Drinking With Iranians, December 1979 By W.K Kortas

Drinking With Iranians, December 1979

We didn’t dwell on the streetlights,
Festooned with garland-strewn bells, ersatz nutcrackers,
And the odd buoyant and ebullient snowman;
We were crossing the Hempstead Turnpike,
No task for the faint-hearted in bright light of midday,
Outright perilous on a late Friday evening
(Especially for those feeling the effects of an afternoon of social drinking
Which had gently spilled over into that good night.)
There were four of us–myself, and a Tehran-born trio
(Fun-loving, borderline jolly sorts–a group of thin, dark Falstaffs,
As it were) heading to a nearby off-campus bar,
Low-slung ranch-style edifice constructed on the Levittown model,
As non-descript and indistinguishable as its regular clientele,
Some of whom eyed us warily if not angrily,
Perhaps weighing the pros and cons of saying something at us
Before we headed to the “Downstairs Disco”
Which had been added, very grudgingly at that,
As a nod to the times and fiscal necessity.

In between ear-numbing bass lines
And the strobe light’s cornea-threatening ministrations,
We nursed significantly watered vodka-and-tonics,
Smiled unsuccessfully at spike-heeled and Jordache-clad local girls
(Every bit as unwelcoming to clear outsiders
As their decidedly less glamorous counterparts upstairs),
And carried on brief, lightweight bits of conversation.
At one point I’d mentioned that I was looking forward to getting home
And partaking in some peace and quiet and home cooking
When suddenly, one of my companions
(A full-bearded sophomore named Anush,
Whose last name I never knew; as his roommate Mossoud once told me,
Shaking his head and smiling, You would never be able to pronounce it)
Gave forth with a wail–full-throated, tear-stained
Pained to the point of being almost bestial.
As I stared uncomprehendingly, Mossoud snapped at me
(His eyes thunderstorms, his words blunt as broadswords)
You! What do you understand of any of this?
And he comforted Anush as best he could
(The music the volume of bombs,
Disco ball spitting light like tracer fire)
I began to suspect my relative uselessness
Was not simply the inability to comprehend Farsi

By W.K Kortas


W.k. kortas is an itinerant civil servant living in Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains.  He lives and works by the axiom “Mediocre means better than some.”

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