CB, originally from Iran, invites me into her home in Los Angeles one evening. She seems to have kept her roots alive because the home feels like a modern house version of a small Persian empire. The rugs, the carpets, the tea cups and even the pillow cases have an exotic Middle East feel to them that we so often see in pictures. She had just wrapped up a dinner of left over spaghetti and a Subway sandwich she had brought home on a flight from Birmingham, Alabama, where she went on a business trip. Here’s the transcript of my face to face interview with her.
Heart: Let’s talk about your life.
CB: We can talk a lot about that. Well, I don’t know what I can talk about myself. (Laughs)
I experienced revolution when I was 12. I was in Iran and we were having a war with Iran. I had to go out till 3 in the morning to collect first aid for soldiers who were wounded. They were being brought in every night from the border, they were being flown into Tehran hospitals and we would go out to help them. So, as a 12 year old, I was doing that. And twice I was stopped by the militia. One time they forced me to get into the car, but I ran away. And the other time, they tried to shoot me in the back. Then I was arrested briefly. That happened when I was 16 and that’s when I decided that I had to get the hell out of this country. I’m not gonna stay here.
Oh, and then I met my ex-husband and he was such an abusive person. He was a physically and mentally abusive *****. I lived with him for 7 years and move three times, first to Pennsylvania, then to Chicago and finally to Los Angeles. When we came to Los Angeles, we got divorced. Overnight I went from riches to rags after my divorce. We were living in a big house and I drove a Mercedes and all that.
But, he cheated on me, of course I didn’t know that until it was all over. People told me that later. They told me that he was exchanging phone numbers with women even when I was only 5 feet away. I had no idea, I was only 18. And he was 10 years older than me. But you know, he was not done with me, he had a contract on me to get rid of me. He didn’t want me to go after his money. So, I went into hiding for 3 years. No one knew where I lived, what I did and that went on for a while.
Heart: Wow. How did you support yourself during that time?
CB: I barely had a job, I was making ends meet making 600$ a month. Oh, and in the middle of all that my dad gets cancer. I was living worn down neighborhood and then I had to go back home to be with him. I put everything in a storage, and then I came back 2 months later.
Heart: Did you stay until he passed?
CB: No. I could not bear it. I just couldn’t bear it. I had to go. Also, I was in the middle of a divorce, and I found out that a friend of mine had managed to get my husband arrested and put in prison.
When I got back, I had no money. I had Zero dollars. Zero. So, I went to Pennsylvania to live there for a while because I had family there. That’s how I had gone to Iran. I packed up everything in Los Angeles, put it in storage and drove to Pennsylvania. Then my brother and I took a flight to Iran. He was also living with me in Los Angeles for 2 years. But you know how it is, since he’s the only son, and my mom never worked, he had to go back. So, when I came back, I came back by myself. My cousin told me that I could live in Pennsylvania, but I didn’t want to live in Pennsylvania. Because, you know how families are, “Oh, you’re divorced, you asked for it. Now, face your consequences.”
So, I was like, “I’m outta here.” And I came back to Los Angeles. No job. Stuff’s in storage. But, I had a lot of jewelry and my aunt took my jewelry as a collateral and gave me a thousand dollars. And I moved in with a friend, kind of a psycho friend (We both laugh), but that’s when a lot of miracles started to happening. I had a warrant out for my husband, and he was no where to be found after getting out of prison.
He had already said that there was a contract on me and at the same time I was after him. Do you believe in God, or some sort of energy?
Heart: Yeah, I think there’s a higher energy whatever you want to call it.
CB: Yeah. So, I think that was a miracle when I found him and got my money from him. It wasn’t that much, but it was enough for me to get a decent one bedroom apartment. And he left me alone, he didn’t do anything to me, and I didn’t have anything to do with him.
But, I have to say that the most influential person for me around that time was [redacted]. He was my doctor. Because at the same time my dad was dying, I was diagnosed with some kind of a thyroid issue. And I had no insurance. But this doctor was ready to see me and he thought I had thyroid cancer.
Around the same time, I met a girl at work, and she was much older than me. She would take me to all these bars around Los Angeles with her every night, “Let’s meet someone. Let’s go out tonight.” But, Dr. [redacted] was such a good mentor to me and he started talking to me about what I was trying to do with my life. I don’t know what I was doing at that time. I was going out with this girl every night in every bar in Los Angeles.
And I would meet all these rich guys every night and you know they all wanted to marry me. Because I was this exotic looking 28 year old girl. My hair done, short skirts and high heels, looking hot or whatever. And I had all these guys who were in their 40’s and 50’s and they were all over me. I met some really really really rich guys. But I would think to myself, “No, I don’t want to get married. I’m going to come back to where I’m at. The same story will repeat itself.”
And I did meet this really really rich guy that I dated for a while, his name is [redacted] and he was Jewish. So, I used to go out with him, but as we dated, I wondered if I will become a nobody once again by marrying another rich guy. So, I just decided to go back to school. I borrowed money via the Federal aid program for school. And then after that, I finished school, started working, bought my first house, then a second and you know, here I am.
So, that’s my life.
Heart: Tell me your relationship with your mother.
CB: You know she is a very detached mother, she was always crying about something or the other. Never really happy for herself or for us. So, I was always been by myself, on my own, taking care of myself since I was a child.
But my dad was just an amazing person. I adored him then, I adore him even now. He taught me a lot. I remember this, when I was 10, he would take me to the auto shop and he was like, “You need to know how to change tires. You need to know how to do some things on your own.” As if he knew that something was gonna happen to me or whatever. (Smiles) So, that’s how I learned to be independent. Its as if he wanted me to be an independent woman. He used to take me hunting in the mountains. He was very influential in my life.
Heart: It sounds lovely. While you’re doing all this what was your mother’s daily routine? Was she depressed?
CB: No, she wasn’t depressed. If there’s money around, she’s happy. (Laughs) I think that’s her thing. She likes to be, you know, taken care of. Honestly, I will be honest, I never got her. And I have been away from her for 30 some odd years now. 34 or 35, I think.
CB: At the same time, I don’t think marriage was for me. You know, if I think back to some of the things I did, I just couldn’t have been married. I think at one point of time, I could’ve, when I was younger, “Yeah, OK, I will accept the role I have to play.” But, you know when I was married, my husband was very verbally abusive, “You can’t do anything. You’re nothing without me.” And all that was happening, but my father had brought me up differently, that contrast, I couldn’t deal with.
So, I was like, “I cannot marry anyone unless I know that he respects me and he wants me for who I am.” That’s it. And I was never that girl who was all cute and docile to begin with. No man in the world impresses me. There’s one. But, that’s a whole another story.
I like him a lot. I still like him. I met him 14 years ago. I have to say he’s the love of my life. I probably won’t marry him, but he is someone I like spending my evenings with. If I go to dinner with him, I’ll enjoy it. But, the rest of the guys in the world, and I’m being serious with you, there’s nobody. Also, I’ve seen how a man can be, because my father was a role model to me. And there’s no one like a gentleman like him. He respected me for who I was. That’s the other thing.
There’s been a lot, the past few years have been really tough. I lost my job, and that guy got married and it killed me. It killed me.
Heart: Is he happy?
CB: Tonight is his wedding anniversary and I don’t think so. I think they’re splitting. But, I could see that coming. We kinda sorta have stayed in touch. That’s another miracle. I met this other girl who knows the couple and so I get all kinds of inside information. (Laughs)
It was not a marriage that he went into for love. It was a marriage that I think he got trapped into. And he’s not one of those guys who can be lovey dovey either. In that way, we kind of suited each other. We’re both very nontraditional, yet very sensitive people. So, it worked out, we dated for 8 years.
Heart: Does he have children?
CB: Yes. 3.
Heart: How old were you when you first came to the States?
CB: 16, almost 17.
Heart: Can you go into details about the last year you were in Iran that made you feel like you had to get out?
CB: Oh, I went through some major depression. I didn’t want to do anything with that country for the life of me. Especially after that arrest, when they arrested me on the street, I was like, “I have to get out.”
Heart: Wasn’t the whole country like that at that time? I read this book by Shirin Ebadi, “Until We Are Free”. Its an autobiographical account of her life during the revolution.
CB: Her daughter goes to Georgia Tech here.
Heart: Wow, really? Maybe I can reach out to her.
CB: Yeah, look her up. You might find an Ebadi in Georgia Tech.
Heart: So, she kept her maiden name?
CB: Yeah. Persian women keep their maiden name. We don’t change our name to our husband’s name.
Heart: Interesting. So, just to conclude your ex’s chapter, where is he now?
CB: Oh, he moved to Dubai. Like many, many years ago. He came back, he wanted to get married again.
Heart: To you?
CB: Oh, no, no, no. I told this to his face, “‘If the Angel of Death comes and tells me that you have 2 minutes to live or you’ve to marry your Ex’, I will tell the Angel of Death, ‘Since I have only 2 minutes to live, I’ve to make a bunch of phone calls.'” (We both laugh) And he goes, “What the hell does that mean?” And I told him, “That’s exactly why we’re not together, because you don’t get it.” And I heard heard a click when I hung up on him. That was year 2000. We had been divorced for 6 years then. He was obnoxious.
But, yeah, its been a tough life, but a good life. I think the lesson I learned is that, I’m not alone. There’s someone who’s protecting me through my life. I feel protected, because I couldn’t have done it alone. There are so many people who’ve helped me in this journey. And I wasn’t been able to help others as much as they’ve helped me. But, it just that help came out of nowhere.
Things just happened. I had a boss when I first started working for the first time. The classiest guy on the earth. Bill and his wife were my employers. I learned so much from them. You know I could have ended up working for some jerk. But, these guys were role models and they protected me. Because, I met a guy in the downstairs lobby and he wanted to take me out for a drink and that evening he came up after work to meet me at my desk. He was a tall nice looking blond guy. And he said, “See you in a bit.” And after he left, Bill turned around and he said, “Be careful, I don’t have a good feeling about this.” And I went to that guy and told him, that I couldn’t go. The next day, I saw him with a blond in the parking lot.
But, the point is, I could have been hurt, you know. And I have lived in horrible neighborhoods. But guess who my neighbors were. An FBI agent, the other one was a police officer. The police officer was very protective of me. He had two dogs, and whenever I had a date dropping or picking me up, he would know it. And whenever we would walk to the front door of my apartment, the leashes of the two dogs would be hanging over the door knob. The guys who knew him would joke, “Are they from Joe’s dogs?” And they would just turn around and leave me alone.
So, what I’m trying to say is, tomorrow if I die, that’s fine. Last night after work, I was driving back to my hotel in Birmingham. It was a long drive back from where I had met some clients. I had such a good time driving because Country Western music was playing and I was thinking, “If I die now, I’m a happy woman. Like, no regrets. I have had some good interesting love affairs, met some nice guys, had some of the best romantic dinners any girl can ever have. I had all of it.” I never had a traditional life. Never had that.
I always wanted to have a traditional life, but I recently realized that I wouldn’t have been happy that way. For too long. It just wasn’t for me. That stuff is not for everyone. I’m OK living by myself. If this life was given to me by my husband, without me making it for myself, I wouldn’t have been happy. That’s how I feel. I think its just a personality trait.
And as much as we think we have control over our lives, we don’t. And one more thing that I believe strongly is that, we are not alone. We are all connected to one another somehow. And everything happens for a reason. There’re no coincidences. We all have a purpose. And I do believe in reincarnation. Because, I feel like I was here before.
I remember this time I was with my ex in Pennsylvania, it had been raining for a month in February and it had been cold. And suddenly one day the sun came up. And we thought we should go out for a ride. I kept looking at these corn fields and I said, “Oh, I think I’m home.” And he goes, “Of course, you’re home.” And I said, “No. I’m home. I’ve been here before.”
I’ve like Country Western music, I don’t like it now as much, but that’s what I would listen to when I was in Iran. Nobody listened to it. But, I had the tapes and would listen to them. I was listening to Kenny Rogers when I was 12. So, that’s why even though I was depressed before I moved to the States, once I got here, I felt free. I was free.
Heart: How’s your brother doing now?
CB: I don’t know what he’s upto. I don’t know where he is. Because we grew up with a mother who’s so detached, none of us really connected to each other. So, my brother, my sister and I are not close at all. I think its like that in my mom’s family. I was just talking to her today and we were like, “All the men in our family are not supportive men.”
Heart: Where’s your sister?
CB: In Iran. She just got her PhD. She’s a professor, she teaches.
Heart: Is happiness overrated?
CB: I think the only time you’ll really really enjoy life and have a fantastic time is when you’re sneaking out with a forbidden love. (We both laugh) I think that’s the only time, you’re doing something that you can’t truly hold on to, its forbidden, but you have this amazing time together. I think that’s the only time when anyone can be on cloud nine. There’s nothing that can top that.
Heart: That’s funny.
CB: Yeah, I think, there’s true happiness that’s out there. You know, in my previous job, I had everything paid for. This job is a little cheap, but the one I had before, I would go to Europe, all expenses paid and I would eat at these fancy restaurants and all that. But, at the end of the day, you don’t want to have that luxury, you just want to eat something with someone who you really care about. And that’s where the fairy tale aspect of it kicks in, when you want to be together and it just doesn’t end the way we want it.
So, that’s why I like to think about that guy, because we can’t be together. I like the idea of a relationship, and that’s all. He’s a nice looking guy, very distinguished and classy. Our dates used to be very fancy. Even for setting up the date, he would take a week to do it. It was very romantic. That thing went on for 12 years before he got married.
So, there’s also a cute thing in the middle. We had broken up for a while in the middle and I was flying to Iran via Paris. And this is what I talk about when I talk about energies. So, I get to Paris, and have this severe diarrhea. And I was running to the bathroom and missed my connecting flight to Iran. And the next flight was 2 days later. So, here I’m, no money and just a student. So, there’s was a kid from Florida who had also missed the flight and we decided to comb Paris and find some place cheap to stay and split the cost of everything. So, this kid was 18. And we are in Paris for two days, combing everywhere.
2 days later, I come back to the airport, and I’m sitting at the gate and a guy walks by and I think he’s the same guy I just broke up with in Los Angeles. And I was like, “It can’t be.” But, I still got up and followed him for 4 gates over and he turned around and it wasn’t him. So, I turned back and guess who’s sitting there?
Heart: The guy who you broke up with in Los Angeles? No way.
CB: Yeah, yeah.
Heart: What the heck??
CB: Yeah, can you believe that?! And its all because I followed somebody else I mistook for that same guy.
Heart: That’s crazy.
CB: And he was like, “Funny [redacted]!” Because he was going to leave Los Angeles 2 days after me to Iran. And he said, “When I landed in Paris, I kept looking for you, as if I will find you here. I felt like I would see you.” And imagine this, out of all the seats in the airbus, we sit in 18A and 19A for our flight to Iran. (We both laugh)
So, yeah, some people have the love of their children, but I have this. I have had some unique love affairs, and some amazing dates. I had fancy limos wait for me, I dated a Commissioner. I have dated some big shots. I saw how it was to be poor and struggling and I’ve also seen the other side of life. Sometimes, going on in the same time. I had this guy who owned a 5 million dollar home, come to my small 1 bed room apartment to pick me up. But, I had the choice to decide, “I really don’t have that life, but do I really want it?”
There was one time when I was a medical school student and I was fixed up on a date and it turned out he was married. Let’s call him “John”. Then some of my friends set me up on this other date and it didn’t go well. This guy was full of himself, and the date didn’t go well at all. So, John offers me to take me home. So, here I’m like 28, wearing a red dress, my hair done perfectly and he goes, “[redacted], I have a proposition for you.” And I say, “What’s it?” And he says, “You’re not married. But, how would you like to see me? Just hear me out. I will pay for your medical school. I’ll get you an apartment. And you can have a lock on your bedroom. I’ll come once a week. I just need someone to hold me. That’s all. For that, I’m willing to do this. Let me give you the lifestyle you deserve.” And we were in a car, and at that point, I literally wanted to die.
I was like, who gave this idea that it was OK to talk to me like that.
Heart: As women often blame ourselves for others’ outrageous behaviors.
CB: I don’t know, it didn’t make me feel good. I felt terrible. And we were at a place where we had to take his road or mine, and I told him, “No John. Please just go over to my apartment. Please don’t miss my exit.”
Heart: I want you to take me back to that drive from the airport to your hotel in Birmingham. I love the way you felt, and I want to capture that.
CB: I was on cloud nine. I was listening to an Alan Jackson song called, Chattahoochee. I don’t know if you’ve heard it but he’s talking about the Chattahoochee river and he says, “Never knew how much that muddy water meant to me..” And he says that as an adult, only now he realizes how much it meant to him in his childhood.
And that’s what I like about this country, because, for us as immigrants from places where the regions are not as rich or sophisticated, mud and soil is not something we are so proud of. You know what I mean?
CB: Its something we just have to deal with on a daily basis. And we always want our lives to be perfect, clean or whatever. But, you know what country music tells me is that there’s mud here too, but they treasure it. The small things. That’s what I like about the music, because they talk about cherishing the small things in life.
Dolly Parton has a song, “Coat of many colors”, because they didn’t have enough fabric to make one coat, they make a patch work coat of many small pieces. And that’s why its a coat of many colors. Its really some of these old songs that are really really rich in what they offer. And I feel it shows us how to be happy. And America is a place, atleast to me, not this generation, where my generation is happy. They really grew up happy, 1950’s and 1960’s. Its as if they had it all.
When I had divorced, in my 20’s, I would get into my car and I would take long drive and listen to these songs. And that’s how I felt connected to this country. Because everything they were saying about the farms, the rivers, the horses and I love all that. I could relate to all that. Of course, I love the New York city lights too. Friends tell me that I wear diamonds on one hand and dirt on the other.
And now, I feel like I can walk on water. Nothing can happen to me. Its not my time to go yet. Even if it is, its OK. The roads were pretty dangerous last night. The trucks were going past very fast but ahead of me the road was beautiful. I was listening to these songs, and the night was gorgeous. It must have been a cool 75 degrees. I just kept playing these songs over and over again and I thought to myself, “Life cannot get better than this. Life just cannot get better than this.” And I’m a road person, so I feel like this is life for me, this road. Its where my life comes together. And since I was driving, I felt like I was in control of my life. I feel like, whatever I do everyday, go to work, go to the groceries, take lessons for photography and real estate license, the coordinates for me for all that is on the road. I don’t know how else to explain it. It’s my meditation.
Note: Before you rate this episode, please consider if you would’ve been so open and authentic about your own life. Earlier episodes available at The Anonymous Manifesto.