PART II: If you want the ultimate pleasure step on a landmine

I was forced to break up with my girlfriend. Her parents found out about us and compelled us to end the friendship. Then, worried about their daughter indulging in another such relationship, they made her drop out of school and marry an older man. All my attempts at convincing them to let her attend school were in vain. They hung up on me when I telephoned and threw me out of the house. Finally, her mother threatened to call the police if I didn’t stay away. That was the end of that. Ladan tried to call me a few times, crying, begging me to marry her so that her parents wouldn’t make her marry that hateful old man. But I couldn’t marry her: I was only 16.

I never saw her again. But 20 years later, when I had become a well-known writer and publisher, she sent me a letter. She had two children and lived with her husband in a small town far from Tehran. She had finally managed to finish high school, 20 years later. She knew the diploma would be of no use because her husband wouldn’t let her work or go to university. She explained that she had done this only for me; she was sure that I would never have recovered from the guilt of bringing about the end of her education. She was right. But even knowing that she had finally finished high school was no consolation.

The next two years passed in much the same way: secret parties, studying, attending friend’s funerals, school trying to brainwash the students, the students trying not to be brainwashed . . .

One important thing happened, though: I bought my first computer, a ZX spectrum computer with 48 kilobytes of RAM and no hard drive. The world of computers mesmerized me instantly. Instead of studying, I spent most of my free time learning BASIC and playing computer games. I must have been one of the first users of personal computers in Iran.