Flowers of Iran by Shahireh Sharif.My cousin Mahtab was two years older than me, so when I was 15, she was a voluptuous and daring 17-year-old, expert in the arts of makeup, hair styling, and fashion. She kept failing her classes, and seemed to have no worries about this. The only thing I, the scrawny, late-bloomer that I was, had to show for myself was a loud mouth full of words and smiles and a good pen. Mahtab and I who had grown up together with our other siblings, became partners in crime around this time of our lives. Well, sort of. Mahtab had met a boy a couple of years older than herself on the street, when she had been looking for a coin to call home on a public phone. The two of them had started a secret courtship which lasted for several years. I used to run to my aunt's house to find a quiet, private corner where Mahtab and I would smoke cigarettes and she would tell me about her boyfriend, Bahman. She seemed so grown-up and worldly to me! The whole concept of a real boyfriend, a stranger, was so awesome to me! A year or so later, on one of my almost daily visits to Mahtab's house, I found her in bed, crying her big black eyes out, telling me that Bahman was leaving Tehran to go live in London, where he was to pursue his education. Mahtab was inconsolable, missing the love of her life already. A few days after Bahman had left, she called me and asked me to go visit her immediately. I obliged. She showed me a blue aerogramme (do you remember those? A piece of long blue paper which would be folded and sealed to comprise both the letter and the envelope...I am so old!). It was a letter from Bahman. She begged me to read it. It was a love letter, written in a beautiful masculine handwriting, confessing undying love for Mahtab, asking her to write soon. I handed the letter back to Mahtab, asking her if she would like to use some nice writing paper I had with matching envelopes. She shook her head, crying. I asked her what was wrong and she showed me a hundred balls of crumpled paper--letters she had attempted to write to Bahman, hating every one of them because her writing skills were so poor, both in composition and in spelling. She begged me to write Bahman a letter from her. I told her I couldn't oblige, because a love letter was from the person who loved the other person, and I didn't love Bahman in the same way she did, so I couldn't write a love letter to him! She said she would tell me what to write, and all I had to do was to shape it up and make it sound beautiful. For good measure, she told me if I accepted to write her a letter, she would curl my awfully flat straight hair in curlers and style it for me. I pulled out a paper and started writing: "Bahman-e Aziz Tar Az Janam....." Two years went by like this. I wrote Bahman two or three letters on Mahtab's behalf every week, where she would tell me: "Tell him I love him and I can't wait for him to come home and marry me," and I would write: "Bahman Jan, not a night goes by when I don't dream of you, and not a day when I don't see your handsome face in my mind, and not a second without dreaming of our union one day soon." With Mahtab's reciprocal help and my own eventual growth spurt, I had started to look pretty good, if I may say so myself! My hair was always nice and fluffy, my eyebrows had started to vanish and take shape, much to my mother's chagrin, and Mahtab was teaching me how to use makeup. Eventually, Bahman came home and came to Mahtab's khastegari, and the lovers got married. I never forget their wedding day. After the formal ceremony, aghd, someone asked the bride and groom what had convinced them to choose each other for marriage. Mahtab said her "certainty of Bahman's love," and poor Bahman said: "all the love letters I received from Mahtab in London, which kept me sane and helped my resolve to come home and marry her." I had to leave the room and go die in a corner with laughter and shame! This is how I learned to write about other people's feelings. Sorry, I wished I had a more honorable tale to tell, but the saving grace of this confession is that it's true and it was for a good cause--love... A very good cause indeed.