They stayed at the neighbor's house until his dad came back. Arash sat on the couch in the living room. His mother waited near the front door. About 10 minutes later his dad was out front.
"He's here," his mom said. "Now, go!"
They ran outside. Arash's mother opened the backseat door and Arash climbed in. He lay down in the backseat. As soon as his mom shut the door, they sped off down the street. They went down small and bumpy back roads, avoiding big streets. The car had bad suspension and everything shook violently inside. Arash had to hold on to the cushion of the back seat. Neither Arash nor his dad wanted to say anything so they just drove in silence.
Then they heard sirens. Both Arash and his father looked at the rear view mirror. Two Toyota 4Runners were behind the car. Standard vehicles of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp, or in Farsi "Sepah" for short. Arash's dad kept his eyes on the road in front of him. But Arash peeked out the passenger seat window. Inside one of the 4Runners he saw a person sitting upright in the backseat blindfolded. Then the Sepah turned into the left lane and they were gone.
"Dad," Arash said. "Where are you taking me?"
"To your uncle's house. You'll stay there until we can figure something out."
Arash's uncle, his wife and three kids were deeply religious Muslims. They supported Khomeini. But his dad knew what he was doing. No one would think to look for Arash there.
They got to his uncle's house. Arash's younger cousin opened the door.
"Hi amoo!" he said to Arash's dad, and then turned to Arash. "Hi pesar amoo! What are you doing here?"
"He's in trouble," Arash's dad said and pointed at Arash. "They're after him. Please keep him here for now. Don't let him out of your sight, please."
Then he got back in the car and drove away. Arash and his cousin were alone in the house. Arash told him in general that he was an activist and that the Sepah was after him. Half-an-hour later his mom and sister came home.
"Hi, Arash!" she said and then turned to his cousin. "What's going on? What is he doing here?"
"Amoo brought him here. They came after him. He's in trouble now."
She was not confused, but in disbelief. She understood what was going on. She turned to Arash again.
"Arash, what is going on?"
"I don't know, zan amoo! They're just after me!"
She sent his cousin to get meat from the market for dinner. Her daughter was older and the most religious out of all the family. She didn't really want to talk with him. She only asked what sort of political activism he was involved with. But Arash said he just read books. She left it at that. Then his cousin returned, tired and out of breath.
"Was—was it a black Mercedes? The guys who were after you?" his cousin asked.
Arash felt nauseous and on the verge of fainting. He hadn't eaten anything since breakfast at 6 a.m.
"Yes!" Arash said.
"A black Mercedes with no license plate is in the neighborhood."
"Take Arash to Mohammad's," she said, referring to her brother's house nearby.
They left. Outside, it was already dark. Arash felt more comfortable outside. Inside, he thought it was riskier. He felt more vulnerable. But being outside, the vastness of the streets and the city and the country, gave him a subtle optimism that he could runaway and connect with the Fedaii and go underground. But that didn't happen.
After about two hours, his aunt-in-law called Mohammad's house. She said it was safe now and they should return for dinner. But Arash wasn't hungry. The adrenaline had turned into nausea and anxiety. After repeated attempts at insisting Arash sit at the dinner table and eat, she gave up and showed him to a room in the back of the house.
"Zan amoo," Arash said, feeling the tears bubbling up in his eyes. "Thank you."
Facundo Rompehuevos is an activist, writer, husband, father and recovering alcoholic and drug addict born and raised in the San Fernando Valley. He writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction. His work has appeared in zines and literary magazines and poetry journals, such as Rusty Truck, A Thin Slice of Anxiety, The Rising Phoenix Review, Red's Not White and Delirium. He has two books of poetry: Irreconcilable Contradictions (2017) and Grabbing the Stars from the Sky (2021), both published by Fourth Sword Publications. He is currently working on his debut novel and a collection of short stories.
Arash Pouyan was born in 1966 in Tehran. By the age of 12 he participated in the 1979 Iran Revolution. Later on he was arrested for his participation and support of the Fedaii. After three years as a political prisoner, he was released and left to Europe—where he continued his political activism against the Islamic Republic. Afterward, he moved to the U.S. He returned, briefly, to Iran in 2009 to participate in the Green Movement. Today, he continues to keep up to date with the popular movements not just in Iran but all over the world.