Photo by he zhu

There are things that people promise and things that they do. And they’re almost never the same thing. At least they never do things the way they promised to do them and so they are different and separate things. After countless arguments around the table over “who has more baggage” and “who did whom more wrong,” we were starting to get into a pattern. There’s always a twist that brings it back. It being whatever revives us. When my share of words had been wasted and I couldn’t afford to do anything else but to cry, I took the last piece of turnip on the plate and put it right into my mouth. Turnips are such lovely little vegetables, yet they are often overlooked. I love their colour, and something about them distracts me to the point of not hearing him. Its crunch in my teeth and the fresh taste of something undead that came out of the soil deafen every other sound.

He leaned back on his chair, apparently unmoved by the things that’ve been said. We are very different, and we knew that from the beginning. When we are left helpless, we act differently. I tend to move and he sticks to whatever he was sticking to before becoming a helpless parasite of people’s anger and when he’s fed, he’s gentle. But the truth is he really does feed off others’ emotions. He eats me up and everything around him as well. When he’s happy, he’s the only one who’s happy and to this day, every time I look back, I think “When were we happy and alone?” I believe we have never been happy and alone, never happily alone. I am a parasite, too, I guess, I use other people’s emotions to keep us happy, momentarily. I keep my circle open. He doesn’t have a circle to begin with; he’s sitting on a dot.

I didn’t care to put on my socks, I jumped in my shoes with bare feet. I only grabbed my blue sweatshirt and did what I do when the skeletons in our closets would come out. The beach is only a five-minute walk away, and the route is lovely. From where I was, all I had to do was to get out of the door, turn to my right, and walk along a thin and narrow sidewalk. I had to pass the little bicycle shop and after that, it’s a few houses and then suddenly, there on my left opens up this empty field just stranded right there and across it you can see the beach and the sound of the waves embrace you at once. If you stood right in the middle of the field there, you would feel so alone but everything would feel so serene and when the time is right, there are red poppies growing all across it, giving the boring green of the grass a lively colour. There I get to be happily alone. There’s also a stray cat that hangs around the bicycle shop that particularly loves bicycles. I know that he loves me so dearly as well, and I know that by the way he meows. It’s not quite a meow; it’s more like a little roar.

When I got out of the door, the cat was across the street. He walked with me past the little pavement and past the bicycle shop, but that’s as far as he goes, at least in this direction. I’ve heard cats have territories, and I like to believe he’s a gentleman who doesn’t get into someone else’s business. He was distracted by a brand-new lightning blue bike just outside the shop. Probably left there to be delivered soon.

I went across the field and watched my feet carefully so I wouldn’t step on the poppies. The problem with this beach is that it’s not all made out of sand. It’s rocky for the most part, but from where the water hits the shore to where the rocks are is perhaps around five metres wide worth of a sandy beach line. I walk there; I can walk on the rocks, too, but I like it when my foot is on a loose base. When I raise one foot and move the pressure from this foot to the other, I like it when my heels helplessly fall into the consuming trap of sand and when its grains make their way into my shoes, I don’t mind. “When the flowers bloom and spread the fun, I will put on my best dress to go out in the sun and when it rains, it rains and washes my face and suddenly everything smells so nice,” I sang to myself a little song my mom used to sing to me in the spring. When I used to sleep in and when it was too hard for me to get out of my bed, my mom would sing me a song to wake up. They were mostly inspired by the things we would watch on TV, but this one was all her. My mom was good with silly words, not serious ones. You couldn’t hold an honest serious talk with her. That’s behind us now. Then she would make a little song almost every day, but my favourite and the only one I ended up remembering was this one.

I walked along the beach without even looking at the sea. Instead, I watched my feet closely as they dipped in the sand and out in the air. I’ve walked here so many times that I can picture whatever is around me even with my eyes closed. I can imagine the sky, the same baby blue colour with shapeless patches of white. I can imagine the rocks in all shades of grey and the ones that look dull and dead while dry. I can feel the curves of little seashells under my feet sometimes; their fragility and their size, too. The little waves of the sea that throw up what’s lost, dead, or killed. I imagine the colour of the sea exactly as it is. I have never seen water as boring as it is on our beach. I imagine the water opaque, quiet, and quite disgusted with what it carries in it. I kept on looking at my feet until I couldn’t take more steps.

I gasped. I couldn’t tell what had happened to it. Its stomach looked torn, maybe shot but I couldn’t dare look too closely to understand what exactly had happened to it. It had died a while ago, you could tell by the way its feathers looked. A part of its face, on its cheeks, besides its beak, the feather had fallen out. Almost as if someone had waxed it off almost completely. I couldn’t see any maggots or any flies around it. It was just there right at my feet, rotting away. All my anger had melted away, and instead an agonising sadness froze my face. I couldn’t let anything out; not a word, not a sigh, not anything at all and the suffocating feeling of melancholy being radiated from the dead body of a pigeon almost left me paralysed. I wanted to move it but to where and how I couldn’t figure out. I had never touched anything that was this obviously dead. I had moved around withered plants and I had made love to a man whom I didn’t love anymore, but I had never touched anything as dead as this.

I spent some time taking a step in and out, turning my head in all sorts of angles to get a better look at what had happened to it. I’ve seen a few hunters here and there, in their boats with their guns to shoot loons. It’s not a great sight, but it never bothered me much. However, this feels different. People who killed it didn’t even want it, that’s of course if it had actually been killed, which I think it is the case. They didn’t want a dead pigeon, they wanted a dead loon. “Don’t get too close.” I didn’t notice him coming. “A pigeon,” he said as he looked at me. “Yeah.” I didn’t look back. He let out a big sigh and he put his hands into his jacket’s pockets and then he let out an even bigger sigh. We stood there together for a little with our masochist gazes centred on the pigeon. It felt like we were mourning for something far greater than an old pigeon, and I know he felt the same way, too. I know him through our patterns. We don’t have much; not much in common and not much in anything else, but we both have sympathy for dead things.

I didn’t feel like walking on the beach anymore, and so we went back home and we sat back on our chairs around the table. On the table, no turnips left. Just like always, something had taken a twist and turned, and abruptly it had revived us. For days I didn’t go back to see if someone had moved it or if someone had dared to put it away. A few days later, he called me names so I took a turnip and ran. I ran past the cat, past the little narrow sidewalk, past the bicycle shop, past the houses, I ran across the field and I finally ran through the sand. I took the dead pigeon by the hand and threw it as far as I could into the sea. The next day the waves had thrown it back on the shore.

About Ghazal Nessari Poortak

Ghazal Nessari Poortak is an Iranian writer and researcher. Her recent works are inspired by the isolation and what she calls 'overindulgence in self' caused by the Covid-19 lockdowns. She explores themes such as solitude, nature, and identity in most of her stories. When she is not busy with writing and research, she loves to practice yoga and play with her cat, Pasha.

Ghazal Nessari Poortak is an Iranian writer and researcher. Her recent works are inspired by the isolation and what she calls 'overindulgence in self' caused by the Covid-19 lockdowns. She explores themes such as solitude, nature, and identity in most of her stories. When she is not busy with writing and research, she loves to practice yoga and play with her cat, Pasha.

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