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from the August 2004 issue

Our Story

"Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,"
Said then the lost Archangel, this the seat
That we must change for Heaven?
this mournful gloom
For the celestial light? Be it so, since He
Who now is sovran can dispose and bid
What shall be right: farther from Him is best
-John Milton,
Paradise Lost

It seems it was only yesterday,
when the ALMIGHTY, unexpectedly,
with a celestial kick in the butt,
booted the Devil
out of the gates of Heaven.
The truth is, Eve and I
were utterly engaged
in the dance of the golden wheat stems,
and we failed to grasp
the reason behind the dispute,
and why the Almighty
suddenly lost his temper.
We had never seen him so furious.
To tell you the truth,
that blinding anger
scared us out of our wits as well.
It was then that our
innocent, clandestine affair began.

We had just met.
I had not discovered the beauty
of the skies
until I looked into Eve's eyes.
My fingertips had not brushed
her moist skin yet,
to know that I shall never
ignore a flower again.
The image of her face
had not reflected in a chalice yet,
and the curve of her waistline
had not been praised in nastaligh
by any poet in the flickering candlelight.

It was the Almighty himself
who had introduced us.
Our names had been meticulously
and placed by our birthdates,
in the final page
of the first edition of his book.
Had it been up to us,
we would have preferred our names
to be Aziz and Negar.
However, our only thought
at that moment
was to escape the Almighty's presence,
and our heartbeats,
echoing in our ears
like the beating of drums,
prevented us from hearing
the celestial commandment,
from which Eve caught only the word "wheat"1
and I only the term "punishment."

It was in seclusion
that we perceived our loneliness.
We did not have a beloved child,
a friend, a companion, or a relative
to shorten our cumbersome Sundays.
Our neighbors in the Garden of Eden
were vibrant birds
whose melodious language
we failed to understand.
And mute animals,
who flocked around us in pairs
and amused Eve
by imitating us.
We were masterpieces of creation,
made of earth.
Ambitious, heavenly angels
bowed down in praise of our beauty.
At times, even the Almighty himself,
smiling adoringly,
was so captivated by us
as to provoke the angels' jealousy.
It was hard for Him to believe
that we were the final magnificent outcome
of his petty creation.

I must confess
the angels were equally beautiful,
but their splendor
had a juvenile, melancholy air of naïveté.
My beloved Eve did not like them.
She thought them to be gossipmongers,
spying on us day and night
through the branches of the trees
and from beneath the rocks.

We had only inherited
two fig leaves
from the Kingdom of Heaven.
Two leaves which we lost repeatedly
or were torn from us by the wind.

Later, when we came down
to your world,
we read in your books
that one of those spying angels
had informed the Almighty
of discovering us without our leaves.
The news of our banishment
was conveyed to us
by that same niggling angel.
She spoke so poorly of your land
behind the Almighty's back
that my beloved Eve
was moved to tears.
She was not even allowed
to take a sapling
of the first flower
I had given her.
No wonder even the Almighty Himself
named them
"the fanatical nuns of the Garden of Eden."

Thus, we were let loose
into your world.
The delightful heat of our embraces
in the cold starry nights
made fire worshippers out of us.
We forgot our given names,
and henceforth
we used only the terms
"darling" and "sweetheart."

Finally, after years of vagabondage,
we bought a small, plush house
in this remote corner
with a thirty-year mortgage.
It will never measure up to Heaven,
but on the days
when Eve joyfully opens up
the windows,
it does seem distinctly similar
to the coziest corners of Heaven.

And now, the Almighty is heartstricken,
and rightfully so!
When we are reminded of Him being alone,
with all those constipated angels,
we, too, feel sorry for Him.
But this is what He wanted,
and this is what He got!
Eve says,
would have turned
had we stayed in Paradise!
We hardly reminisce
about those days now.
Heaven must be so dull
without Eve's warm laughter
and ardent gestures.
It is only on our anniversary
that Eve coquettishly remembers
the nudity of our first encounter
and my lewd glances
in the presence of the Almighty.

At times, when she is caught up
in the midst of damned summer afternoon traffic,
or when she gets fed up
with her mischievous daughters,
the thought of a faraway voyage
to one of the heavenly Pacific islands
suddenly comes to her mind.
But I have never heard her say,
"How I miss Paradise."

1Wheat represents the apple in the Quranic version of the tale.

Read more from the August 2004 issue
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