My beloved Saha, salam.

Today is eleventh of January. Outside the temperature is minus twenty-one and the sun is too faint to offer warmth. The air inside my apartment is not much warmer than outside. I am now wearing four layers and my fingers are getting black. Of course I have to emphasize that these are not complaints because I really feel more at peace in the cold. I just want to give you a picture of my life's space. Now I am sitting in my study. Yes, I too have joined the circle of sinful elite and, although I am nothing more than a dwarf (my king-size nose notwithstanding), I am occupying a large space under the excuse of a comfortable life: work room, bed room, living room, eating room and defecation room. In addition to these there is also a large deck which I'm not using much these days because of the two feet of snow covering it. It shouldn't be left untold either that all of these luxuries are situated in a neighbourhood where most people live in fours and fives in one_ or two-bedroom apartments and every night at least ten people sleep on the streets, in bus shelters in cardboard boxes under newspaper blankets. And some of them don't wake up again. In short, my answer is positive to the known question, Is the sky the same colour everywhere? Yes. Only its saddle is different.

More than I can describe or you can imagine, I miss you. You too have joined the legends like the goldfish in the creecks and the fragrant pussy willows of spring and the ice blossom in the winter and the wet halva in Ramazan.

It's four hours since I wrote the last section and I feel sadder. The sky too, perhaps to accompany me, has turned dark and gloomy. From the window of my tower I can see the street turning under the automobile wheels. The falling snow can't pull the illusion of cleanness over the slushy face of the street. I know that everything I'm writing is gloomy and it's selfish of me to write these to you. But, even if later I decide not to mail this letter, right now I need to talk to someone, and not just anybody, but someone I trust completely. I don't know if this is an experience that's particular to those who live in exile or one may feel a stranger in one's own country too. By stranger I don't mean the sentimental figure they write about in ten-for-one novels _ althogh this sentimental stranger too makes up a part of The Stranger. The way I experience it, being a stranger is a soup of homelessness, loneliness, disappointment, doubt, distrust, naivete, pessimism, banging on every door for the unknown purpose and finding every door shut, or entering and loosing the rags covering the poor ass, getting old and realizing that not only "this snow shall not stop" but that "merry spring" was a fleeting feeling that even those who experienced it don't believe anymore. Where is a shoulder to cry on over the loss of youth's innocence? And, of course, in the second look, one must ask oneself what innocence, what youth? See, I was right, only the saddle has changed. No?

Well, this is life too, isn't it, that one cry today and push oneself tomorrow that the road must be walked and the doors must be knocked? Remember Mrs. Motaghi? The principal of Mehran. One year, during the new year holidays, I went with a couple of other kids to her door, knocked and ran away before she could open. We did this a few times. This to go for the innocence of youth. Saha, remember the jasmine shrub in your old house? My hair, now that I cut it really close, reminds me of that. A mass of light and dark and here and there solid white flowers.

It's near the sunset. I think it's better I go for a walk by the lake. The sight of the sun setting over the frozen lake is one of those wonders I'd like to share with you some day. Who knows, perhaps this will be the night which may offer one a nail to hang "the tattered cloak" of years. My friend, take care of yourself. Our generation is gradually _ rapidly _ going toward annihilation and we must preserve ourselves for the museums or nobody will believe our saga.

January fourteenth, 3:30 pm. How are ya? Good, are ya? Not that you should think in these worthless three days the world has changed such that I am relieved from weaving philosophical nonsense and now I can weave some real nonsense. So far as I know, it's still the same mule, but my saddle is a bit lighter. And that only because I remembered that any day now I should be donating my monthly blood ration toward the preservation of human species. Suddenly the curtain of smoke which had darkened the world trembled, and I realized that if I practice and strengthen my loungs I can occasionally cut this unsightly curtain with a blow and save the world from its darkness, for a short moment at least. Now you know the wisdom behind quitting cigarettes.

I actually wanted to mail this letter three days ago but I thought I should wait until ... [For the rest of this paragraph, Mina switches into last century's writing style which is full of wordy emblishments and very difficult for us to justly translate into English. In short, she tells Saha that she wanted to write about lighter and happier things to bring her a bit of laughter, and asks her forgiveness for the letter's dark tone.]

Don't forget our agreement. Even if you don't feel like writing, send me an empty envelope so I know you haven't broken down under the weight of childcare (such children too!) and your studies. By the way, the day following the night I was supposed to call you at Hamid's and I forgot, I called your own house _ three, maybe four times _ but I didn't get to talk to you. Every time your renter would pick up the phone and then put the handset down on the receiver when she went calling for you. Perhaps fate didn't want me to talk to you that night. In any out for yourself and if you can't do it adequately let others watch out for you (including Hamid). Relay sincere greetings on my behalf to all who are friends and a basic hello to the acquaintances.

Mina in Toronto

By the way, what did they plant in place of the ill-fated cedars of the Main Square which they cut? A while ago I was telling a friend about my memories of our town and I couldn't help cursing that idiot of a mayor who sent chainsaws to those beautiful tall cedars. Now I'm wonder what kind of a wig they've put on the square's bald head. -->

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