Armen can neither forgive nor forget

Glendale News-Press | 2004 April 17


Armen can neither forgive nor forget

In memory of the perished segment of my family

Armen has his days. His latest episode with gloom coincided with the
anniversary of a dark tragedy.

On a typical April night, surfing the tube, he comes across the
local news. There was a mass killing of a family on the 1994 block of
Rwanda Street; the murderers successfully fled the scene. Some
neighbors had witnessed the killings, but refused to intervene.

Armen grabs his humongous black remote, points it toward the
television set and clicks to end the calamity. He is surprisingly
calm, yet feels the need for a late-night drink. He walks toward the
bar, pours himself half an inch of Knob Creek Straight Bourbon (neat),
picks up his latest paperback, on the early Malcolm X, and walks over
to the bedroom in the absolute dark. He is finally positioned in
bed. His reading on Malcolm lasts no more than half an hour.

Armen is obsessed with how the psychology of hate takes root in
ordinary people. His last sip is followed by the final sentence for
the night: “If you stick a knife nine inches into my back and pull it
out three inches, that is not progress. Even if you pull it all the
way out, that is not progress. Progress is healing the wound . . .”

Armen is wide awake at 7 a.m., to the sound of his television
alarm. The mountebank on the screen is making wild claims about how to
become a millionaire by selling vitamins.

Armen pulls the covers over his head to shield himself from the spring
light; the salesman continues. He twists from one side to another. His
legs feel immobile. One short nap follows the next, concluding with
him lying on his back, staring at the ceiling. Armen’s feelings of
disgust for the vitamin salesman take over his self-inflicted
paralysis; the remote is nowhere to be found. He gets up to put an end
to the vitamin pusher.

He walks to the bathroom. Once the grand deed is taken care of, he
hops into the shower. It is on days like this that the shower is a
blessing. As the water strikes Armen’s head, it finds its way to the
surface of his forehead. His dark eyebrows momentarily block the flow,
but the transparent liquid wins the tussle. His unprompted tears await
the drops of water right below; together, they pass through a familiar
corporal landscape. He can cry silently in the wet cube.

He can always judge his own mood by how long he is in the shower. The
longer the shower, the less willing he is to face the world. The
coffee grind is the first order of the day. While the water comes to a
boil, he calls his secretary and cancels appointments with his
psychotherapy patients for the entire day. His secretary knows the
routine; if there is an emergency, she knows where to reach him.

Armen takes a sip of the coffee, lights up a Marlboro Red, and points
his silver-colored remote at the entertainment center. The agonizing
sounds of duduk (an Armenian wind instrument with sounds similar to
the clarinet) fill the room. He positions himself by the window. He
takes a deep puff and turns to the family portrait resting on the
television set. Everyone is present in the picture: his children,
Cecilia, Daron, Karen, Michelle, Tamara and Vanna, as well as his
wife, Ani.

It was not long ago that Armen lived with his family on the 1915 block
of Armenia Road. He still carries the unwarranted shame of being the
only survivor from that horrific April night, when he lost every
single member of his household to murder and rape. Armen is a man with
deep wounds.

The conspirators of the crime not only successfully avoided
prosecution, but they also managed to take over Armen’s ancestral home
and attach it to their existing living quarters. The road has been
renamed Wasneverarmenia.

Armen now lives alone in the plush neighborhood of West Hills. Just a
few days ago, he had a chat with one of his well-intentioned
neighbors, Joanne.

“Armen, you need to forget and forgive.”

“Hmmm . . .”

“Some neighbors even say you are blowing this whole thing out of

“Ahhhh . . .”

“You know, Armen, we all have tragedies in our lives. Just the other
day, my poodle was run over by a drunk driver. I cried for a few days,
but look at me now. I am dealing with it.”

“I am sorry about your dog, Joanne.”

“Yeah, so am I. The whole neighborhood is tired of you dwelling
. . . It is time for you to forgive . . .”

“Joanne, let’s say you stick a knife nine inches into my back and
twist it from time to time, and claim it’s my imagination. How am I
supposed to forgive? Even if you pull it out all the way, how can I
forgive? Forgiving begins with the acknowledgment of the wound, and if
you are not willing to admit that the knife and the wound ever
existed, how can you ever expect me to forgive or forget?”

Patrick Azadian lives and works in Glendale.
He is an identity and branding consultant for the retail industry.
Reach him at [email protected]
Reach the Glendale News-Press at [email protected]