Nirvana

Reza Najafi is an Iranian writer, literary critic and editor, who lives in exile in Germany. He has so far published more than 350 short stories and literary essays. In Nirvana, he is presenting a snapshot of the life of a couple at a crucial point. The story, as a result of dealing with taboo topics such as sex, suicide, drugs and alcohol would never had a chance to be published in Iran.

April 17 2012 Text: Reza Najafi Translation from Farsi: Farzad Akmali

He had put his finger down the woman's throat two or maybe three times. A little yellow water and finally, some slimy liquid had come out of the woman’s mouth. He was not sure if she had vomited the pills up.

He did not know at all how many pills she had taken altogether and how many pills that were enough to kill somebody, or if these things were too late to do, or not.

He had promised the woman that she could sleep after she had vomited up the pills. And now the woman, lay almost unconscious, in his arms. He was not sure whether to keep his promise or not. As he held her armpits, he gazed for two or three minutes at her fallen head, unkempt hair and then at the slimy liquid in the toilet bowl and finally at the water that was dropping from the tap, the half-open window, the siphon tube, and the plants and bushes of the bathroom tiles.

It came to his mind that a sort of wisdom lay behind those seemingly meaningless objects which he was seeing clearly and obviously. Although he was woozy and dizzy, he recalled reading somewhere that such an insight and clairvoyance resulting from over-indulgence in alcohol, and opium, were basically false.

Again, he gazed at the water drops which dropped themselves down from the tap with patience, tolerance and forbearance, and also at the harsh and sharp red flowers on the tiles which laughed at him. No. No, such an insight could not be false. But what was such a not false insight telling him? He understood it, but could not define it even for himself.

He could no more bear the weight of the woman’s body. He pulled her out of the bathroom and laid her on the bed in the bedroom. He had never felt the weight of the woman's thin body that heavy.

Now the woman's head lay on the pillow with that unkempt hair. There were spots from tears on the pillow, and it was yet damp. He sat on the edge of the bed and looked at the wrinkles in the woman’s face. He thought about why he hadn’t noticed them until then, and that she would be regarded an old woman in ten years. Maybe the wrinkles appeared because the right side of the woman’s face was strongly pushed on the hard pillow.

The woman breathed deeply, like a person who would come out of water after a while and liked to take breath cravingly to escape from suffocating. Her rabbit teeth could be seen from her deformed lips and an elastic fluid touched on the pillow. There was still a teardrop halted and waiting on her left cheek. The man dried the teardrop and the dampness on the pillow with a handkerchief. The smell of smoke was there still in his head, but he was sobering up. He took a look at his watch. It was three forty in the morning. What should he do? What could he do? He was not a doctor to know what to do. He had not seen any trace of or even the blue color of the pills in her sputum. Had she digested the pills? Was the woman entering the dark cave of death? And what were the symptoms of death caused by swallowing such pills? Would she suffer from seizures? Or would she stop breathing gradually during sleep? Was such deep breathing a sign of recovery or death?

He thought about calling a doctor he knew. He looked at the watch again. Should he wake  the doctor up? Maybe it was better to take the woman to the bathroom and make her vomit. Again, he looked at the woman who with her naked body was drowned in unconsciousness rather than sleep. He held the woman’s shoulders and shook them strongly. No use at all. It was like shaking a dead body. Did he really have to wake her up? Would it make any difference or be of any use?

He told himself that he would wait, and if he would not notice any change in the status of the woman, then he would call the doctor.  But what if he was losing the last irrevocable chance of saving the woman? Again, he felt dizzy and gazed at the objects purposelessly and without any thought, the plastic pack of the swallowed blue pills in which there were still two tablets, the full ash tray by the bed…and a small lampshade on the bed table, the short and cold base of the lampshade was made of cast iron with a stupid and turgid design which made him recall the eighteenth century. However, the shade cap was like the dress and puffy skirts of nineteenth-century women. There was a hand-embroidered lace installed on the pink cap. The mild and orange light shed light on half of the bed and the shadows of the regular net, and the tied threads of the hand-made fabric had fallen on the wall across from the bed. The man thought that there was a meaningful contrast between the regularity and symmetry of the lines of the net and the mess of that time. No, no, such an insight could not be false. He lay down on the bed near the woman. After half an hour, the woman had not moved at all. She was now breathing more and more slowly, so slowly that the man could not hear it.

Did he have to call somewhere or somebody? Was the woman getting better? He did not and would not know. He fell asleep. The shade was left on and he had not flushed the toilet.

Near the morning, he woke up for a moment without any reason and immediately felt that wonderful and strange feeling, that Buddhist-like, deep and clear peace, exactly like Nirvana and illumination. He was not drunk any more. He knew that he was not drunk anymore. He knew that at least since ten years ago, since the time when he was in his early thirties, till that time, he had not been free of that anxiety and worry, even for a moment, whether in sleep or drunkenness. Since those years till that moment, he has seen his inner entity as a restless sea that suffered from a nonstop tide and now suddenly that sea had gone calm without any reason, calm like a lake whose depth was obvious and clear, as if there was no water and no depth!

He thought “so it can be possible, it can be done! Exactly at the time when the ship, wrecked in the night storm in the middle of the ocean, is sinking, and while we hang from the falling mast of the ship, suddenly the peace appears before your eyes.” He recalled that he had read this or something like this, years ago in the works of an old poet, but had not believed it.

But how…how could that moment be repeated? He wished that moment would last forever and again recalled he had read that sentence somewhere. At that instant, he understood that such a thing would never happen, and again, he fell asleep and forgot to take a look at the woman.