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Shahla Latifi

TO Rise Again

                                  

At the tender age of fourteen, she felt old. Her small body couldn’t take it anymore. Her hands were tired of working all day. Her brain was bare of new thoughts. Her eyes missed the ray of happiness. As fair-minded as she was, she felt hopeless and depressed.

 

Even though she existed sheltered from the outside world, growing up reserved in an abandoned village, she was all emotions and intelligence. She had a vibe, a gift of nature that connected her to the other side of reality.

 

With all her life problems, her mind was locked up in a prison. Still, she never felt that she was missing anything in life, and she lived without feelings of regret. But she sensed the faintest flavor of abnormality in her surroundings. She couldn\'t imagine why there was such a difference between her inner world and reality. In the back of her mind, there was always a vision, a dream of her heart. In her audacity, she contemplated that dream in her mind, wondering if things would or could ever change.

 

One cold winter night, the most wonderful thing happened: Her father, the only living creature she knew and loved, was asleep. The little mud house was dark and quiet. The moon was full.

 

Even though she loved her father, the lonely middle-aged man drowning in sorrow, she knew his intention was not to hurt her. He regarded her, his fourteen-year-old daughter, as his property, an idea she hated. She wished him to have a little bit of solitude, a little bit of peace.

 

After the death of her mother, her father ordered her to become the woman of the house. At first, she thought that was the only way to live. Lost in anger and resentment, she had to accept her mother was gone and that she had to fill her mother’s shoes. That was a great burden to bear.

 

Her father, a man in his forties, had a demanding personality. He never treated her mother as a human, and he looked at his child as an object. Every day, he spent his hours in the shack outside with his carpentering work.

 

He was a good carpenter. Using tree branches and stamps, he manufactured chairs and tables and other small accessories, selling them in the neighboring towns. To him, cutting, shaping, carving, and playing with wood was a great way to deal with his anger and frustration. He was a man with many dislikes, and he felt he had nothing to live for. He was strong and capable, but inside he was a broken man. A man who had seen the evil of the world.

 

When a person is hurt or has been used and damaged over time, and if she or he has no resources to get help, that person can never care for others. But her father, after the death of his wife, became a living soul. He realized the enormity of his sorrow and the fearful responsibility of a parent. As much as he felt strained by a sudden change, he was destined to do the right thing. He had to break the emotional boundary between himself and his daughter.

 

But he did not know what to say, how to start, and how to heal the deep wounds that formed a chasm between them. Although he considered himself damaged goods, somehow in the core of his being, at the essence of his soul, he was an innocent and terrified boy who took everyday beatings at the hands of his angry mother. Yet, who had a heart full of love and dreams.

 

That feeling of inner peace of his boyhood had never before resurfaced. He had kept all the good and the bad inside with no trace of hope and desire to heal.

 

Now, he stepped into the other side of reality.

 

At first, his mind swirled, overwhelmed with the idea of how to get close to his only child, to heal past transgressions. He was angry with himself. He hated the complexity of life. But he had to break the shell of self-unworthiness; he must forgive and forget his past to give the gift of a normal life to his only daughter.

 

As the power of good intentions can soothe pain, suddenly he felt at ease.

 

 

It was a starry night. Lying on the mattress, she thought of her mother, the ray of goodness that she kept in her heart. Every time she was feeling lonely, unwanted, and unloved, she found solace with good memories of her mother.

 

Tonight her small body was weak, but her inner feelings were as vivid as the moonlight. Her imagination led her aching and feverish body to a beautiful dream.

 

As her heartbeat with excitement, she saw herself in a green meadow far from home. The beauty and calming effect of the green scenery, a garden full of fruits. The brightness of the sun like she had never seen it before, the sound of water streaming, the chirping birds and the autumn breeze and colorful leaves all around gave her the energy of love and awareness of her surroundings.

 

In the midst of all things, she heard a soothing sound: a mixture of joy and laughter.

 

Intrigued, she moved closer, finding that the pain she carried on her small shoulders, all the insecurity she had faced in her short life, and all the bitterness she endured disappeared. Her keen mind had suffered loneliness and abandonment; her thoughts were always at the urge of giving up. Her demeanor was now shifting to the gentle way of life.

 

She saw children playing happily, and was captivated by their joyful sound alongside the blissful feeling of freedom, the warmth of the sun, and the green scenery filled with an infusion of peace and light. She felt relaxed, soaking up all the energy.

 

Panicky and breathless, she was overcome by the blend of excitement and steely desire to stay. She did not want to lose such a feeling of complete and unmitigated love. She didn’t want to be alone again. In the midst of all, she sensed her mother’s infectious smile upon her. She felt loved and wanted.

 

 

 

The wooden door of her small room opened. The room smelled fresh and alive, a glass full of fresh wildflowers on the old nightstand. A tiny window let in light.

 

The man walked into the room and saw his daughter wrapped in a blanket, deep in sleep. Suddenly, a noise: She was crying, murmuring in her dreams.

 

Confused, he didn’t know what to do. He had never been close to her as a father, never had been a shoulder for her to cry on. Three years without her mother around, the child grew in the dark all alone. And now that he wanted to be a father and make things right, he didn’t know what to do.

 

The young girl writhed in agony, burning up in a fever. She looked so fragile. Putting a hand on her damp forehead, the man noticed for the first time the similarities between him and his child. Her soft brown hair, her tanned fair skin, her straight and narrow nose, and her thin lips resembled his. He was astonished.

 

“How can I help her?” he asked himself, his heartbreaking within his soul. He was afraid he wouldn’t be able to rescue his daughter; he thought of her fragile body slipping into the stream of pain and drifting away.

 

He felt hopeless. He blamed himself for the reason she was suffering.

 

All he ever wanted was to hide from the reality of their situation, but now, without the fear of what the future would hold, the only thing he wanted was for his daughter to wake up, to survive.

 

A wave of panic shook his heart. His hands were trembling, his mind flooded with fear. For the first time, he wanted to cry. There was no time to waste. His daughter needed him, needed his fatherly arms and confidence around her.

 

Yet he felt confused and hopeless. Rattled by his daughter’s distress, a single thought of bravery encapsulated his mind, forcing him to face the darkest demons. He left the room and hurried back with a jug of cold water and a small, wet towel. He stood in front of his ill child’s bed, simultaneously agitated and frozen with fear. In a sudden state of alertness, he moved closer to the bed, placed the towel on the nightstand, and reached for his daughter. His tears flowed like raindrops, but he did not care. All his pride, self-righteousness, shame, wrath, and vengeance had never deserted him, and now they were near the breaking point.

 

With a bittersweet smile on his face, he felt free of pain. For the first time, he wanted to be a father. He wanted to break the cycle of abuse and neglect. He wanted to make up for his past mistakes and regrets and look to the future. And he wanted his only child to accompany him on that journey. He wanted to see her happy and well. He wanted to make her laugh. He wanted her to blossom like a flower, and for her to never see sunrise with tearful eyes again.

 

With that powerful feeling of fatherly love, he tried to banish his fear. Suddenly he found contentment in the midst of loss and grief. And he knew by helping his only child, he was also helping the lost boy who had been living in sorrow for so long…

 

 

                                                      Shahla Latifi

                                                       01-20-2021