Dream of: 30 January 1996 "My Worst Nightmare"

I was in prison, thoroughly befuddled about how I had arrived there. I knew I had been confused with someone else who had already been convicted of a crime. I had been mistaken for that person, had been arrested and had gone through some kind of court procedure, although I had never actually been put on trial for the crime. My sentence had been 15 years without parole.

And now the worst part came to me: I was in Iran. In fact, I was in the same prison in which I had spent almost 8 months in 1978 and 1979. This was unbelievable. I knew I had sworn never to return to Iran and take a chance of going back to jail there. I knew I had even had dreams about being in prison again. Those were my worst dreams. I had always awakened from them swearing I would never return to Iran. I turned to a woman standing next to me who seemed like my wife Carolina, and I muttered, "This is my worst nightmare."

And now I had been sentenced to 15 years. I thought I was about 35 years old, so I wouldn't get out until I was 50. I thought I could make it, but the idea of seeing 15 years of my life go by in prison was horrifying. It was true I had been thinking that I would like to have more time to do some reading, and this would give me a chance to do that. But already I could perceive that ineffable feeling, that feeling of knowing that I was in prison and that I couldn't get out, that dark feeling which I knew would never leave me during all the time I would be in prison. It wasn't a physical pain, yet I remembered it as being one of the worst feelings I had ever experienced.

I knew I had to start working on finding a way out. Since I had not actually had a trial, I thought a critical error had been made and that my conviction could be overturned, especially since I was completely innocent. However I realized I had one problem: I couldn't remember anything about the court process through which I had gone. I tried and tried to remember, but my mind was just a blank. I had heard that people sometimes forget traumatic events but it had never happened to me before. Yet now I couldn't remember. Probably the best thing I could do now was to try to get in touch with some Iranian lawyers who could help me with my case. But that would probably mean that I would need to speak the language, Persian, or as it is known in Iran, Farsi.

I remembered that when I had been in Iran those many years ago I had learned quite a bit of Farsi. But I had never really liked the language and had completely forgotten it. I thought the same kind of thing had happened with Russian and Japanese, that I had once learned a lot of those languages, but then had completely forgotten them. Still, I didn't particularly mind the idea of learning Farsi again, and I thought I would begin immediately. After all, I had already been in jail for several days, doing nothing, sinking into a state of comfortable lassitude. If the lawyers asked why I had not done anything sooner, it would be hard for me to come up with an explanation.

I looked into a neighboring room. Along the wall was a line of cells packed full with people. I quickly turned back to my room, which was much more comfortable, glad that I wasn't in the room with the cells.

My room was fairly capacious with quite a few other prisoners in it. Each prisoner seemed to have his or her own bed and other personal belongings around the bed. I turned my attention to a woman who was also a prisoner in the room and I began talking with her. She was probably in her mid thirties and spoke perfect English. I quickly learned that she was actually American, although she had been born in Iran. I asked her if she spoke Farsi and she looked at me as if I were stupid: of course she could speak Farsi.

I told her that I had once before learned a lot of Farsi but that I had forgotten it. I asked her if she would help me learn again. She was quite friendly. In front of her she had a large, old-fashioned typewriter. She indicated that she would help me, and I asked her if she could type Farsi on the typewriter. She said she could, and I asked her if she could type some words in Farsi for me to learn. I told her I would like to start by just learning five words.

On one side of the room were large windows through which came a steady white light from the sun. I looked at the window and tried to remember the Farsi word for window. At first I thought it was "okno" but then I remembered that that was the Russian word for window. I told the woman I would like for her to type out the word for window. She pulled out a book and began tapping her fingers on the book.

When she would tap the book, the keys of the typewriter would hit the paper which was in the typewriter. As she typed, I realized she first had to type all the vowels of each word, leaving space for the consonants. Then she would go back and fill in the spaces by typing the consonants.

As the woman typed, I talked some with her about my prison experience. I told her I had also been in prison in the United States, and I had also been innocent of the crime of which I was accused in the United States. I told her I knew it was hard to believe that I could have been innocent of both the crime in the United States and for this present crime in Iran – but it was true. As the woman typed, I noticed that I was only wearing a shirt, and I was naked from the waist down. It felt erotic sitting next to the woman that way, but I didn't dwell on it.

I also noticed a black fellow who looked just like Harry Belafonte sitting near me. I spoke for a few minutes with him, and he told me he had been in prison for eight years. I asked him if he would stay in Iran when he was released from prison. He said he would leave and never return.

The woman continued typing my words. In addition to "window" I asked her to give me the Farsi words for "never" and for "sun." As she started to type the word for "sun" she hesitated. She indicated that there were a number of different words in "farsi" for "sun." Apparently other prisoners in the room were listening to what she was saying, because several voices rang out, each voice calling a different word, each word apparently a word for "sun." What struck me was the musical sound of the words. It gave the impression that farsi was a particularly poetic language.

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