Aziza pushed the TV’s power button. Rasheed scowled,snatched her wrist and set it on the table, not gently at all.
“This is Zalmai’s TV,” he said.
Aziza went over to Mariam and climbed in her lap. The twoof them were inseparable now. Of late, with Laila’s blessing,Mariam had started teaching Aziza verses from the Koran.
Aziza could already recite by heart the surah ofikhlas, the surahof’fatiha,and already knew how to perform the fourruqats ofmorning prayer.
It’s oil I have to give her,Mariam had said to Laila,thisknowledge, these prayers. They’re the only true possession I’veever had.
Zalmai came into the room now. As Rasheed watched withanticipation, the way people wait the simple tricks of streetmagicians, Zalmai pulled on the TV’s wire, pushed the buttons,pressed his palms to the blank screen. When he lifted them,the condensed little palms faded from the glass. Rasheed smiledwith pride, watched as Zalmai kept pressing his palms andlifting them, over and over.
The Taliban had banned television. Videotapes had beengouged publicly, the tapes ripped out and strung on fenceposts. Satellite dishes had been hung from lampposts. ButRasheed said just because things were banned didn’t mean youcouldn’t find them.
“I’ll start looking for some cartoon videos tomorrow,” he said.
“It won’t be hard. You can buy anything in undergroundbazaars.””Then maybe you’ll buy us a new well,” Laila said, and thiswon her a scornful gaze from him.
It was later, after another dinner of plain white rice had beenconsumed and tea forgone again on account of the drought,after Rasheed had smoked a cigarette, that he told Laila abouthis decision.
“No,” Laila said.
He said he wasn’t asking.
“I don’t care if you are or not.””You would if you knew the full story.”He said he had borrowed from more friends than 长沙桑拿休闲场所推荐 he let on,that the money from the shop alone was no longer enough tosustain the five of them. “I didn’t tell you earlier to spare youthe worrying.””Besides,” he said, “you’d be surprised how much they canbring in.”Laila said no again. They were in the living room. Mariamand the children were in the kitchen. Laila could hear theclatter of dishes, Zalmai’s high-pitched laugh, Aziza sayingsomething to Mariam in her steady, reasonable voice.
“There will be others like her, younger even,” Rasheed said.
“Everyone in Kabul is doing the same.”Laila told him she didn’t care what other people did with theirchildren.
“I’ll keep a close eye on her,” Rasheed said, less patientlynow. “It’s a safe corner. There’s a mosque across the street.””I won’t let you turn my daughter into a street beggar!” Lailasnapped.
The slap made a loud smacking 长沙桑拿会所 sound, the palm of histhick-fingered hand connecting squarely with the meat of Laila’scheek.
It made her head whip around. It silenced the noisesfrom the kitchen. For a moment, the house was perfectly quiet.
Then a flurry of hurried footsteps in the hallway before Mariamand the children were in the living room, their eyes shiftingfrom her to Rasheed and back.
Then Laila punched him.
It was the first time she’d struck anybody, discounting theplayful punches she and Tariq used to trade. But those hadbeen open-fisted, more pats than punches, self-consciouslyfriendly, comfortable expressions of anxieties that were bothperplexing and thrilling. They would aim for the muscle thatTariq, in a professorial voice, called thedeltoidLaila watched the arch of her closed fist, slicing through theair, felt the crinkle of Rasheed’s stubbly, coarse skin under herknuckles. It made a sound 长沙桑拿论坛交流 like dropping a rice bag to thefloor. She hit him
hard. The impact actually made him staggertwo steps backward.
From the other side of the room, a gasp, a yelp, and ascream. Laila didn’t know who had made which noise. At themoment, she was too astounded to notice or care, waiting forher mind to catch up with what her hand had done. When itdid, she believed she might have smiled. She might havegrinnedwhen, to her astonishment, Rasheed calmly walked out of theroom.
Suddenly, it seemed to Laila that the collective hardships oftheir lives-hers, Aziza’s, Mariam’s-simply dropped away,vaporized like Zalmai’s palms from the TV screen. It seemedworthwhile, if absurdly so, to have endured all they’d enduredfor this one crowning moment, for this act of defiance thatwould end the suffering of all indignities.
Laila did not notice that Rasheed was back in the room. Untilhis hand was around 长沙桑拿交流论坛 her throat. Until she was lifted off herfeet and slammed against the wall.
Up close, his sneering face seemed impossibly large. Lailanoticed how much puffier it was getting with age, how manymore broken vessels charted tiny paths on his nose. Rasheeddidn’t say anything. And, really, what could be said, whatneeded saying, when you’d shoved the barrel of your gun intoyour wife’s mouth?
* * *It was the raids, the reason they were in the yard digging.
Sometimes monthly raids, sometimes weekly. Of late, almostdaily. Mostly, the Taliban confiscated stuff, gave a kick tosomeone’s rear, whacked the back of a head or two. Butsometimes there were public beatings, lashings of soles andpalms.
“Gently,” Mariam said now, her knees over the edge. Theylowered the TV into the hole by each clutching one end of theplastic sheet in which it was wrapped”That should do it,” Mariam said.
They patted the dirt when they were done, filling the hole 长沙桑拿论坛贴吧 upagain. They tossed some of it around so it wouldn’t lookconspicuous.
“There,” Mariam said, wiping her hands on her dress.
When it was safer, they’d agreed, when the Taliban cut downon their raids, in a month or two or six, or maybe longer,they would dig the TV up.
* * *In Laila’S dream, she and Mariam are out behind the toolsheddigging again. But, this time, it’s Aziza they’re lowering into theground. Aziza’s breath fogs the sheet of plastic in which theyhave wrapped her. Laila sees her panicked eyes, the whitenessof her palms as they slap and push against the sheet. Azizapleads. Laila can’t hear her screams.Only for a while, she callsdown,it’s only for a while. It’s the raids, don’t you know, mylove? When the raids are over, Mammy and Khala Mariam willdig you out. I promise, my love. Then we can play. We canplay all you want. She fills the shovel. Laila woke up, out ofbreath, with a taste of soil in her mouth, when the firstgranular lumps of dirt hit the plastic.
MadamIn the summer of 2000, the drought reached its third 长沙桑拿哪里好推荐 andworst year.
In Helmand, Zabol, Kandahar, villages turned into herds ofnomadic communities, always moving, searching for water andgreen pastures for their livestock. When they found neither,when their goats and sheep and cows died off, they came toKabul They took to the Kareh-Ariana hillside, living in makeshiftslums, packed in huts, fifteen or twenty at a time.
That was also the summer ofTitanic, the summer that 长沙桑拿论坛sn Mariamand Aziza were a tangle of limbs, rolling and giggling, Azizainsistingshe get to be Jack.
“Quiet, Aziza jo.””Jack! Say my name, Khala Mariam. Say it. Jack!” “Yourfather will be angry if you wake him.””Jack! And you’re Rose.”It would end with Mariam on her back, surrendering, agreeingagain to be Rose. “Fine, you be Jack,” she relented “You dieyoung, and I get to live to a ripe old age.””Yes, but I die a hero,” said Aziza, “while you, Rose, youspend your entire, miserable life longing for me.” Then,straddling Mariam’s chest, she’d announce, “Now we mustkiss!” Mariam whipped her head side to side, and Aziza,delighted with her own scandalous behavior, cackled throughpuckered lips.
Sometimes Zalmai would saunter in and watch this game.
What didhe get to be, he asked”You can be the iceberg,” said Aziza.
That summer,Titanic fever 长沙夜网论坛 gripped Kabul. People smuggledpirated copies of the film from Pakistan- sometimes in theirunderwear. After curfew, everyone locked their doors, turnedout the lights, turned down the volume, and reaped tears forJack and Rose and the passengers of the doomed ship. Ifthere was electrical power, Mariam, Laila, and the childrenwatched it too. A dozen times or more, they unearthed the TVfrom behind the toolshed, late at night, with the lights out andquilts pinned over the windows.
At the Kabul River, vendors moved into the parched riverbed.
Soon, from the river’s sunbaked hollows, it was possible tobuyTitanic carpets, andTitanic cloth, from bolts arranged inwheelbarrows. There wasTitanic deodorant,Titanictoothpaste,Titanic perfume,Titanicpakora, evenTitanic burqas. Aparticularly persistent beggar began calling himself “TitanicBeggar.””Titanic City” was born.
It’s the song,they said.
No, the sea. The luxury. The ship.
It’s the sex,they whisperedLeo,said Aziza sheepishly.It’s all about Leo.
“Everybody wants Jack,” Laila said to Mariam. “That’s what itis. Everybody wants Jack to rescue them from disaster. Butthere is no Jack. Jack is not coming back. Jack is dead.”* * *Then, late that summer, a fabric merchant fell asleep andforgot to put out his cigarette. He survived the fire, but hisstore did not. The fire took the adjacent fabric store as well, asecondhand clothing store, a small furniture shop, a bakery.
They told Rasheed later that if the winds had blown eastinstead of west, his shop, which was at the corner of the block,might have been spared.
* * *They sold everything.
First to go were Mariam’s things, then Laila’s. Aziza’s babyclothes, the few toys Laila had fought Rasheed to buy her.
Aziza watched the proceedings with a docile look. Rasheed’swatch too was sold, his old transistor radio, his pair of neckties,his shoes, and his wedding ring. The couch, the table, the rug,and the chairs went too. Zalmai threw a wicked tantrum whenRasheed sold the TV.