شيعه اند و بي آزار. به جايش همة آزار طالبان و پشتوها آوار سر اينها مي شود. اين ها را  از خود افغاني شنيده بود و حتي توي نيم ساعت لهجة افغاني را هم از او گرفته بود. آوار سر اينها مي شود... هه...

صداي زنگ تلفن از توي خانه مي آمد. انگار دوباره يادش بيايد توي چه مخمصه اي گرفتار شده،  روی پادری دنبال نخ  گشت و با هر دو دست گونه هاش را گرفت و فشار داد. نفسش تند شد و چشم هايش را بست. حتما ماريا بود. اغلب همين وقت ها، دم غروب، زنگ مي زند و بي آنكه سلام كند مي گويد: دلم گرفته دارم مي ميرم مامان. اگر مي پرسيد حالت خوبه عزيزم. صداي تيزش را بلند مي كرد كه آخه تو اين شهرستان بوگندو مي شه خوب بود؟ دردش را مي دانست دوباره پول مي خواست. دور از چشم ساعي پول برايش مي فرستاد. همه خوب رگ خوابش را بلد بودند. دختر مي گفت مسموم شدم و بچه ها بردنم بيمارستان. با اينكه مي دانست اين شگرد درخواست پول است ، بي اختيار  مي گفت چي، دوباره. و هر بار فكر مي كرد شايد اين بار واقعا مسموم شده باشد. كافي بود بگويد من كه تازه پول فرستادم يا چيزي شبيه به اين.  همين موقع بايد گوشي را از گوشش دور مي كرد تا دختر جيغ جيغ كنان بگويد تقصير اصرارهای خودت بود. حالاشم همين فردا انصراف مي دم  مي يام تهران. همين جملة تهديد آميز كافي بود تا بگويد باشه باشه عزيزم، خودتو ناراحت نكن. فردا مي ريزم به كارتت. و حالا چقدر خوب بود كه آنجا نيست. نفس عميقي كشيد و لبخندي روي لبش نشست.

 بهترين لحظه ها وقتي بود كه در اتاقش را توي اداره مي بست . پشت ميزش مي نشست و پاهايش را روي ميز شيشه اي دراز مي كرد و رويايي از سال ها پيش، از جايي پس خيالش بيرون مي آمد و نرم نرم چشم هايش را روي هم مي برد. هر بعد از ظهري كه معلم رياضي پسرش مي آمد، سر از پا نمي شناخت. آه كشيد و موجي از درد توي تنش پخش شد. به استخوان برجستة زانوهاش نگاه كرد و لبش را گاز گرفت. پاها را توي شكمش جمع كرد و پادري را به خودش چسباند.

هوا تاريك شده بود. كمي احساس امنيت مي كرد. تاريكي او را مي پوشاند. صداي پا را دوباره شنيد. چشم ها را روي هم فشار داد. اشك ها از ترس يا عجز پس رفته بودند. حالا سررسيدن شوهرش شده بود يك كابوس. شايد اگر خودش هم جاي او بود و زنش را اينجور برهنه پشت در آپارتمان مي ديد، قبض روح می شد و هر چي از دهنش درمي آمد، نثارش مي كرد. بعد فكر كرد اول چشم هاي ساعی گرد مي شود و بعد  بي آنكه حرفي بزند، تند و تند به دور و بر ، بالا و پايين و چپ و راست  چشم مي گرداند و بعد تندی در را باز مي كند و او را هل مي دهد تو.

 هوا ي پاگرد خفه و كهنه بود. انگار دوباره صداي زنگ تلفن به گوشش مي رسيد. نسيم خنكي  از درزهاي در خانه اش بيرون مي آمد. روي برآمدگي جلو در نشست، پادري را جلو پاهاش گرفت و پشتش را يله داد به در. در دهن باز كرد و او را در خودش پيچيد. تقريبا طاق باز افتاد . به پاهاش نگاه كرد كه بيرون در بود و بالا تنه اش توي خانه. بلند شد. در را بست و  برق را روشن كرد. مبل هايي با پيراهن هاي آبي چين دار، پرده هاي سفيد وال كه با باد كولر تكان مي خوردند، گلدان بلور با دو شاخه گل مصنوعي ... همه چيز غريبه به نظر مي رسيد. انگار هيچ وقت در آن خانه زندگي نكرده بود. پادري را انداخت جلوي در.  نخ سفيد روي آن نبود. خم شد و دوباره نگاه كرد. نه انگار هيچوقت هيچ نخي به آن نچسبيده بود.






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