Shirin Afsous

There’s a red plastic strip with dark green flowers that covers the space between the edge of the Persian rug and the doorframe in my grandmother’s house. The thick summer air of downtown Tehran flows in through the enclosed courtyard door that remains partially open all day. The heat of the street fills the white linen curtains that swell ever so slightly in the strained breeze of the air conditioning unit that works in the blistering heat to pump partially cold air from the tunnel on the roof into the room where the red plastic with dark green flowers connects the doorframe of the living room to the Persian carpet in the formal sitting room. 

I used to lay down on this small plot of space, between the two rooms, and inhale the aroma of cooking rice that spilled out of the hallway from the kitchen and into the living room. From my spot on the floor, I tried to memorize my grandmother’s voice as she relayed stories from their time apart to my mother. The edge of the red plastic and the tassels of the Persian rug etched rough lines into my elbows as I propped myself up to respond to my grandfather, who sat perched on his bed on the other side of the doorframe. 

This small strip of plastic does not match the decor in either room. It is neither casual enough for the living room where my grandfather listens to his radio and reads Quran; nor is it fancy enough for the formal sitting room where guests cram in to drink cold fruit juices. This red plastic strip with the flowers exists in a state of limbo like me. It does not belong in either room, just as I exist somewhere between the traditions of the east and the consequences of immigrating to the west. Neither one of us truly fits into either space. But there we both were, year after year, trying to meld into somewhere between the doorframe of my grandmother’s house and the Persian rug of the formal sitting room that was a reminder that I was only a passerby and a guest — I never truly existed in either space.


Shirin Afsous is an attorney with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. She has been published in Metamorphosis.

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