Дил розларим сизга армугон!
Дилсора Фозилова
Dilsora Fozilova

7/21/2008 12:07:19 AM
The Princess Who Turned Into a Ghost

Shortly after I moved to Edmonton I rented an apartment in the west side of the city. One morning, while I was busy making breakfast, someone knocked softly on my door. I listened, but the knocking stopped. After a few minutes, the knocking started again, and then became a little bit louder. I went to the door. “Who…?” I tried to use one of the few words I knew in English. Nobody answered. Just as I turned back, there was a knock on the door again. It was strange. I opened the door… and instinctively stepped back and my heart started beating faster. There was a tall, skinny – even frighteningly skinny – dark woman standing in my doorway, covered all in black. Her unkempt, long grey hair was hanging all around her neck which made her even scarier. Her eyes were deep and cold. The worst thing about her was her smile. It was terrifying.

She started to talk in Persian before I could say anything.

“Do you speak Persian?”

“Not really. I can understand a little bit, but my Persian is better than my English at least!” I could hardly speak in her language. I kept smiling, hoping to make myself feel better, but still, I couldn’t shake off the fear.

“Can I come into your home?” she asked me. “I have not had anyone who understands my language in this place, and I heard you talking with your children in Turkish. That’s why I decided to come”

I felt better. I felt much more confident. Our situations were similar. I didn’t know very much English, neither did my husband or children. I had not had anybody to talk to up to that time.

“C’mon in!” I invited the woman without thinking. It seemed someone was deciding for me in my heart.

She entered to my house quickly and locked my door after herself. I was feeling uneasy from the stranger’s unexpected visit and peculiar actions. Her name was Safiya and she was my neighbour. Safiya was from Afghanistan and had moved to Canada a few years earlier with her fourteen year old son, Rahim.
Their life was a mystery. Safiya walked all day long in the long corridor of the apartment building and hid if she heard someone’s voice. She didn’t take care of her home or her son. She was mentally and emotionally ill and extremely quiet. Sometimes she came to my house, sat for hours on the only couch in my living room, and left without saying a word.

We had a great deal of difficulty talking, as we only knew a few words in Persian. I was feeling sorry for them. Rahim knew about his mother’s sickness and never placed any demands on her. He cooked for himself, and seemed fine with his own sandwich and boiled eggs. Rahim started to teach me some English, and I started to teach him how to make some easy recipes, how to organize their home and finances. After awhile Rahim and I were able to communicate in English and I was feeling comfortable talking to Safiya in her language. It felt like I had two new children besides my own two boys. Unconsciously, I started to pick some shorts or socks for Rahim while I was shopping for my children.

One day, I discovered the reason for the pain in Safiya’s heart. She was from rich family. She got married to the only son of a wealthy family. Her life was smooth and beautiful until the Taliban arrived in her city.

“Houses were burned, people were killed, all the women started to wear black; cities were empty, roads were empty, lives were empty, and hearts were empty, we were king and queen of the emptiness…” she said.

After a year she lost both her parents. Her sister got married and left the county with her new family. Safiya’s mother-in-law and father-in-law decided to stay and wait for “the good days” because they had lots of property and investments in the city.

Rahim was just a baby, and the family planned a huge birthday party to celebrate his third birthday. Many relatives came, and everyone had a wonderful time. However, after the birthday party, some of the guests were stopped by the Taliban as they made their way home. The Taliban questioned them. “Where are you going?” Where are you coming from?” What were you doing there?”

It was strictly forbidden by the Taliban to celebrate birthdays. Later that same night, after Safiya and her husband had gone to bed, the Taliban broke into their home. There, in the bed they shared so lovingly; there, in the bed where they had conceived their beloved Rahim; there in the bed, where only minutes earlier, they had kissed good night and said, “I love you” to each other, the Taliban beheaded her husband. Over her screams, over her protests, over her terror, the Taliban beheaded her husband.

After the Taliban left, she cradled her husband’s head in her arms, and cried tears that came from an agony she had not known was possible.

Terrible days were taking place for her and for her little boy. They moved to India and lived there for a few years. “There wasn’t war, but hunger, homelessness, being smashed like a stone on the road followed us all over India” she said.

Her stories were painful and there was nothing I could say to comfort her.

When I started to go to school and found a little job after learning some English, I didn’t have much time for them. Everyday, I only stopped by their door for few minutes on my way to work or school. On my days off we would spend some time together.

It was after midnight on a Friday night that there was banging on my door once again. The first thing that came to my mind was Safiya. I ran to the door, opened it and there she was. She was crying and shouting so loudly, and trying to hug me. I had to cover her mouth with my hand and carried her to her apartment. I didn’t want my family or other residents in the building to wake up.

“My chest is burning.” “I will die.” she was saying tearfully without stopping. When I opened her door, Rahim was sitting on the floor and crying.

“Rahim, what happened?” I asked him.

“Sorry for awaking you, I tried to stop her. But she is saying her chest is getting burned. She does this very often. Some nights we don’t sleep until morning.” the boy cried louder.

Tears filled my eyes too.

“You don’t worry; I will take care of your mom. Go and sleep honey. Tomorrow I will take her to the doctor” I said.

I kissed him good night and sent him off to sleep.

I sat in the living room with Safiya. She brought out some photo albums. I didn’t know that she had hundreds of pictures from her home and from her time in India. We chatted and looked at the pictures. Safiya was telling me stories while we looked at the pictures. There were pictures of dirty and half dressed children in the market place. All of them were smiling for the pictures. Rahim was there too, looking just like all of the other children, poor, half dressed, and smiling for the pictures.

Those smiling faces reminded me of the first time I saw Safiya. One of the pictures captured my attention. There was a very beautiful bride and a handsome groom in the picture. Both of them looked gorgeous in their wedding clothes. The bride’s skin was milky white, which contrasted with her long dark hair, which flowed like shiny waves around her shoulders. Sparkling eyes told the story of her happiness. Her hand was on the groom’s shoulder and the groom was holding her. She appeared to me to be a princess, a beautiful princess. Another picture was the same people with national Afghani clothes. With golden clothes and jewellery they were a piece of art work together.

I looked to Safiya with a question in my eyes: “Are all Afghani girls this beautiful?”

“Safiya” I asked, “Who is this?”

“Guess!” she smiled.

“Is she your sister who lives in the US?”

Safiya shook her head from side to side.

“Tell me, who is she?” I asked again impatiently.

“It’s me and Rahim’s dad…”

My eyes froze on the picture… I couldn’t believe my ears.
I thought of asking her, “Are you sure?” but I didn’t want to hurt her.

After few moments of looking at the picture, Safiya started to lovingly caress the image with a smile. She was no longer with me. She was in a dream world with her loving husband. I didn’t want to interrupt. I wanted her to enjoy that time.

Suddenly, Safiya pulled her eyes from the picture and looked to the darkness through her window. The smile disappeared. Terror covered her face. She put her fingers in her hair and started to scream. She was screaming as loud as she could.

“Safiya calm down… Please calm down” I said, but nothing seemed to stop her. I ran for water. I gave her some of the sleeping medication she used and hugged her very tight. Still, she cried long and heartbreakingly… I put her to her bed, sat on the floor right beside her bed, and brushed her grey hair with my hands until she fell asleep.

When I first got to know Safiya, I wasn’t happy with her. I was thinking “She is not the only person who saw hard days in Afghanistan. Why she doesn’t try to take care of her only child?”

Now I thought “How can she still live with this much pain, with these terrible scars on her heart?”

People don’t come to our lives without reason. There was a reason for her to knocking on my door. I looked at her. She was sleeping deeply. I got up soundlessly. When I reached the bedroom door, I turned back and looked at her one more before I left her room. She was sleeping peacefully. The first light of the morning star was peeking through her window: The light of a new day, full of blessing and hope.