• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 04
Image by

Shadow of the Huma Bird

My best scarf, fresh-kohled eyes and bright smile lends peace to mother as we exchange video falsehoods every Sunday evening. She cannot tell me how frightened she is. And how can I explain that the comfortable home hung with rich textiles is no more than a shared room in a grotty high rise?

She doesn’t need to see the dark circles, hard-bought by late shifts at the airport. Nor my nails, no longer almond shaped on fat padded fingers laden with rings. She doesn’t need to see my worn shoes, scarred by water wicking from the kitchen floor. Or that, daily, I stand on oil-streaked tarmac, imagining a special plane screeching above is carrying her to my empty arms.

When we say goodbye, I tell her that I long for the time we will be together again. But I wonder, as I look up at the silver bellied bird flying into Heathrow whether I really would wish to see my mother again. I tell myself that, despite everything, she at least has grandmother’s arthritic morning blessing. Her courtyard may be littered with debris but she still strews fragrant petals there to dry, capturing their fragrance for the best rose water in the neighbourhood.

Mariam will come at Nowruz with her baby and together they will move between our relatives, savouring each home’s meagre feast. The old songs will be played quietly and Esteri’s fat legs will bounce on my sister’s lap. In the coming spring, their strength will grow alongside trumpeting pomegranate flowers. My little niece will learn to put one foot before the other, so she can walk away from her mother as I have walked away from mine. And she will lie, the same as I do, ‘Oh yes, mother, I have good food to eat and plenty of it. Yes, I see Uncle Hamesh every day. He sends blessings to you all.'


Shadow of the Huma Bird

My feet grow cold. I will have blisters by the time I walk the wet road home and climb ten flights of stairs. They will bleed by fifteen. But, for now, I stare through the chain link fence at Terminal 3, searching for a glimpse of the Huma bird on the Iran Air tail fin. Like me, like my mother, the bird never comes to rest – we live our true lives high above the earth, invisible to each other and yet known for our compassion.