05/08/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

As Fresh As An Apple, As purple As A grape

I was born in Iran, and I was raised in an eight year war starting in 1980. I grew up in Kermanshah in the west of the country and on the border of Iraq during the time when the sound of Iraqi airplanes and bombing dominated my childhood memories, and when the terrifying time of killing innocents became just another news story. That's how my life began; what I mean is that's how I remember my life began; because I was only five. Imagine a life when as a child you begin with such traumatic experiences? You never become a "normal" human being after all.
At the time I was too young to comprehend the dangerous essence of the war. I was too young to feel the vibration of the windows in my soul when every single bomb went off near our neighborhood. I was too young to understand what it meant when my older sister broke several of her teeth during the attacks; one after another.
She was holding me tightly, and my mother embraced the two of us in a corner where our house's stairways turn to a ninety degree to the basement--the only windowless place of our house. Both of them on top of me, I had to struggle beneath the weight of their bodies. My sister was too scared to realize that by choking my neck, she could not only not save her own life, but take mine. I was kicking her off. They both held tighter. The sound of the bombs and artillery prevented them from hearing my squeaky voice, stop, stop, stop. My father was there too; he was walking back and forth in front of the stairway. I don't remember how many minutes. I lived in that oxygen-less darkness, but I remember in order to save my life, I had to do something. I pinched my sister's legs. Wherever I could reach. She couldn't feel my pinches. I think. She was shivering like a mouse standing in the rain. Meanwhile, my father was smoking a cigarette. The smoke didn't help me breathe easier, but it made me suffocate even more. The cigarette ashes fell, and he was about to collect them from the floor, when he realized I was struggling under two of his favorite women. "You are killing her" he shouted. He pulled me out looking as purple as grapes, semi conscious and speaking incomprehensively. I recovered quickly as just the sound of war cut off.


Cut to March 1995--more than sixteen years of separation, my whole family finally reunited in Washington DC. My brother left Iran when he was fourteen; he wasn't with us during the war. At such a young age, my parents had to send him to Monte Carlo to my aunt; otherwise, the government would never allow him to leave Iran unless he would have served in the military for two full years. Fourteen was the legal age for boys to leave their country.
My sister left too. She didn't leave to save her life from the Iraqis. She had survived the war. This was years later, after the war had ended. It was time for her to make a decision for her future. The future which she could possibly never have under the Iranian regime as a woman, so America became the solution. She was eighteen--seven years older than me, a bit more than a year older than my brother. I, the youngest of the three, stayed with my parents in Iran. Then in 1995, we all moved to the States where my brother had joined my sister a year prior to our arrival.
I now live in the US where I work as a journalist. These days, it is only the nature of my job to deal with such stories: war, bombing, and killing innocents, but I suffer. I suffer remembering those days which then didn't seem to affect me much as a child, but somewhere in my self-conscious, it has lived with me thirty years later. I remember and feel some of those times as fresh as an apple on my desk now. Not able to fully comprehend the context of its danger doesn't mean the signs never haunted me during my lifetime. One of the signs, I talk very loudly. Sometimes, I shout, as if people can't hear me well. A newsroom attitude perhaps. Or perhaps my shouting goes back to an earlier time when my voice couldn't be heard.

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