“Keivan is that you?” Our hostess calls. The road to her house is impassable, so we are making our way on foot through snow and dirt.
“I am so happy to see you,” she calls out. A young man appears at her side. “Be my guest for dinner.”
What’s going on? We thought we were having dinner in this remote mountain apartment with our eccentric intellectual friends. Now we are being herded five into a taxi and making our way through Tehran’s mountainous lanes. On the way, our host catches fire when his cigarette drops on his coat. Pulling up to our destination, the taxi falls into one of the open drainage ditches that can be found alongside most Iranian roads.
We arrive around 9:30, still waiting for dinner. Inside the modest apartment on the inaccessible lane is a lively group of young, budding intellectuals. There is no alcohol, but one of the guests managed to arrive drunk and remain drunk for several hours until he became equally sleepy. How much do you have to drink to remain drunk for three hours with no refills? It seems like a kind of miracle to me, but then again, I cannot drink enough to even get drunk, let alone stay drunk.
“A friend of ours has a cat that eats pistachios. It cracks them open and eats them,” I tell the assembled.
“If the cat eats pistachios, what does the owner eat?” A carpet seller jokes.
A jumbo man pulls out his tanbur – a two-stringed traditional instrument made from a gourd – and begins playing traditional tunes while the drunken man attempts to hush the party goers. “This is the real Iran,” our would-be hostess whispers in my ear. “This is why I don’t want to leave again.” She is incongruously dressed in a designer black party dress and a fur coat while the rest of us wear our ready-to-wear. This is not a party filled with prom dresses and posing.
“What do you think of your fellow classmates,” our hostess asks the assembled students.
“The women have beautiful faces and empty brains,” one young man volunteers. “They are in university just to be students. Our discipline is not taken seriously so you do not need very high marks to get in,” he explains. “The men are worse. They are just there to avoid military service. It’s annoying. There is no conversation, no probing.”
“I am afraid of the military service too,” I say.
“No, you are afraid of the military,” Keivan laughs. “You are not afraid of military service.”