Insults were hurled. Fingers pointed. Accusations flew. Meetingswere angrily called off and doors slammed. The city held 长沙桑拿休闲场所推荐 itsbreath. In the mountains, loaded magazines snapped intoKalashnikovs.
The Mujahideen, armed to the teeth but now lacking acommon enemy, had found the enemy in each other.
Kabul’s day of reckoning had come at last.
And when the rockets began to rain down on Kabul, peopleran for cover. Mammy did too, literally. She changed into blackagain, went to her room, shut the curtains, and pulled theblanket over her head.
It’s the whistling,” Laila said to Tariq, “the damn whistling, Ihate more than anything” Tariq nodded knowingly.
It wasn’t so much the whistling itself, Laila thought later, butthe seconds between the start of it and impact. The brief andinterminable time of feeling suspended. The not knowing. Thewaiting. Like a defendant about to hear the verdict.
Often it happened at dinner, when she and Babi were at thetable. When it started, their heads snapped up. They 长沙桑拿 listened tothe whistling, forks in midair, unchewed food in their mouths.
Laila saw the reflection of their half-lit faces in the pitch-blackwindow, their shadows unmoving on the wall. The whistling.
Then the blast, blissfully elsewhere, followed by an expulsion ofbreath and the knowledge that they had been spared for nowwhile somewhere else, amid cries and choking clouds of smoke,there was a scrambling, a barehanded frenzy of digging, ofpulling from the debris, what remained of a sister, a brother, agrandchild.
But the flip side of being spared was the agony of wonderingwho hadn’t. After every rocket blast, Laila raced to the street,stammering a prayer, certain that, this time, surely this time, itwas Tariq they would find buried beneath the rubble andsmoke.
At night, Laila lay in bed and watched the sudden whiteflashes reflected in her window. She listened to the rattling 长沙桑拿洗浴全攻略 ofautomatic gunfire and counted the rockets whining overhead asthe house shook and flakes of plaster rained down on herfrom the ceiling. Some nights, when the light of rocket fire wasso bright a person could read a book by it, sleep never came.
And, if it did, Laila’s dreams were suffused with fire anddetached limbs and the moaning of the wounded.
Morning brought no relief. The muezzin’s call fornamaz rangout, and the Mujahideen set down their guns, faced west, andprayed. Then the rugs were folded, the guns loaded, and themountains fired on Kabul, and Kabul fired back at themountains, as Laila and the rest of the city watched as helplessas old Santiago watching the sharks take bites out of his prizefish.
* * *Everywhere Laila “went, she saw Massoud’s men. She sawthem roam the streets and every few hundred yards stop carsfor questioning. They sat and smoked atop tanks, dressed intheir fatigues and ubiquitouspakols.They peeked at 长沙桑拿洗浴休闲 passersbyfrom behind stacked sandbags at intersections.
Not that Laila went out much anymore. And, when she did,she was always accompanied by Tariq, who seemed to relishthis chivalric duty.
“I bought a gun,” he said one day. They were sitting outside,on the ground beneath the pear tree in Laila’s yard. Heshowed her. He said it was a semiautomatic, a Beretta. ToLaila, it merely looked black and deadly.
“I don’t like it,” she said. “Guns scare me.”Tariq turned the magazine over in his hand”They found three bodies in a house in Karteh-Seh last week,”he said. “Did you hear? Sisters. All three raped Their throatsslashed. Someone had bitten the rings off their fingers. Youcould tell, they had teeth marks-“”I don’t want to hear this.””I don’t mean to upset you,” Tariq said “But I just…Ifeelbetter carrying this.”He was her lifeline to the streets now. He heard the word ofmouth and passed it on to her. Tariq was the one who toldher, for instance, that militiamen stationed in the mountainssharpened their marksmanship-and settled wagers over 长沙桑拿会所哪里最好 saidmarksmanship-by shooting civilians down below, men, women,children, chosen at random. He told her that they fired rocketsat cars but, for some reason, left taxis alone-which
explained toLaila the recent rash of people spraying their cars yellow.
Tariq explained to her the treacherous, shifting boundarieswithin Kabul. Laila learned from him, for instance, that thisroad, up to the second acacia tree on the left, 长沙桑拿酒店娱乐 belonged to onewarlord; that the next four blocks, ending with the bakery shopnext to the demolished pharmacy, was another warlord’s sector;and that if she crossed that street and walked half a mile west,she would find herself in the territory of yet another warlordand, therefore, fair game for sniper fire. And this was whatMammy’s heroes were called now. Warlords. Laila heard themcallediofangdar too. Riflemen. Others still called themMujahideen, but, when they did, they made a face-a sneering,distasteful face-the word reeking of deep aversion and deepscorn. Like an insult.
Tariq snapped the
magazine back into his handgun. “Doyouhave it in you?” Laila said.”To what?””To use this thing. To kill with it.”Tariq tucked the gun into the waist of his denims. Then hesaid a thing both lovely and terrible. “For you,” he said. “I’dkill 长沙桑拿水磨 with it for you, Laila.”He slid closer to her and their hands brushed, once, thenagain. When Tariq’s fingers tentatively began to slip into hers,Laila let them. And when suddenly he leaned over and pressedhis lips to hers, she let him again.
At that moment, all of Mammy’s talk of reputations andmynah birds sounded immaterial to Laila. Absurd, even. In themidst of all this killing and looting, all this ugliness, it was aharmless thing to sit here beneath a tree and kiss Tariq. Asmall thing. An easily forgivable indulgence. So she let him kissher, and when he pulled back she leaned in and kissedhim,heart pounding in her throat, her face tingling, a fire burningin the pit of her belly.
* * *In June of that yeah, 1992, there was heavy fighting in WestKabul between the Pashtun forces of the warlord Sayyaf andthe Hazaras of the Wahdat 长沙桑拿按摩酒店 faction. The shelling knocked downpower lines, pulverized entire blocks of shops and homes. Lailaheard that Pashtun militiamen were attacking Hazarahouseholds, breaking in and shooting entire families, executionstyle, and that Hazaras were retaliating by abducting Pashtuncivilians, raping Pashtun girls, shelling Pashtun neighborhoods,and killing indiscriminately. Every day, bodies were found tiedto trees, sometimes burned beyond recognition. Often, they’dbeen shot in the head, had had their eyes gouged out, theirtongues cut out.
Babi tried again to convince Mammy to leave Kabul.
“They’ll work it out,” Mammy said. “This fighting is temporary.
They’ll sit down and figure something out.””Fariba, all these peopleknow is war,” said Babi. “They learnedto walk with a milk bottle in one hand and a gun in theother.””Whozrtyou to say?” Mammy shot back. “Did you fight jihad?
Did you abandon everything you had and risk your life? If notfor the Mujahideen, we’d still be the Soviets’ servants,remember. And now you’d have us betray them!””We aren’t the ones doing the betraying, Fariba.””You go, then. Take your daughter and run away. Send me apostcard. But peace is coming, and I, for one, am going towait for it.”The streets became so unsafe that Babi did an unthinkablething: He had Laila drop out of school.
He took over the teaching duties himself. Laila went into hisstudy every day after sundown, and, as Hekmatyar launchedhis rockets at Massoud from the southern outskirts of the city,Babi and she discussedtheghazals of Hafez and the works ofthe beloved Afghan poet Ustad Khalilullah Khalili. Babi taughther to derive the quadratic equation, showed her how to factorpolynomials and plot parametric curves. When he was teaching,Babi was transformed. In his element, amid his books, helooked taller to Laila. His voice seemed to rise from a calmer,deeper place, and he didn’t blink nearly as much. Laila picturedhim as he must have been once, erasing his blackboard withgraceful swipes, looking over a student’s shoulder, fatherly andattentive.
But it wasn’t easy to pay attention. Laila kept gettingdistracted.
“What is the area of a pyramid?” Babi would ask, and allLaila could think of was the fullness of Tariq’s lips, the heat ofhis breath on her mouth, her own reflection in his hazel eyes.
She’d kissed him twice more since the time beneath the tree,longer, more passionately, and, she thought, less clumsily. Bothtimes, she’d met him secretly in the dim alley where he’dsmoked a cigarette the day of Mammy’s lunch party. Thesecond time, she’d let him touch her breast.
“Laila?””Yes, Babi.””Pyramid. Area. Where are you?””Sorry, Babi. I was, uh…Let’s see. Pyramid. Pyramid. One-thirdthe area of the base times the height.”Babi nodded uncertainly, his gaze lingering on her, and Lailathought of Tariq’s hands, squeezing her breast, sliding down thesmall of her back, as the two of them kissed and kissed.
* * *One daY that same month of June, Giti was walking homefrom school with two classmates. Only three blocks from Giti’shouse, a stray rocket struck the girls. Later that terrible day,Laila learned that Nila, Giti’s mother, had run up and downthe street where Giti was killed, collecting pieces of herdaughter’s flesh in an apron, screeching hysterically. Giti’sdecomposing right foot, still in its nylon sock and purplesneaker, would be found on a rooftop two weeks later.
AtGiti’sfaiiha, the day after the killings, Laila sat stunned in aroomful of weeping women. This was the first time thatsomeone whom Laila had known, been close to, loved, haddied. She couldn’t get around the unfathomable reality that Gitiwasn’t alive anymore. Giti, with whom Laila had exchangedsecret notes in class, whose fingernails she had polished, whosechin hair she had plucked with tweezers. Giti, who was goingto marry Sabir the goalkeeper. Giti was dead.Dead. Blown topieces. At last, Laila began to weep for her friend. And all thetears that she hadn’t been able to shed at her brothers’ funeralcame pouring down.
Laila could hardly move, as though cement had solidified inevery one of her joints. There was a conversation going on,and Laila knew that she was at one end of it, but she feltremoved from it, as though she were merely eavesdropping. AsTariq talked, Laila pictured her life as a rotted rope, snapping,unraveling, the fibers detaching, falling away.
It was a hot, muggy afternoon that August of 1992, and theywere in the living room of Laila’s house. Mammy had had astomachache all day, and, minutes before, despite the rocketsthat Hekmatyar was launching from the south, Babi had takenher to see a doctor. And here was Tariq now, seated besideLaila on the couch, looking at the ground, hands between hisknees.
Saying that he was leaving.
Not the neighborhood. Not Kabul. But Afghanistan altogether.
Laila was struck blind.
“Where? Where will you go?””Pakistan first. Peshawar. Then I don’t know. MaybeHindustan. Iran.””How long?””I don’t know.””I mean, how long have you known?””A few days. I was going to tell you, Laila, I swear, but Icouldn’t bring myself to. I knewhow upset you’d be.””When?””Tomorrow.””Tomorrow?””Laila, look at me.””Tomorrow.””It’smy father. His heartcan’t take it anymore, all this fightingand killing.”Laila buried her face in her hands, a bubble of dread fillingher chest.
She should have seen this coming, she thought. Almosteveryone she knew had packed their things and left. Theneighborhood had been all but drained of familiar faces, andnow, only four months after fighting had broken out betweenthe Mujahideen factions, Laila hardly recognized anybody onthe streets anymore. Hasina’s family had fled in May, off toTehran. Wajma and her clan had gone to Islamabad that samemonth. Giti’s parents and her siblings left in June, shortly afterGiti was killed. Laila didn’t know where they had gone-sheheard a rumor that they had headed for Mashad, in Iran.
After people left, their homes sat unoccupied for a few days,then either militiamen took them or strangers moved in.
Everyone was leaving. And now Tariq too.
“And my mother is not a young woman anymore,” he wassaying. “They’re so afraid all the time. Laila, look at me.””You should have told me.””Please look at me.”A groan came out of Laila. Then a wail. And then she wascrying, and when he went to wipe her cheek with the pad ofhis thumb she swiped his hand away. It was selfish andirrational, but she was furious with him for abandoning her,Tariq, who was like an extension of her, whose shadow sprungbeside hers in every memory. How could he leave her? Sheslapped him. Then she slapped him again and pulled at hishair, and he had to take her by the wrists, and he was sayingsomething she couldn’t make out, he was saying it softly,reasonably, and, somehow, they ended up brow to brow, noseto nose, and she could feel the heat of his breath on her lipsagain.
And when, suddenly, he leaned in, she did too.