Exodus of Expectations
BOOK 1 Prayers
PART 3 Past Impressions/Present Amnesia
CHAPTER 13 Missing Faces and Conjecture
Timothy Vincent Alexander
AS I LIVED THROUGH AMIL MEMORIES I would realize how little I actually knew of Karima's life before America. That said what I knew was potent, horrid, and stark enough to give me a deep impression of what had shaped her. The earliest of her childhood memories I know of is of explosions going off all around her as easily as rain falls in some place she thought of as religious and peaceful before it was assaulted by the terrorism of war. She never specified if the explosions were due to Russians, Mujahedeen, or the Taliban - for her it was beside the point. Running away for her life with her parents and her first and older brother I know only she started in Afghanistan and ended up in Pakistan. That broad stroke of her past alone was enough to wound me into sympathy for her. Arguably those explosions were the gentlest of Karima most scarred memories.
My knowledge of Karima's time in Pakistan is bookend by specific life and death with photos and stories in between. The life: the birth of her second and younger brother whom she loved more like a son than just a sibling. The death: the finding of the murdered body of her uncle that had taken Karima and her family in. The reason Karima was separated from her father in her second exodus, from Pakistan to Russia. Despite the greater detail of Karima's time there it is marred by more conjecture than Afghanistan…
In regards to Karima little brother I always wondered if there was more to that affection… Karima once mentioned that when she was in the beginning of puberty that she had got really fat, almost died, needed surgery to save her life, and after the surgery lost weight quickly. None of the photos I ever saw from that time showed any indication of Karima's mother being pregnant. Of course just because I didn't see them doesn't mean they didn't exist. Could Karima's little brother actually been her son by rape? If such was the case could Karima, despite such transgression against her, have been naive enough not to understand that her nearly lethal obesity and miracle weight lost were a pregnancy? The damage of a pregnancy in a body too young would explain Karima's infertility and hence why we had sought a child through adoption. That brings me to another thought. As there were no photos of him as a new born, could Karima's little brother been an orphan she and her family found between the limited details I knew of their lives in Afghanistan and Pakistan?
Regardless of the true relation between Karima and her younger brother it cannot be denied that ironically murder like child birth is a bloody affair… Upon coming home with her mother and brothers one day Karima was first to find her uncle on the floor. "I screamed but said no words, not even, 'la Allah,' I simply shrieked at the sight of my uncle no longer a man but a mere corpse: gutted, intestines spilt out among blood, dead." was how Karima only once described her reaction to finding her uncle's body.
It was Karima little brother that saw the body next. "My younger brother, my little shadow jinn, always following me and keeping my heart warm despite his annoyingly playful nature, was first to reach me in response to my scream. He was too young to understand. He just saw his uncle who prided himself on having a clean house for guests laying in a mess. He simply saw the wasted creation of Allah as nothing more than redundant manmade mess… to be picked up and thrown away. As mere food and drink fallen to the floor not to be eaten and drank." That instant I would learn later was what made Christianity, especially in its beliefs surrounding the Eucharist - Communion, incomprehensible to Karima not so much as a Muslim but simply a human being.
Karima's details on her mother and older brother reactions were less detailed but no less haunted. "My brother and mother came in together. My older brother quickly picked up my little brother while telling him to put down my uncle's insides. Blood soaked both of them in the process. Our mother told me to help her gathered our things and for my brothers to quickly clean up and change clothes. Shortly thereafter we left Pakistan for Russia. We hadn't waited for my dad; my older brother would come to never forgive my mother for that."
Karima and her little brother didn't share their older brother sentiment about their dad. Karima would often state that her dad had been a cheating bastard - having affairs on her mother many times and always talking to other women. Karima's little brother would simply say, "My daddy left me when I was too young to remember." Karima's mother by comparison never had anything to say about her children's father. I never pressed for the true nature of the issue. I did however have conjecture I kept to myself based on other details I knew of Karima and her family's past…
Karima and her mother had a few times alluded to their family having been important in Afghanistan. Both Karima mother and father had been educators on the university level. One of history and the other of literature - I can't remember which was which. Both would have been seen as redundant among elements of the Mujahedeen and the later Taliban that were hardline Islamists - Jihadists. 'Muslims' that would tell you that the Quran and Hadith, sayings of the Prophet, are the only sources of knowledge, of education, a person needs. What they were are fools that would spit on the proud history of Islamic scientists, philosophers, and scholars that revived and built upon classic Greek and Roman scientific, mathematical, and medical knowledge when Europeans in their dark ages thought all knowledge of the Greek and Romans were 'evil.'
I figure that was the basis for Karima's uncle murder, that he had been assassinated, that his dead body was a message. A lot of the Mujahedeen had been Saudi and Pakistani not Afghan. Once the Russians left they didn't give a damn about the Afghans anymore and left them to fight among themselves. The bonds of Muslim brotherhood were lost among bloodshed and calls to prayer muted by the sounds of warfare. Those that fled such who eventually went to Russia were all treated the same regardless of if they had been supporters of the Communist government or not: Accursed dark featured children not to be played with at school. People forced to go to alien houses of worship while denied attendance to their own if not outright denied their religion all together. Individuals robbed of their once proud ethnic and tribal labels substituted with racial slurs. Such prejudice was something Amil was largely protected from by comparison. However he never got to leave Afghanistan before it killed him. His death being one in service to two causes: one he did not believe in, the other he did and tolerated the prior in order to carry out.
THERE WERE TWO MOSQUES. One Sunni, one Shia; one with cold tiled floors and noisy scary ceiling fans, one with warm packed earth floors and many quiet open glassless windows; one with a hard opaque wall partition between the genders, one with a slightly translucent heavy but soft green cloth partition between the genders. The people at the Sunni mosque are better dressed, richer, longtime residents of the area - people who have servants. The people at the Shia mosque aren't as nicely dress, poorer, refugees of their villages - people who are servants. The Sunni mosque is a mosque and only a mosque. The Shia mosque is a mosque and a home, like the Prophet Muhammad's home in Medina. Amil attends the Sunni mosque for jummah prayers but the Shia mosque for the rest. His first memories are of prayers, clothes, and jinn…
At the Sunni mosque Amil would stand in place but not prostrate. Not being able to see or hear any indication of his mother presence in the Sunni mosque through its wall partition scared him into place at his father feet. The cold tiled floors and noisy scary ceiling fans froze Amil into the form of an unbending icicle. It didn't help that many of the other men and boys at the Sunni mosque wore strange clothes, "Russian clothing," his father would say, "like the clothes I wear to work at the hospital." Amil father always wore traditional Islamic clothing at home, so did his mother with the exception of head coverings. To Amil his parents sounded AND LOOKED Afghan. While those Russian clothing wearing men and boys at the Sunni mosque always made Amil think of jinn pretending to be human but only getting it half right.
At the Shia mosque Amil would prostrate but not stand back up on his own. Being able to hear his mother prayers and see her silhouette through the Shia mosque's green cloth partition soothed him into place at his father feet. The warm packed earth floors and many quiet open glassless windows made Amil feel like he was curled up in bed on a hot sleepy night when he prostrated. The other men and boys at the Shia mosque all looked and sounded Afghan but would tease Amil saying, "You must have some jinn in you!"
Amil didn't like that, not one bit, he would reply, "I don't think you are jinn like the people at the other mosque."
Before anyone else could respond to Amil words a little girl not yet in her double digits in age comes rushing through the green cloth partition and runs up to her father who picks her up while she says, "He is not a jinn, just a sleepy head!"
Everyone laughs. Amil's father picks Amil up. Once in the comfort of his father arms Amil takes a look at the girl, his feminine peer and protector – I… I don't see… she doesn't have a face!