Negar was twelve years old.
An aunt who gave him honey cakes on Sundays. After he recited his math lesson. He also had a cat, and books, many books. Speaking of books, he knew several of them inside out. Poetry books, but also old Dickensian novels, and especially books about computers. Finally, Negar knew how to rule in his neighborhood. Especially on Sundays, when his friends would ask him for those honey cakes he was known for in the kids’ group.
Negar was naturally confident, and quite pleasant looking. He had big black eyes in which shadows passed even blacker when he cried, and disheveled hair, tending to become sandy color in summer when the sun sweeps the soccer fields. His face took the shape of a plum tending to the rectangle, with a thin mouth that he often turned into a smile which aroused the admiration of his aunts and a tail wagging of his cat on Friday.
At that time, the minister had put online a website « For all, regardless of social background ».
This site was very popular. One could address a prayer to God.
One a year, from the age of thirteen.
It had even become a topic of conversation among his friends. But Negar was doing well in school and he was not a bad son either. So there was little he could confess. But apart from increasing his English and computer skills, he had one firm wish.
At thirteen, the boy was indeed driven by an ineffable will to influence those around him. To bring others around to his ideas, he stood up to his teachers, he stood up to his parents, and to his friends. Without insolence or bad grace, but to show his opinion. He became animated as soon as an opinion could form the basis of a debate.
Foreign policy, plate tectonics… he wanted to shape the present. There and everywhere, in Thessaloniki and in South America, in the United States or in orbit, everywhere in the places whose names he knew by heart thanks to books or teachers, his goal would only be reached the day he would leave his mark on history.
On her thirteenth birthday, Negar’s parents called in her aunts and uncles. They served dates and tomato salad, poured hot tea under the courtyard umbrella, and talked all afternoon. Elaborate screens on the windows filtered the heat. The adults talked about upcoming political alliances but mostly about alliances between families. Not a word was said about the young boy.
The child was listening to a polite-sounding ballad. It was coming from one of the bedrooms in the upper part of the villa next door. The shrubs and bushes obscured most of the courtyard of this house, but it was clear that it was a house of the rich. From the room of their neighbors, the clumsy notes of a lyre could be heard. Notes that were impervious to the beat and commotion that was taking place in little Negar’s house on his birthday.
The child began to nibble on some dates he had taken from a basket a few moments before. He squatted down on the dusty summer floor. The sun was declining.
Was it the evening atmosphere disturbed by the lyre, or not, he suddenly remembered the promise he had made to himself, to ask God through the minister how he could change the world.
So he went to his father, Mr. B. and asked him if he could access his older sister Tahmin’s computer. His father was busy lighting the fire under the grill. Dark smoke was billowing in the air, with a peppery aroma. Negar’s father soon stopped what he was doing because of his son’s eagerness. Entrusting the grilled food to Negar’s mother, he led the young boy into their oblong living room.
The gray and red hangings spread across the four corners of the room like poems about the Revolution. Mr. B. opened the computer, which was brand new and in a beautiful black varnish. He took a pistachio from one of the ebony tables and while turning on the computer, entered the family password – it was Negar. As his father turned away to go back to eating dates and fresh tomatoes, keeping a few pistachios in his right fist, Negar logged on to the famous site, and asked this question:
Dear God, am I able to change the world?
Two days passed before an answer was sent to him. God’s answer was simple: « Yes, » said the computer. Immediately Negar believed in his destiny. The dreamer in him believed that one day it would be up to him to change the world. Happy, he fled without turning off the computer, into the courtyard, looking at the sky. There, the lyre he had heard the day before was playing more and more loudly. He sat down, curled up and saw pistachio pits. He threw them in the air towards the neighbor’s house, when a small voice said to him
— Hey, why are you messing up our beautiful courtyard with your damned rotten bark?
Negar turned around. Mouth agape, he saw a young lady, about his age, thirteen at the most, wrapped in a transparent white tulle dress, almost too loose for her, with princess sleeves. He greeted the girl, and she told him that she too had a birthday today, two days after Negar’s birthday. She said that she had watched the boy’s birthday ceremony from her room.
— You play the lyre, » Negar asked her. What is your name?
— Jizya. My mother plays mostly. But come, I invite you. I will also learn to play the lyre one day. The lyre is my manzel, my destination, my goal. I will teach you when I have learned. And what is your goal?
— I want to save the world.
The girl, in a burst of shining black hair, laughed out loud. Negar did not understand at first. The awakening to love takes time. The two children soon became good friends. But in the young boy’s heart grew the desire, the burning desire to become someone by completing his divine goal.
And despite Jizya’s pleading looks, the years passed and he was more concerned with his goal than with the lyres. That much was clear. He could not remember ever doubting God. So how could God make him uncomfortable in his goal to please Him?
When he was eighteen, Negar realized he could not save the world. The world was too big!
Jizya still lived across the street, but he didn’t see her much anymore, they had grown far apart because of her parents. And Negar had his exams coming up.
As for saving the world… That was far too ambitious.
Negar asked her father for a computer for her final exam. It was the economic crisis, and his father was unemployed. But for Negar’s birthday, he gave her the old computer from when she was thirteen, the black varnish having cracked under repeated use.
Negar wrote « I can’t change the world, how can I ».
A question came to him two days later:
« Young man, is your family religious? Help your relatives to find God.
Then Negar realized that he had to change his family.
To do this, he set out to find his father a new job. His father was a teacher, but Negar taught him computer skills. As a result, Mr. B. was able to apply for a job with a computer company. However, with the economic crisis in full swing, he could not get a real job as a computer specialist without a degree.
Then Tahmin, Negar’s sister, saw a boy. It was the son of the house next door. But Jizya’s parents did not agree to a marriage. Negar quit his studies at the university, and started working to finance his sister’s wedding and convince Jizya’s father. He found a job as a student in a computer company thanks to his knowledge. Then he learned the lyre so that he could talk to Jizya’s mother. Once he could play a few notes, he sat cross-legged in the courtyard of his house – a few pistachio shells lay on the damp floor – and began to beat out the national anthem.
Jizya’s mocking voice answered his lyre. The hunch he had had about the girl’s superiority was still present when his eyes met the girl’s kohl. She wore a black veil and her hair inside it was sensually raised by a thick clip. She invited him at home the same evening, when the father would be left. He answered stammering to the invitation of the girl.
Then, in the evening, rocking on the rocking chair, next to Jizya’s mother who held her hand in his while complaining about her husband, Negar began to dream about Jizya’s hand in his, and he forgot what he had come for. He returned without a promise of marriage.
Then he realized that he could not change his family by himself. He lived in an intense stupor for two years, from which he only came out to smile at his neighbor, and did not undertake any more studies or student jobs, he simply stayed at home.
When he was a little over twenty, he agreed that he had to go back to the minister’s site. A third time, to check, for he had lost almost all faith, and Jizya was soon to be married. He wrote a long initials to God, in order to expose his concerns about Jizya’s marriage, explaining his love for her. Finally, he ended his internet mail with these words:
« I cannot change my family, what to do ».
Two days later, he received a reply:
« The girl you are talking about seems quite liberal; make her your wife if you want but try to change her first ».
It must be said that at that time, after the revolution, liberal women were very badly perceived. Negar adjusted his shirt and plucked three roses from his garden. Three beautiful roses, full and chubby. He smelled them to give himself courage, and went to knock on the door of the house next door. The girl opened the door for him. She was alone. Negar did not forget the advice of the minister, and kept in mind to submit to his ideas of change his half. But this one did not agree:Salâm, Negar. You come here at last. What good wind brings you?
The wind that brought me the news of your engagement in its gloomy trail. I beg you to break it. I love you more than him.
— Why should I break it, when my future husband respects me?
— I respect you too.
All you think about is changing people. If I were to marry you, you would change me too.It’s true, if you refuse to marry me, I would stop trying to influence those around me. I would change myself and go far away from here.
— I love you too, Negar, and I don’t want you to leave, if my parents agree to give me to you. But I don’t want to change. Does the wind change the shape of any new thing it carries in its tumultuous wake? Do roses change shape when they die? They wither, but do not become another flower.
Negar nodded at these feminine words, and refused to change his future wife.
Thus, he changed himself, succeeding through love to get closer to God in a more suitable way than the ways of the Minister.