What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted - Shreya Sachdev
Please, God, let him telephone me now. I could hear my thoughts float around inside my head. My eyes were completely closed and I laid in utter silence with absolutely no idea where I was.
I tried to lift my eyelids, putting all of my willpower into trying to wake up my mind as the thoughts of where I could be slowly started to creep into my head. Was I in an alley at the corner of a sketchy street surrounded by forty year old men? Was I still lying on the bench in the middle of nowhere showing strangers just how homeless I was? Or was I in fact curled up in my grandmother’s arms, feeling secure and sheltered as my favorite person in the entire world protected me from the dangers I felt from the outside world. Sadly, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find her amazing jasmine scent. I could feel a tear swelling up in my right eye as thinking about my grandmother suddenly reminded me of my entire family back in Tehran. The darkness I felt in this moment was completely identical to the feelings of isolation and skepticism I constantly had as a child when I couldn’t understand what my parents were persistently whispering about, or the loneliness I felt when my beloved Uncle Anoosh died and my hero God had betrayed me. The one thing I would always do when I would want to get to the bottom of something, but nobody would give me any answers would be to get one of my books out, they would always be piled up on my dresser since I committed to reading them every single night. My books would give me all the information I needed about the world that surrounded me. Reading those books would be my escape from the perplexity and bewilderment of my everyday life, they would be my glimpse of light in the darkness and solitude that encircled me. With the fingers that I would use to flip the pages of my favorite informational books, I forced myself to pick up my hand and use them to physically stretch my left right eye open as I felt the mistiness of my tear.
The moment my eyes were halfway open, I automatically knew I was in a hospital despite my blurry vision. I could see blue curtains next to me and some sort of wire plugged into a wristband I was wearing. All of a sudden, I started to remember what had happened. I remembered the feeling of terror I had when I sat on a bench and started coughing uncontrollably, as well as the horrific and atrocious feeling of my heart literally beating and stammering out of my chest. I had no clue who had brought me in, but was extremely grateful to the person who had since who knows what could’ve happened to me if I had been left on a bench in the middle of nowhere. I was glad to know there were still some good people out there in the world - I felt a small pinch in my chest as my brain immediately crawled back to the thought of Marcus. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get the image of him in bed with that girl out of my mind. I kept thinking to myself, how could I have been so stupid? How could I have been so naive? It was so obvious, the night before his birthday, I told him I would sleep over at his house before getting my train but he kept on insisting that I stay at my house since it is closer to the train station. Like the lovesick fool I was, I just assumed that he was being a caring boyfriend and instead completely missed the signs. I can’t believe I actually thought he was the love of my life. It was clear that I wasn’t handling this breakup well. I mean, I was in a hospital right now for god's sake. I know I don’t deserve this, he’s the one who cheated on me so why should I be the one to suffer? I decided to move my sore and excruciating arms so I could push myself to sit up straight. I let out a little yelp as the pain and discomfort from my aching legs stung me with a tight burn all over my body. Once I was up, I was able to digest and comprehend the environment I was in. I knew that I wouldn’t have ended up here if it wasn’t for Marcus. I would have definitely been more stable if he hadn’t broken my heart into a million pieces. One thing that puzzled me however was the way Marcus reacted when he saw me, he was embarrassed of course but he was still trying to explain what happened and then confronted me when I got mad at him. He was acting as if I had no right to be mad at him. Was this the type of woman I came off to him? A woman who has absolutely no self worth and would stay with a man who cheats on her? I couldn’t help but think back to my culture. I couldn’t deny the stereotype that most Westerners had towards Iranian woman, which was unfortunately true. Most Iranian women had very limited roles in society. They were only seen to perform as housewives and very motherly roles, which meant that Iranian women would not have many opportunities to pursue their dream careers. It was also understood that Iranian woman would be obliged to obey their husband at all costs. In some cases, the woman would not even be able to leave the house or walk alone without their husband by their side. My parents were completely different from this way of thinking however and appeared to be quite modern. This wasn’t at all how I had grown up to portray women as. In my household, my mother would always be giving my father orders and she would never be petrified to stand up to him or disagree with his views. I remember a story my mother once told me. My mother and father were coming back home to Tehran from Turkey and my mother was trying to smuggle posters across the border for me. To smuggle the posters, she tore out the lining of my father’s coat and placed two posters behind it, and then sewed it back in. My mother was determined to bring home posters of Iron Maiden and Kim Wilde, my two favorite singers. I know my father approved of me being inspired by different singers and showing interest in Western roles, but he know how risky it was to bring home posters sewed onto his coat. As he was walking through the airport, he kept on making remarks such as “Are you sure this is going to work?” and “I look like Frankenstein” to my mother. Nevertheless, my mother felt no sense of empathy and knew this is what she had to do if she wanted to make her daughter jovial. She was a woman that valued herself highly and had her own strong opinions and beliefs that she wouldn’t change for anybody, any man. This is one of the reasons my mother was such an inspiration to me. As I was growing up, so many of my friends were not prohibited by their parents to listen to Western music and get involved in any type of behavior that was atypical from the traditional Iranian woman. I was blessed to have a mother who let me express my own opinions and close me off from the outside world. I thought myself as to have grown up in a modern way who had it in her mindset that she would never let a man treat her with disrespect.
But did Marcus see me as a very stereotypical Iranian woman? Did he not know that I had been taught that a man cannot treat a woman this way? I’ll never forget what my grandmother told me the day I left Tehran. She said to me I quote “In life, you’ll meet a lot of jerks. If they hurt you, tell yourself that it’s because they’re stupid. That will help keep you from reacting to their cruelty. Because there is nothing worse than bitterness and vengeance. Always keep your dignity and be true to yourself.” My grandmother had strictly told me that I don’t deserve to ever feel devastated and don’t deserve to be treated with contempt. Had I given Marcus the wrong impression? No, I was overthinking this too much. He was the pig, and birds don't interfere with pigs. As I was growing up, I always associated myself with birds. I remember the amount of times I was laying in my bed during the cold nights in Tehran and I would stare out the window and see a bird as I read my informational books or whenever my father would come into my room to talk to me, other times I would always play with a rubber duck whenever I was taking a bath. However, the biggest moment in which I learnt to identify myself with birds was the day my Uncle Anoosh gave me a swan made out of bread that he made in prison. It was my last encounter with my uncle before he was executed. I still remember the moment he handed me that swan, I was feeling so disquieted and anxious that I was never going to see him again. At that time, I would think of my uncle as one of my informational books. My parents would often never tell me anything about what was going on around me whereas my Uncle Anoosh would never hide anything from me. All these years, the swan that he gave me was a constant reminder that I deserve to be free and independent, just like a bird. Marcus was a pathetic piglike cheater, a pig that reminded me how disgust and revulsion. I didn’t lose him. He lost me.
For some reason, my situation with Marcus made me think back to somebody who was very close to me, my parent’s maid back in Tehran, Mehri. My family was extremely close to her, she grew up with me and we did all kinds of things together. However, our most special time spent together was when she would ask me to write letters to her boyfriend, Hossein, the neighbor’s son. Since she was illiterate and couldn’t write them herself, she would tell me what she would want to say to him and then I would write it out for her. She would always to me about her feelings for him, I could tell her love for him was real despite her only being sixteen. I remember how they would always stare at each other from the window of my room, they’d happily wave at each other and then Mehri would always go to bed with a huge smile on her face with her cheeks bright red. However, one day, it all sadly came to an end. My father told Hossein that Mehri had been lying about being his daughter, and when my father asked Hossein if he wanted to continue to see her, Hossein didn’t have much of a reaction or really show that he cared about keeping the relationship going. It broke Mehri’s heart. That night, I let Mehri cry on my shoulder as we cuddled up together trying to heal the wound that Hossein had caused her. I still remember the amount of empathy and grief I felt over her agony, but I never truly knew the details and torture a broken heart could cause you until now. In this moment right now, I wanted nothing more but to feel Mehri’s arms around me, somebody who understood what it was like to have those astonishing butterflies in your stomach killed out of the blue and instead be replaced with absolute misery and despondency.
This wasn’t the only instance I could think of in my childhood where I had experienced and witnessed a woman being seen as inferior to men. In fact, the way Marcus had treated me wasn’t the only time I had somewhat been disrespected by a man. I have a vivid memory in my head of being back home in Tehran, and coming home after school one day. When I walked inside my home, our maid after Mehri, named Mrs.Nasrine was talking to my mother and looked extremely upset. She showed my mother a gold key which she said the school had given to her son. They had told him that if he joined the war, he would go to heaven where there would be plenty of food, houses made of gold and diamonds, and women. I remember my mother told Mrs.Nasrine to bring her son inside our home so she could try and explain to him that it was all a manipulative strategy to get children to fight and die at the war. Mrs. Nasrine, her son, and my mother were all sitting down the dining table as I quietly tried to make my way upstairs to my room. And out of nowhere, I remember Mrs.Nasrine’s son standing up and shouting “I’ll marry her!” as he pointed in my direction. The moment those words came out of his mouth, Mrs.Nasrine lost her temper and started to heavily scold him. I remember the awkwardness I felt in that moment, but more importantly I remember how shocked I was to see a boy who I had never even met before or had a proper conversation with randomly yell out my name and “declare” me as his wife. Although, now thinking back to that time, I should’ve been the one to say something to him instead of letting his mother take care of it. I shouldn’t have run upstairs to my room like a coward but instead should’ve confronted him.
After reflecting back on my past experiences as a child on the topic of love, it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps we can’t decide how people treat us, but we can decide how we react when people treat us in certain ways. I could feel myself grinning as I thought back to what I said to Marcus when I walked in on him sleeping with that other girl. If I remember correctly, I said “Bastard! Asshole! Shit face!” Despite the fact that my broken heart hasn’t healed yet, I know that I set him straight and let him know that there’s no way he can treat me with disrespect. If he ever dates another Iranian women, he’ll hopefully think twice about cheating on her. Likewise, I know that if Mehri had confronted Hossein about not standing up for her, he would’ve had a different view on how women deserve to be treated. If women themselves don’t stick up for themselves, then perhaps men will feel absolutely no initiative to change and assume that women are fine with letting men walk all over them. Right in that moment, I thought back to my bravest moments as a child. When I was as young as eleven years old, I chased Ramin, a boy whose father had killed over a million people. I chased him all the way down our street with the intention of beating him up. As foolish as I was back then, there’s no doubt that it was a courageous action. Another example is the time my family and I were coming back home from a party and our car got stopped on the way by the police. The police followed us home and my grandmother and I rushed upstairs to pour the alcohol down our toilet in hopes that we won’t get caught. I still remember that sinking feeling in my stomach and the way my hands trembled as I poured the last bottle down the drain.
I knew I had it in me, I knew my self worth and I knew that I could never let a man treat me the way Marcus treated me. I told myself that the next time I make my way into a relationship, I make sure that he understands my value, and knows that all women deserve to be praised no matter which culture they come from. And if he doesn’t, then I’ll make sure to tell him exactly what I told my “friends” when I heard them talking behind my back in a cafe a couple of months ago. “You are going to shut up or I am going to make you! I am Iranian and I am proud of it!” I wasn’t going to let Marcus take control of my life anymore and continue to make me miserable I told myself as the numbers of how many hours I had been away from him suddenly creeped into my head...Five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five.