The Convicted I
I start out in a car with Claudia and Elliot. I’m driving them to my hometown, and in this
dream, my Grandma’s house is a placeholder for “hometown”. I’m driving them along the
Sheykh Fazlollah road, where I took the bus home after shool every day. I tell them we can
go to the many parks behind the gated community and have a little picnic. I want to show
Claudia how Queer Tehran can be, how colorful. I’m excited beyond description.
I drop them off in front of the park and go to find a parking spot near the barbershop that
cut my hair for the very first time. Mr Shahbazi’s still there, with a grey beard; still cutting
hair. He says his son doesn’t share his passion for hairdressing and I’m four blocks away
now. I don’t recognize this roundabout so I jump up to see a sliver more of the slanted
parkway when I realize I’m living my life in reverse. My actions aren’t reversed, they have
entropy, they destroy beyond comprehension; so I ask claudia: “If I’m living backwards, but
with normal entropy, am I reliving or am I relived?” and Claudia says I’m being stupid. I tell
her “I’m folding back into language” and before I can convey how much I’ve defied language
by lucid dreaming I realize my vision is folding onto itself, ballooning until it pops; like a
CRT television screen unexpectedly turned off, a star collapsing into a black hole.
I know I’m dreaming so I begin writing this essay to Claudia in the dream after my vision
disappears. I begin writing “I start out in a car with Claudia and Elliot” in the dark haze of
dream-nothingness. I wake up and turn on the voice recorder on my phone to dictate the
first few lines of the article. The essay is addressed to Claudia, about how Dreaming has
become a tool for personal growth. I wanna write to Claudia about a new programming
language that uses a system of 24x24 bits as single abstract pictures. “Its a language of
abstraction!” I wanna say but I end up saying:
as a child dreaming was where I was guided most. Parents weren’t really around so I found
guardians in sleep. I saw my first vagina in my dreams at the age of four. My grandmother guided
me through a crowd and showed me a naked woman sitting on a stool. She brought me close to her
body and revealed me her body in nakedness. This happened 8 years before I even caught a glimpse
of a depiction of a naked body in pictures or Porn. I find most of my reality first in dreams.
but in pursuit of the future there was the question of thought and how it never left my mind. I was
about 10 years old when I watched a history of philosophy documentary meant for teenagers. In it
they briefly talked about Descartes and his famous “Cogito ergo Sum” and so began my greatest
fear of all: “does the converse ring true? if I stop thinking will I cease to exist?” and I did not sleep
willingly for the next 8 years, spent almost every single night churning in bed pushing sleep away
like a cheap “nightmare on elm street” remake. It took me 8 years to realize that sleep was not
silence, but the greatest stimulant for the brain. In sleep I could “Be” for much longer and without
linguistic constraints. I realize how impotent language was in dissecting consciousness into its bare
I write these two paragraphs and go for a walk along the lakeshore. I’m wearing short shorts
and only a hoodie on top. The temperature is high but the wind is merciless. I walk around
the lake a few times, sweating. Since I’m not wearing a shirt under the hoodie the wind
tunnels around my torso, fully bypassing my sweater. The wind howls through my hoodie,
and all the sweat on my skin becomes so cold , hovering my sweater a millimeter above my
skin, like an air-hockey puck atop an air-hockey table. I’m walking around dictating the
outline of this essay into my phone’s recorder when I look up dumbfounded. The stark
contrast between the opacity of the hill to my right and the open lake to my left. I stare at
the shallow waves, twinkling as my vision folds onto itself like a star collapsing into a black
hole again. boop. turned off.
I wake up and dictate the outline of everything above. I call Terese to ask what she thinks.
Before I even finish my full description I stop. She’s lost in narrative. I struggle many times
to explain when the dream ends and the writing begins. Language eludes me but I’m
smiling inwardly, since my dream of language folding into itself has become somewhat
manifest. I fail to explain the outline to Terese but she encourages me to write it anyway.
I start the essay with the first layer of dream. I write “ I start out in a car with Claudia and
Elliot” but then quickly go listen to all my recordings, neatly compile them in a file and
create an outline. As soon as I print it out I go on twitter and see @danez_smif’s tweet
“have you ever cried writing the outline to the thing you’ve yet to write?”
My heart collapses. I’m tearing up but not because I’m happy I’m creating something
beautiful. I remember the first embers of psychosis in my teen years. One night in a fit of
self-induced insomnia I got caught in a “Loop” that I couldn’t break. Most of my psychoses
from then on took the shape of unbreakable loops; all dreamlike. My anxiety in anticipation
for such episodes would often manifest in fits of “derealization”: short bursts of anxiety in
which I was fully convinced I was in a looping dream while I was in fact not in a psychotic
episode at all, and was simply having an anxiety attack. I jot down how this is a good topic
to bring up in the essay.
I call Terese again, I’ve changed a few things from the original essay and now it's more
cohesive. I’ve cut all the jokes about Sartre’s Being and Nothingness (how my
phenomenological writing is etriture: etre + ectriture) but She still doesn’t understand the
chronology of the essay. Terese loves the movie Arrival so I tell her I’m attempting to create
a looping language, I’m pulling an “Arrival” and creating an Achronistic piece. I doubt if
she’s impressed. She probably rolls her eyes on the other side of the phone.
and then I sit by and ponder the implications of self-parody. What if this piece is successful?
what if it rings true? what if not? Is self-actualized narrative exempt from all impunity? Is
this another masturbatory narrative of convoluted-writer-cum-phd-thesis ad nauseam ad
I open a new file and write:
I start out in the Car with Elliot and Claudia once again. This time I drive them all the way to
grandma’s house and nothing happens. Claudia says she’s never walked through the streets with
such sense of conviction and I ask if I can film her. I’m brimming with contradiction so Claudia
takes me to a poplar and tells me its a touchstone. Her hands move through branches,
incomprehensible. There are revolutionary slogans written on the wall. Claudia explains them all
to me, even though they’re written in my mother tongue. I tell her our friendship is taxing, that
I’ve never had parental guidance, that she takes the basis of my personality to its logical conclusion
and I hate her for it.
I’m lucid, still filming, phone in hand. I say I’m sorry I am not the sun. I say I’m sorry I’ve never
met my female self (that Mom had named Khorshid = the sun in Persian). I tell claudia she my be
one of my possible selves, just a butterfly-effect nudge away from my current being.
I ask her if that’s where the word “You” comes from, from the possibility of selves? another rung in
an ultimately circular ladder? I finally settle into my “Self” and say how I’ve never walked around
with such a sense of conviction.
This time there is no “I”, no “time”, just a cursor line blinking, dismantling all stories in binary. A
cursor line blinking the only convicted I.
Khashayar Mohammadi is a queer, Iranian born, Toronto-based Poet, Writer, Translator and Photographer. He is the author of poetry Chapbooks “Moe’s Skin” by ZED press 2018, “Dear Kestrel” by knife | fork | book 2019 and "Solitude is an Acrobatic Act" by above/ground press 2020. His debut poetry collection "Me, You, Then Snow" is forthcoming with Gordon Hill Press.
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