I met a friend for a patio drink yesterday. The weather practically begged you to enjoy itself, and so while I was eager to let the late in the day sun's rays bathe me, I was not especially eager for our conversation.

We had some catching up to do, but more importantly, I had some apologizing to do. I have a gracious friend though, and he was ready to quickly forgive and forget my failure. He's also the kind of friend who likes to keep conversation light, so I wasn't prepared for the turn our conversation was about to take....

Me: So...what's new?

Friend: Oh, my cousin was nearly killed.

Me choking on my sip of Chardonnay: What? How? Where? (I nearly got out all 5 W's but restrained myself into better listening)

Friend: In Tehran.

Me: Oh.

And from that moment on, I did listen. Intently and on edge, with my body leaned inward against the table and my head feverishly nodding away.

You see, knowing my friend had immigrated from Iran about eight years ago, I've always thought there was a story there. For the past ten months, I've gently poked and prodded about his past life, but he had always remained tight lipped about it. And so my curiosity continued to grow and starve at the same time. I needed information. I needed the facts. I needed the story. I was going to wane away without them. It took an election gone awry and an emerging civil war to loosen his jaw, but I can't say I'm especially glad for it to happen under these circumstances.

I battled between being a good friend or a good journalist. I desperately wanted to take notes and catch quotes, but in the end, being a good friend won out. At the expense of good details, I'm afraid. What lies beneath are my mental notes from his second-hand report from Tehran and his first-hand experience from living there. Forgive my stream of conscious flow. I don't have time for editing or for flowery adjectives, but I always have time for telling a story that needs to be told...

He calls it a religious democracy and says, "but that's an oxymoron." You can't have a democracy ruled by religion. He explains that the election is a crock, but it was really just a matter of voting for the lesser evil. Regardless, there is no excuse for fixed elections and while he is not a political man himself, he understands his people's need for protest. An injustice has taken place and has for thirty years. He says there have been hiccups along the way with the Islamic Republic with other minor protests, but he has never seen anything like this and this hiccup is lasting longer and louder than he expected.

He doesn't want U.S. or Canadian sanctions. He doesn't want war. For him, this is a family matter. What he wants is Iranians to handle this from within with peaceful protesting, and for a leader to emerge and pull the fractured ranks together. Not in the form of a political party, but in a massive stand of solidarity that cannot be ignored.

His cousin and one of his good friends from back home were out on the street just the other day. Not to protest, but to just get out. In a matter of moments, a throng of thousands were rushing at them from the opposite direction. The throng had been protesting and were now running from the military. There was no time to run or to think. His cousin and friend were trampled and buried in the stampede. It took time and much effort for his cousin to pry himself out of the rubble of bloodied bodies. The air was thick with tear gas and smoke. He waned in and out of consciousness but remembers a hand grabbing him and pulling him into a house. When he awoke he was surrounded by twenty or thirty others like him hiding in the quiet dark of a room.

When it was safe he went outside to look for his friend. What remained of his friend was a shoe. In his innocence and poor timing for a walk, he was caught up in Tehran's reality.

My friend says the prisons and jails are full and that his friend was taken away with hundreds of others to a desert area. The people there are dumped and left with no food or water and probably never to be seen again. My friend has probably smoked through three or four cigarettes in the span of thirty minutes.

He tells of a time when he was a 10 year old kid wearing a long hanging t-shirt and vest walking down the street. He thought he looking stylish for the time and for Iran. It was his attempt at looking cool and Western. But it caught an officer the wrong way and he was kicked and shoved down a flight of stairs. His life was spared only because the officer got a call to be on the scene for an actual crime. He says, "I know this is tragic for you, Rikki, living your perfect life in North America, but for me this is just life." He continues, "me and my family actually laughed about it when I got home."

He laughs, I nearly cry. But this is his country's reality. At the flick of another cigarette he goes on. "There is no other species in the entire world more adaptable and capable of adjusting to their environment more than the human species."

While I agreed there was truth to his statement, I inwardly wondered how well his childhood friend was adapting to his new prison without walls in the desert. And then I took another sip of Chardonnay and finished my fish and chips with relish and thought, "what a spoiled, spoiled girl you are, Rikki."