It's no secret that the last couple of months have been more of a struggle than I anticipated (or desired) in any number of ways. In this world of war and pestilence, as my parents used to say, I know my troubles are trivial. But still ... the latter half of this adventure has not looked the way I thought it would.
So it was that, last week, while I was shuffling my search for temporary accommodations, and the need to eliminate possessions before seeking permanent accommodations, and work with my clients, and inquiries from potential new clients, and ideas for research and writing on the book, and the timing of pitching agents, and the time it takes for a required review to be completed, and the Thanksgiving pie baking and travel plan, and ... what was I saying? Right. So amidst all that, I learned that Mr. Khanjani's brother would be nearby for a few days.
It's funny how, in the midst of all the craziness, such fortuitous timing brought distinct clarity. That issue of proximity to important characters and resources is, after all, one of only two-point-five reasons why I am sticking around the increasingly dark and cold northeastern U.S. for the next little while, despite my desire to flee. (The other reasons are the need to divest "stuff" and the location of the parental folk.)
And so, days later, I found myself sitting down for dinner in a warm kitchen, at a broad and worn farmhouse table. Beside me sat a woman from the U.K. Across from me sat a man and woman from Iran. And at the end of the table sat my dear little sister from China, who had greeted me at the door with a gleeful grin and brushes of her small hand against mine, her strong voice announcing, "Aunty JoAnn," on repeat, to her mother and the assembled guests.
Together, we served ourselves tender baked chicken and veggies, lemon-dressed greens, and heaps of fragrant Persian rice with crunchy potato tahdig. Berry-infused water added festive color to our glasses.
Through a mixture of questions and translation gaffs, colliding accents and amused grins, Mr. Khanjani's brother told us about the man he remembers as his eldest sibling, surrogate father, business partner, and beloved friend.
"He is brave. He is wise. He is kind. So kind." His voice softened by age and affliction, his English gently accented, he offered one of the evening's stories.
"I was in the car with him once in Isfahan. There was a man on the corner who was very poor. He had a length of that thin Turkish toweling that he was ripping into smaller squares and selling for maybe two or three pennies each. But as he did it, he was dancing and laughing." He gestured, twirling an imaginary cloth around him, a bit like a lasso.
"My brother pulled over and bought a few squares. I asked him why. After all, he didn't need them. He said to me, 'I like him! He is happy! So I'll buy a few pieces of cloth because he makes me happy.'"
It struck me, that image of Mr. Khanjani, whom I now know to be a wealthy man given to flawless tailoring and immaculate suits, stopping at the curb to buy rags from a man who made him smile. And I smiled, too.