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  • Writer's pictureMahdie Toosi

The Patient Roads

A screenplay.

Day – Interior – Doctor’s Office

Sara is sitting on a chair motionless and weak, and her eyes are bandaged with a white cloth. She looks pretty and clean in her gray blouse, black pants, and a ribbon in her hair. Sara’s parents (Nazanin and Bahram) are sitting in the office along with Dr. Khoshnood (the village health center’s doctor). The doctor is speaking softly to Sara’s parents. Hanieh is Sara’s friend. She’s an Afghan girl and she’s wearing a blue blouse and pants. She’s sitting beside Sara and is holding her hands. Hanieh notices a skeleton model near them. She moves the skeleton’s hands and talks in its stead to cheer Sara up.

Hanieh: Sara… Look how thin I became… (She laughs) Sara, give me your hand. These are its ribs.

She grabs Sara’s hand and rubs it on the skeleton’s ribs. She moves the skeleton’s hand closer to Sara. Sara is very weak and she’s just listening.

Hanieh: Sara, grab its hand. Come on grab it. He wants to marry you…

She grabs Sara’s hand and puts it in the skeleton’s hand. Sara smiles at Hanieh’s jokes and they both start laughing. A young specialist doctor enters the room. He’s wearing a lab coat and has a stethoscope around his neck and a file case in his hands. Sara’s father looks at Hanieh and hints at her to sit on a chair beside Sara. Hanieh slowly sits beside Sara and holds her hand again. Everyone is waiting for the doctor to start talking. He gives the file case to Dr. Khoshnood.

Young doctor: All the work is done for the girls. I’ve coordinated with my friend in Hamburg’s hospital. You just have to get there as soon as you can so Sara’s treatment can start.

The young doctor turns to Sara’s father.

Young doctor: Are sure you don’t want to do the procedure here? I’ll do whatever I can to help…

Bahram: No, Doctor… I’ll take her to Germany… the expenses are no problem… I want her to have the best treatment possible.

Young doctor: Whatever you think is best for her… then you have to act quickly… for a case like your daughter’s, every day counts.

The young doctor gets up and approaches Sara. Hanieh lets go of Sara’s hand and she sits back down. The doctor is opening the bandage on her eyes so he can examine them.

Young doctor: Has your dizziness lessened since you started using this?

Sara: Yes, sir…

Young doctor: You’re a good girl for listening to my advice… so let it be on your eyes until you get to Germany.

Young doctor (to Hanieh): And you help her until she opens her bandage. You’re her friend after all…

Hanieh smiles embarrassed and nods her head in confirmation. The young doctor strokes her hair and goes to his desk. The doctor starts talking to Sara’s parents. Sara and Hanieh are whispering to each other quietly. The doctor lowers his voice so the girls can’t hear him.

Young doctor: Unfortunately this tumor is growing rapidly. It’s taking over the brain… You have to go as soon as possible. If you wanted to do the procedure here, I would’ve ordered them to take her to surgery this very night… but well…

Dr. Khoshnood: Yeah, I’ve told them…

Young doctor: I’ve spoken to my friend there. As of three days from now, they’re ready to receive and treat Sara.

Bahram: Thank you, Doctor. We got the tickets for the day after tomorrow.

Young doctor: That’s good. You can go to the hospital as soon as you arrive. I talked about Hanieh’s problem, too. I gave all the files to Dr. Khoshnood. Don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll get the best results.

Bahram and Nazanin thank the doctor. Nazanin looks at Sara with sadness and tears but Bahram consoles her with a warm look. Dr. Khoshnood smiles at them both. At the same time, Hanieh is explaining something to Sara.

Hanieh: There’s a closet full of glasses… Lots of things inside them that look like brains. Imagine they got out of those glasses.

Hanieh imitates a scary sound and she laughs along with Sara. Bahram’s voice is heard in the middle of the girl’s laughing.

Bahram: Doctor, I don’t know how to thank you.

Young doctor: No need to thank me. Just take your daughter there quickly and come to me as soon as you return.

They say goodbye to the doctor. The girls’ voices are heard. They’re whispering to each other and giggling. Hanieh has grabbed Sara’s hand and they’re walking slowly.

Day – Exterior – In Front of the Hospital

Bahram and Nazanin are standing in front of the hospital. Besides the hospital, there’s a shop with children’s clothes. Sara and Hanieh are standing in front of it. Hanieh is limping when she walks. She points at a dress behind the window.

Hanieh: The long pink dress with a little lace on it… You can see it when they open your eyes. We’ll buy two of them… We’ll wear them and we’ll dance and play together…

Sara: I can see it in my head. I have one of these. Do you want me to give it to you so you can wear it in Germany?

Hanieh: No, we should buy two of these together. We’ll become princesses like Anna and Elsa.

They both laugh with joy. Dr. Khoshnood’s car stops in front of the hospital. Bahram approaches the girls, takes Sara’s hand along with Hanieh and they all get in the car.

Day – Interior – Inside Doctor’s Car

Hanieh is sitting by the window. Sara is sitting between Hanieh and her mother and she’s laying her head on the car seat. Hanieh is grabbing Sara’s hand and is describing everything she sees outside. Hanieh’s voice is too low and we can only see her explaining to Sara by moving her hands and fingers.

Bahram and Dr. Khoshnood are talking quietly too. Bahram is smoking a cigarette and every time he wants to exhale, he puts his head out of the window. Hanieh is rolling the car window up and down, she whispers something to Sara and they laugh together. Hanieh rolls down the window, puts her head out, and looks around. She turns back to Sara, grabs her hand, and slowly puts it out of the window. As the wind touches their hands, they slowly start to laugh. Nazanin pulls Sara back and lays her on the car seat. Hanieh rolls up the window, lays her head near Sara’s head, and looks outside. Nazanin sometimes looks outside and sometimes looks at the girls and at the same time wipes the corner of her eyes. The car enters a tunnel and the girls’ laughter echoes through the tunnel.

Night – Exterior – Bahram’s Villa Balcony

Bahram and Nazanin are sitting and talking in the balcony along with Ghodrat (Hanieh’s father). He’s wearing a worn out dress and his face shows that he’s Afghan. Ghodrat’s house is in the corner of Bahram’s Villa.

Ghodrat: Thank God everything went well. I am thankful to you, sir. You’re always kind to us. Just the fact that you gave us a home… I’m so grateful to you…

Bahram: Ghodrat, just gather everything that Hanieh needs… don’t forget anything.

Ghodrat: No, sir.

Nazanin: Well, thank God everything went smoothly here. God willing Sara’s surgery will be successful there and we’ll all be together once again.

Ghodrat: I’m grateful to you too, lady. Since I came from Afghanistan last year you’ve been a mother to my girl. I’ll never forget this.

Bahram (to Ghodrat): Tomorrow, wash the car first thing in the morning. Then, see if Nazanin needs anything and buy it for her. If you want to buy something for your daughter, tell me to give you some more money.

Ghodrat: Thank you, sir. God bless you. We have everything we need. Sure, I'll take the lady tomorrow. I’ll just have to check the two villas that belong to your neighbor.

Bahram: That's okay. Check on them. Just be very careful, you’re responsible for them now.

Ghodrat: Yes, sir, of course.

Bahram gets up and goes to the other side of the balcony and lights a cigarette. Ghodrat gazes at a room that the moon is shining on and he’s clearly at peace and happy. A long shot shows Sara and Hanieh from the corner of a window with the drapes slightly open. They’re sleeping beside each other. The camera stays behind the window.

Day - Exterior - Bahram’s Villa Yard

Sara and Hanieh are sitting on a rug on the balcony. Sara’s eyes are still bandaged. There are so many colored papers and crayons and some toys all around them. Hanieh is drawing something. From the painting and their talks, it’s obvious they’re drawing their wishes.

Sara: What did you draw?

Hanieh: A girl who’s wearing a purple dress. It’s almost like me… (They both laugh)

Sara: Did you draw their balloons too?

Hanieh: Yeah… and they’re big, too. It’s so pretty. You can see it when you open your eyes… Here, drink this juice…

Hanieh brings the juice glass to Sara’s lips so she can drink through a straw.

Sara: Hey, I have a purple dress like you said. I’ll give it to you so you can wear it there (in Germany).

Hanieh: Ok. But you have to wear a pink dress, too, so you can look like my painting.

Sara: Hanieh, imagine if we could fly there with balloons like in ‘UP’ (the animation movie) – no one but the two of us…

Hanieh: I had a thought. I’ll tell my brother to take us to Luna Park there after you get better. He’s always telling me Luna Park there is amazing. Sara, I’ll always look after you, don’t worry. I’ll even go to the surgery room if the doctor allows it.

Sara: Let’s make a bond to stay with each other forever. Like my Mom and my aunt… Where’s your finger?

Hanieh grabs Sara’s finger and they both shout.

Together: Promise… Yaaaay!

The camera backs up from them and zooms in on the painting at the children’s feet. The painting is full of colored balloons and two girls, one in a pink and another in a purple dress, are hanging from them and flying.

Night – Interior – Ghodrat’s House (Caretaker’s Room)

The caretaker’s house is in the corner of Bahram’s villa. It has two rooms. One of the rooms has a little kitchen in it and the other is obviously Hanieh’s room based on her things in it. Hanieh is sleeping on a bed and Ghodrat is talking on his phone and walking around the house. It’s obvious he’s having a video call with Firooz. Firooz’s voice is heard from the phone. Ghodrat sometimes looks at Hanieh’s room as he’s talking with Firooz.

Ghodrat: Yeah, everything’s settled. Dear Firooz, how are you?

Firooz (with an Afghan accent): I’m fine. Dad, do you need something that I can give Bahram to bring it?

Ghodrat: No, son. I told you. Just go and take Hanieh to your own place as soon as they arrive. It’s just her I’m worried about right now.

Firooz: Dad, did you tell her about Mom?

Ghodrat: I couldn’t. It’s hard to tell… she’ll be devastated.

Firooz: So what? She needs to know that Mom… Dad, I can’t tell Hanieh these things…

Ghodrat: I’ll tell her… I’ll explain everything to her. From your Mom’s illness to…

There’s a lump in his throat and they both become silent for a moment. Ghodrat stops walking near Hanieh’s room and looks inside.

Firooz: If Hanieh’s leg was ok, we could all get here from the same route. I swear there’s not a night that I don’t think about Mom. Every time I look at Hanieh’s picture, she reminds me of Mom. God rest her soul…

Ghodrat: My only hope is she can get there and stay with you. Please son, promise you’ll take her with you the moment she arrives. If she stays here… I don’t know, they might deport us to Afghanistan. Who can live with the Taliban there?

Firooz: Don’t worry, Dad. Just call me as soon as they get on the plane. I’ll bring you here, too. Don’t worry Dad, I won’t let you go back there…

The camera turns into Hanieh’s room and the shot stops over her head. She seems awake and only pretending to sleep. She opens her eyes and pays more attention as Ghodrat starts talking.

Ghodrat: Don’t think about me, son. It’s just important that this child comes over there and is safe. I can take care of myself. What would she do here with her leg problem after I’m gone? I’d be at peace if I knew she was there with you. Okay, son, I’ll call you tomorrow then. Take care of yourself.

Ghodrat hangs up the phone and enters Hanieh’s room as he’s mumbling something to himself. Hanieh quickly pretends to sleep. Ghodrat takes a pillow and a blanket from the corner and exits the room.

Day – Exterior – Bahram’s Villa Yard

Bahram, Ghodrat, and Dr. Khoshnood are standing and talking in the yard. Dr. Khoshnood is holding a case file in one hand and in the other an X-ray picture that he’s showing to Bahram and Ghodrat.

Dr. Khoshnood: I gathered all the medical files that were needed from the hospital. It’s better that I hold on to these. Sara needs to rest completely these few days and absolutely no stress. You have to take good care of her before the surgery.

Ghodrat is content with the doctor's words but Bahram is clearly worried and he keeps smoking and sometimes he nods like he’s confirming the doctor’s words.

Ghodrat: Don’t worry at all. Hanieh will be with her all the time. Thank you so much, God bless you.

Dr. Khoshnood: I have to go. There’s so much to do. I need to ask one of my friends to cover my job at the health center while I’m gone.

Dr. Khoshnood says goodbye and leaves. Ghodrat approaches the balcony stairs and sits on the second stair and raises his hands to the sky and whispers something like he’s thanking God. Bahram lights a cigarette again and approaches Ghodrat.

Bahram: I’ll check the tickets with the agency again today. You just get Hanieh ready. Sara is so happy that Hanieh is going to be there with her. I think she’s feeling better, too. Thank God everything is going as planned.

Bahram passes Ghodrat to the top of the stairs. Ghodrat is walking towards his house, he’s looking at the sky and there’s a smile on his face.

Day – Interior – Bahram’s Villa

Sara’s crying is heard. Bahram and Nazanin are sitting beside her. Bahram is holding Sara in his arms and shows her his phone.

Bahram: Don’t cry baby. I swear I bought her ticket myself yesterday…

Nazanin: Don’t cry. Maybe she was joking with you. Maybe she wanted to surprise you. You shouldn’t cry so much, honey. It’s not good for you…

Nazanin turns to Bahram and looks at him angrily.

Nazanin: Do something. She’s not feeling well…

Bahram: What do you want me to do? This wasn’t the arrangement. Ghodrat would’ve told me by now if Hanieh didn’t want to come.

Sara (crying): She told me herself that she’s not coming. She wanted to stay with her father and wait for me here. I don’t want to go without Hanieh…

Bahram tries to calm her down as he’s wiping her tears.

Bahram: I swear, sweety, I got her ticket. I have her medical files, too. She can’t do this. Didn’t she promise to be by your side? Huh?

Sara: She said it herself. She said, ‘It’s better if I don’t come.’ She even made me promise to come back and not to die…

Bahram hints to Nazanin to calm her down.

Nazanin (nervously): What is this nonsense? They’ll be back soon. I’ll talk to her myself.

Sara gets sick all of a sudden and starts coughing. Bahram and Nazanin take her out of the room. The camera stops and zooms in on Sara and Hanieh’s photo above the bed.

Night – Exterior – Bahram’s Villa Yard

Bahram and Ghodrat are standing in the yard. Bahram looks into the room through a window from time to time. He is obviously very angry and upset. He lights cigarettes one after another, walks back and forth in the yard, and whispers to himself.

Bahram: You wouldn’t be this calm if you saw my daughter this morning. My child is dying, Ghodrat… Do you understand that? If anything happens to her, I’m going to throw you out of here and take back all the money that I gave you last year.

Ghodrat stands up and approaches Bahram. He is clearly scared and confused.

Ghodrat: Sir, I swear I feel the same as you. I don’t know why she suddenly gave up. She told me today that she doesn’t want to go. She doesn’t even want them to treat her leg…

Bahram: I don’t care how. You have to make her come. Otherwise, anything that happens to my child is on you and your daughter…

Ghodrat: I’ll talk to her as soon as she comes home tonight. I promise I’ll convince her to come.

Bahram throws his cigarette butt in a corner and goes to the room’s door as he’s ignoring Ghodrat. He enters the room and slams the door angrily. Ghodrat is sad. He’s sitting on the stairs and holding his head in his hands and whispering to himself.

Day – Interior – Sara’s room

Sara and Hanieh are reading books in the room. Hanieh is braiding Sara’s hair as she’s reading from an open book near her.

Hanieh: Well, let me see. Wow, you look beautiful. Just like the girl in the story…

They’re both sitting in front of a little mirror and we can see both of their reflections in it. They start laughing loudly. Nazanin enters the room with some snacks in her hands.

Nazanin: What are you two angels doing? Wow, Sara, you look very pretty.

Sara: Hanieh braided my hair. Is it really pretty, Mom? She learned it from her mother.

Hanieh gets a lump in her throat as she hears the word ‘mother’. She sinks into her thoughts.

Nazanin: So pretty. Let me take a picture so you can see when they open your eyes. (Nazanin takes a picture with her phone) Now smile, both of you.

Sara and Hanieh smile as their reflection shows in the mirror and Nazanin takes their picture from the same mirror.

Nazanin: Thank you, Hanieh, dear. Girls, I forgot to tell you. After the surgery, I’m going to take you both to Luna Park there. They say it’s so big and full of fun games and rides…

Sara looks happy but Hanieh is clearly sad. She’s quietly playing with the hair of a doll at her feet.

Nazanin: There are also lots of beautiful dresses like princesses’ in your cartoons that I’m going to buy for you.

Hanieh: But I don’t want anything. I just want Sara to go there and get well. I want to stay here with my dad.

Sara: You promised to come with me. I won’t go without you. I don’t want to go without you. I’ll be scared and lonely there…

Hanieh: I have to talk with my dad tonight. We still have another day. You just promise me that you won’t worry or cry so you can get better. My dad has to make me a promise. If he does, we’ll go there together…

When Hanieh sees Sara crying and her tears fall down from the bandage on her eyes, she hugs her and holds her hand, and puts it on her own face and then she whispers to her.

Hanieh: Please, don’t cry. You’re like my sister. Just promise me you’ll get well and we’ll stay together. Sara, I don't want to lose you. I’ll do anything for you to get better. I’ll put this new storybook in your bag so we can read it there together…

They both hug each other tightly. Nazanin is standing in a corner. She walks sadly out of the room as she’s wiping her tears.

Night – Interior – Sara’s house

Sara and Hanieh’s laughter is heard. Hanieh is putting Sara’s belongings in her luggage. Sara is laying on her bed with bandaged eyes and Hanieh is holding one of her dresses in front of her.

Hanieh: This is the pink dress that you love so much. Do you want me to help you wear it tomorrow? It suits you so well. You look beautiful in it. I’ll braid your hair, too.

Sara (with begging in her voice): Promise me you’ll come. I’m so scared…

Hanieh looks at her and says something to calm her.

Hanieh: I’ll take the purple one for myself.

Sara is happy now and she shouts and hugs Hanieh with joy.

Ghodrat calls for Hanieh from the yard. Hanieh goes to a window and sees her father talking to Bahram.

Hanieh: My dad’s here, I have to go. I’ll see you in the morning. Sleep well and take care of yourself.

Sara: Come here soon tomorrow. Did you take the purple dress?

Hanieh: I’ll come and wear it in the morning.

Hanieh goes to the yard.

Night – Exterior – Villa’s Yard

Ghodrat is dressed to go out and he’s waiting for Hanieh and calls her continuously.

Ghodrat: Hanieh… Hanieh. Come on, hurry up.

Hanieh comes down the stairs and approaches her father. She’s holding a backpack, a book and crayons in her hands.

Ghodrat: We have to get to the villa quickly. The neighbors said thieves got in there. Go put your stuff in the house, we have to go.

Hanieh goes to their house which is on the other side of the yard. Sara is standing behind her room’s window with the bandage on her eyes.

Sara: Will you be here in the morning, Uncle?

Ghodrat: Of course, dear. I’ll just go and see what’s happening there. I’ll be back soon so we can go to the airport together. Hanieh, hurry up…

Sara shouts loudly from where she’s standing.

Sara: Hanieh, Hanieh! I’ll wait for you tomorrow. I won’t go without you…

Hanieh hears her and pauses for a moment. She lets go of her father’s hand and approaches Sara and hugs her. As she’s going to the yard door, she pauses and comes back to Sara like she forgot something. Hanieh takes a little hairpin out of her own hair and puts it in Sara’s hair.

Hanieh: Aha, now you look beautiful. That’s better. Let it be in your hair until you open your eyes…

They laugh together. Hanieh runs to the door and exits with her father.

Night – Interior – On the Road (In the Truck)

Hanieh and her father are in a truck and they’re going to a villa. There’s absolute silence between them and they’re each looking at a different angle. Ghodrat sometimes looks at Hanieh from the corner of his eyes. He wants to say something but he doesn’t. The sky is cloudy and it starts to rain slowly. When they arrive at the villa the door is opened. They go in and after some searching, they realize nothing has been stolen and the wind has opened the doors.

Ghodrat: There was no thief here. The wind and storm has opened the doors and shattered the windows. I was so worried. You just stay here. I have to cover the windows with plastic until tomorrow. I’ll come and fix them after you leave…

Hanieh is sitting on a chair and looking at her father without saying a word. She wants to say something but she can’t.

Night – Exterior – Villa’s Balcony

Ghodrat has been working for two or three hours. Hanieh is sleeping on the same chair and a blanket is on her. After the job is finished, Ghodrat picks up Hanieh and takes her to the truck. It’s raining heavily now.

Night – Interior – On the Road (In the Truck)

Hanieh wakes up in the car. It’s almost midnight. The truck moves through the curves of the road. Ghodrat tries to drive carefully but the road is slippery and wet. Hanieh is completely awake now. She sometimes rolls down the window, takes out her hand and moves it in the air and rolls the window down again. After a little time Hanieh turns to his father and starts talking.

Hanieh: Dad, I really don’t want to go. I want to stay here with you and wait for Sara. Here I can pray for her in the Imamzadeh shrine (a holy place for Muslims where a descendent of the prophet is buried) so she can come back healthy…

Ghodrat looks at her confused and worried.

Hanieh: I heard you talking with Firooz the other night. I don’t want to live in Germany. I want to live here. I love our house. I love Sara so much. I hate Germany. I want to be here with you. I don’t want to go and die like Mom. Do you want to kill me like her?

Ghodrat gets a little angry and his voice is shaking.

Ghodrat: You have to go. Don’t even talk about it. There’s no way I’m going to let you stay here. All these years, I couldn’t send you with smugglers because of your leg. You have to go live with your brother. You have to treat your leg there. I’ll be at peace if you go. Your brother is all alone there. Who said we killed your Mom? Your mother got sick and died on the way. That’s it. I didn’t tell you all this time because I didn’t want you to be sad. There’s no way you can stay here now. They will deport us if you stay. I can’t lose another one of my family…

Hanieh starts crying as she hears these words from her father.

Hanieh: I don’t want to go. I love you. I don’t want you to be alone.

Ghodrat: Sara’s father will throw us out of this house if you don’t go with them. He might even expose us to the authorities. You know, I don’t have a work permit. I can’t go back there, do you understand?

Ghodrat is very angry but he’s trying to keep calm because Hanieh is crying hard.

Ghodrat: You have to go with them tomorrow and never come back. I can’t stand your misery. I can’t see you living in misery too. Don’t worry about me. As soon as you get there I’ll settle my affairs and I’ll come too. I can come with a smuggler. I just can’t come right now. I’m sure you’ll find great friends there.

The rain is pouring heavily. The truck has gained some speed and approaches a tight turn. It passes the bend very fast and hard.

Early Morning – Exterior – Doctor’s Car

Bahram, Nazanin, Sara, and Dr. Khoshnood are sitting in the car. It’s still dark. The doctor keeps looking at his watch. Bahram dials his phone.

Bahram: It says he’s not available. Do you think they didn’t come back and stayed there last night?

Sara is crying. The doctor looks at his watch.

Dr. Khoshnood: It’s getting late. You have to catch your flight.

Nazanin: Maybe they want to come to the airport themselves. He’ll call you, Bahram. Let’s go, Doctor.

Sara grabs her mother’s hand and puts it on her face as she’s crying.

Sara: No, please, no. Just wait a little longer. They’ll come. Hanieh promised me.

Dr. Khoshnood: Sara, dear. We have to go. We’ll be late.

Sara: I don’t want to. I won’t come without Hanieh.

Sara starts crying louder. The doctor starts moving to the car. Sara squeezes her mother’s hand as she cries.

Day – Exterior – On the Road

The car is moving on the road. There are some people gathering by the side of the road. Policemen are trying to open the road.

Nazanin: What happened?

Bahram: I think a car has gone down the valley again. Every time it rains this road takes a life.

The crane puts down a truck by the side of the road. It looks like Ghodrat’s truck. A little girl’s shoe is stuck in the middle of the window. Sara suddenly puts her hand on the hair pin that Hanieh gave her and holds it tight. The doctor’s car passes slowly between the crowd and disappears in the road.

The End

Written by Mahdie Toosi and Meysam Oghbayi.

Cover photo by Saeed Sarshar.


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