For as long as he could remember, Bijan Parisi did not believe in God. He didn’t believe in heaven or hell or fate or destiny. There was no epiphany, no particular instance when he realized what everyone else in the world had not. He had simply carried his conviction around with him from the beginning, and didn’t feel any worse off by not believing. Then he met the mountain.
Climbing up Mount Damavand was all Boris’ idea. He was the athletic, outdoorsy one. Not Bijan. Bijan wasn’t like the other 20 year old boys who loved to go looking for trouble. Hand him a book and stick him in a corner and he could survive easily. But put him on a mountain and horrible things would happen.
Still, Bijan found himself trailing Boris up Mount Damavand, on the outskirts of Tehran. He had grabbed whatever clothes he could- sweaters, thermal pants, wool socks. Boris had told him it would be cold on the mountain. As they continued their ascent, Bijan looked down, frowning at his flimsy sneakers. He felt his toenail scraping against the tip of his shoes with every step.
After climbing for some time, the unusually clear, sunny weather that had accompanied them soon turned to clouds. Within minutes of their appearance, Bijan and Boris were met with an onslaught of rain. Bijan’s hastily picked garments were soaked. His sneakers squished with an uncomfortable wetness.
“I’m going to keep going,” Boris yelled over the wind. In his fist he clutched the flag he was determined to stick in the ground once he reached the top. Bijan motioned toward a small cave nearby.
“I’ll wait here,” he said. Boris nodded his head, frowning slightly, and continued up, leaving Bijan huddled in the cave.
An hour passed with no sign of Boris. The rain got heavier, forming a large puddle at the mouth of the cave. This was it, Bijan thought to himself. He was going to die. If he had just stayed inside with his books on flat, dry land, none of this would have happened. Alone, cold and scared, Bijan did something he had never done before. He prayed.
“God, if I ever get out of this alive, I’ll start to believe.”
Finally, hours later, Boris returned, triumphant. Bijan trailed him down the mountain in silence. He wondered if his friend had somehow heard him, if his words had somehow floated to the top of the mountain. He shuddered with embarrassment and pushed the thought away.
After that day, Bijan never prayed again. He went back to thinking about the disillusionment, the absurdity, the inaccuracy of God. But, for just a moment, he almost believed.