Bahar was standing, bare and fresh, dripping penny sized drops on the cold metal scale. When she dared to open her eyes, the number that she had been waiting for finally appeared. She smiled, pinched herself and wiggled her toes; to make sure she wasn’t dreaming.
The fog was lifting and beneath the streaks her shape had finally shifted-revealing a true Bahar. For the first time her reflection seemed to mirror her name. Bahar meant spring in Farsi and she had been reborn, emerging from the hungry gorging flesh that had expanded about her-an eternal boa constrictor had squeezed and-sucked out her femininity replacing it with fury instead.
She was both a stranger and someone that she had known for a long, long time.
The new woman rubbed her belly. The bulges were gone but the scars remained when she examined her wrists...it didn’t matter because Bahar had been given a second chance: a new life, a new body and her first date in over two years.
In her bedroom the small dress--freshly dry-cleaned--hung by her large mirror. It was a simple gown: black, elegant and classy. She put on her bra, panties and slipped on the dress, along with two huge silver bangles, and matching earrings and black high-heel shoes. She sprayed rose perfume and undulated to let the essence settle on her skin like a subtle breeze.
This is what it meant to be swan-like: graceful and free: she thought, walking three blocks down to the intersection of Avenue A and thirteenth street.
She paused outside of Levin, the small Turkish restaurant, fluffed out her hair like she had seen on television shows and peaked inside. A couple who sat by the window were regal in their attire and gestures.
They were finishing up their coffee and left a handsome tip next to the plate of the half-eaten baklava. The woman got up. She wore a slinky red dress and high-heels. Her blonde hair had been cut into a signature bob, just like an actress Bahar had recently read about. The man wore a blue suit without wrinkles. He put his arms around her and she could read his lips.
Shall we my dear?
Then the couple smiled at Bahar and held the door open for her. The hostess acknowledged her as well and handed Bahar a turquoise menu.
“Right this way Ms. Javan. Beautiful dress…”
“Thank you,” Bahar said and sat at her table.
People in the outside world never made eye contact with her and over the years she had been content in her cocoon-working from home as a social media manager and hiding away from the public eye-slowly watching the world unfold through the internet.
It was all behind her because she had buried the old Bahar.
She felt it in her bones.
Bahar ordered rose and within a few minutes after her drink had arrived, her date, a man named Rahim, kissed her on the cheeks and sat across from her. She knew that look from watching all of the classic films of Marilyn Monroe and Ingrid Bergman.
The tall broad-shouldered man who wore a blue suit, just like the man she had seen earlier, fancied her and was entranced by her. Rahim’s black hair was combed in a tidy fashion, he had a slight stubble and his eyes were hazel. His pupils had dilated under the light.
“You look absolutely radiant in person. The pictures don’t do you justice,” Rahim said and raised his eyebrows.
“Merci….thank you. I am not good with compliments,” Bahar said honestly and rubbed her wrists.
“Those are beautiful bangles,” Rahim leaned forward and smiled. He took her hands in his. She pulled them away fast.
“Mazermikham azizam...I’m...so sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“No...it’s okay. I’m just nervous.”
“Don’t be. Let’s eat…”
She ordered baby octopus in olive oil and red lentil soup. Rahim decided on the lamb shish kebab, feta cheese, olives and extra pita bread to share.
“I was born in Boston and moved to Manhattan for work-a better firm and a better offer. I’m getting used to New York but I still don’t know a soul. Were you born here?” Rahim asked.
“Yes, I was born here,” she lied and nodded, taking her cues like the elegant woman in the red heels.
“I hope it’s okay that we are speaking English. My Farsi is limited…”
“Yes...mine too,” Bahar took a small bite of the octopus and smiled with her eyes. She was a different person-so the new story seemed to fit. She too, like Rahim, was born in America.
“My parents,” Rahim said. “Good people….but they are lost between countries. They miss Tehran. I tell them to just accept their life in Boston...after all it’s been thirty years….but I guess they are still shell-shocked and scarred by the past. I hope you don’t mind me telling you all this…”
Rahim took a few sips of the wine and looked into her eyes.
“No. It’s fine.”
Rahim sighed. His fingers tapped the wine glass.
“Are you sure I am not babbling?” he asked.
“It’s okay...the city can get lonesome and if you don’t have family here it can get very lonesome.”
Rahim had drank a little too much, so, he drank a little bit more, relaxed and let go.
“My grandfather died recently but my parents couldn't go back to visit. In the end my grandfather died alone. We all feel so much guilt and my parents will never forgive themselves. They still miss their garden...so they finally adopted a collie and named her Juje.”
“I’m so sorry...does your dog know its name means little chick?”
They both laughed. Bahar left half of her meal and when the check came, Rahim picked it up.
“Shall we Azizam,” he winked at her.
She knew that look.
It took two cups of black cardamom tea, chai, with ghand-a sugar cube to make Rahim feel at home in her small apartment.
They chatted a bit more about their favorite authors. Bahar, giggled as she admitted she loved Nicholas Sparks.
“I gotta couple of Tom Clancy books myself...it’s my guilty pleasure,” he leaned in and whispered. Then they began to kiss. She felt the tingles and smoothed his arms over her small waist. Slowly, they undressed each other, moved into the bedroom, and Bahar led his hands between her thighs. And, when he slipped inside her-she let go.
Afterwards, she rested on his chest and awaited the morning sun.
“I am not looking for a one time thing. I’ve had my fun in college...and now I just need something more. Someone I can talk to and share my secrets with...I feel like I can tell you anything and haven’t felt like that in a while. I hope that doesn’t scare you,” he said.
“No,” Bahar turned on the light on the bed-stand. Rahim took her hands in his and softly pressed them against his cheeks. He tilted his head and examined her wrists.
“Bahar-jan...” he slowly dropped her hands and his face began to morph into a million questions.
Bahar realized that she had forgotten about the silver bangles.
Rahim stood up and put on his clothes.
“I...I..I can explain...” Bahar whispered.
Rahim sighed and closed his eyes.
She was bare in front of him.
He let his fingers trace over her wrists gingerly.
“My grandfather...he had these marks when my uncles found him. Arshan felt that he was a burden on us...I guess I just wanted to forget about my past. Just for tonight.”
“Me too. I just wanted to be free from my demons,” she said as she looked at her wrists.
“Then tell me why...I need to understand to bury my past.”
Bahar hugged Rahim.
They were strangers but neither of them could let go.