Da (Mother) 102

The Memoirs of Seyyedeh Zahra Hoseyni

Seyyedeh Zahra Hoseyni
Translated from the Persian with an Introduction by Paul Sprachman

2024-6-16


Da (Mother) 102

The Memoirs of Seyyedeh Zahra Hoseyni

Seyyedeh Zahra Hoseyni

Translated from the Persian with an Introduction by Paul Sprachman

Persian Version (2008)

Sooreh Mehr Publishing House

English Version (2014)

Mazda Publishers

 

***

 

 She wanted to continue the conversation, but I didn’t have the patience for it. To be truthful, I wasn’t at all fond of her yammering. I told her several times, “Try to put up with it a little more; there are so many people here worse off than you and I. The doctors and nurses are all dead tired, and the wounded keep streaming in. All of them are on their backs, too.”

“No,” she said. “If a person doesn’t raise a stink, no one will pay attention. It’s true that I’ve only got a small piece of shrapnel in my knee, but it still hurts.”

The doctor examined her knee and said, “We have no way of evacuating you now; we’ve got to wait for transport.”

“Just fill out the evacuation form for me, and I’ll find a way out of here,” she said.

With the help of the two men with her, she got back in a wheelchair and rolled out of the ward. I could hear her arguing with the nurse at the front desk. Finally she got her transfer, and they left the building.

My arms had been in the same position so long, it seemed they couldn’t move. My stomach was so empty it seemed the walls were rubbing together, but the nurses said I couldn’t eat.

At that point I wished I hadn’t stood on ceremony when Dr. Sa’adat offered the tinned fish at lunch. If I had eaten my fill then, I wouldn’t be so weak now. Then I fell asleep again. I suddenly opened my eyes and saw a wounded young man with bandages on his legs praying. That reminded me I hadn’t said my prayers. At that point the nurses arrived with a portable curtain for my bed, and I breathed a sigh of relief. It was getting dark. Without knowing the direction of prayer and drenched in blood, I registered the intention of performing my ablutions and prayed. I felt better after that and, with the curtain shielding me from view, I slept. Every time I woke up, I felt lost in space, as if I had lost all sense of my surroundings. Shielded by the white curtain, it took me a while to realize where I was and what had happened. I spent a difficult night. When I woke, I thought I had only closed my eyes for a few minutes, but, having asked the nurses, I learned hours had passed.

The nurses spoke to me a few times during the night, and because my wound wouldn’t stop bleeding, they had to keep changing the soaked sheets. They put coagulants in my drip and replaced the transfusion bag. The wounds on my arms didn’t hurt except when I touched them. They wanted to cut away my clothes, explaining, “They were contaminated with dried blood,” but I wouldn’t let them. They insisted on cutting my leggings and replacing them with hospital pants. The catheter was bothering me, but no matter how many times I complained it burned, they said, “We’re not removing it.”

Finally I asked to go to the bathroom. They removed the catheter and put me in a wheelchair. With the help of a nurse, I went to the bathroom. My urine was thoroughly bloody. Afterwards the burning decreased a bit. Next they wheeled in an apparatus attached to a monitor. They lay me on my side and attached electrodes to my arms and legs and put a hat-like thing on my head. I didn’t understand what they were doing. I don’t recall how the next day passed. It was morning, then afternoon, then night. I had no sense of what was happening to me and wondered why I was sleeping so much. At times I jerked awake, afraid the sheet was slipping from my face. Other times I would open my eyes and see the doctors standing around. They peppered me with questions and stuck needles in my legs again. One time they sent electric shocks up and down my arms and neck. This burned and I cried out in pain. But all the while I felt nothing in my swollen legs.

The morning of the second day (actually the twenty-second day of Mehr), I woke in terrible pain, after—it seemed—I had been sleeping forever. But I was no longer groggy, fully aware of everything around me. I was still on my stomach. The general numbness was replaced by a severe pain in my back and my legs, especially the right one. My legs were shaking, which made the rest of my body tremble, and I felt cold. At times the pain was so bad I was bathed in sweat. It got so excruciating that I put the hem of my veil in my mouth and bit down on it. I tried steady my legs with my hands, but it did no good. I called out to the nurses. They explained, “It’s only natural. You’ve been unconscious until now and have felt nothing. We’ll give you a pain killer. By the way, we’re transferring you tonight.”

“No, don’t, I’m begging you. I don’t want to go.”

I began to cry. The image of Ali all alone, bedridden in some hospital came to mind. Or the time when father was working at the dock and a load of lumber fell on his leg, crushing it. They didn’t give him the right treatment in the hospital. His leg became infected, and he developed a fever. I remembered clearly how much pain he was in, so much he passed out when they rubbed his leg with ointment. He didn’t make a peep, though. I was four years old then and noticed mother using some excuse to go to a corner and cry. When the crying stopped, she would join father.

Recalling these things made me miss Ali and father even more. I wished they were with me. All other miseries seemed trivial to me compared to what they went through. It made me angry to have to leave the city just because of a minor wound. I found myself saying, “God, why now? You let me drive out the Iraqis. Then You rob me of my arms and legs.”

Again I said, “Martyrdom was all I wanted from You. Look what You’ve granted me instead? I can’t take it.”

Next I let the invader Iraqis have it, shouting, “Goddamn you to hell! Why couldn’t you have used the 230 mm mortars instead of the 60s and finished me off?”

The good-natured nurse broke into my reverie. “My, my! Look how alert we are! Today we’re feeling much better than yesterday.”

Then she detached the serum and transfusion drips from my arm. I was no longer bleeding, but my toes were blue and swollen. I wanted to roll up into a ball and would have given anything for a bite to eat, but I was ashamed to admit it. “Are you here to give me another drip?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “You can have solid food now.”

She got a biscuit and handed it to me. I was chewing it when Zeynab, Leila, Zohreh, Sabah, Hoseyn, and Abed Mohammadi entered along with the man who had driven me from Sentab. Zeynab ran to me first. She took my head in her arms and kissed it. She asked me, “Girl, what made you go and bring this calamity down on your head? What am I going to tell your mother? Didn’t you think something like this would happen when you went to the front? How much does that poor woman have to endure?”

 “It’s not so serious,” I said. “Look! Still feeling fat and sassy, all in one piece.”

She gave me a motherly hug again and, pressing my head to her chest, repeated, “Thank God. I was very worried about you.” After she stepped aside, the other girls came forward one by one to kiss me. Though Leila seemed calm, I could read the anxiety in her features. I whispered in her ear, “It’s nothing, believe me. Just a piece of shrapnel, a tiny piece.”

Hoseyn Eidi, as if he were responsible for what had happened, blurted out, “You shouldn’t have gone, sister. It was my duty to go.”

“No one forced me to go. Besides, are you a nurse?”

He said, “First Abdollah, now you. One after another everybody’s getting wounded. It’s embarrassing for me to still be intact.”

“Who says everybody’s got to be wounded or martyred?” objected Zeynab. “Who’s going to fight the enemy if that happens? If God loves us, He’ll call everyone to Him in the end. If He’s not happy with us, we’ll just have to wait until we can win His affection. For now He’s content that we stand our ground and resist the enemy. God willing, Zahra will get better, and we’ll all stand up to them together. You can be sure of that.”

Then she asked, “Your condition, what is it? What are they going to do with you?”

During the time I was drifting in and out of consciousness, I had gathered I was to be evacuated. Afraid they were going to send me to Mahshahr, I made up my mind I would go back to Khorramshahr with my friends. That was the reason I said to Zeynab, “It’s nothing. I’ve got to go back to the city. They said I could go.”

“Really?” she said in surprise. “You can go back to Khorramshahr in that state? Is that possible?”

The girls said, “Let’s go and ask what we’ve got to do. What made them say you’re dismissed?”

I said, “No need to bother them; they’re extremely busy.”

They wouldn’t hear of it, but I persisted and convinced them. They helped me sit up in bed, and I felt a terrible weight in my legs. “Take me under my arms,” I said. Zeynab and Leila got my legs, over which I had no control, to dangle over the side of the bed. Then I put my arms on their shoulders, and they walked me forward as my feet dragged along the ground. After walking a few steps, I saw my leggings were hiked up and asked Zohreh to throw a sheet around me.

There was so much noise and confusion outside the ward no one noticed me leaving. Even so I was so nervous leaving the foyer I thought I would die. I kept praying no one would notice. Although relieved to get through the foyer, my heart stayed in my throat until I was out of the hospital building. After I was certain no one had noticed us leaving, I began to kid the girls, “Sweet of you to think of me and take the trouble to visit!”

“We had stopped in several times before, but you weren’t conscious,” they said.

I asked about the Sheybani clinic. When we reached the gas station, I managed to raise myself using my arms and look out the window. I was so happy I blurted out, “Wow! We’re in Khorramshahr!”

Zeynab laughed and said, “You sound as if it’s your first visit, you goose!”

It felt great to get across the bridge and smell the Shatt—like there was a tune playing in my heart. I thanked God again and again. But this was when the absence of father and Ali hurt the most. Whenever I visited their graves, I sensed they were speaking to me, watching me from above, listening to me. Though mother and the kids were not around, I didn’t worry about them, knowing they had moved out of danger. In another way I was glad mother was far away, because I wished to join father and Ali. That way it would be easier for her to get used to not having me with them.

The closer we got to the clinic the happier I got. I missed the place. As soon as we arrived, everyone crowded around the ambulance. Belqis Malekian, Mehrangiz Daryanavard, Mr. Najjar, Dr. Sa’adat, Maryam Amjadi, Ashraf Farhadi….

 

To be continued …

 

 



 
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