Suspended in the air, Mariam would see Jalil’s upturned facebelow her, his wide, crooked smile, his widow’s peak, his cleftchin-a perfect pocket for the tip of her pinkie-his teeth,
thewhitest in a town of rotting molars. She liked his trimmedmustache, and she liked that no matter the weather he alwayswore a suit on his visits-dark brown, his favorite color, with thewhite triangle of a handkerchief in the breast pocket-and cufflinks too, and a tie, usually red, which he left loosened Mariamcould see herself too, reflected in the brown of Jalil’s eyes: herhair billowing, her face blazing with excitement, the sky behindher.
Nana said that one of these days he would miss, that she,Mariam, would slip through his fingers, hit the ground, andbreak a bone. But Mariam did not believe that Jalil would dropher. She believed that she would always land safely into herfather’s clean, well-manicured hands.
They sat outside thekolba, in the shade, and Nana servedthem tea. Jalil and she acknowledged each other with anuneasy smile and a nod. Jalil never brought up Nana’s rockthrowing or her cursing.
Despite her rants against him when he wasn’t around, Nanawas subdued and mannerly when Jalil visited. Her hair wasalways washed. She brushed her teeth, wore her besthijab forhim. She sat quietly on a chair across from him, hands foldedon her lap. She did not look at him directly and never usedcoarse language around him. When she laughed, she coveredher mouth with a fist to hide the bad tooth.
Nana asked about his businesses. And his wives too. Whenshe told him that she had heard, through Bibi jo, that hisyoungest wife, Nargis, was expecting her third child, Jalil smiledcourteously and nodded.
“Well. You must be happy,” Nana said. “How many is thatfor you, now? Ten, is it,mashallah1? Ten?”Jalil said yes, ten.
“Eleven, if you count Mariam, of course.”Later, after Jalil went home, Mariam and Nana had a smallfight about this. Mariam said she had tricked him.
After tea with Nana, Mariam and Jalil always went fishing inthe stream. He showed her how to cast her line, how to reelin the trout. He taught her the proper way to gut a trout, toclean it, to lift the meat off the bone in one motion. He drewpictures for her as they waited for a strike, showed her howto draw an elephant in one stroke without ever lifting the penoff the paper. He taught her rhymes. Together they sang:
Lili Mi birdbath, Sitting on a dirt path, Minnow sat on the rimand drank, Slipped, and in the water she sankJalil brought clippings from Herat’s newspaper,Iiiifaq-i Islam,and read from them to her. He was Mariam’s link, her proofthat there existed a world at large, beyond thekolba, beyondGul Daman and Herat too, a world of presidents withunpronounceable names, and trains and museums and soccer,and rockets that orbited the earth and landed on the moon,and, every Thursday, Jalil brought a piece of that world withhim to thekolba.
He was the one who told her in the summer of 1973, whenMariam was fourteen, that King Zahir Shah, who had ruledfrom Kabul for forty years, had been overthrown in a 杭州桑拿会所论坛 bloodlesscoup.
“His cousin Daoud Khan did it while the king was in Italygetting medical treatment- You remember Daoud Khan, right? Itold you about him. He was prime minister in Kabul when youwere bom. Anyway, Afghanistan is no longer a monarchy,Mariam. You see, it’s a republic now, and Daoud Khan is thepresident. There are rumors that the socialists in Kabul helpedhim take power. Not that he’s a socialist himself, mind you, butthat they helped him. That’s the rumor anyway.”Mariam asked him what a socialist was and Jalil begantoexplain, but Mariam barely heard him.
“Are you listening?””I am.”He saw her looking at the bulge in his coat’s side pocket.
“Ah. Of course. Well. Here, then. Without further ado…”He fished a small box from his pocket and gave it to her. Hedid this from time to time, bring her small presents. Acarnelian 杭州家庭spa bracelet cuff one time, a choker with lapis lazuli beadsanother. That day, Mariam opened the box and found aleaf-shaped pendant, tiny coins etched with moons and starshanging from it.
“Try it on, Mariam jo.”She did. “What do you think?”Jalil beamed “I think you look like a queen.”After he left, Nana saw the pendant around Mariam’s neck.
“Nomad jewelry,” she said. “I’ve seen them make it. Theymelt the coins people throw at them and make jewelry. Let’ssee him bring you gold next time, your precious father. Let’ssee him.”When it was time for Jalil to leave, Mariam always stood inthe doorway and watched him exit the clearing, deflated at thethought of the week that stood, like an immense, immovableobject, between her and his next visit. Mariam always held herbreath as she watched him go. She held her breath and, inher head, counted 杭州洗浴按摩服务 seconds. She pretended that for each secondthat she didn’t breathe, God would grant her another day withJalil.
At night, Mariam lay in her cot and wondered what his housein Herat was like. She wondered what it would be like to livewith him, to see him every day. She pictured herself handinghim a towel as he shaved, telling him when he nicked himself.
She would brew tea for him. She would sew on his missingbuttons. They would take walks in Herat together, in thevaulted bazaar where Jalil said you could find anything youwanted. They would ride in his car, and people would pointand say, “There goes Jalil Khan with his daughter.” He wouldshow her the famed tree that had a poet buried beneath it.
One day soon, Mariam decided, she would tell Jalil thesethings. And when he heard, when he saw how much shemissed him when he was gone, 杭州kb场 he would surely take her withhim. He would bring her to Herat, to live in his house, justlike his other children.
I know what I want,” Mariam said to Jalil.
It was the spring of 1974, the year Mariam turned fifteen.
The three of them were sitting outside thekolba, in a patch ofshade thrown by the willows, on folding chairs arranged in atriangle.
“For my birthday…I know what I want.””You do?” said Jalil, smiling encouragingly.
Two weeks before, at Mariam’s prodding, Jalil had let on thatan American film was playing at his cinema. It wasa specialkind of film, what he’d called a cartoon. The entire film was aseries of drawings, he said, thousands of them, so that whenthey were made into a film and projected onto a screen youhad the illusion that the drawings were moving. Jalil said thefilm told the story of an old, 杭州夜网98m childless toymaker who is lonelyand desperately wants a son. So he carves a puppet, a boy,who magically comes to life. Mariam had asked him to tell hermore, and Jalil said that the old man and his puppet had allsorts of adventures, that there was a place called PleasureIsland, and bad boys who turned into donkeys. They even gotswallowed by a whale at the end, the puppet and his father.
Mariam had told Mullah Faizullah all about this film.
“I want you to take me to your cinema,” Mariam said now. “Iwant to see the cartoon. I want to see the puppet boy.”With this, Mariam sensed a shift in the atmosphere. Herparents stirred in their seats. Mariam could feel themexchanging looks.
“That’s not a good idea,” said Nana. Her voice was calm, hadthe controlled, polite tone she used around Jalil, but Mariamcould feel her hard, accusing 杭州水磨浴全套 glare.
Jalil shifted on his chair. He coughed, cleared his throat.
“You know,” he said, “the picture quality isn’t that good.
Neither is the sound. And the projector’s been malfunctioningrecently. Maybe your mother is right. Maybe you can think ofanother present, Mariam jo.””Aneh,”Nana said. “You see? Your father agrees.”* * *But later, at the stream, Mariam said, “Take me.””I’ll tell you what,” Jalil said. “I’ll send someone to pick youup and take you. I’ll make sure they get you a good seat andall the candy you want.””Nay.Iwant you to take me.””Mariam jo-“”And I want you to invite my brothers and sisters too. I wantto meet them. I want us all to go, together. It’s what I want.”Jalil sighed. He was looking away, toward the mountains.
Mariam remembered him telling her that on the screen ahuman face looked as big as a house, that when a carcrashed up there you felt the metal twisting in your bones. Shepictured herself sitting in the private balcony seats, lapping atice cream, alongside her siblings and Jalil. “It’s what I want,”she said.
Jalil looked at her with a forlorn expression.
“Tomorrow. At noon. I’ll meet you at this very spot. All right?
Tomorrow?””Come here,” he said. He hunkered down, pulled her to him,and held her for a long, long time.
* * *At first. Nana paced around thekolba, clenching andunclenching her fists.
“Of all the daughters I could have had, why did God give mean ungrateful one like you? Everything I endured for you! Howdare you! How dare you abandon me like this, youtreacherous littleharamil”Then she mocked.
“What a stupid girl you are! You think you matter to him,that you’re wanted in his house? You think you’re a daughterto him? That he’s going to take you in? Let me tell yousomething- A man’s heart is a wretched, wretched thing,Mariam. It isn’t like a mother’s womb. It won’t bleed, it won’tstretch to make room for you. I’m the only one who lovesyou. I’m all you have in this world, Mariam, and when I’mgone you’ll have nothing. You’ll have nothing. Youare nothing!”Then she tried guilt.
“I’ll die if you go.The jinn will come, and I’ll have one of myfits. You’ll see, I’ll swallow my tongue and die. Don’t leave me,Mariam jo. Please stay. I’ll die if you go.”Mariam said nothing.
“You know I love you, Mariam jo.”Mariam said she was going for a walk.
She feared she might say hurtful things if she stayed: that sheknewthe jinn was a lie, that Jalil had told her that what Nanahad was a disease with a name and that pills could make itbetter. She might have asked Nana why she refused to seeJalil’s doctors, as he had insisted she do, why she wouldn’ttake the pills he’d bought for her. If she could articulate it, shemight have said to Nana that she was tired of being aninstrument, of being lied to, laid claim to, used. That she wassick of Nana twisting the truths of their life and making her,Mariam, another of her grievances against the world.
You ‘re afraid, Nana,she might have said.You ‘re afraid that 1might find the happiness you never had. And you don ‘i wantme to be happy. You don’t want a good life for me. You ‘rethe one with the wretched heart* * *There was A lookout, on the edge of the clearing, whereMariam liked to go. She sat there now, on dry, warm grass.
Herat was visible from here, spread below her like a child’sboard game: the Women’s Garden to the north of the city,Char-suq Bazaar and the ruins of Alexander the Great’s oldcitadel to the south. She could make out the minarets in thedistance, like the dusty fingers of giants, and the streets thatshe imagined were milling with people, carts, mules. She sawswallows swooping and circling overhead. She was envious ofthese birds. They had been to Herat. They had flown over itsmosques, its bazaars. Maybe they had landed on the walls ofJalil’s home, on the front steps of his cinema.
She picked up ten pebbles and arranged them vertically, inthree columns. This was a game that she played privately fromtime to time when Nana wasn’t looking. She put four pebblesin the first column, for Khadija’s children, three for Afsoon’s,and three in the third column for Nargis’s children. Then sheadded a fourth column. A solitary, eleventh pebble.