by Saeide Mirzaei

Her mother didn’t like the posters on her bedroom walls. She thought the room looked like a battlefield. It did in fact look like a battlefield, but not just every battlefield. It looked like a miniature battlefield from the Middle Ages.

And we didn’t know why she had covered all her walls with posters of knights: knights in armors, knights with breastplates, knights with shields, knights with shining helmets, knights with metal visors, knights on horses, knights kneeling before kings, knights kneeling before ladies, knights around a round table, knights in white, knights in black, knights in green, knights with scars on their faces, knights with blood-smeared faces, knights wielding jousts, knights vowing brotherhood, knights slaying monsters, knights slaying knights, and knights posing for the photographer.

And it wasn’t just the walls. She had knight dolls and figurines. A big collection of them. And I mean big when I say big. She used to keep the first species in a wooden chest she had acquired from her grandmother’s attic, but then there were only a few of them. As the collection began to grow, and with the knight population reaching fifty, the chest could no longer accommodate them all. I’m not exactly sure where she got that huge, and I mean huge, metal chest, but she somehow got one and began arranging her knights in the order of strength and rank. I never saw her playing with the dolls, though. I just heard from a mutual friend that she would open the chest’s door, sit on a wooden stool for hours –and I mean hours when I say hours– watching and admiring the knights. She was also once reported talking to the knights. Unfortunately enough, the constant droning of the air conditioner and the noises from a nearby construction site had sent the eavesdropping spy away, unhappy, dissatisfied, and with a news-deficient report to share with us.

And that’s not all. Her bookcase was a haven for knight-related texts. There were thick books, thin books, short books, tall books, illuminated books, all-text books, old books, and even historical books. Has she read all of them? None of us knew. Did she let anyone borrow any of them? None of us knew.

And if you think that’s all, you’re so mistaken. Her computer’s hard drive was a treasure trove of knight photos, not to mention that the desktop background and the screensaver were always adorned with photos of knights and set to change every five minutes featuring a new knight each time. She never let anyone browse the photos, or more accurately, none of us had ever showed any interest in doing so, and so none of us really knew if she would be OK with that, but one day one of us sneaked into her room and found the password-protected computer on and running, and saw no reason why she should not indulge herself in a little curiosity-satisfying adventure. She told us that there were folders and folders of knight photos, folders named Knights # 1, Knights # 2, Knights # 3, Knights # 4, and so on, and there were folders named The Knight, The One Knight, The Very Knight, and there were folders named The White Knights and The Black Nights, and there were dozens of folders named Breastplate. What really surprised us was that she had hundreds and hundreds of breastplate photos. Obsession with knights we could understand, to some extent I mean, but obsession with breastplate was just beyond us. None of us knew why she kept knight dolls, and not teddy bears. None of us could imagine what the source of her interest in that stuff was. But none of us seemed capable of asking her either. I mean, think of it. Would you dare to ask a girl with so many armored and armed knights in her bedroom why she was so obsessed with knights? I wouldn’t, and I never did.

I never did, but one day she decided to confide in me for no good reason: One day, she is walking back home from high school. She is walking fast to get to the end of this long, narrow alley. She is carrying her bag on her shoulder, with books in her dangling hand. She is so hungry and in such a hurry to get home. She has a backache, too. She wants to get home as soon as possible. She is looking straight ahead, and she is still in the narrow alley. A motorcycle materializes at the other end of the alley. But fortunately it isn’t heading into the alley. It is just passing by, and as it does, the cyclist turns and looks at her. She is happy the cyclist didn’t enter the alley. But her happiness doesn’t last long since the cyclist is back in no time and is riding tight into the alley this time. He’s coming straight at her. She is anxious suddenly. The alley is too narrow, but there is enough room for the cyclist to pass by her. She still doesn’t like it. She has a bad feeling. She doesn’t want to look at the cyclist. She doesn’t want to be in this alley. She doesn’t want to be in this alley alone with this cyclist. She hangs her head down. She paces up her steps. The cyclist doesn’t seem to be in a hurry though. The cyclist is riding slowly now. The cyclist reaches her now. The cyclist stops when he reaches her. She still doesn’t look up and just keeps walking. She wants this moment to be over as soon as possible. It is. The moment ends, but it doesn’t end without the cyclist getting a grip of her breast, pressing it hard, shooting a savage laugh and then speeding away.