Have you ever been in heart-breaking love? Not the kind that ends because someone has done the other harm. It does not end because one of the lovers desire to separate. It ends because of the many ways that life will step in and put an end to love. I have been in that kind of love. It was so very painful but so beautiful that it set the tone for the rest of my life. Once real love is experienced it is very hard to live with less.
I was barely twenty years old when a very unusual romance blossomed. I was a student on the campus of the University of New Orleans and I was becoming a woman. I had begun to picture my life. Busy in my studies and meeting new people from around the world. It was a fascinating time and I was open to life and whatever it would bring. I had developed a group of friends and they were comprised mostly of people from foreign countries. I was drawn to the music of their languages and the taste and smells of their cuisines and the mystery of their world views. I enjoyed long conversations for the first time in my life about such things as politics and religion and social norms and expectations. I loved it because I felt that the true me was emerging through these conversations that made me question myself and challenge others.
There was a group of Iranians on our campus and I had class with a couple of them. They were not a large group but perhaps fifty or so that had formed somewhat of a family for themselves. They were warm and fun and I got to know a few of them well through our classes. I hung out with a mixed group of students from around the world and I felt somehow exotic in their presence. I am Creole, or mixed with French, African and Native American blood. Most people from other countries have a set idea of what the average American looks like but I did not fit the mold. I have always looked as though I could have belonged to any number of ethnic origins. I have olive skin and large brown eyes with brown to auburn hair. I have full features and many have taken me for Hispanic, Lebanese, Italian and French. My new friends were fascinated with my diversity and unusual looks. I was free to be myself away from any American expectation or predisposition about who I should be.
One day at lunch a young man approached our regular table and my Iranian friends greeted him. He was very handsome and very polite. I was introduced to him along with the other friends. He stayed a moment and left the cafeteria. Over the course of the next few weeks he would routinely come into the cafeteria and stand at the front of the very large room and search the crowd. When he would find me there he would smile and wave and then leave again. I was confused at first and wondered if he was waving to someone close by. It was awkward to wave back but by the third time he would laugh a little each time he got me to wave as if to acknowledge that he got my attention- again. He was making me crazy with his obvious attentions but never making the attempt to actually speak to me.
One day I was in the library studying and suddenly a voice whispered in my ear and said “why are you sitting in such a dark place? Your beautiful eyes need better light” . I turned and there he was. He sat and we began a conversation that lasted into the wee hours of morning. We sipped coffee at a nearby coffee shop once the library closed us out. He was charming and brilliant and thoughtful and very eager to know me. I was enchanted and found him to be the most forthright person I had ever known. He was open and honest and accepting of me in a way that made it so easy to fall for him. We spent 1 year together in that sweet time of youth. We fell deeply in love and it was a marriage of souls. We were very different from one another in some ways but our mind, body and souls were in unison. We spoke of marriage and a life together. My parents, though hesitant at first to imagine someone of Muslim background as a son-in-law, came to know him and love him. He was a great man who was very wise for his 25 years. He taught me what unconditional love really was. He became a part of my family and the center of my world. But we would be torn apart by political circumstances. The hostage crisis of 1982 was the beginning of the end for us. When protestors took over the US embassy in Iran our countries began a long suffering war with one-another that continues today. He had just finished his master’s degree in engineering and he was forced to decide whether he should remain in the US or return to Iran. He was afraid that he might not see his family again if he did not go. He had a twin brother back home and a father and mother who loved him dearly. His father was a prominent physician but getting on in years. So my sweet Maziar decided to go home if only to see his parents again before settling in the US.
He left me standing in the middle of the street on a cold, winter’s day. He wanted me to go with him and a few friends to the airport to see him off. At the last minute I could not do it. Somehow I knew it would be the last time I would see him in person. He was never able to leave Iran once he arrived back home. We both cried with such ferocity that it was hard to remember the last look. I could not see past my tears and I remember him turning to kneel on the backseat as I walked behind the car as it drove away. It was my first great heart break. I still feel it 30 years later.
Recently I have been watching with great devotion a show on television called “Outlander”. It is the tale of a woman who travels back in time two-hundred years by accident. She claws and divines her way in order to survive in this foreign time and place. She is at once rescued and kidnapped by a clan of Scottish men and she winds up married to one of them. They are strangers to one another but in short order they discover that their souls have a connection that is unexplainable. It is a love story that is so pure and well delivered that it pulls at the strings of the memory of my time with my first love. In “Outlander” these two spend time together and develop a deep love that survives many challenges. They too are parted by circumstances that leave them helpless to do anything but part. As I look forward to and dread at the same time, the final episode of ‘Outlander” I am quietly holding on to my emotions. I don’t expect most people to understand how I could be so moved over a television show. It sounds comical at best. But, I have found that art can reflect life. I have found that my heart strings recognize familiar truths, even when they are not playing my song. I have felt a connection to a time or person in my life while reading a book or listening to a song and yes, even while watching television. In what started out to be a curiosity about a good show has developed into a personal connection to “Outlander”. It has delivered me back to a precious time in my life. It has reminded me of a gallant, handsome, strong and virile young man who loved me so well that it informed my choice of men for the rest of my life. I am happy to revisit that time of romance and magic and tragedy and loss. It is the stuff of life and art. I have been loved well and where-ever he is I thank him for loving me so deeply that his memory still lives in me…