I turn on the lights in my tiny shop, waiting for the marketplace to fill up with the usual crowd of people. As I pour my favourite green tea in the chipped beige mug I bought when I first inherited the place, I hear the tea kettle whistling upstairs and the quiet pattering of footsteps, alerting me that the kids are getting ready for school and that my wife is preparing their breakfast. I look around my shop, admiring the floors with their simple checkered black and white pattern, and the dull brown wallpaper, which I can see is already peeling off in the corners of the room. Then, the shelves come into view, so narrow and weak, displaying my worthless merchandise: glass. All types. Everywhere. Glass vases, glass statues, glass plates, although it’s hard to notice with all the dust that has accumulated on their surfaces due to years of neglect and poor-maintenance. But despite all that, I wouldn’t change a thing. This shop meant a lot to my father, so as long as I own the place, it will always look the same. Then, as expected, I hear the Fajr Salat, preached by the Maulanas at the local Mosque. Finally, it’s morning. He should be here soon.
I’ve known it for a long time now that business is declining, that if I paid the boy the usual 25 Rial he deserves that I would have to put my house on sale. Or worse, force my wife to go find work and leave our five kids to starve. And yet every time he walks up to me in his clean white chador and cotton trousers, matching his glowing smile, a potent feeling overwhelms me. He’s different from the other boys, yes younger and more naïve, but also more alive, more idealistic. During a time of economic recession and war in the darker parts of Iran, it amazes me that the boy remains almost entirely unaffected. Here he comes now. Wait, something’s different. He’s different. By the looks of his saddened, dry face, I can tell that he has spent the past few hours weeping, and the bruises on his fists, with their intensifying purplish-black colour, do nothing to help the situation.
“What happened, Aasir? Tell me everything, beta.” For a second, Aasir looks at me and I can see that he has something he desperately wants to say, but instead, he simply shakes his head and starts toward his station. Before he actually moves though, I stop him to take a good look at his fractured fists. Considering that, to my understanding, Aasir has never gotten into a fight at the ripe age of eight, I immediately knew that something or someone had to have done something really bad for him to have gotten that mad. That’s when I remembered our conversations about his papa.
“What did he do this time? Did he try to hit you?” “No, I tried to hit him,” Aasir muttered quietly. “Why would you do that, Aasir? That is so unlike you.” “He found another woman… he left me and mama this morning.” I could see by the quiver in his lips that the boy wanted to cry again, to release all of his sorrow and self-pity, but instead, he remained firm. In that moment, it wasn’t Aasir who I saw in front of me. It was me, the younger version at least. I saw a boy with the strength and courage of a man at war fighting for his country. I saw a boy who honoured his responsibilities in life and never backed down when things got…