Sahar's voice sounded anxious over the phone - "Aditi, I need to see you at the Chambers Bar today if you are not busy. Eva's already on her way, can you make it too?" I was usually unruffled by requests by friends but found an anxiety in her voice that made me a little nervous. Was it her boyfriend, Tristan, again? It had to be. It always amazed me how strong and defiant Sahar could be reduced to tears by Tristan’s boorish and cavalier attitude. "Sure, I can make it there in an hour or so, are you okay"? "I can't get into it over the phone, just get here as soon as you can,” Sahar said with her nervous yet reassuring giggle that she reserved for situations when she was out of her comfort zone.
I knew it would take me longer to get there than Eva who lived just a train stop away. After all, a 30 minute bus ride is not what I thought the day would bring or looked forward too. I couldn't wait to buy a car so I could finally be free of the wasted hours relying on public transportation. We were all college students and money for a car wasn't easy to come by-at least not for Eva and I. Sahar on the other hand was well off, her parents were both professionals and they had prime real estate in an old moneyed neighborhood.
The three of us had become really good friends in a short period. Eva and I met in History class and hit it off. We both then met Sahar when we heard her passionately arguing in class about feminism. It’s funny how we both at first thought her to be abrasive and too argumentative but also felt an instinctive desire to be in her corner. Eva was the oldest out of our group and also worldlier. She could hand roll her cigarette with the utmost delicacy and it was hard to imagine how someone so dainty could be harmed by anything - let alone tobacco.
Sahar's third outburst in class we decided we wanted to know what made her so fervent. It was our candor with each other that made us an inseparable team, we could discuss our ideas, problems and ambitions without judgment. Sahar was open to scrutiny and Eva's diplomatic approach smoothed any hint of ill will. It was a lively debate that ensued that afternoon in the courtyard. It was a group of us, young, hopeful and heads full of ideas fueled by the 'worldly philosophers'. While my memory for details of that afternoon are hazy I can certainly attest that we were going to be close-united by similar ideals and experiences. Sahar was different after our group discussion - we all were!
I spotted Sahar and Eva at the bar – and made my way to them while waving ‘Hi’ to Raena - our favorite bartender. I hugged them both, ordered a beer and we exchanged some trivialities. We all fell silent to give Sahar some time to compose her thoughts. Finally, it was time and with a deep sigh Sahar pressed her hands firmly on the black bag that was on the bar when I arrived. She started her story, “so I was in my dad’s office vacuuming his favorite Turkish rug and went to answer the phone when I tripped on the cord and brought all the items from his desk to the floor, pissed off at myself I started picking up his things. His briefcase had flown open and I was shocked at what I saw peeking under some of his accounting reports."
Eva and I exchanged quick glances of surprise, as if we both were surprised that this was not about Tristan. We had met many times at this bar to support her through her messy romantic relationship and so assumed it was one of those times.
Eva and I had met Sahar’s parents and were always warmly welcomed by them. Sahar’s dad was easygoing and very likable and they had a great father-daughter relationship. I couldn’t have expected what she was about to reveal in a hundred years. While I was lost in the possibilities and Sahar was silent, Eva gently edged her on to go on. She couldn’t muster up the words so she looked around to see if anyone was around and then pulled out a magazine from the plastic bag that she was protectively resting upon. Initially it was hard to make out what the magazine was and a few moments went by as we all stared at the magazine and as we scanned the image, we were dumbfounded. On the cover was an image of an amply bosomed man, or woman - to put it bluntly, it was a picture of a transvestite, completely nude and sporting both male and female genitalia.
Sensing Sahar’s dismay and embarrassment I blurted, “I don’t think that’s your dad’s, its got to be a prank, there has to be an explanation. No way is that his.” Eva chimed in too and backed up my strategy to be as reassuring as we possibly could – “Aditi’s right, this is not his. Does he have any friends who have a weird sense of humor or worse any enemies that would try to create a scandal to hurt him?” I followed this up with “or maybe he bought it as a prank gift, to get even with a friend who had it coming.”
Sahar was motionless, listening and contemplating our theories, ones that she had probably gone over in her own head. “I guess those are all possibilities, but I’ll never really know the truth – how do you confront your own father about this. What if it’s his, what if this is part of a secret life that I don’t know about, I have to find the answer and don’t I have a right to know.” Eva and I fell silent trying to figure out what the best advice was for our dear friend who we felt so much empathy for right now, how would we have felt if this happened to us. Eva then said supportively yet firmly, “Sahar, you do not want to go down this road. It’ll get harder then you know. Let it go, it’s out of your control.”
Just then Raena came over and asked us if we could give an opinion about a cocktail recipe she had been working on. We all took a sip and immediately loved it which made Raena happy. She then asked us what she should name it, and Sahar, without hesitation said, “call it Raena’s Blessing.” We all took another sip, smiled and nodded in agreement.