When the letter carrier dropped off today's correspondence, I was surprised to find a battered, slightly yellowed airmail envelope in the mix. As I broke the wax seal and lifted the flap, a breath of jasmine escaped, instantly transporting me back to a time and place I had worked very hard to forget.
In the mid- 1980's, I was the indentured domestic servant of a wealthy Persian family. We lived in Birjand, where my master had much influence as the most powerful exporter of saffron and barberry in all of South Khorosan. He was a strict man, a physical behemoth, and frequently cruel.
The letter was from a man I knew only as Rumi. He was master's head butler, and had been for many years prior to my arrival. While escaping to my new life in America, it was Rumi who surreptitiously placed me onto the bus to Tehran and sent me away. It was he who felt master's rage that day, he who incurred master's wrath, and he who saved my life.
Dear Young William,
Kabir is no more. With purpose, I do not refer to him as master: no ghost can lord over a living man. He has died alone, in the night, with no family or lover to bid him farewell. I hope the thought of this brings you pleasure.
As his health declined, Kabir searched less and less. The intensity of those first few years was quieted to but a whisper in his final frailty. It is my belief that by the end, he had accepted you as gone. I also believe, however, that you never strayed far from [his] mind.
These photos were found with his personal effects. I hope they find you well clothed and nourished. I will say again the words I left you with all those years ago: Do not fear Kabir. He will never harm you again.
We were each severely beaten for our indiscretion.
The final photo was of the monster, Kabir. I'm not sure why Rumi included it. Perhaps it was a final act of kindness and loyalty towards his master, undeserved as it may be.
I was forced to remember, to think of him for the first time in a generation. With he as nothing but a photograph, and I a full grown man, his runaway had finally been reclaimed.