Honey, let me get those for you

‎”honey, let me get those for you”, says the woman and sails across the room to her ‎husband who is struggling to button his french cuffs. it’s always been a struggle. the damn ‎slits never seem to line up and are always stubborn in allowing the studs to penetrate. the ‎man sighs and lets her button them. afterwards, she straightens the knot on his striped tie and leans in on him and tells him how ‎nice he smells. they kiss, he takes one last look at the mirror, and starts to leave. looking at just another day’s work ahead of him. he climbs down ‎the starts, puts on his shoes, and then hears her yell something from upstairs. he cannot ‎hear it distinctly. ‎
“chi gufti azizem?” (what’s that honey?)‎
this time she puts her head out of the bedroom door and repeats:‎
‎”I said… be careful…just be careful..” ‎
he yells a “Kho” back, walks to his car and is suddenly reminded of that ‎timeless phrase by Hannah Arendt: “the banality of evil.” ‎
it’s just another ordinary day, another day in kabul, a sunny -albeit cold one- and the radio ‎has reverted back to airing music. the man starts the car and waits for the engine to warm up. minutes later, he gets out of a side street and is driving on the main street, on the taimani road. on the rearview mirror he sees an army bus speeding and steers out of the way. there is a young man waiting by the side of the road bundled up and with a scarf around his head.

‎*‎
she is burqa clad, and lets off a faint ‎petroleum smell. the male guards of the courtroom notice this, but do not suspect anything. afterall, she is a ‎woman, and here the woman’s abode is the kitchen. she can’t be expected to smell of ‎anything but benzene and smoke and perhaps the occasional whiff of the greasy meal she ‎made last night. they let her in. people are coming and going, entering and leaving the ‎dilapidated, muddy building. nobody takes note of the woman. she, however, is self-conscious and her palms are sweaty -the ‎handle of the bottle is slippery and she realizes that the fingers of her other hand are ‎wrapped unusually tightly around her other finger.

she admonishes herself for being so ‎nervous and tries to ease up. but it is hard to do. burns are painful, she knows this from ‎experience, and from her cousin who burnt herself over a boy and ended up bedridden for months and hated even more than before. but she is determined. “not another day with him” she whispers repeatedly. ‎she has heard people say that the court won’t approve of her divorce -her divorce-‎‎ from her husband. the man must agree -it is his prerogative.

your honor ‎enters pompously, the valet announces, all stand up from the old, expensive mahogany chairs of the court, and the courtroom falls silent. your honor, the presiding judge, is obscenely obese. ‎his white wig is too small for his head -it sits like a jewish skullcap atop his massive ‎head. your honor sits down and moves your honor’s ass around the uncomfortable wooden chair for it to settle in ‎perfectly snug. loose flesh protrudes from amid the wooden bars of the chair and your honor is finally comfortable. he ‎puts on his glasses and suddenly looks up.‎
‎”are you CRAZY woman?”‎
the young girl is ablaze in front of your honor, twisting violently and screaming with the agony of a shot gazelle.‎

*
he storms out of the the room and slams the door. the old wooden door springs back and hurts his ankle. his father yells angry words after him. he is red with anger and shame and picks his way across the vines to the stream. he settles under the pomogranate trees and splashes water on his face. he takes out his wallet and looks at her picture. again that annoying little thought enters his mind that her mascara might be a bit overdone. but oh god, she is so beautiful. and in his cousin’s wedding she simply looked divine. they had stolen looks at each other and he had felt that it feels to be a man when, conscious of her looks, he had fired off the klashnikov several times in the air. tak tak tak tkkkkkkkka. the water keeps flowing and he remembers an old landay, begins to hum it.

suddenly footsteps. a big group of men coming. he quickly hides the photo and gets up. it’s the man in the black turban who never speaks, and his group of men. some of these he knows -and knows well. his cousin, for example, who is proudly slinging the klashnikov he had lent him to fire in his wedding. their eyes meet, and he feels inferior. he has always felt inferior to his bully of a cousin. that guy is never shy, and he is among the charismatic black-turban’s closest men. now, too, he teasingly looks at him and begins: “so… have you made your mind yet darling?” god! he wishes he could punch the teeth out of his mouth. he slaps the dust from his clothes and begins to mumble something. this is simply not the right time for his cousin’s grand ideas and lectures and eulogies of the dead in the way of god. he would rather be dead in the way of her. the black-turban interrupts his thoughts and his mumbles -by extending his hand, pressing his, and looking a most genuine look into his eyes. there is such sincerity in those large, dark eyes that no words can deliver. this man, he thinks, knows love. he knows life. he is sympathetic and perhaps even knows failure in love. without ever knowing him, he knows his pain. his cousin begins to taunt him again, but the man lifts up his left hand, and he falls silent.

the next time the man presses his hand and gives him that genuine look, he is no more the young and shy boy under the pomogranate trees by the stream. he is a broken man. after she set herself on fire, his fate was sealed too. he shakes hands with everyone but his smug cousin, and starts off on his راه بی برگشت. two months later, on a cold winter morning, he takes one last look at her picture, by now a pale shade of its former self. with time, though, the mascara has worn off and is now just perfect. he throws it into the bukhari. he wants to cry, for his home, for her, for his stupid old father who never understood, for the pomogranate trees and the stream, but he remembers the black turbans and stops himself. god he hates and respects the black turbans so much -how do some men get to be so larger than life without ever jeopardizing their own lives? his sleep-deprived mind is too messy for such thoughts right now, he must focus, he is on a mission. he goes to the promised place.

now, he is standing by the taimani road with a scarf wrapped around his head. he sees the target approaching fast, and then he sees a red corolla getting out of the way, coming towards his side of the road. he sees the man behind the wheel in a striped tie and begins to hesitate, and then he remembers the black turbans again.

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~ by safrang on January 31, 2008.

2 Responses to “Honey, let me get those for you”

  1. a confluence of events gave rise to this post. when i was struggling with my french cuffs this morning, a colleague called and said that there had been a suicide attack on an army bus near taimani. some civilians had been hurt. later, when i asked the driver about it, he shrugged casually and said “it was just an explosion and it’s finished” -something that reflects the outlook of most people in this city on explosions that take the lives of ordinary people. of course serena bombing was a whole different affair. then i saw the news about a young woman of 25 who burnt herself in a courtroom in laghman province, because the court had apparently not allowed her a divorce. lastly, when i checked the comments on previous posts, i saw that wolf club chronicler is finally back (hence the literary/fictional tone -he knows what i mean). so i had to sit and let this flow out of me.

  2. it is beautiful..

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