by Moniru Ravanipur**
Translated from the Persian
by Farzin Yazdanfar
This is the sad story of love; a story which will be repeated for as long as time's crystalline ball exists, until this crystal ball collides with a planet or star from another time or age and breaks. Or perhaps time will eventually swell up with these recurring tragic stories and explode, filling up its vast expanse. And when time's vessel runs over with affection, is filled with an overflow of repressed feelings and cries of loneliness, its crystalline wall will crack... but each love story will surely survive in the scattered shards of this crystal ball, thereby refreshing time for awhile. Perhaps a day will come when eternity and all created and uncreated things will become nothing but the crystalline particles of time, containing the seed of love - the sad story of love. What a time that will be for lovers sleeping in the bubble of time, an age of stories whose endings are not so very predictable.
The woman is known to many people, so telling a story or mentioning her name will not change anything. She was the woman who would write her life in her stories. And the man whose existence or lack of existence is the same because nobody knows him. How did they meet each other... that is not important either. When a story is being formed, it will find its way: finding a job, reading a story or publishing it. It doesn't make any difference...
She was a simple woman. Her mind was compatible with her tongue and her heart. Her words exactly reflected her thoughts and her feelings. When it came to loving someone, she did not believe in time. She was always in love, not like those who are in love one moment and out of it the next ... Thus, when she saw the man for the first time, she said, "You are handsome. Let's be friends... I feel very lonely."
The man, unkempt and unshaven, was sitting across the table. With a little smile on his face, he was staring at the woman. The way the woman was acting and behaving had convinced the man that she was nothing but a child and he could make a novelist of her.
The man had read the woman's stories and was pretending that he was interested in her works. He was talking to her about the things that he was expected to say without mentioning a word about love. The woman had realized that she could make the man her own if she wrote good stories.
Days passed. The man had managed to keep that little smile on his face -- the smile that could leave everything suspended in the air. The woman had remained the same as she always was. She would walk in the room, turn the books and the library upside down, put all the papers on the desk, take them away and put them back on the desk again...
The woman was restless in every step that she took and every word that she uttered. One day after she had made a big mess, she sat face to face with the man and said, "Give me your hand and let me tell you your fortune." The man said, "Leave it for the time when you've become a writer." The woman said, "But I need your hand to touch me on the head." "Why?" the man asked, smiling.
The woman answered, "I would like you to touch my head gently with your hand."
The man laughed and said, "You're crazy." He did not give her his hand.
I am writing this story very quickly because I am afraid that somebody may come and sit on that chair next to the window, stare at me and ask, "How far along are you?" I am writing this story without letting anybody see it. And I would not like anyone to see it before I reach the end of it. I do not even name the locations in the story because mentioning the names of places, cities and buildings not only takes time, which I do not have at all, but also resolves no issues. It is enough to know that all these events are taking place within the crystal ball of time.
And time, for a woman like her -- a woman who was looking for someone to love her-- was just time. She could see no difference between seconds and years. Everywhere she was, she would try to squeeze the essence of time in order to reach a moment when she could see nobody but that 'someone' as a man and herself as a woman.
Thus, she began working. She seemed to seek the help of her own existence to give life to her words. It seemed that the words were becoming detached from every particle of her body and soul. She kept writing; one story after another, every story a romantic one. And there was the man who would read the stories and shake his head as a sign of satisfaction with his own task.
Sometimes the woman would read the story which she had just completed to the man. Then, she would say, "I'm tired. Let's go for a walk."
The man would nod, smiling and the woman would realize that the time when she could be seen with the man in public had not yet come. The woman could understand that there was a distance between her and the man; she would doubt her work and would go back to reading and writing.
Time was passing and the books authored by the woman were being published one after another. The man was spending all of his time reading her books and every day he was paying more and more attention to her or, to tell the truth, to the female character of her stories. The man would go to her room and sit by her and she would talk about everything that she could think of. For a long time, she had made no sense when she was talking, and everyday her speech was becoming more and more unclear -- so unclear that the man could not tell the difference between her and the female character of her stories. The woman kept repeating, "Do you love me?" And the man would always laugh and ask, "How much of the story have you written?"
And the woman would suddenly realize what the man expected of her; she would get hold of herself and show the callus caused by the pen on her finger. And the man would say, "That's hard work..." And the woman would keep on working.
How long did it take until changes gradually appeared in the woman's body and soul? The woman, who was always focusing her attention on the door to see the man coming in to read her stories, was now afraid lest someone should come and bend over the pages filled with her stories.
Time was never important in the woman's life. If a seed, a seed of love, was sown, nothing could uproot it, but the man could see little by little that the woman was not showing any interest. If he called her, she would turn her head towards him very slowly as though lost in what she was writing. The woman's look no longer had the same loving radiance, the same childlike enthusiasm. On the contrary, the female character of her story had sparkling eyes and an amorous look and was acting with more and more childlike enthusiasm.
And the man would read the stories everyday before and after they were published. The more he read them, the better he could understand the woman -- the woman who could feel her own skin and blood in her stories.
The man would play music for the woman to encourage her to write more and to make her go on creating a romantic atmosphere in her stories. And in order to compensate for the lethargic movement of her head and neck, he would make fruit juice for her and attend to her food. But the woman was not paying any attention to the man's affections; she was just writing. And one day when the man asked her, "Are you tired? Let's go for a walk," she replied in a weak voice with a fixed and unclear look on her face, "I can't. I'm busy." She didn't go out with him.
She would not pay attention to the critique of her stories in literary journals either; the journals were competing with each other to write about her. She would not even know how many copies of her books were being published. She would not react to the man's enthusiasm either -- the man who would stand before her with a newspaper in his hand. The woman's movements were becoming slower and slower everyday.
And one day when the man woke up, he laughed alone. He had never laughed like this before, especially when he was by himself. He had a strange feeling; he could remember the woman's sense of humor, her childlike actions and behavior and the question which she used to ask repeatedly: "Are you in love with me?"
The man was singing by himself and being dragged towards the woman. He finally reached a flower shop, bought a bouquet of flowers and went to see the woman. The woman was busy writing as usual. She seemed to be writing the last sentence of a story. It was only her hand that was moving; her body, like a statue made of stone, was far away from everything, even time. Her whole body seemed to have turned to a single hand -- a hand that was writing hastily. The man put the flowers that he had brought her in the vase and placed the vase before her. She did not look at it. She was gazing at what she was writing so intensely that she did not even bat an eyelid. She seemed to have reached the last sentence; the man saw her putting a period at the end of the last sentence. Her hand had remained motionless on the page. The man slowly pulled the papers from under her hand. He read the title of the story: 'The Sad Story of Love' and laughed. He tapped the woman on the shoulder, looked at her face and suddenly grew still. She was no longer 'the woman'; she had turned to a fossil -- a fossil of words. To be sure, the man touched her on the shoulder and , all of a sudden, she broke down into small pieces and thousands of words were scattered all over. And the man saw these, among thousands of words: "You're very handsome... Let's become friends... I'm very lonely!"