I tilted my head back, letting clustered dew coil along the bridge of my nose and slip between parted lips. My hands slithered into the air, reaching for the wind chimes tangled along the roof of the abandoned shed. I listened to their faint music, humming softly. “Aara!” A voice skipped across the silence.“Aara!” I smoothed my fingers along the grooves of my ear lobes, pressing against them to block the sound of my older sister’s voice. “Aara!” A figure stood in front of me. “Eshal, go away. I’m tired.” My voice fluttered along the shed. “Mama says we need to go, Aara.” Eshal tugged at my hidden wrists. “We need to go deep in the city today.” “Alright.” I stood up, smoothing down my long skirt and taking her left hand. We walked across the small, vert hill, waiting to see the vast forest of rubble and light beige streets. Mama waited there, cloaked in heavy cloth and annoyance. “Why did you take so long?” Her almond-shaped eyes glared at us beneath her hijab. I began, “It’s my fault, Ma-” “Hush. We need to go to the square.” She briskly walked forward. Our feet intertwined with caving crevices and the slender, black limbs of the other people like us, lost and without place to call home. Mama told us to ignore them, keeping our eyes to the city and the reflection of the blond sun. She told us to breathe in the hills that lay under the city and the concrete that lay above it, mixing them together in our nostrils and then breathing them out separated, two scents not leaving as one; she said it was good distraction. Our feet ached from the long miles traveled to the center of Tehran, and our wrinkled foreheads held the bitter notes of fragile sweat. My clothes fastened around my arms, enveloping my skin with the humid air. White and gray plaster lined the floors of the outdoor space, circling the cobalt pool of water in the center. The Azadi Tower the Freedom Tower of Tehran lay towards the end of the square. Its white marble reflected images of beggars coaxing tourists with chapped lips and blistered fingertips. I searched for our gangly figures in the cut marble and dissonance of our lives. Mama had us sit down on the rim of the pool, calling strangers and asking for money to help us live. “Please.” Her voice echoed against the rusty, dented bowl we used to collect money. “Please. It’s for my children. I have no husband. They need to eat. We need to eat.” She motioned towards her mouth, and we motioned towards our stomachs. A man walked towards us, his wide-brimmed hat fanning over his ebony sunglasses. He carefully placed 500 rials, a golden coin glinting in the depths of the metal bowl. We collected more money from tourists, but the rich people of Tehran glared at Mama’s sagging skin. Mama let the insults that flowed from their lips hit her hijab and not her. We left Azadi Square, heading for the street Jalal Al Ahmad. On the way, Mama pointed to places of her childhood and little nooks she hid in while she worked in the city. She taught us secret codes and ways to obtain rials and free, leftover food from street vendors at the end of the day. Her eyes curved upward as if they could smile at the memories and nostalgia of her past. In the street, we burrowed around the traffic, tapping against windows and shaking our pot. Honks echoed across the grey sky, and taxi driver heads overturned through open windows, yelling at one another to speed along the asphalt road. Mama begged for more money while Eshal and I sat on the curb and took a break. We breathed in the smell of street vendor food; chelo, rice, and meat kebobs wafted through the heavy air. Bent, silver ladles bellowed from stew pots, and street vendors called to the public, pushing their voices into hollowed ears. My eyes examined trailing street shops until they settled on a tourist shop on the corner. Trinkets and postcards of Tehran embraced the flutter of the wind. Wind chimes hung in the doorway of the shop. These glowed silver, new metal draped across its cylindrical body, and warm sounds sung from in between its circular lips unlike the rusty ones by the shed on the outskirts of Tehran. I wanted them, but knew I’d never get them because Papa was in prison for trying to escape Iran by boat many years ago. And only men could carry a steady job in Tehran. More shouts flew briskly though the air. I pushed my fingers against my ears, hoping maybe the sound of the wind chimes could soothe the call of my disastrous city. It didn’t work. We went back to work, collecting money until the sky turned to a velvety navy. Mama took us to the street vendors, taking the cold, leftover khoresht, stew, and lavash, thin papery bread. We ate on the way home, tired and broken. When we reached the outskirts of Tehran, I sauntered over to the shed, head scratching splintered boards. That night, I dreamed of living in a villa with golden gates and a garden of inverted tulips for Eshal and big rooms for Mama. The wind chimes showered the villa. I awoke to the sound of Eshal’s voice and her figure trying to get me to do the same routine again. As we walked to the Azadi Tower, I heard a familiar sound in the distance, the dirty wind chimes kissing our ears.
-- Elyse Thomas is a student in the creative writing program at Miami Arts Charter School. She has been and currently is being published in 5 poetry anthologies. She has also received 2 gold keys, 3 silver keys, and 4 honorable mentions in Scholastic. Elyse has read her poetry on the stage of the Adrienne Arsht Center.