An Excerpt from Sister Seen, Sister Heard by Kimia Eslah
Kimia Eslah’s second novel is a beautiful coming-of-age story that will be familiar to every immigrant in the diaspora who has struggled to find a way between cultures, every youth who has rebelled against their parents and every woman who has faced the world alone. In this excerpt, the protagonist experiences an uncomfortable ride home from a man she doesn’t know.
Sister Seen, Sister Heard
Farah waited on the porch couch while Taari went inside to get something. She had drunk and smoked too much to remember what Taari was retrieving, so she thought about other things to pass the time.
“Hey, you,” Charles said, stepping onto the porch.
“Hey, me!” Farah replied and chuckled at her own joke.
“You doing alright?” He paused briefly and continued, “I’m heading out now. I thought you might want a ride?”
“Aw, you are so sweet,” Farah said. “I live, like, really far away. Like on another planet, almost.”
“That’s cool,” Charles said. “It’s no problem.”
He knelt close to the couch and gave Farah a gentle poke on her arm.
“Uh, well, that’s really nice. I mean, I was gonna take the late bus but that’s always full of weirdos.”
“Good, then it’s settled. Let’s go,” he stood up and offered her a hand.
“Wait, I have to wait for Taari,” Farah said.
She looked in the direction of the front door, expecting Taari to walk through that moment.
“She went to bed,” Charles replied.
“She did? Oh, but she…. I was waiting for her,” Farah explained.
“Guess she got tired,” Charles offered.
He extended his hand again for her to take. Farah gripped his one hand with both of hers and lifted herself from the couch. Looking back in the direction of the front door, she wondered if she’d misremembered her conversation with Taari.
Weird. I must be really wasted.
Charles took her arm and helped her descend the steps, walk a half-block, and get into his metallic blue sedan. Farah leaned back in the passenger seat and enjoyed the warmer climate inside. As they drove past the house, Farah thought she saw Taari on the porch but she decided it was someone else.
“So what do you do?” Farah asked politely.
Her stupor had been lifting and it seemed that she was seeing Charles close up for the first time that night. The man was older than she had assumed.
“I work in sales,” Charles said. He flashed a smile her way and returned his attention to the road.
“Cool,” Farah said.
“So, you have a boyfriend, Farah?” Charles asked, keeping his gaze ahead.
“Uh, well, not really. I mean, I’m focusing on school, so,” she tried to sound convincing but she came across as uncertain.
“Smart,” Charles said with an amused expression.
His reaction got Farah laughing and her anxiety lessened. “Yeah, thanks.”
“So which building’s yours?” Charles asked in a change of subject as they approached the dozen apartment buildings.
“One-ten. It’s on the left. I can get out here, though.”
“I’ll drive up, it’s easy enough,” he insisted, making a left into her building’s driveway.
“Cool. So, like, uh, thanks, again. For the ride.”
Eager to escape the awkward moment, Farah fumbled with her seatbelt latch, uncomfortable under Charles’ persistent stare.
“My pleasure,” Charles replied unhurriedly. “Maybe I’ll see you at the next party?”
“That’s possible,” she said as she stepped onto the curb, and smiled back, mostly out of relief for her escape.
“You’re really fun,” Charles said, bending across the passenger seat to catch her eye.
“Thanks,” Farah said weakly. “You, too.”
She wanted to shut the car door and walk away but his face was too close to the opening. Then Charles reached into the glove compartment, grabbed a scrap paper and pen, and offered them to Farah.
“Gimme your number and I’ll call if I’m going to the next party,” Charles explained.
“Uh, well, uh,” Farah mumbled.
He looked at her expectantly, not breaking eye contact. She placed the scrap paper on the roof of the car and began to write.
Seven digits later, she realized she had recorded the number of a popular pizza chain. Frustrated by her error, Farah dropped the paper and pen onto the passenger seat.
“Okay, bye,” she mumbled as she walked away, feeling worn down, and not bothering with the passenger side door which remained ajar.
In the lobby, while she searched for her keys, she spotted Charles watching her from his parked car.
I could’ve turned the six into an eight, or the seven into a two. Why didn’t I ask for his number instead?! Fuck!
Farah chided herself during her elevator ride up.
I should’ve just taken the bus.