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, almost jolly guys—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, perhaps weighing
The pros and cons of saying something to 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 drank significantly watered vodka-and-tonics
Smiled unsuccessfully at spike-heeled and Jordache-clad local girls
(No less welcoming of obvious outsiders
Than their decidedly less glamorous counterparts upstairs),
And carried on brief, lightweight bits of conversation.
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 fully-bearded sophomore named Anush,
Whose last name I never knew; as his roommate Mossoud once said,
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 almost bestial.
As I stared uncomprehendingly, Mossoud snapped at me
(His eyes darkened thunderclouds, the words sharp and blunt as broadswords)
You! What do you understand of any of this?
And as he continued to console Anush as best as he could,
The music the volume of bombs,
The disco ball spitting light like tracer fire,
I began to suspect my relative uselessness
Was not simply the inability to comprehend Farsi.