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Chapter I Page 1

Dear Tammy,

As you know by now I returned to the U.S. after not having been there for more than a decade. I came for my daughter’s graduation, and thought I would stop in New York and see you before my flight back to Europe and then, Iran.

In your wonderful city, where most of the population lives in the stratosphere with only service connections to earth, I had the loneliest time, living in a hotel room; way up and up, waiting for a telephone call that never came. I called your office, and your secretary told me that you would not be in for a few days.

After some preliminary probing on her part and mine, and my telling her I was an old friend from the university days, she told me that you were home, down with a cold. Her tone, while polite, intimated that the conversation should end there and this reminded me of your housemother in Berkeley. (History was repeating itself once more.)

So many times when we were students, that hopeless news derailed my expectation for a chat with you on the phone, a ride around the green hills, a movie, a walk, dinner, studying together at the library, a snack before ten – so many things – that my memory is unable to recount them all now. The visitation of the cold virus with you was nearly once every three months, as I remember, and now with the passage of so many years confession comes easy:

In those days, at times, a sickening worry overwhelmed me when I was told you couldn't come to the phone because of a bout with the cold.

I always thought it was a ploy a prelude to avoid seeing a foreign student who forever was confused about the big question: to be or not to be in America after graduation. Your voice, hoarse from the cold, when days later you spoke to me on the phone sounded to my ear better than nightingales singing. It had a steadying effect always, restored my sense of confidence, and made me feel like a prince.

It was my wanting to hear your voice again this time, hoarse or not, that I hustled verbally with your secretary a while more than she had patience for, but she just wouldn’t come through with your home phone number. Since I knew beforehand that you were unlisted, your secretary was the only line of hope, but she was firm and noncommittal.

Finally, I made her note my full difficult name, my hotel and room number. As assertively as I could, I told her to convey the message that I was expecting your return call at the earliest. With condescending coolness she said that she would convey the message, in the event you call the office.

She was not one to be thrown so easily, but I had a mind to tell her a few things. Sorry, Tammy, I was about to snap out that I had partially financed the business in which she now worked and earned a salary, but a thought flashed in my mind on time. I braked.


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