AN ELEGY CEREMONY
LIKE MISSING OF YUNES
Fiction by Seyed Ali Shojaei
Mother’s voice is trembling on the phone.
—Come here. . . .
—There is news about Yunes.
She says “don’t be late” and hangs up the phone.
It has been thirty years—I know it all. And I am exhausted. When
I was at my father’s home, it was nothing except cries and complaint,
and now that I live in my own house and away from that story, these
phone calls and gatherings and reports of the same story over and over
again ensure it is still with us.
I get ready; I know her. She calls till I get out of the house. I
change my clothes and review the memories of these thirty years on my
way to my mother’s home.
I am sure she has asked my brother to come and we will sit
together again and talk about the same story that someone, somewhere,
sometime has seen Yunes or someone like him, and now that we have
heard the news we should look for a way to find him, and at the end she
cries and mourns again saying what if Yunes had not been lost. . . .
I feel like laughing, because it has come to my mind many times;
what if we find our brother? My brother whom I have not seen for
thirty years . . . what will I do and say when I hold him in my arms?
The funniest scenario is to beat him to death and ask him why he got
lost and changed our lives. . . .
I change my way from Fakhrabad to Shohada, Hefdah shahrivar,
and Shokofeh. I am happy that I have escaped the heavy traffic of this
part of city. I have never seen these streets uncrowded. They are filled
by bikes, motorcycles, and passersby who run but never reach.
Mother has watered flowers as every day and the smell of soil and
honeysuckle drives me mad. When I inhale this wonderful scent, I regret
that I insisted on leaving this house and buying an apartment in Golhak.
I ring the bell and my sister runs to open the door.
—There is news about Yunes!
How much I resent this foolish happiness. We have never seen
him, not me, not my brother and sister. He was missed thirty years ago,
before I was born, and now my sister is happy for hearing news of a
brother that she has never seen but has heard about all her life.
For us, Yunes is a few old and torn black and white photos and
some memories we have heard a thousand times from Mother. Who
knows? Maybe for Mother also these are the only pieces left of Yunes.
My father is still shocked by losing him and we have never heard a
word from him in these thirty years. He is not in a coma, but the only
difference is that he walks and eats and that is all. For thirty years, he
is living for death.
My brother has arrived before me, and Father is sitting on a bed
near the pond and they are drinking tea. I am exhausted by this
repetitive scenario. Thirty years of talks which have never helped us
find a trace of him.
We sit and wait for Mother to give us the news and my sister’s eyes
get wet and my brother and I shake our heads.
—Just an hour ago, Haji called and said someone . . .
I am about to cry.
—he said he might be Yunes . . .
I cannot hear anymore.
—he said he was just a five-year-old child . . .
I do not know why I want to say what I have kept in my heart for
all these years. I stand up and sit in front of Mother; I interrupt her.
—Mom, you know how many times we have heard this story? As
long as I can remember, all my life . . . it’s been a long time, Mom . . .
a very long time.
Mother is shocked.
—Didn’t you sell everything to come to the city and find him?
Didn’t we go from one city to another looking for Yunes? Didn’t you
check hospitals for ten years? Didn’t you go to the graveyard every day
to check out any unidentified body? Didn’t you publish his photo in
newspapers many times? Didn’t you . . .
Tears roll down her face silently. My sister is still looking at me
in surprise. My brother is, however, indifferent, as if he has come just
to be here for an hour.
— Didn’t we search everywhere? What was the result?
I get up and stand beside my father. I raise his hand, it falls down.
I break the teacup in front of his foot. He is just staring somewhere. . . .
— This is the result! My father has never called my name, has
never hugged me, and has never come to my school. He has never set a
foot out of the house. . . .
Now my sister cries.
—The result is that all your life passed with pain and sorrow, that
doesn’t matter, you missed your life to find Yunes. You haven’t even
lived for a day in these thirty years. . . .
I feel suffocated. Mother stands up without a sound and goes and
returns with the same old photos and sets them on the bed.
She cries quietly and touches them.
—If I’ve lived a day, if I’ve passed a day without thinking about
Yunes, then what should I tell him when he comes and asks how could
you be happy without me, Mom? Won’t he say how could you pass a
moment not thinking about me? Wasn’t I your child? Wasn’t I your
Mother picks up a picture and kisses it.
—Then what should I say? He is right. . . .
My sister is looking at the photos and my brother is still silent. He
is waiting for this to finish so he can go.
—Mom, suppose Yunes is here now! Imagine he is sitting here
with us. What can we do for him? We have not been living with him for
thirty years—what can we do for him?
—We are his family, I am his mother. What do you mean what
can we do for him? Do you also ask what can I do for you?
I wash my hand and face in the pond. Maybe its coldness helps
me cool down.
—His family is the people who are living with him for thirty years,
not us; we don’t even know what he looks like now.
I get up and open the door.
—You can bring anybody here; he will be your Yunes. Mom!
You know him as much as you know the strangers in this city.
Mother is crying. I cannot tolerate her sobs. But my sister is no
longer crying. My brother is still silent. I close the door and sit in front
—Maybe we find him and he does not want us anymore. . . .
I take her hands:
— If he remembers you, he hasn’t even seen us.
I keep quiet so that my words impress her. I point to my brother
—We have never lived with him. What do we have to tell him?
Which common memories connect us?
—But he is my child after all . . . he is a part of me. . . .
I want to cry out her answer, so loud that Yunes can hear
wherever he is, but I whisper even gentler than she:
—Was there ever any Yunes? How do you know that?
Silence attacks us, so heavily that the sun leaves to escape from
the hullabaloo of the city. I stand up.
—I wish you doubted in his missing as we doubt in his existence.
She picks up pictures, she also stands up, I hardly hear what she
—Who says Yunes is missing?
I whisper a goodbye and leave. I still haven’t closed the door
when a tall man comes and smiles and says:
—Hi, I’m Yunes. . . .
I smile and pass. A few steps further another man comes:
—Hi, I’m Yunes. . . .
I pass again and again another man comes and smiles and says:
—I’m Yunes. . . .
And again a few more steps and another man. . . .
And thousands of Yunes say hi to me before I reach home. . . .
Seyed Ali Shojaei is the author of eight books in the Persian language
including the story collections The Stars Which Are Not Very Far, Love
at the Time of Epigraphs, and Angels Have No Stories; the novel
Season of Love for Leilas; and the bilingual Persian-German picture
book What If the Snowman Won’t Melt? His work has won a national
award from the Iranian Young Festival as well as awards for excellence
from The Season Book Festival, The Quranic Stories Festival, and The
Children and Adolescents Festival. From 2008 to 2012, Shojaei held a
series of workshops on Western and Iranian art and writing methods for
college students and young adults. “An Elegy Ceremony Like Missing
of Yunes” is his second story published in English.
On “An Elegy Ceremony Like Missing of Yunes”:
Are we looking for people who are no longer around us? Or
are they, who left us a long time ago, looking for us but are unable to
find us? Have we lost them or have they lost us?
In our national culture, a mourning ceremony is said to involve
a religious or traditional ritual where people grieve the loss of a holy
saint or a mythological personality. Although someone may have
departed many years or even centuries ago, their passing away is still
being lamented. . . .
“An Elegy Ceremony Like Missing of Yunes” is the lamentation
of people for the passing away of someone who hails from their
community and who, therefore, is one of them. However, his loss is
not real insofar as no one knows what his loss is about, nor is anyone
interested in finding out the reality of his absence. Who is lost? Who
is searching for the absent person? Are we seeking the one who has
departed or is the departed one looking for us?
You and I are involved in the story of Yunes since we have lost
several people and things in life. So, we must recognize that what are
truly lost are our original selves; indeed we have lost our selves . . .
and we must rediscover them some day . . . and let us hope such a
day arrives to us before we meet our end.
◄ Previous page Apple Valley Review, Fall 2015 Next page ►
Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of
Volume 10, Number 2
Copyright © 2015
by Leah Browning, Editor.
All future rights to
in the Apple Valley
Review are retained by
the individual authors