Excerpt from Orphanage by Nahid Rachlin

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This essay appeared in the Fall 2012 print issue of Tiferet. The entire issue can be purchased in digital format here.

Lunch took a long time. It was four o’clock when the relatives finally started to leave. As they were saying good-bye, everyone invited Mehdi to come and stay with them in their houses or apartments. They said he must be lonely in a hotel room. Mehdi told them what he had told his aunt when she had invited him to stay with her, that he had led a solitary life as a student and was used to being alone.

After everyone left, he turned to his aunt, trying to get himself to ask her about the adoption.

“Aunt Afsaneh, I found out something… it shook me up,” he said. She looked at him with anticipation.

“I was adopted from an orphanage in Saveh. My parents never told me.”

“I know, they decided to keep it from you,” she said aftee a pause. “They thought you’d feel bad. They intended to tell you when you were older, about to get married.”

He felt a clutch at his heart, thinking yes, I was put on the steps of the orphanage by my irresponsible, or desperate, mother.

“Does everyone in the family know?” he asked.

“No, dear, I’m the only one they told. I actually went to the orphanage with them once before they got you. The process took a few months.”

“Did my parents ever find out who my biological mother is?” Aunt Afsaneh shook her head.

“I wasn’t able to find a phone number for the orphanage. Is it still there?”

“I think so. It’s name might have changed. A bus goes to Saveh. It takes about two hours, though it should only take an hour. The roads haven’t been repaired since they were damaged during the war. When you get there anyone could tell you where the orphanage is.”

They talked a little while longer, mainly his aunt bringing up memories of her brother, their closeness when they were children, how they had taken different paths in life with her remaining in Iran and he going to the US. “When he left for college his goal was to return and put his education into practice here.” She sighed. “But that never happened.”

The muezzin’s call to evening prayer reached them. He got up.

“Come back after you return from the orphanage. Tell me what you found.”

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Nahid Rachlin Fiction JudgeNahid Rachlin went to Columbia University Writing Program on a Doubleday-Columbia Fellowship and then went on to Stanford University MFA program on a Stegner Fellowship. Her publications include a memoir, PERSIAN GIRLS (Penguin), four novels, and a collection of short stories, VEILS (City Lights). Her individual short stories have appeared in more than fifty magazines, including The Virginia Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, and Redbook. One of her stories was adopted by Symphony Space, “Selected Shorts,” and was aired on NPR around the country and two stories were nominated for Pushcart Prize. Nahid has taught creative writing at Barnard College, Yale University, Paris Writers Conference, Geneva Writers Conference, and Yale Writers Conference. For more about Nahid, please visit her website: http://www.nahidrachlin.com.

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