it is 2079 and kabul is a post-industrial wasteland and an international city. not the kind of international city that this word brings to mind -not the clean urban metropoles of berlin and shanghai and dubai (actually remove dubai from the list -it is a horribly candy-like disneyland with no characters of a great city.) anyhow, back to kabul of 2079 (and by some fluke of nature i am only in my early 30s) -the city is a confusing jumble overwhelmed by concrete gray and sooth-black. like that scene from the matrix where morpheus takes neo inside and they emerge on two red couches in the middle of a wasteland, a moonscape, that is the real world outside the machine. that’s kabul in 2079. and people of all backgrounds wander in it with dirty two-day stubbles and kafiyas wrapped around their necks, smoking and caughing and with dishevelled hair and apperances. not the friendly, clean, and health obsessed and security conscious expats of the good old days of early 2000s. i see all the concrete and sooth and tar and darkness and doom and think to myself: “so… all that ‘reconstruction and development’ that we were all so worried about in the early 2000s finally worked… before it did not work and left kabul like this..” i walk around the labyrinth of tall, grey structures… in some back alleys i see characters with no identity and no giveaway of nationality gathering around fires in empty kerosene barrels warming their hands and smoking cigarettes. all kafiyas. all dishevelled hairs. all out of order appearances. all deranged looks in the eyes. who are all these people? they are the internationals of the late second millenium. they are the castaways of our post-modern world. no language. no identity. all a mix of accented english language.
’cept for the french. they have pig-headedly and obstinately held on to their dear old language even as castaways of post-modernity in kabul. i see a group of them across from the apartment building that i want to go inside. i ring the bell and she answers, in a voice that hints fresh tears and sobs. “go away… never want to see you again… (electric cracks of the line connecting the little, dirty cream colored speaker below to one of the rooms above).. just leave me (the line makes electric noises again) alone..”
- “vous-etes avec marie?”
i turn around and one of the frenchmen loitering in front of the apartment is staring at me. he is in his early 30s. everybody seems to be in their early thirties. i am in my early thirties. kabul -the post-industrial wasteland of greys and sooth-blacks is inhabited only by this age group -no children. no little girls in frocks and skirts. no little boys in overall jeans sucking on their lollypops. no red. no pink. no yellow. no blue. the sky, too, is a dull grey.
- “non… mon ami aurelie habites ici..” i answer. i press the dirty bell once again.
this time there is a click and i walk in. the girl, must be marie, is coming down the steps and glances at me, and then starts lighting a cigarette before joining her comrades in front of the apartment. i start climbing the stairs.
i don’t understand… i am so tired and there is no life in my legs. i think back to the fight the previous night. a powerful MP had sponsored me for a prize fight in the arena and i took a good beating from that beast of a man. last thing i remember is the MP’s big grin and the wad of cash he handed me after the fight. i am a boxer. a boxer for rent. like the one from jack london’s the valley of the moon. will my story have a happy ending too -like jack’s?
i open the door and step in. aurelie takes a look at my face -”mon dieu!”- and her eyes well up with tears. must be that bad, then. she says some french curse words a few merdes and then adds a trou de cul for good measure. and then she reverts back to her cute, french accented english. ”you fool.. why do you have to do this to yourself? and this time i see that bastard (referring to my powerful MP friend), i will break his fat neck…”
speaking of necks, aurelie’s must be the most beautiful of them all -slendar, porcelain, and smelling of a wonderful french perfume. its a bit absurd to smell something so wonderful and colorful amid all this depressing dullness and grayness. my mind starts wandering off on its own again. i thank god for paying such special attention when he created french women, and their necks at that. they are the essence of ‘chic’, and women everywhere secretly hate them for it. it’s the kind of hate that fundamentalist in the early 2000s had for america -hating it at the same time of wanting to be it. they gave rise to such words with wonderful connotations as ‘chic’ and ‘petite’ and all that other good stuff. and that dirty blonde would look terrible on anybody else. on aurelie, it is perfect. she is wearing a warm sweater that is shorter than the white t-shirt under it, and it all goes so well with the black pants. we sit on the old couch. i look behind at the window -what the hell was i thinking: a concrete wall barely a meter away from the window. blackened. is the world everywhere like this? this grey and dull? ببینیم آسمان هر کجا آیا همین رنگ است؟ and as if to answer me, dale from king of the hill appears out of nowhere with a cigarette in hand -”that’s what they want you to think.. it’s only you and i my friend.. you and i..” i adore dale for his evergreen suspicious of the system and of “them”.
i feel suffocated -i miss the kabul of yore. she takes my face delicately in her hands and turns my face towards her -”how did it go?” it’s the same voice. she has not changed a bit since she cried at that party so many years ago, listening to a song by mariah carey… was it ‘my hero’? involuntarily my face begins to ache again. it feels swollen as a pumpkin. two tiny children are playing with a toy truck on the hardwood floor, and a maid is busy ironing something. aurelie tells her to spray some ‘gulgoona’ on the fabric for ease of ironing. such a disconcertingly good name for a brand in this day and age -’gulgoona’ -flower-faced. the maid sprays a whiff of the chemical on the white fabric and resumes ironing. she is ironing a white, hand-embroidered piran. i look closer, it is the same white, hand-embroidered piran that my mother -god rest her soul- had made for me when i first went away from home. i remember wearing it at that party just before i left home and did not see her for so many years. when i came back, everything had changed. she had changed. i had changed. now, this white, hand-embroidered piran reminds me of things before they changed. tears well up in my eyes and i miss my mother. she holds me closer and…
i wake up at the noise of someone trying to turn the heater on. i look at my cellphone, fluttering away the tears that i have cried in my sleep- it is past 7 already. once again the damn alarm failed to wake me up. i have also received a message from her saying “I am back in Afg.” -and a smiley:
i get up reluctantly and think to myself “wow, that was a wierd dream.. i should post it under dreamscapes.” i think to myself how many other wonderful and quirky dreams i have that i forget. if i remembered all of them as vividly as my early morning dreams, i would have a wealth of posts under dreamscapes, and who knows, maybe a novel one of these days in the vein of david mitchel’s number9dream or haruki murakami… and besides, it is not an original and novel thing unless it comes out of a dream.
afterwards, in the shower, brushing my teeth, getting dressed, and for a good part of the way i think hard and try to scrap together and reconstruct the figments…