I was more gloomy than ever. As the house got closer to my steps, the warmth slapped on my face, a
slap exactly like the one of the man whose beard is black and white, like our TV and like my shoes
and like me and my black and white life. At the same time that his fingers imprinted my broken pride
mixed with happiness and shame as a five-finger image on my cheek, I was a light year away from
happiness. I absorbed the grief, or no, the grief was absorbing me. What does it matter, whether I
absorb it or it absorbs me, I was the loser and that’s it. Grief followed me all over Mustofiat to Sufi
Abad, as if I had killed its lover, or was in debt to it. It was following me, I could feel it struggling until
suddenly, with its own permission and not mine, grief left my eyes, turned on my cheeks, rolled itself
over my cheeks, lower and lower, so my mouth became salty and life became colorless as death.
Through the capillaries to my heart it spread like a corona deep into my being. Grief made me cough
so much that tears reached my nose and started pouring out my eyes like Niagara Falls. I didn’t want
grief to be spectacular, and for this I raised my head.
With the collision of my eyes and her hair, fear jumped in me again and more stones were thrown at
my feet, which were more tired than ever. With a movement and a sound that I can’t write, I lifted
my nose, my mouth was no longer salty, and I could see better. I looked at her hair, her laugh and
her beautiful and troublesome gown with a pity that I had never felt before. I was sorry for her and
even more so, she reminded me again why, how, where, and from whom I had recived that slap. I
still didn’t know which bridge my laughter, my dress, and my enthusiasm had destroyed, which root
has dried up in which corner of history, in which house had decomposed God’s brain? Was my
freedom the reason for painting schools and library walls with the blood of books and students?
Were girls really the ones who exploded everything in Afghanistan? I really didn’t know what my
loud laughter did wrong that I didn’t know about myself. If I knew what I had done I would have
punished myself. I thought a thought and asked myself why these words are my right and why does
God hate me and think that I am shameless or his enemy? Was what those pious men (the Taliban)
say was correct? After all, I was laughing with God! I really wanted God to believe it. I painted my lips
like the pomegranates of our village garden, because the tall mirror in our house said I was prettier
that way and I always wanted and I didn’t want to be prettier!
I forgot the girl thinking, swear to my mind, and made myself busy. I looked for her alertly and faster
than before…and I could never find her! With a fast wheel, I turned my face with fear to the path
that led me to this point where I still don’t know where what is and I might never see her again. I
sank under a barge of sadness, pity, anger and hatred—more troublesome than ever, a-thousand-
and-one ways come to mind! but I have neither the strength nor the courage to do it. I could hate
myself more than ever. I didn’t know what to do. Should I run, find her, and tell her to go and
suffocate this beautiful, troublesome and sad short dress under her folded blue Burqa? Tell her to
hang her laughter in her mouth forever, or it does not relate to me, and why should I care about
her? I say to myself: Now that she’s gone, I can’t even go find her. Why should I do this at all? I am
neither the Prophet nor she is my Ummah to suffer her sorrow. I look around me, and from a
distance of I don’t know how many meters, I look at the wheels stuck together that have filled their
bellies with potatoes, tomatoes, and all kinds of fruits and vegetables, unlike the bellies of their
owners, and they say: "Here is Jakkan."
I understand what that means. I look the other way and continue on my way. I try not to think about
that girl. But did she release me? I can hear her voice in the near future screaming angrily at me why
didn’t you tell me not to go further?
She says: "Why didn’t you say anything? Would yo have died if you did? If you said, this will not
happen to me!" I held my head tightly with both hands, I closed my eyes, I tried not to think about
anything, and I thought. I thought and prayed more sincerely than ever—it was all a dream. I prayed
that all of this would happen again, and this time I wouldn’t let him hit me and beat me. I closed my
eyes and wished to either fly or sink. Freshta, Freshta! It is the voice of God! I closed my eyes tighter
so that God would not run away again. And I got slapped again! And I remained silent again. I got
kicked until I wanted to breathe. And this time water! My God, water! This time, it is the water who
slapped me. I suddenly opened my eyes and I saw my mother and my sister. How is it that my
mother is here at this time? And without a Burqa? And the scream of my sister, Marzieh, who says,
"oh God, Mom!, I’ve been calling this crazy girl for an hour, she won’t wake up!”
My God! I was really asleep!? My mother jumped up in the middle of my happiness and said, "Night
until morning, you bend over the books like a chained madwoman, and then at lunch time, you
sleep?” and she continued in her loud and beautiful voice: "Get up, it’s half-an-hour before class
time, if you want to go!" I hugged my mother and I cried and laughed. She looked at me and said
again, "don’t start your craziness, go take ablution, it’s late now..." I said I will, I will! with a smile. I kissed her and ran to the bathroom.
Now I was standing ready in the mirror. I looked at my cheeks to see if there was a place for a
slap...and there was not! That was the first time that I felt happy for not having anything. I said out
loud: "It is very good to have some nothings, too." I swore something, with the same colored
uniform that I like, I smiled to myself. I became more pretty in the tall mirror. I took my bag, and I
was sure I would not let it happen again.
Freshta is from Afghanistan and reads short realistic stories.