The Iranian




Short story
Persian text

April 2, 2003
The Iranian

Casting on Rashide his eyes that in the middle of long golden lashes resembled two blue lakes, Steve says, "I understand, I understand what you say."

She answers back in disgust: "No, you don't. You cannot possibly know. You have never seen my country. You cannot imagine my home for a moment. Even if I show you a picture, even if I show you the pictures of all the streets and narrow alleys of Kabul, you cannot imagine what I mean. But I can see them. I see everything. I feel everything with my flesh and skin. Every bomb that is dropped, I know what it destroys. The bombs are dropping on me, destroying my sweet and bright childhood."

Rashide is talking non-stop with a harsh and monotone voice, while Steve is looking at her with bewilderment. In the four years of their marriage he has never seen her so upset and strange. First, since a week ago, exactly since the time when news agencies declared that America had begun its invasion of Afghanistan and Kabul was the target of its bombs, Rashide had turned silent and sad. But today, from the moment they woke up, she seems restless, continuously crying and shouting at him. She keeps repeating: "You don't understand my sufferings."

Although Steve can comprehend that such a war is very painful for an Afghan, he cannot understand what has happened to his wife. Her father and mother, together with the rest of their immediate and distant family members, had left Afghanistan years ago. Rashide always talks about how much she hates the government in that country and looks forward to a day when that regime is toppled, enabling her to go and visit her birth place. She always has talked about the beauties of her country.

She keeps telling him: "You know Steve; in my country you cannot find high-rise buildings, or big streets and roads like here. Unfortunately, my country lacks all the progress of the modern age. But it has a beautiful nature. Wait till these bastards leave and I'll take you there. You have to come and see. Its mountains, its boulders, it's deserts are all beautiful -- like a dream. Even it's flowers and trees are different from the rest of the world. I wish we could develop that country and awaken the passage of time that is frozen there."

But today she is different. She keeps weeping and cursing everything.

- "Damn those people who made my country such a miserable place. Damn those who are dropping bombs on our little children. Damn all of you? Yes all of you. Why are you doing this to us? Did we ask for Taliban? You brought them to power. Now why are you turning our land into hell to remove them?"

Steve thinks that it might be better if he calls her parents. It was just two days ago when Abdullah Khan was saying that this war could free his country from the clutches of a bunch of ruthless, prejudiced and backward people. And his wife, Najibe Khanum, was happily telling everybody that they soon would return to their country.

- "Do you want me to call your parents and ask them to come here?"

Rashide jumps up, trembling with rage.

- "No, Steve. Please do not. They do not understand what I am saying."

- "But Afghanistan is their country too. They had lived there much longer than you. They lived their childhood and early years there. They love that place more than you and intend to go back."

- "No Steve. They spent their childhood and youth there. Now they only want to get their house and property back. But I left my childhood under a sky that had more stars than all the rest of the world. They can buy houses and property in other places of the world. But where can I buy back my incomplete childhood? Where can I find my lost stars? Where?"

- "Everything will be all right. Believe me. Once these hellish people, these Taliban, are gone, everything will turn out to be all right. Then you can go back to your birthplace. We can go together.

- "But why do they have to solve the country's problems with war?"

- "It has always been like that. Take the case of my people. Didn't we get our independence through war and misery?"

- But, you fought for it. You got rid of your Taliban by yourselves."

Steve laughs. "What difference does it make?"

- "The difference is that if you are the ones who get rid of our Taliban, you are also able to bring them back."

Steve looks at her completely puzzled. "What are you saying?"

He moves slowly towards her. She is sitting on the floor, cross-legged. Her big, dark eyes seem to be darker than ever. Her copper cheeks are hot and wet with tears. Steve sits next to her and kisses on her lips. But she is not paying attention to him. She moves her body back and forth like a cradle and weeps aloud. She does not know why she wants to sit or weep, like the way women have always sat and mourned the death of their loved ones in the large graveyards of Kabul. Steve's heart aches, feeling her shivering shoulders and the rapid movements of her body. He tries to take her in his arms. But she gently moves away and looks at him.

- "Steve, at this very moment my homeland is trembling with fear. They are devastating my town with their missiles. And my house... It's burning fast."

Steve sees that Rashide's look is not normal. He takes her hands in his. They seem smaller.

"The fire is creeping up into my room," Rashide continues. "It used to be pink. My father painted it pink because I liked it that way. But now it is painted with smoke and blood. My doll, that very doll that I left fourteen years ago, is sitting there, on my bed, and crying hard. Believe me Steve. I can hear her voice. My doll is not like yours, made in factories out of China and plastic. It is made of material from my grandma's skirt. Her hair is my mother's. When they cut my mother's hair, they made two tresses for my doll. Her eyes are made of two blue pebbles, blue just like yours. My nanny used to say that the pebbles guarded against bad intentions. My poor doll used to sleep with me on my pillow. But now she is stretching her burning hands towards me asking for my help. Do you see Steve? Those guards are useless now."

She looks at him with her restless eyes and asks: "Do you hear her? My doll is calling me. All the dolls in that town are calling me. All the children of Kabul and Kandahar are calling me. They are all so frightened. They are frightened Steve. You have not seen the war during your childhood. You don't know what that fear is."

Steve opens his long arms and holds Rashide, caressing her hair. Rashide surrenders like a little child, talking in a low voice that Steve can barely hear: "Steve, I beg you. I beg you tell them to stop the war. I cannot take it any more. If you love me tell them to stop it. They listen to you. Believe me. They cannot ignore you. You are one of them. Tell them to stop the war, please tell them to stop."

Steve swallows the lump in his throat and holds her tighter. Her hair is covering his face. He looks out, through her hair, at the black and white picture on the wall. Amongst a series of skyscrapers, two parallel towers have raised their hands towards the sky.

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