“It’s done. Now, we shake on it.”

It was 2015. After months of grueling diplomacy and awkward trips to Switzerland’s, The P5+1 (but mostly the United States) had just finalized negotiations for an Iranian nuclear deal. Seeking out Iran in private, America wanted to go over the fine details personally one last time before making what would either be a really good decision or one of those occurring-way-too-often, really not good decisions.

“Now, we shake on it…” Iran repeated slowly, lifting his extended hand to urge the American.

Time stopped.

It was then, as he stared blank faced at the Iranian, that he finally felt the weight of the historic moment. Nuclear nonproliferation hung in the balance, and if this deal wasn’t going to work out…

Suddenly there were flashbacks from the Cold War–memories that he swore he’d repressed years ago. Images of North Korea’s face began swirling around in his head like a carousel. An evil, communist carousel.

He looked into Iran’s eyes.

Then to his hand.

Back to his eyes.

Back to his hand.

The corner of Iran’s mouth twitched as he smiled uneasily. He began to sweat.

America looked away. His gaze caught the ceiling. Then the window. Then the wall. Then the bobblehead doll of Ricky Martin on Iran’s desk. What?

North Korea’s laughing countenance was still stuck in his brain, and there was a screech in his throat that begged to be let out but America kept his lips shut tight. Finally, and once again, he met eyes with his uncomfortable counterpart and just stared–face pale and body paralyzed by unspeakable hesitation.

He stared.

Iran swallowed.

“Now, we… shake… on it…”

Read Behind the Scenes for a fun explanation of this story’s historical and political references.

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