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25. PAT-A-CAKE

December 21, 2007

After the burial, more food and drink was provided, people finalized their mingling and went home.

 

Back at the Jackson’s, Sholeh suggested to Layla that she should come along to the David Hofman lecture at Melbourne Uni in the city that night. Everyone was going. It would be a great Baha’i night out in memory of Tahirih. And her cousin would drive them. And as her parents were staying the night why not?

 

[Layla]:

“Aaahhhh , you are scouting for suitors Sholes and you want reinforcement. I’m feeling a little down to go out tonight. It’s too soon.”

 

[Sholeh]:

“Aw look Layls, I’m down too. It’s you I want to go out with. We played together with Tahirih before we could walk properly. Every bloody Baha’i gig we went to – we three have been together, we’ve even slept together. You’re my connection to Tahirih and I can still hug you. I want to go out with you in Melbourne in memory of Tahirih. Please?

And, yeah, you know that the Melbourne Baha’i guys are so cute. Please?”

 

[Layla hugging]:

“Ooooh okay, I’d love to go out with my good friend Sholeh.”

 

The girls spent the afternoon in Sholeh’s bedroom playing dress-ups in preparation for the evening lecture. Sholeh spruiked her recent conversion to Revlon lippy and gave a very accomplished demonstration of its application. Layla had only brought a few clothes so tried on lots of Sholeh’s, who had fab clothes. Sholeh was totally serious about animal ethics and the environment so would only shop for creams and lotions at the Body Shop.

 

Layla was always getting blisters and hard skin on her feet from running. Sholeh took charge of them and give them a good wash and pumice stone scrub. “Smooth don’t remove, is what it’s all about” said Sholeh. “Wow, look at you though Layls, what a yummy athletic bod from all that training. This is just the right top for you.” It was a jagged edged, dark blue tank top. “Let that toned tummy out for a bit girl.” Layla washed, dried and brushed Sholeh’s bobbed black hair. Great symbiotic fun!

 

Accessorized, preened and strikingly presented, the two girls took their ride to the big city, the big university. All the tinglings of an adult adventure. There were several hundred noisy people in the Copland Theatre when they arrived. Layls and Sholes recognized many young acquaintances as they stood about, blocking doorways and aisles with urgent conversations.

 

[Sholeh disdainfully]:

“Hey Layls, will you look at them down there.”

 

Sholeh was pointing to four young males who had assumed a scholarly disposition, their pens and notebooks at the ready. Behrouz Erfanian was amongst them. When Mr Hofman began to talk there was a furious outbreak of note taking activity – ‘1966? Yes, he said 66. In America? No, after that, in Canada.” Stressful stuff.

 

Other older people were listening to the lecture but the girls and their young ilk were most pre-occupied with sending signals, in body language, across the theatre. Nearing the end of the lecture, Sholeh arrived back from one of her travels with a drink and an invitation.

 

“Layls, it’s sorted. A group of us are going to Lygon Street for something to eat after. Good eh?”

 

About fifteen arrived at a good looking pizza place on Lygon Street and snapped up the available outside seats. Their atmosphere was lively and tactile but affable. They were good people and, though many were well into their twenties, young Sholeh and Layla felt in no way out of place. Indeed, they had all expressed sincere sympathies with the girls and Behrouz Erfanian (the scholars had come along) and were shouting them the meal.

 

The pizzas, apple ciders and garlic breads were ordered and soon delivered. People were eating and talking in a very relaxed fashion. Behrouz was especially talkative and was now commanding centre stage amongst the group. He regaled them with stories of his global Baha’i travels in Africa and South America. He issued some teaching tips and promised to soon secure his knowledge and experience in some form of a book which he would publish through Baha’i channels or at least self-publish on the internet.

 

Having established his status in the group, Behrouz settled down and let others have some air time. He moved from his seat and said to Sholeh ‘Sholeh dearest, can I get in there and have a word with Ms Parkin for a while?’ As he was saying this his arm aided Sholeh’s rising from her seat.

 

[Behrouz smugly]:

“So Layla, are you coming to the World Centre for your Year of Service? I could put in a good word for you, maybe tell you what type of work is needed. We could meet up and have long walks and serious discussions around the terraces you know.”

 

[Layla]:

“I haven’t thought about it. And Behrouz you can stop all that ‘serious’ talk please. I think that apple cider has gone to your head. Anyway, don’t you have to be a Baha’i to work there?”

 

[Behrouz]:

“Why?”

 

[Layla]:

“Well, it’s unlikely I will declare at fifteen.”

 

[Behrouz]:

“Don’t be silly woman; every thing about you screams Baha’i. It might as well be stamped on your head. Here, I’ll do it.”

 

As unlikely as it may seem, Behrouz took out a marker from his jacket pocket, leaned aggressively over Layla and scrawled a big B on her forehead.

 

[Behrouz]:

“There!”

 

This ridiculous and domineering act obviously caught the group’s attention and interrupted their flow. People looked on, disbelieving, embarrassed, uncomfortable but not interfering. It wasn’t a situation that any of them had had to deal with. Eventually, Sholeh giggled nervously. Layla didn’t reciprocate however. She, combatively, looked right through Behrouz, who seemed mightily pleased with himself and was reveling in the extra attention.

 

[Behrouz]:

‘Hmmm, not quite finished.’

 

Behrouz, still leaning, resolutely motioned his marker again towards Layla’s forehead. The group instinctively made a collective but tiny start forward as if to catch a falling glass that was beyond reach. Behrouz, at his target already, daintily tapped two lewd dots on the B. The stunned group dejectedly averted their eyes from this humiliation and was unsure how to proceed.

 

Layla, now more flabbergasted than bellicose, took a moment to recover. Then she leaned around Behrouz to pick up her spoon and looked in its reflection to see what he’d done.

 

[Layla]:

“Well, at least it’s a faithful representation of how you see me. How about my turn now?”

 

Layla stood up and with the fingers of both hands manipulated Behrouz’s ample brow. Layla looked around the group and smiled. The relieved group smiled back. They were so happy that Layla was not distraught over her mistreatment. However, this was a bit forward of Layla too, all sense of normalcy seemed to have been abandoned. Behrouz had his eyes closed and his head bent towards Layla’s fingers and was loving it.

 

[Behrouz]:

‘Take all the time you need. So relaxing. Oh yeah, this is the life alright. Paradise, that’s what some people believe eh guys.”

 

[Layla]:

“Behrouz, it is an honour to be of assistance to you in your time of need. Ooooh my gosh, your head is throbbing and very hot. Let me give it a blow as well. I’m doing a good job, eh? A few more rubs and you’ll be right. There we go. Have a look at what’s come up.”

 

Layla held her spoon towards Behrouz. Self-assuredly, he glanced at the spoon then double-took. He grabbed the spoon from Layla’s hand and stared into it and all around it. He didn’t like what he saw there. An intricately drawn picture of erect male genitalia. To Behrouz it was unmistakably accurate, even down to the small mole near the base.

 

He threw the spoon away from him and screamed in horror. Loudly and angrily ‘you are such a disgrace young girl’. Hastily, he dipped a napkin into a jug of water and scrubbed his forehead. He grabbed a knife and, looked again. Still there. He scrubbed again and again. Still there. Behrouz glared murderously at Layla who had already removed the nippled B from her own head. With a hand covering his shame he bustled past the tables and chairs and ran inside the restaurant. He bumped up against the throng of people waiting to be seated until he came to the rest rooms. Ashen and alone, he stared hypnotically into the wall-sized toilet mirror. Then, he ferociously made ablution after ablution attempting to remove the offending emblem. Scrub, scrub, scrub.

 

Many in the group were, by now, very bemused. It was thought that Behrouz was playing to the gallery. It crossed the minds of some that his bizarre behaviour might have some substance assistance. Mostly, people were happy that he was no longer with them. They inquired after the well-being of Layla who said she wasn’t happy with that pig but that she had got over it. They gave her lots of hugs, some of the hugs coming by way of bidding farewell. Shortly after, Layla and Sholeh’s ride needed to go home too, so they kissed and hugged again, exchanged email addresses and waved everyone away.

 

Afterwards, a waiter approached the remaining group of five young adults and asked that someone kindly attend to their friend in the toilet as he was causing concern amongst other patrons. Two of the men went in and confronted a still distressed Behrouz.

 

“Can’t get it off, she used some irremovable ink, can’t get it off.”

 

“Nothing there, mate, there’s nothing there.”

 

“You are all lying to me, you’ve all got chips on your shoulders and this is it, the revenge, well not so funny.”

 

“Come on mate, it’s time for you to come out now.”

 

But he wouldn’t come out despite threats of being dragged out. One man went back to the group and managed to get a pink beanie from a young lady. He brought it back to Behrouz.

 

“Right, you can use this if you think it’s an improvement. We’re off.”

 

They did go off. Everyone had said their muted farewells and left before Behrouz emerged under the attractive beanie to scamper into a taxi.

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