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© 2019 by Pirooz Kalayeh

Day 9: Sometimes I Dream in Farsi

May 4, 2018

"You're crying too much," Nemanja says. "You're having a nervous breakdown."

I couldn't tell if Nemanja was being serious, so I told him I didn't think so. That it was just healthy to let it out. He agreed, so I'm assuming he was joking. Still, I get that lots of people might see me crying through this experience as being vulnerable and weak. That's sort of what we're taught. Men can't cry. It's not allowed.

 My wife, Sohee, confirmed this.

 

"In Korea," she said. "We have a saying: 'A man can cry three times. When he is born, when his parents die, and if his country is in devastation."

 

"That isn't very many times," I said.

 

"No," she agreed.

 

Then I talked about how sharing this moment in the barbershop when I experienced all that hate, and I get emotional, is helping other people release things. I talked about Dan's letter and my father. Then I mentioned the letter I got from Dave after our podcast. He basically explained how emotional he felt after the interview and how it triggered all these feelings he had when he was 12 years old. I asked him if I could post it, and he said, "If you're willing to be this open, then I will be too."

My mother, brother, & I were out school shopping & getting ready to move into a new school system the next year.  And when we came home there was a note stuck on the garage door handle that read: "Bonnie: Call the office ASAP!  John's in the hospital."  We were dropped off at my friend's house while my mom rushed to the hospital.  And I remembered my grandparents came up from the south shore to pick us up late.  My grandfather had his teeth pulled that day & his face was all swelled up.  He was in a foul mood & got us home for bed.  And I remember late that night my Nonny (grandmother) waking us & saying, "we need to go to the hospital.  You're father is asking for you both."

 

I remember I was still in my night clothes & we drove to the hospital.  I remember crying all the way to the hospital knowing something was really wrong by the way my grandparents were acting.  When we got up to the ICU, there was my aunt & my cousin, my parent's friends, and my father's business partner sitting in chairs on the waiting room.  They all had grim faces & weren’t saying anything.  My mom walked out from the ICU and said my father was going to have emergency open heart surgery & that we were goin in to see him to say goodbye.  Back then with aorta dissections, it was a 50% chance of survival from the surgery.  

 

We walked in, all three of us holding hands & there he was in a hospital bed looking small and very weak.  He hugged us both & said that we needed to be strong for our mom & to remember to always be there for each other.  Then , at that moment, my brother, who at that time was epileptic, collapsed to the floor & had a massive seizure.  I remember dropping the floor to hold him.  I remember the nurses pulling him away from me trying to stabilize him.  Then, for some reason, I pulled back to a corner between the bed and the nearby curtain and tightened into a small ball. The nurses were able to calm my brother down & then rushed me out of the ICU while they checked out my brother.   I remember just sitting in those half back waiting chairs and shaking.  

 

That killed me. People are laying it all on the line now. 

 

David told me in the rest of the letter how that early experience allowed him to become who he was today and how he was grateful now. 

 

I don't know if I'm grateful for what I went through when I was nine years old. I've never even thought about it. I suppose I am grateful for who I am, but that experience I could have omitted. I'm not sure any experience with racism is something anyone would have gratitude for experiencing, but maybe you've got to forgive the moment in order to let it go. I don't really know. I also didn't have time to think about it. I had to get my class ready for a Skype session with actor Ray Haratian.

Ray had been in a bunch of films, such as Argo, Under the Shadow, and A Girl Who Walks Home Alone at Night. We were showing the latter in class, so I thought the students would get a kick out of talking to him about his experiences. They were fairly tight-lipped though. 

 

"They're still processing," Ray said over Skype to all of them. 

 

He picked up the empty space and filled it with his love for cinema, and how he was looking forward to directing, and that after Kiarostami there wasn't anyone.

 

"I don't know who said it, but there's a quote where someone says, 'Cinema began with D. W. Griffith and ended with Kiarostami. I say, 'Cinema begins and ends with Kiarostami.'" Then he held up his box set of Kiarostami's entire collection. 

This was a bit ironic, because one of the students who was being interviewed had such a tough time with Kiarostami when we watched "Close-up" in another class. He didn't even believe me when I told him that Kiarostami was considered one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. 

 

Him and I exchanged a look in that moment. His said, "Oh, shit." Mine said, "Ha ha!"

 

After the interview, Aaron and I went back to the house. We talked about what we would do the next day with the shoot at the hair salon. He suggested that I have my mom come with us. Then we could interview her again at the house. 

 

"You already had your father at the barbershop," he said. "Now, it's your mother at a hair salon."

 

I liked the idea. I didn't know if my mother would do it though. I had to explain it to her and basically half-plead. She seemed to get it when I said, "We had dad do the barbershop, now we have to do the other side. You don't have to say anything. Just sit there."

 

"Okay," she said. 

 

"So, we'll leave around 8:30," I said. "So make yourself pretty before then."

 

"I'm not pretty now?" my mother joked.

 

"You're pretty now," I said. "I just mean to be ready to go by then."

 

I'm not sure how this shoot tomorrow morning will go. My mother had been fairly quiet this whole time. She doesn't want to say anything to offend anyone, and she's acutely aware of the camera. 

 

"I could record and leave the room," Aaron said.

 

"Yeah," I agreed. "Let's see if that works."

 

"You could also just let her not say anything and that says everything," Aaron smiled.

 

"Yeah," I agreed. "That too."

 

Tomorrow we find out.  

 

 

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