I’ve lost my wife and in case I die before turning seventy-five and do not find her, I have left a will in English on a scrap of paper that is of no use. As the sequence of the text is mysteriously out of my own control and constantly muddled up, it is strictly recommended to follow the numbers in order from latest to greatest. So, let’s say, if the writing starts with No. 4, just ignore it, look for No. 1 then start reading from there. You’d then read it with ease. And if you find my wife, or have any clue how to reach her, or even any idea how to get to her, it would be easier to inform me. Here is my address:
Pillar Box EN 101
4. My wife had a dream
Our visas expired and we moved back to Iran. It started to rain the very night we arrived. People were falling down on the road along with bits and pieces that smelt of burnt meat. She ducked over and over in the downpour so that nobody would crash down on her. One of her shoes got tangled up between a charred torso and an arm. Manoeuvring between the deluge of corpses, she saw herself in a store window, black and sooty like someone who had climbed down from a chimney, then she jumped out from a deep sleep in the middle of the night and said: we are better off applying for asylum than moving back.
When she woke up that morning, one of her socks had gone missing (she was in the habit of sleeping with her socks on) and there were a few black traces on the sheet. I can vouch for that. The missing socks were never found. To not frighten her, I said: ‘the traces are of the eyeliner that you dumped on the bed.’
1. In Iran, I had a girlfriend who committed suicide, unexpectedly. She threw herself from the eighth floor window of a building in Pasdaran Street, Tehran. Tangled up again and again in the cables of a three-phase power pole, she was just ashes drizzling down softly like rain, before she could hit the asphalt with a thud. It is I who is to blame. She had warned me, several times, that she would commit suicide if she couldn’t escape Iran. I couldn’t do a thing for her; only buy her some cheap, shoddy self-help books. When the rainy season passed, I married: the wife I am looking for from door to door, at this moment.
9. I was determined to find a job, a very English one. So finding a career became the most important thing in my life. After months and days looking for a job and getting rejection letters, I was eventually invited for an interview with Royal Mail. It has ‘Royal’ in its brand and the Queen’s Crown is its logo. Preparing very hard for my interview, I delved deep into postal history as far back as Henry VIII. I have been rewarded for the effort I’ve put in; three weeks after the interview I received a job offer: three months’ fixed term contract, 25 hours a week. And then officially, I became a Royal Mail part-time temporary employee.
I must have been a good employee. They extended my contract before it came to an end. After six months service you can order your uniform and be a real postman.
Two hats, one for winter and one for summer, a red pen holder classic polo shirt, a blue long-sleeved formal shirt, fingerless gloves, a belt, combat style patch-pocket trousers, a pair of combat style pocket and D-ring key-holder shorts, and shoes.
The shoes arrived first. They clung to my feet so tightly that I realised they were a good half size too small. I was hesitant to return them, and waited for about two more weeks to get a fresh pair, up until the day that they pinched my toes so much I had to take them off and post all the Chaucer Street letters barefoot, till I reached No.161. A thin layer of skin, flaky, like pasta dough about the size of a restaurant portion, peeled away off my sole and convinced me to return the shoes. There were none my size though. I am now wearing one size too big. Though I adjusted them with thicker socks and insoles, they are still loose, like two people walking in them at the same time. Then the trousers arrived. I became grey up to my waist, the shirts turned me blue up to the neck, and with my hat on I became such a typical postman that even the dogs barked at me louder.
12. My dreams fluctuate widely; I am having a nightmare: Someone strips me bare by force so the only clothing I have on is a tattered white pair of men’s briefs. He makes me run down the length of Chaucer Street, to No. 161; he walks behind me collecting the flakes of skin peeling off my feet. Piling his plate with flakes, he squeezes my feet until a few drops of blood trickle down on the plate. Said plate turns into a pasta dish with red tomato sauce on a restaurant table. And me, with only my briefs on, hands cupped on the window glass, staring at pasta disappearing into his mouth. No sooner is the pasta finished than my legs disappear from the knees down and I am toppling over.
6. The very same day, I made a serious decision. I became determined to integrate into UK society. With the little money left over and our government aids we rented a studio flat which turned into a bedroom when we unfolded the sofa bed. Watching English soaps was my very first step toward integration. I was always wondering if I would have been learning much faster had I had an English girlfriend instead of my wife, and perhaps sex with an English native speaker could make integration happen much faster whether I wanted it or not.
14. Now, with the aura of rickety crooked headstones mixed up with the stale odour of the decrepit residents of the care home, I’ve accomplished my goal of being integrated into UK society. My only concern is to find my wife, get the contact’s attachment complete, sign it and send it back.
I should be grateful for achieving my goal and being among those few who fulfilled their dreams. Being an inseparable part of the UK, my one and only wish is to find my way into an Archive of the British Postal Museum and be selected as a Type B Pillar Box in its letter box collection, which in fact reflects a part of postal legacy and a glorious chapter in the history of Great Britain.
3. A visa running out is the most awful nightmare, like an ice-cream dripping and melting away when you are not eating it or disappearing all at once while you are gulping it down. The only way to slow this down might be just licking. We were looking everywhere to find a way to stay while our ice cream was about to dribble away, that’s why we came to think about claiming asylum. In fact, claiming asylum was quite straightforward. What you need is to erase your history, at least for the Home Office, and carve out a fresh identity from a solicitor’s recommendation. Which my wife was not happy to do. In panic, she looked into every single possibility, any offer, any solicitor’s recommendation to find a way out of it. She even had some crazy idea of flying back to Iran until her strange dream changed the flow of our life completely.
10. Although I had become a proper postman then, and, apart from seven or eight people, all my co-workers were British, the early days at the Royal Mail were gloomy. I felt a longing for home like a persistent pain in my jaw that reminded me of a long gone toothache. I missed chatting away with the seductive, tall Russian girl and I wanted to be with my wife all the time. While watching English soaps, I felt safer with her. I struggled to gain control of my emotions and not let my mind cross the UK borders. First, I thought, it is something like unfamiliarity with a new environment, but the state I was in dragged on and on. Guys, there, were chatting far faster than the BBC, humming along to all the songs playing on the radio and sometimes saying something that I could not get however deep I dug into dictionaries. ‘Get a grip’, I told myself, and decided to set off on my journey of integration from the very office which, in fact, was a microcosm of society. Like them, I started drinking coffee every single morning, following the English Premier League, putting on shorts rather than trousers though London’s winds made me shiver to the bone. I memorised one or two songs which were most often played on the radio, and was ready to support England’s national football team, in a probable sometime somewhere match versus the Iranian national football team.
5. We bought our case from an author who writes case stories for asylum seekers and makes a fortune out of it, but remains anonymousness. The end of the story was: if we go back to Iran we will be executed. We would be hanged in front of the eyes of spectators who had come down just for the occasion, hanged from a huge crane in a town square in Tehran, our limbs fluttering skyward. The story, though abstract, was convincing. Our application successfully went through and we were recognised as refugees. Shortly after we were entitled to welfare support, the NHS and the social service and we also got an integration loan which helped us to get housing, a job or education. Integration is a noble word that means combine, unity and togetherness and its genealogy goes back to Latin.
Though the money is not enough for a deposit or university fees, the good faith of governors for trying to insert us into society is commendable.
7. My first payslip shows I was not on benefit for long and soon became a bartender in a hotel close to Junction 4, M1, the post code was: NW7 3HU. That, indeed, was taking the first steps toward integration. A three floor hotel where most of the guests were businessmen or people who come down to London and stay over there for a couple of days or so. Before long, faces became regular and you got used to calling them by their first name. All I seemed to do was greet them, serve them, and get a few tips. If I’d had the chance to get to know them, I would have learned a few English phrases or something about English culture. But you were always cut off by either TV or somebody else’s order or them flirting with birds, in the middle of the conversation.
11. We were seven or eight postmen on a temporary contract and every single day we were getting closer to the end of our contract. In such a situation, in any company, in any corner of the world, people will fight tooth and nail to keep their job to the extent of duelling to the death like eighteenth-century lovers so that the one who stays alive keeps the job. This then was more or less our case. There were widespread rumours that our office was planning to cut all but one or two temporary positions. The recession was not far off. After a short while, following two auspicious incidents, we were diminished to six. One of us was flattering and charming and buttered managers up so very much that little by little he turned into a grey-blue cat with a vague trace of a crown logo on his forehead. He still wandered about the office, not knowing that he had dropped out of the race. And the other was shot dead one night. No wonder. Such things occur in a recession.
2. There were so many similarities between my ex and my wife. And sometimes I imagine that my current spouse is a mental substitute for the deceased ex, or even worse maybe, a slight guilty conscience was the cause of my duplicate love. Though slightly different in appearance, both shut themselves off from anything going on in Iran and did not want to set foot anywhere on Iran’s soil. Neither walked barefoot on the ground, they always have something on, be it shoes, sandals, socks or whatever. This was because my ex used to be a flight attendant and my wife with the aid of yoga and meditation levitated several feet above the ground. Except, she, unlike my ex, was not so much in love with Paris that she would stubbornly apply twenty four times for a visa, like a prisoner constantly digging an escape tunnel with a spoon. After my ex committed suicide, to not let my wife’s melancholy last long and not let her body turn to ashes drizzling softly down like rain, we applied for a UK visa and we were granted it…
8. The hotel’s staff were foreigners and except one British girl of Egyptian origin, all the rest had strong accents. In the very early days the Egyptian girl with the British accent and I began to get on very badly, and I came to hang out with a tall Russian girl whose English was better than all the others except the Egyptian girl’s. She would be the angel to help me survive and change the flow of my life. A typical Russian female, tall and blonde, with a body that confirms all the stereotypes. Once, I happened to see her topless in the changing room while the door was ajar. We grew quite fond of each other but it was all just chatting away like friends and greeting each other with kisses on the cheek or maybe just practising our English.
On one of those misty London days, while we were walking along together towards the bus stop and she kept moaning about the hotel manager, I grabbed the chance to use the phrase I’d learnt last night, jumping in with ‘Get a grip!’
She didn’t get me and I, disappointed, lectured, while she was sobbing, on the meaning of that phrase which I had glanced at the other night. It was right there that I came to understand that I was not on the right path to integration, even if my mate was a tall and beautiful Russian girl in a changing room.
13. There were not too many years left to get a British passport. It is not very British to take refuge in the occult, in divination or the tarot. Yet I resorted to an old hag whose wrinkles were far deeper than the inequality gap, and whose predecessors dated back to Buddha’s grandsons and Indian fortune-tellers to utter incantations on me. She wrote a prayer and told my father to tell me how it should be read. I had to read the prayer ninety-nine times before the sunrise and not go to sleep until it turned dark again. So I got to sleep after sunset for a couple of hours and got up to finish off the long prayer before sunrise. As the old hag predicted just two days after the moon passed through the sign of Scorpio I was offered that historical contract which was like the nineteenth-century treaties between Persia and the British Empire.
I took the contract.
A treaty consists of twenty-nine terms. By this treaty they acknowledged me as a full time permanent Royal Mail employee plus pension and other benefits along with a Wish Form attached to nominate people to whom I bequeath a lump sum benefit if I die in service before the age of 75.
And under the contractual obligation my job was to be a red cast iron cylindrical pillar box type B which required me to start my duties at
Bells Hill, High Barnet,
In full time occupation. Right next to Cantelowes care home, opposite the cemetery.