Your form was mostly paper containing rib bones and rice. I said: I’m afraid I will experience great pain. Coming in from the wild, we are visibly shaken shaking at the window as he demands my visa. You took my passport back in Dubai and doubled down on and into your Afghaness. Paper dipped steel over. You were right to grab my taskeera the night before we left. We might need it. I’m concentrating very hard on the process of being here as long black lines reach back to my very cozy bed in the States. And I think about the intolerance of this five-minute face unconvinced of my citizenship. But proof is proof as it is proof produced and we are home. And long black lines reach back. And long black lines reach down and down.
I’m a snarled mat of limbs crumpled on a green polyester covered couch that should have been replaced forty years ago. What steady work it is to bear the burden of nostalgia. And here, where the body collides with its multiple temporalities: the air is so thick. The body arrives at the axis of imaginary past and perpetual future. Time zones, the flash of dreams, the coming back of it all. The body wants to sleep and sleep. She does not want greasy eggs and raw onions.
I’m different in Dari.
I’ve been so low-key.
The afterness of return. The way in which the body rejects its current circumstances: rejecting the quiet, rejecting the time zone, the light. For the first time in thirty years, I’m dreaming in Dari.
Nobody told us that it was fair. The mud crumbling the decay the replacements the unfinished high-rise housing projects the compound not empty but occupied with a near village of very impoverished strangers. This is the fault of those that left the fault of those that stayed. This is not the fault of. This moment that we face our passage. We have travelled far. We have experienced great pain.
I and all the talk the smells the skin. I and all the neck pain and bad hair wishing I was cleaner than I was. Everybody distressed by our exhaustion. We have legit jetlag. But it is something more something else something different. It is thirty years of: arrival/collapse/ending/beginning/constant agains. Thirty years of leaving. In the early morning hours hanging halfway out of the balcony window smoking and listening to the baadraang guy yelling, pushing his cart, selling cucumbers at five am. The woman digging through the dumpster. The birds.
After fifteen hours of no wifi, we turn our phones on in the Frankfurt airport to see blood. Rivers of blood in the streets of Kabul. Rivers of blood is both a cliché and an exaggeration. Not rivers. Streams. Tributaries. Gutters full. So much blood. And dead people strewn and piled. So much dead people. And we are boarding a plane toward the so much blood and the so much dead people.
We go to Trader Joes. We forget the words cauliflower, onion, grape. We are a withered pair, you with your fatigue your dizziness grasping the cart for support, me with my reeling under and away from everyday objects. Zucchini, okra, pomegranate.
You are visibly irate in the airport. The great pain you have experienced legible your eyes dim from it. You lost your sim card in Kabul and now your phone won’t work. And no soul will assist you with a phone call: these god damned Americans they’re so rude and unfriendly. I can’t believe it. We tumble under your baggage brace ourselves against the weight of it all.
We walk to kaka Kamran’s for maimani. We go the long way around because the young man on the street kindly informs us that the way is blocked because three men with vests maybe boom.
Sometimes I get carried away and fancy myself a subject.
Relief is not the exact word. But this word is close. Close to the smell of Kabul at five am in Macrorayan. And the color of it. The exhaustion of arrival: I think, is really the collapse of thirty years of standing. Nostalgia is salt dissolved into family every breath together in this smoggy air dissolved into zendegi zendegi ast. Kaka Qand taking my hand to cross streets no pedestrians should be crossing. And suddenly it’s chupluks and chaadars and chai all day and night. And suddenly I’m not depressed and suddenly I’m crying constantly. I want to be dramatic and pick up some dirt and eat it at the airport. Smear it over my face. And kiss the ground. But I don’t.
MINA ZOHAL is an Afghan American writer living and writing in the United States and Afghanistan.