دوشنبه, ۰۶ خرداد ۱۳۹۸
The chair next to the desk
Translation: Mehrdad Shahabi
Written by: Mitra Davar
He has been sitting next to my desk all day. Without using his entrance card, without signing the attendance tracking book or even leaving his ID with the guard, he has reached this office so he can meet me.
No one can see him. He always looks young and strong and he is sitting next to my desk all the time.
My manager looks at the chair next to my desk through the window, as if she has seen him. Then she enters my office and asks me to put the cards in order. The blue guaranty cards have covered my whole desk. There are about fifty million of them.
I draw a little flower at a corner of the card number 67145. Then I shade the flower and make the shade darker.
I listen to the children’s program that is being broadcast loudly on the radio, kids are laughing, screaming… I stare at the chair next to my desk. He is sitting there in his usual white turtleneck. He looks at my eyes and says that the office desk has worn me out. No, he says nothing. That is what I think he would have said to me since three months ago when I last saw him. Three months or three years? Or thirty years? How many years have I been working at this desk? I cannot remember. I push away the cards on my desk, and look at myself in the glass cover on the desk. I see a blur picture of my face with two thin lines in between my eyebrows.
Mr. Bagheri brings tea to my office and puts a cup of tea on my desk.
I wish I had asked Mr. Bagheri to also offer him some tea. Mr. Bagheri leaves the office and I give him my own cup of tea.
- No one can see you.
I listen to the sound of time. It has got an ambiguous sound, like the sound of a working engine of a device, like the sound of a wheel which passes by the window of my room slowly or like the sound of the radio which is often dull and monotone. Sometimes I think by myself that I have to sit behind this very desk for the rest of my life and he will as well be next to my desk sitting on this leather chair.
Dear valued customer, we congratulate you on your choice. Please take good care of the guarantee card. In case your monitor crashes…
Once again I look at myself on the glass cover of the desk. I take my lipstick and eye pencil out of my purse.
I go to the ladies’ room. A deaf man, whose name I do not know, is always there. He is cleaning the place. He stares at me. I ask him to get out of there. He laughs brokenly.
I hear Mr. Hodjati calling him: “Hey! come here! How many times should I tell you to clean the ladies’ room after working hours?”
I do a little exercise in front of the mirror in the restroom. I move my knees and my back, and my joints crack. I bend my back to the left and right several times. Awful smell has filled the room. Water pours out of the toilet flush constantly. Mr. Hodjati’s voice echoes in the room: “How many times should I tell you…”
I draw a fine black line along my lower eyelashes and I apply a nude lipstick on my lips. Then I go out of the restroom. Mr. Hodjati is standing in front of the door. The ultramarine overall that he is wearing, makes him look bigger than he really is. He grabs the deaf man by his collar:
- You! Didn’t I tell you that the ladies’ room should be cleaned...
Then points at the door of the restroom and shouts: “LATER! LATER!”
A weird sound comes out of the deaf man’s throat.
I go to my desk and sit straight. Once again I hear the sound. I will die one of these days, while sitting here and listening to the sound of time. And he won’t even notice.
He looks like he is upset or something. Why doesn’t he drink his tea? Maybe he is tired. Maybe the blue cards have bored him. The blue color of the cards sometimes annoys the eyes. It is the same with the light of the fluorescent tubes.
The deaf man knocks on the window. His lips are moving. He makes sounds. He kisses his hand and blows it towards me. He looks around and moves away.
I listen to the sound of time. The employees pass by my office with their empty cups that become full afterwards. The full and empty cups of tea have been passing me by since the morning. No one, perhaps not even he himself, knows about my love. He just sits next to the desk, and looks at me with a smirk on his face. I am not sure if he feels sorry for the blue cards or for me. I don’t know.
My manager looks at me as if she has found out my secret. I should perhaps be more cautious. If I don’t put the numbers in the correct order and the manager suddenly enters my office and shouts at me… just like the other day when she came to my office and said: “Has the guarantee for monitor number 30343843 been expired?” I had not fixed that number. So I looked for it in the piles of cards. The numbers were messed up. I could not read any of them. “Sure, sure… do not worry about it. I’ll analyze the case”, I said.
“Analyze it? It is not a research task. It is just a number”, she said.
I guess he saved me. His hand smelled a mixture of perfume and cigarette. All of the cards smelled like his hand. I was worried that my manager would notice his hands, his big hands with long fingers. He had put his chair next to mine. I was not thinking about the numbers at all while he was looking for the number 30343843.
I took the blue card of number 30343843 from millions of cards and put it on the desk.
But today is not like every other day. He is upset of something. Why doesn’t he say a single word? I ask him: “so, what’s up?”
He walks around in my office and I am afraid that someone could hear his steps. His white turtleneck is turning to black. I ask him: “why are you wearing a black cloth?”
He says nothing. I show him his fingerprints on the files and the shelves and tell him that I have got used to him. That he should not leave my office.
I would like to hide my head in his dense chest hairs in order to avoid the light of the fluorescent tube during the day. When the abundant light hits the glass and the blue cards… I hold my head with my hands… I know he wants to leave. I knew it since the morning. I knew it from the way he looked at the blue cards. I know that the blue cards have exhausted him too.
The cards are piled on top of each other. I smell straw paper… my manager knocks on the window. I raise my head. She says: “number 366444.”
“Sure. Sure”, I reply.
I search the pile of cards.
The black guarantee cards surround me. Fifty million cards fly around my head. They approach me constantly. I read the numbers loudly:
14458888, 32545, 86552, 54455555, 416584, 416584, 416584, 51444, 4441145, 21545, 7897, 54774, 4787, 87623, 09766, 777777777, 42675, 4487, 444567, 44354354, 4444478, 476, 13141, 448797, 314021, 24464, 4448478, 444144, 4144…
My manager is standing still. I remember one time when he was sick. There were bunch of needles and devices in his mouth and his jugular veins. Even then she was looking at me furtively and she told one of the service employees to send me two hundred thousand fresh cards…
They have brought me about twenty boxes of guarantee cards. And they have accumulated the boxes. There is only a narrow path available to the entrance. My lungs are filled with the straw smell of the cards. Also the top of my fingers are cut. I have taken my pen so that I can draw and shade a flower at the corner of a card.
The deaf man knocks on the window. He laughs brokenly. Then points at the chair next to my desk. He might have noticed that the chair is not occupied. I let him know that he may enter my office.
He sits on the chair. He drinks the cold tea… his lips move. I put my elbow on the desk.
The deaf man is staring at the blue cards. He moves his head. I am not sure if he feels sorry for me or for the blue cards. I just don’t know!
Written by: Mitra Davar
Translation: Mehrdad Shahabi