– “Dear LCT, please send me three words.” I asked.
-“Nazli, smile, infinite.”
-“Thanks friend!” I wrote in response, with a gasp in protest to his hollow words.
– “And now three words from you, my flower?”
– “Bridge, Baby, Egypt.”
– “I love it! Your words entice me. Baby makes me wonder. Would you be interested in having a baby with me, perhaps in Egypt?”
– “Yes! I dream of smuggling myself, rolled in a Persian Carpet, over to your kingdom like Cleopatra did with Julius Caesar. Shall we call the baby Little LCT if it’s a boy?”
– “The baby’s name has to be original. Names are important my precious petal. Why were you named Nazli?”
“Remember that I sent you a poem, called “Death of Nazli,” back in the day? That’s where my name comes from.” I started.
My parents were political activists. Mother was pregnant when she and father were spotted by the secret service crossing the street and arrested. Mother was put in a windowless prison cell with a dozen other women and father in another with several men. The only opening in the rooms were the doors which occasionally flung open to everyone’s horror. Through it, the guards entered to take a few prisoners who refused to give up their ideology. Those who left would never come back. Imminent death was everyone’s cellmate. Islamic law required that my mother gave birth before being prosecuted. In a way, I safeguarded my mother’s life before I was born.
Her water broke in the middle of the night. By the time someone came to take her to the medical ward, I had already run out of patience. I was born halfway down the staircase just before dawn.
A girl of 15 was a daily visitor to my mother at the medical clinic. No other prisoner knew where she came from or what her name was. She had been arrested the previous year and put in solitary confinement for months. That’s where she had left her voice. She never spoke a word; only lay down beside mother, squeezed herself in her embrace and cried. Her silence broke mother’s heart.
I was only a month old, when I was placed under my aunt’s care as I was not getting enough sunlight in the prison. She took care of me until my parents, under torture, swore to abandon their politics and were released later that year. They never gave up their beliefs; only waited 16 years for an opportunity to escape.
And I, having lived in the belly of a frightened woman, and separated from her shortly after being born, became forever prone to despair. For as long as I remember, I have anxiously depended on words in all my significant relationships to quiet my fear of abandonment. Abandonment is my demon. I’ve lived in his shadow all my life. Only recently, have I dared to look him in the eyes. And that’s thanks to you, dear LCT.
You provided me with the opportunity to face my demon. It happened after you stopped writing to me like you did in the beginning. When your enthusiastic replies to my stories faded into swollen periods of silence, painfully punctuated with a sporadic word or two.
There he was again, chasing after me. And I was quickly shutting down my emotions, erecting walls, and running away in response. I felt agonized and unloved as I helplessly watched the colours recede from my world of dreams. With each one-word message that arrived delayed in response to my outcries for love, my hopes of resurrecting the trust I had in you, became dimmer. An indistinct buzz became louder and clearer through that dreadful silence: things … have … changed. Your silence broke my heart.
How could my heart have been so wrong and your words so meaningless? I had faith in you, in your authenticity. You were real. I’d felt your love; a real thing that meant something. Even if your heart was no longer with me, you would tell me. We had promised to be honest.
In the absence of any sound from you, I was left at the mercy of countless scenarios that stormed my head. Was I to throw my love away? Did I love too much or not enough? Was I not real enough of a person to deserve an explanation? Did I not matter because I was far away?
And when I howled in protest, my words bounced back the rigidity of your silence in echo to deafen me. I felt betrayed. I felt abandoned.
As tears of self-pity flooded my eyes, a voice kept nagging: face your fears. But what was I to face? There was nothing tangible. Finally, it dawned on me; if I had been in an imaginary relationship with you that felt so real, could I not wage a real war in the world of my imagination?
I began writing. I imagined being in a dark forest, cornered by my demon. How could I slay this dragon? I could do anything! With every word that I drafted, detailing my battle with him, the treasure he was hoarding was slightly more revealed; a treasure that was uniquely mine, waiting to be cultivated. Finally, I cut a piece of his tongue and used his own fire to fight him off.
In your silence, I conceived. In your silence, I created my own world of words. That was a moment of pure bliss.
The name Nazli, in that poem “Death of Nazli,” was used to protect the poet against the regime as he wrote about a political prisoner who was atrociously tortured to death. A prisoner who never gave away the names of his comrades. He never spoke a word; only cried.
Growing up, total strangers recited that poem to me upon learning my name, often emphasizing the end:
Speak did not Nazli,
Nazli was a lilac;
apprised “winter broke!”