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Story of a Girl in the Shadows

Waking up, the sun hasn’t shown its face yet. It doesn’t greet the day like I do. It greets it by shining bright and lighting up the sky. I greet the day by extracting my thoughts onto my face. I greet it my dragging myself out of my bed, and beginning my daily routine. Every day is the same for me. Every day I wake up and cover my face, which disgusts men. I walk out into the heat, made worse by the thick fabric of my clothes that reveal no skin of my body, and then I go to the river to get water. I come home and do the washing that wears out my wrists. I do the cleaning that wears out my arms and hands then I do the cooking. I make our home perfect for when my brother and father arrive.


My brother’s name is Abbas. Abbas means “Description of a Lion”. My brother is tall and strong. His muscle was almost built from stone, just like a rock, yet fierce like the lion. My brother has a soft soul though. He knows that living under power of the Taliban gives him the right to treat women how he pleases, but he doesn’t take this privilege. He is kind-hearted on the inside, just the wanted image of the Taliban on the outside.


My father is the same. Emad is his name, meaning “Support”. That is what my father is. My father is the pillar in our family. He supports my mother and I in our thoughts about the Taliban. We want to leave and go where freedom isn’t just achieved, but it is easily accessible. People here do not talk about the United States, but I write about it. I have never received an education, but my father taught me to write. He taught me the secrets I wasn’t supposed to know. He has always taught me how to stand out from the shadows of the Taliban but has never permitted me to do so. He doesn’t want my life put to risk.


The journal I write, I call it “Left”. All of myself has already left to go where I can be free. My soul has left to the United States, a place of freedom. There is nothing left here for me. “Left” is the word of my life. Women are just the leftovers here in Kabul. Soon nothing will be left of me. When I pass, I will be forgotten. I feel as though I am already forgotten.


So everyday is the same for me, except today. Today was different in ways that nobody could imagine… I woke up before the sun and began my daily chores. I worked alongside my mother. Later in the day, I saw him. Fahran was walking quickly, his wife following him. This is always how I see them; her tagging along behind like every other women here in Kabul. Nobody knows how I feel for him. Nobody will ever know because I will never tell. Fahran has everything I could want in a man; strength, honesty, kindness yet aggressiveness. Today was the day I made a mistake though.


As I wrapped myself up in my veil and burka, I exited out and began walking, making sure not to knock myself into anybody. I look down as I walk, almost vulnerable. Even though I was paying strict attention to my feet, somehow I walked right into somebody. As I peeked up through the small slit I can see through, I saw Fahran. He didn’t seem thrilled from my clumsiness. He gripped my arm above the elbow and pulled me away, into the nearest enclosed space. I cringed away, expecting some form of punishment. When I felt his hands they weren’t on my face, they were around my waist. I had no idea what was going on. I tried to pull away, I knew this was wrong, but something held me there. It was some feeling I hadn’t felt before. When I stumbled backwards, I knocked the door open where gasps suddenly came from by-standers.


An hour later I was on my knees in front of all of Kabul. I was being ridiculed, laughed at, for something that I had no choice over. In the crowd I could see my father, expressionless. I could see Abbas, matching my father’s face. Then I found my mother in the crowd. Through her veil I could see her red eyes, crying for me. I take in a deep breath, relaxing my shoulders. This will be over soon, I think to myself. That’s when I hear a scream from the crowd.


It’s a familiar scream.


My eyes dart to the spot and I see my mother motionless on the ground. She’s between the guard and I. A shriek comes from my throat as I tear myself away from where I’m kneeling. I run to her but feel sharp grips holding me back. I struggle and pull but I can’t release myself. Tears start to travel down my cheeks, as I taste the bitter saltiness. When the crowd goes silent I can still hear a breath from her. With tears still flowing a smile spreads across my face, because I know something is okay. Then suddenly, there is no more breath. I listen, but the air is clouded with silence. I begin to shrink, crouching, hugging my knees while sobs take me. She did what I have been afraid of all my life. She stood up. Not just for her own self but for me.


This was where the day ended for me. This was where my dreams ended. The rest of the day is too vague to remember. I remember going home to an empty house, to a pile of dirty rags, to a dirty home. I cleaned and washed like every other day. Now, I am just one young woman among many that will never run away. I will never leave to go the U.S. like I wanted to with my mother. I wanted to see the United States with my mother. The only one who understood what I was going thru. The pain I was enduring. She was the one that stood up for me. That day that I was taken advantage of, she protected me. She tried to lay a hand on the men that were laying them on me. She fought back. Because of this, she was taken from me. She was thrown into the center of Kabul’s attention, where she was killed. Her life was taken in place of mine.
Sometimes I wish the wind could take me away with it. I wish it could take me from these strict rules, this way of life, this loss that I caused.


All I’ve ever wanted was freedom; freedom of choice, freedom of speech, freedom to take and do with it what I want. I’ve only ever wanted to live in the United States. Where women are judges, women run for presidency, women run businesses. Women have rights in the United States. I have nothing here. I have a planned out future. I will soon be a wife. I will soon be a mother and then a mother-in-law. I will carry out the tradition that will never be broken, because the Taliban hold all power. They crush us between they hands, and I am fragile. My mother was fragile. She broke between their grips. I will live my life in constant fear that nothing will change. I will live my life as a disappointment to my mother, because I know I will never stand up for myself. I will hide the scars beneath my veil. I will hide in the shadows.




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