He has forgotten that he used to exist and that he used to love him. He doesn’t even think about him while taking a shower. They have told him that if he stabs people in the chest or hits them in the streets of his own hometown, he would make God happy.

He has forgotten that he once wanted to become a lawyer to get his right to marry him. He has forgotten that blonde guys used to turn him on and he was the only brunette he ever wanted to be with. He was an exception but now he’s just like anyone who’s been captured because of protesting for ”Human Value”.

He’s looking for something that he’d never find: “The Meaning of His Life”. He can’t recall his past. He can’t even recall yesterday’s interrogations, innocent faces, shattered minds of young boys and girls in the room. What has he done! How many boys and girls he must have had screwed, physically and mentally.


She’s strong, beautiful even with the blindfold on, held together and ready. He doesn’t like the last part, READY. Readiness makes it hard to get over a genius mind. She won’t suffer, she won’t scream, she wouldn’t beg. He doesn’t like it. He has seen hundreds of young girls in the torture room. They all expect to be saved; saved by a call, a miracle, saved by God. But this one, this girl, she’s ready for everything to happen. The blindfold has made her even scarier.

Her indifferent smile, her crossed hands that have hugged her breasts, intimidates him. He wears his invisible mask and walks towards her. She won’t get out of here. That smile shouldn’t be seen outside these walls.


He wakes up from a dreamless sleep. It is the weekend but he has bones to crush, smiles to make disappear, lives to get. It’s a new day, it’s a new dawn and he’s gonna be a step closer to heaven and God.

He has forgotten that he couldn’t even think about fucking girls. He could like them, hate them, love them but he couldn’t fall in love with any. He couldn’t even manage to TRY to sleep with any. Ali was his first and he was meant to be the last one. But now his job wouldn’t be done if raping wasn’t included in the daily routine torture. God wouldn’t accept his prayers if he didn’t punish the protesters. Freedom isn’t something they are allowed to have. He has forgotten what Freedom meant to him. He can’t remember his nights at Ali’s, tears of happiness and then their devastating future image.

He has tamed her, she’s writing a long fake confession. He wouldn’t remember this tomorrow, so what? God is watching. Heaven is waiting.


Ali is in the other room; they call it “The Second Unit” of the city’s prison. They say if you get in there, there would be no way back. You’ll be gone forever. And that’s exactly where he is right now: Nowhere.

He walks in. Ali’s tied to the chair. The room is watching, God is watching. Freedom? He’s gonna give it to him right away: “You’ve got two options; die here or go live on television and take back your words.” Ali can’t tell if he is serious or it is all a big fucking joke. He smiles, just a faint smile and his spinal cord twitches. It takes a couple of seconds to realize the pain. The pain of forbidden love used to be more than this. The memory of the past draws a smile on his face. And it’s then that the second one falls on his fingers. He faints.

Darius or better say Ahmed, his new religious name, keeps showing up every seven hours and each time he asks the same questions: Why do you work for western countries? Why do you lead the protests each Tuesday? What do you have on your Facebook page? It is like he can’t remember the last time he has been in this room. Ali can’t believe the man who was literally torturing him used to be his best friend and then his boyfriend. He has been brainwashed. Ali feels helpless, he has to save himself. So he asks for a pen and paper; he writes anything they want to hear. Confessions that are never true but they are the way out. He crushes his ego, cries picturing himself as someone he never was. He gets released right away. He flies to the US as soon as he gets himself together. He is free but his heart is still full of questions and murdered smiles.


Dear Darius,

It’s been three months and eleven days that I have not gotten to see you. In the cell, I would wake up every day with bleeding fingers in my pockets, cold and bruised body but a heart full of love and helplessness. I would wish to hear your steps walking in every—I don’t know how many—hours and hear you talking to me like you had never known me. It was so sexy. A tough game. The adrenalin rushing through my body, getting deep down to my core would save me. Now here in Boston I don’t want to get out of this warm bed knowing I wouldn’t hear your voice again. My body alarms every seven hours and makes me lay still and stare at the pillow that used to be yours. I smile at it and wait but there’s no hitting after each smile. There’s no slapping, no breaking body parts, there’s no pain.

I have saved all our photos together in Dena’s laptop. I drink my espresso and review each story behind every picture. The last picture of the album is the one I took when you were walking out of the door heading to join the army. I was proud of you, I can remember that strong feeling: “My boyfriend was going to save lives.” But did you ever save any?

# # #

Interrogate My Heart Instead by Elaheh Steinke
originally published in the Winter 2011 print edition



Elaheh Steinke is a 23-year-old story writer. She studies Genetics at Tehran University and teaches English. Some of her previously published works are “IWIHKY Disorder”, “No Exception”, “Falling for the Second Time”, “When the Day Is Blue, I’m Sitting Here Wondering about You”, and “January Went Lost”. She has published her works at Best New Writing 2009 and 2010 and was the Hoffer award finalist of 2009/2010. Elaheh dedicates this story to her mom and to each and every person who fought for freedom.

For more of Elaheh's work,
visit her Big Pulp author page


This feature and more great
fiction & poetry are available in
Big Pulp Winter 2011:
Interrogate My Heart Instead

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