Sara’s Story: Chapter 7| May 3, 2022
Hopefully, no one would realize that we were wearing our coats because we planned on leaving Tehran for good
Tehran, Iran 1978
y mother and I descended the steps of our attic apartment, nonchalant expressions on our faces. We had purposely chosen to make our escape when we knew that our landlady would be out of the house.
I pictured our landlady outside the grocery store, waiting on line for her food rations. Grocery shopping was a chore that normally took at least an hour and a half for her to complete, but my heart still pounded with worry. What if she came home early? What if she saw us leave and reported us to the authorities?
Dovid and Yitzchok dropped from the last step leading from the attic into Mrs. Cumin’s dining room a moment after Maman and me. Like my mother and me, they too wore medium-sized backpacks that had a single change of clothes inside.
All of us were wearing coats. Outside, only the slightest nip was in the air, but we knew that miles away, at the border, it could become frigid at night. Hopefully, no one would realize that we were wearing our coats because we planned on leaving Tehran for good.
We stepped outside onto the street. Upstairs, in Mrs. Cumin’s attic, we had left the rest of our earthly possessions behind. The only memories we would take with us to freedom were the photographs in our backpacks. Everything else, our threadbare couch, rickety beds, and spare clothing, were upstairs in the attic. In a few days’ time, when our landlady realized that we’d left her home for good, she would surely contact our father and ask him what to do with our things.
The sun was still high in the sky outside, but soon the wartime curfew would begin. No one was allowed outside in Tehran after 8 p.m.
I wrapped my hijab tightly around me. The despised Muslim garment did a good job of concealing the anxious pounding of my heart.
“Taxi.” Yitzchok flagged a taxi down, around the corner from Mrs. Cumin’s house. “Driver, can you make a big trip?”
“Certainly. Where to?”
“Yezd,” Yitzchok said.
The driver whistled. Yezd is a six-hour drive from Tehran, and it is the capital of the province Yazd. Yitzchok offered the driver a tremendous sum for the ride and the driver hummed a happy tune. “Hop on in,” he told us.
We all entered the taxi. Yitzchok sat in the front with the driver. My mother, Dovid, and I settled down in the rear. The driver continued to whistle happily for another moment, but then fell silent. Apparently, he picked up on our anxiety and realized that we’d prefer to ride in silence.
Streets and boulevards gave way to highway. I turned around. The beautiful city of my childhood had been ruined by Muslim extremists. Pictures of the Shah hung everywhere and anything remotely connected to Reza Pahlavi, the former democratic leader, had been burned. The three-winged Tehran International Tower stood tall and erect still, peering down at me in all its glory.
Goodbye, I thought. I will probably never see you again.
The driver pressed harder on the pedal. The tower disappeared and the future loomed threateningly before us. It was as though a thousand question marks were hanging in the air.
The scenery changed. Tall and crowded living spaces morphed into rural homes. Daytime gave way to pastel-colored skies, and finally darkness.
The driver drove and drove for hours.
Finally we arrived in Yezd. “Your exact destination?” the driver asked.
Yitzchok rattled off an address.
The driver drove up to the spot and left us on the curb. “Goodbye,” he said. “Enjoy your vacation.” We exhaled in relief as the driver turned his cab around and drove off in the direction that we had come from.
A cough from behind us. A man dressed in Shalwar Kameez, the local Pakistan garb, was trying to get our attention.
“You are Yitzchok, I presume,” the man said.
My older brother nodded.
The man smiled, revealing two rows of crooked and discolored teeth. “Welcome to Yezd. My name is Masud. I am Ahmed’s son, the man you hired to take you out of the country.”
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 909)
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