Safe World for Women Logo

Last-tear-2Photo credit: Ali Dadresan

By Anosha Zereh

Mr. and Mrs. Ansari’s favorite spot was the Delta, where Mr. Ansari read from his visitors brochure to his wife, a practice that has now became a dependency for Mrs. Ansari., he conveyed the information in order how there was once a great deal of freshwater marsh in this area, streams from different areas eventually enter the San Francisco Bay he told her “Like the long snake shaped rivers in Kohistan after the snow melts into the valleys” comparing the nature of the outline on the map he was reading from so his wife could portrait the image in her mind. He continued in his still but confidant tone summarizing what he had read in the tourist guide about the Delta, “Did you know that once this place was teemed with migratory birds and fish?” Mrs. Ansari listening good-naturedly while studying the area for the 50th time, sitting in her usual position in the front passenger seat of the white 68 Chrysler that he had purchased for $700 from a farmer in Marysville, a little farming town an hour drive from their home, her seat belt always buckled, hands crossed covering her small upper body, listening in distant as he continued with the details of every site they visited. Mr. Ansari brought her to the Delta at least every couple weeks, the rendering of this land and the chronicle narrated by her husband now resembled one of the old Indian Bollywood movies she would watch with her family in Kabul in long winter nights to bypass that freezing time of year. 

Driving in the vacant streets of Sacramento for the last year since moving to the United States from their native country, Mr. and Mrs. Ansari left Kabul Afghanistan in 1982 and after two long years of waiting for a sponsorship to the US, the young couple well in their mid thirties finally arrived in late 1984 in Sacramento. The local church in Yuba City sponsored the couple and welcomed the first Afghans in the district. Mr. and Mrs. Ansari took long drives around the town, and then they extended the drives to the county area, which finally opened them to visit the areas cosmic lakes and rivers, a habitual routine filling their empty days as they waited for the formality of their green cards, social security, and employment permits. When the broader Sacramento area began to bore them, on Sundays they decided to visit areas outside of their county, unless they had visitors which was very seldom, they only knew three other Afghan families who resided in Fremont, an old city close to San Francisco two hour drive from Sacramento which they strived not to attempt because they reasoned the cost for the trip was not within their budget, but the true reason remained with Mrs. Ansari who did not favor the other families, they were worlds apart from her friends back home, so she escorted her husband to believe the cost was the main reason.   

Today was different, their drive today to Lake Oroville to mark the opening of a new chapter for the new couple, the cause of celebrating a special chapter in their new blank American journal. Dressed appropriately for the weather, they both wore their new garments that they had purchased from the thrift store next to the church that often donated home appliances to the couple, they both felt comfortable in their informal attires, blue jeans and white chemise a little too big for Mrs. Ansari’s small form, Mr. Ansari put on a blue navy polo shirt. The change of style was welcomed by the couple, their erstwhile attire a fashion for the office, Mr. Ansari in formal suits, tailored for him specifically, while Mrs. Ansari was inspired by the new fashion that rose from Iran, her favorite star the glamorous Gogoosh, Mrs. Ansari followed her chic dresses to her very short hair style that once got her in trouble with Mr. Ansari when she came home from the salon, he stressed nervously not to upset his wife at the same in the private of their bedroom “you looked like a clean cut school boy from the back!”. Mrs. Ansari not only cut her hair each season according to the performers latest style, the color also changed in various shades, there was one point that everyone claimed that it was hard for them to recognize her every six months, but if Googosh instigated a fresh look, so did Mrs. Ansari, her style esteemed by her circle of friends. The gentle warmth of late spring in Sacramento gave the couple the occasion to dress in their modest clothing unconcerned that they were worn before, a tendency foreign to both. They prepared their thermos with the infusion of Indian green tea and the cardamom they had purchased from the little Indian market in the old part of Yuba City, the only store that sold the spices that Mrs. Ansari used in her Afghan cuisines. For the first couple months they cooked and eat bare meals, deficient of the aroma and flavor both were accustomed to, it was Mr. Ansari who came home delighted from one of his expeditions where he had notice the Indian market in the far corner of Lucky shopping center one afternoon. His driving around town became a reprehensible dependency in pursuit of employment, although for the first six months they killed time with pleasurable visits to different parts of Sacramento that is until they received their work permit, which left him no vacancy from his chase of work. Now, after eight long months of searching, he was beginning to look in dismay for any sort of employment. Mrs. Ansari had prepared their favorite appetizer meal for the evening, potato and leek bolani, a homemade Afghani Pizza except sandwiched as one big piece of flat bread to the unfamiliar eye, and chabli kabob wrapped in pita bread with coriander and green peppers. Mr. Ansari organized this extraordinary picnic for Mrs. Ansari, he had packed the folding chairs in the trunk of the Chrysler along with a small mat he used at times to rest on when his back nerve bother him, his favorite cashmere shawl that he had purchased for her in one of his work related travels to India the year before they left Afghanistan. He had purchased the pashmina in his last weekend on a trip to Kashmir with a few of his work friends. The dye in the shawl reminded him of her eyes; the sea green mixture with beige transported her silent eloquence, now uttered by the few gray hair behind her ear. He fetched everything from the car, forming a sitting area near the water, a careful area fashioned for the observance of their new-found life, commemorating their blessed fortune. Mr. and Mrs. Ansari were going to have a baby. 

The discussion of baby started in the fall after one of their usual meals, the color of dusk was visible through the bare windows of their small one bedroom apartment in Yuba City. The couple seated facing each other at the dinner table of four, a second hand that was donated to the couple from the local church in the beginning of their arrival, conversed that evening until what Mrs. Ansari believed to be crack of dawn. Although, the couple was accustomed with finer things in life, as immigrant to a new country they adapted to their new life quickly with slight hostility. Mr. Ansari sank deep in his chair which seemed too small for his size, his hands drawn to the table with his whisky glass half full dancing in a few ice cubes on the edge of the exhausted table. After eleven years of marriage, he shared his plea for a child. The news alarming to Mrs. Ansari, as she remembered clearly the evening they promised not to speak about this topic after their engagement in her parent’s back yard. A promise she satisfied as a blameless wife, although there were numerous incidents where gossip and neighborly taunts seemed to encompass all of Kabul, but she never said anything as promised to her husband, she merely swallowed her pride and went about her business. It was Mr. Ansari after being reported to by his sisters about his wife being mocked by the relatives and neighborhood woman of being incapable of having children when he announced to the family that she was not barren, this was a decision based on selfless contemplation for the sake of Mr. Ansari’s young siblings. He voiced his verdict on the veranda one day as a resolution to save the anguish Mrs. Ansari had to endure within the compound. Now after so many years hearing the term baby, the brain wave taking her to her communal circle in Kabul, what they would say, a woman way passed her child bearing time, a distress well visible on her face she did not had to confide in Mr. Ansari.   He reassured her that in America having a baby at 34 was not too old, his opinion always welcomed by his wife, with concrete decision he shared his view. “It’s a new beginning for us. New country, new home, new family,” he said placing his full-size hands on her shoulder, turning her slightly to face him, his striking dark brown eyes looking into hers  convincing her with a clear answer.  “did you know that this area supported a large Native American community before the Spanish set foot in California” looking through his book with his head down his trimmed brown mustache moving above his lips as he spoke, his intonation with a forced analysis Mrs.Ansari was intimate in his line of work. He used to read to her the English elucidation of the analysis he did at the UNDP where he was the mediator in charge of all the adaptation of policies in Dari to English for the United Nations Development Program in Kabul. Although Mrs. Ansari did not understand a word he delivered, his articulation and striking tone of the English language she found very attractive. The only other English she had heard was from the movies she watched with him, her favorite actors in similar tone of voice, she found fascinating, there was a alien fascination when he read in English, it was as if she had a foreign husband for the night, the foreign seemed exotic to her, she deemed her favorite actor John Wayne in the same ambiance, and now she had her own very cowboy in the private of her bedroom, familiar to her eyes, yet strange to her ears. 

When John Wayne died, both Mrs. and Mr. Ansari were utterly sad as one of their family members was the deceased. When family and friends asked, they both informed them of John’s death and his life account as if they were talking about a near relative or a neighbor who was well acquainted and loved.  

“Such men are not only found in Afghanistan, but also elsewhere. Look at John, his demeanor is so calm, his disposition full of delight, and his rugged masculinity!” Mrs. Ansari argued with her group of friends who also shared her love of the actor, the wives of other Afghan UNDP employees, she ascended to argue for John, but she found no space inflecting towards an argument. 

“I bet all American men are like John” said one wife bringing the crispy bolani Mrs. Ansari had served as a hors d'oeuvre. 

“I like the way he holds the girls close and those elongated kisses, not like Afghan husbands, if they kiss at all” said another wife with a witty smile as she raised her right legs to overlap the other leg, screening her white scrawny heels, obvious they were from abroad. 

“Well, it’s heartbreaking that he died, some say he got an awful disease from unpleasant relations. My husband was telling me the vile sickness kills you in just days with no preface, you would not even know what hit you, and the next you are death!” said another woman ,as she finished her sentence, turned around to the woman next to her to light her cigarette. Mrs. Ansari poured tea for the ladies she was entertaining while their husbands were in the main sitting room in the opposite side of the building of their home. She was accustomed to these parties taking place at least every few weeks, altering from home to home, she did not mind their companionship, it was a circle of woman where she shared a part of her she was not free to bare in her family encircle.  “My favorite of all his movies is The Cowboys” said another wife dipping her bolani in a homemade green torshi made of the fiery prickly peppers from their vegetable garden blended with small eggplants and cauliflowers deposited in jugs of apple vinegar over the summer. The other wife’s approved of her worthy selection of the best movie and started to chatter amongst themselves about the gold rush of the epoch, the admiration in their voice for vast amounts of wealth available in America. The dreamy point of view of the America they had in those days was a subject matter they took pleasure in discussing at such events. 

Mrs. Ansari wanted to change the subject to correct the previous wife assuming John died from a disgusting sickness, she could not let these wives go home and launch a iniquitous rumor of Johns death around Kabul, with a calm switch of subject she started “He died of stomach cancer. It will be hard to replace him” Mrs. Ansari finished smiling modestly changing the topic swiftly while passing the cups of green tea that filled the room with cardamom scent. The clatter of the voices of the woman in the room ascended as one spoke over the other over what Mrs. Ansari claimed, sitting back evenly in her favorite Green velvet chair under the canopy masking the bright spark of afternoon sun, with eyes watching over everyone with a  covert light in her observation knowing that she controlled the discussion. 

“What happened to all the red skin population” she asked unmoving stare in a hazy tone lost in thoughts sitting in the best location of the Lake selected by Mr. Ansari. She thought of all the movies Mr. Ansari would rent from the old part of Kabul, bringing home old cowboy movies, at that time she marveled at how life must have been in America at the time of the Indians, they labeled them as the “red skins”, their costumes and their strange howls made her think of a mental picture of the time. The movies were only intended for the couple, the rest of the family were always entertained by Old Iranian movies or Indian movies, they were not introduced to American cinema that was assumed as exposing naked woman and foreign promiscuity unheard of to the ordinary Afghans, the movies were only for the couple to watch in the private of their far-off bedroom in the end of the long corridor hallway of the enormous house. Their house was unusually spacious with 22 bedrooms but only one bathroom that was located in the far end of the courtyard; his grandfather had it built in the 40’s when he was in his early 20’s with a young enthused liveliness to marry not one, but four wives as indicated in the Islamic law for a prosperous man who can provide and treat them kindly and equally, and fill the house with lots of children. The ill-timing of his death at 35 did not allow him to marry his third wife, but the first two lived together in this very house nurturing his nine children. Mr. Ansari was the first born, as the first son of the family it was him who everyone looked up to, he was the Khan of the family, his authority was  passed on to him at age 15, still a young boy in school unaware what the title demanded. He was yet to be familiar with the responsibility of 8 fatherless siblings, who he loved unguarded of who was half and who was full blood. At 15 he would learn to put his own dreams masked under his paternal commitment that would not be visible for a long time to come. 

When his father died, the youngest child in the house was two, his half brother Wahid, one of his preferred sibling, although he loved all his sisters and brothers, Mr. Ansari felt a special affection for little Wahid, even though he never recognized the emotion before, thinking about his own child with Mrs. Ansari now lead to Wahid’s memories in Kabul.   The first time he thought of a child was one of his routine fishing day on a Thursday. He sat for hours looking into the colorless gray water, his rod in one hand and a Marlboro light in the other, conjuring a vision if he had a son or a daughter sitting next to his folding chair, listening to fascinating anecdotes of his days in Kabul as a boy. He imagined his children would have his generous shape; his eccentric manner venerated by the Kabuli kinsmen, uniting Mrs. Ansari fine looks, specifically her sea green eyes, assembled dark eye brows like a woven rope above the almond fully formed eyes. He admired her scenic eyes from the first instant he saw her when she was just a girl, in a distant family wedding ceremony in Kabul, he knew from that second she was going to be his bride. She was unaware of his existence, while he surveyed her for six years after that wedding ceremony, keeping an eye on the prize was something he had learned from young age, he had never revealed his days of stalking her from her daily passage from school and back home. He had decided calculatingly to keep this matter only to himself; after all, this sort of manifestation of affection was not a manly practice, it was perceived as a sign of weakness. Once he was ready to wed at age 25, following his graduation from the University of Beirut with a masters degree in Liberal Arts and coming first in his class, Mr. Ansari deemed it proper to sent his mother and the elders of the family to her house to ask for her hand in marriage, a custom much more honored for his stature.  

This was the last time Mr. and Mrs. Ansari were to go out to the Lake. At this point, almost the end of her second trimester, the doctors advised against any serious exercise. “She has been spotting for some time now. It is my advice for your Mrs. to be off her feet until the baby is born” the doctor told Mr. Ansari Zereh at the nod of her checkup last week. This meant three months of grave legroom for Mr. Ansari, legroom he did not want in this new country. He had to occupy with other activities, while Mrs. Ansari was busy with her house keeping, cooking her delicious bolani and the preparation of the small office conversion to baby’s room, baby clothes to search for, and other necessary baby supplies as listed in the brochures they were handed in their last appointment at her doctor’s office. Mr. Ansari had a spacious bare program table sitting on his small desk in the far end of the kitchen where he laid his personal belongings. He spent days, which turned to long weeks, and now months applying to various jobs, but all to his ill-fated position he had held for the last eleven years at the UNDP, rejected his resume with a polite endorsement “over qualified”! The consequence of his recommence did not soften his hunt; he applied for unpaid job at the local high school where he tutored seniors in English and Math. During his tutoring position at Yuba City high school he was astonished to discover that not all American children speak grammatically correct English. He was also alarmed at the level of their math in the last year of high school; some were struggling with geometry while others were still frazzled with simple algebra. Mr. Ansari scored a ten out of ten in his tests for both math and language, English being his second language both in Middle school and High school. He had the option to major in math, advised by the principle of the school, Mr. Shekabi who admired his brilliant finale in the end of the school exams. When the time came to apply for abroad scholarships in senior year, Mr. Shekabi had registered Mr. Ansari, accompanied with a letter of recommendation that was sent enlisting him in the top ten student’s competition for a full scholarship. His entire family disbelieved the length Mr. Shekabi had gone to ensure his future, Mr. Ansari himself shaken the day Mr shekabi knocked their door early in the morning, looking for him to personally deliver the news of his acceptance letter from the University of Beirut, acknowledging his all-embracing scholarship along in the broad white and blue envelop.  The hours in Yuba city high school was good for Mr. Ansari, it allowed him to remain busy, but he most enjoyed the children, chatting with them on breaks about other issues, new words were introduced to him by the kids, they called it the “slang” idioms of the day, something he was not familiar with, even from the amount of American movies he had watched throughout the years could not prepare him to recognize the slang these kids were using. He watched them as they resolved the algebra formula imagining his own son or daughter achieving exceptionally at American schools, with his aid they would have no difficulty, along with English he would be supporting them in French as well, which he was confident in as their third language. The last trimester ended with winter break for High school, he was convinced Mrs. Ansari would need his help around the house for the arrival of the newly born baby. They were asked if they wanted to know the sex of the child on a visit when she was only six months pregnant but both enjoyed eagerness of the mystery everyday talking about their unborn child “what if it’s a girl, lets name her after my aunt Amina” said Mrs. Ansari in a hasty and excited tone lying on bed as her husband served her a cup of warm milk with cardamom, “what if it’s a boy, lets gave him a indistinct name like Omar, after all he will be living in America” he uttered in his usual composed expression. The “if and when” query seized much of their vacant hours, the aimless envisage of what qualities of the Afghan culture should be passed on to the child, and what qualities of American culture they reason appropriated “I do not wish my child to be desiccated” argued Mrs. Ansari who was disenchanted with the number of Americans she had meet, most of them locals from the church that was responsible for their sponsorship to America. 
 “You cannot judge the whole orchard by a basket” declared Mr. Ansari picking up a spoonful of the red pomegranate platter on his lap. He did not find the Americans dry. He often made the case with his wife that her English was a barrier and not their sense of amiability. Although he did confirm the American culture was not the same as Afghan culture, hospitality being the most fundamental rudiment of the Afghan heritage, he told her repeatedly, “It’s different. We will have to learn to live with these differences.” “How many people have invited us over for dinner since we have been residing here?” asked Mrs. Ansari as she swallowed the full spoon of succulent pomegranate, licking her right corner of lip for the spare fluid. “If an American came to Kabul, he would be surrounded like an ant in a paradise of seeds. Do you remember your friend from the University visiting us in the fall of 75? He spent three weeks with us. We never left him alone once, you even took off work to show him the country area. When he left, he was speaking Farsi to the neighborhood children. He wanted to revisit in 79 because he found the Afghans gracious but you advised him against it. Here, I have found solidarity an esteemed way of life.  Solidarity, lonesome and remoteness!” she finished with her head looking down on to her belly with her hands tenderly massaging her baby "My child will be alone in this country," Mrs. Ansari whispered to her baby, saddened for its arrival to a world that she did not identify with. 

On Feb 3rd at 5am Mr. Ansari drove Mrs. Ansari in his newly washed and vacuumed white Chrysler1 to Fremont Medical Center, highly praised for its maternity division by the members of the church and the staff at her OB/GYN. Although Mr. and Mrs. Ansari could not afford the medical cost for having a baby, the church had contributed for their medical insurance until the baby’s birth. The contributor, Mrs. Fiske an elderly in the church with former expertise in aid organizations, worked out a plan to uphold a charity once they were settled in Yuba City and assisted the couple with everything they needed to facilitate a new life in America. It was also with Mrs. Fiske’s assistance that Mr. Ansari found the volunteer position at the high school.  

“Promise you will be outside waiting, promise me?” Mrs. Ansari sobbed squeezing her husband’s hand in pain, her nails crushing into his skin while he helped the nurse put her in a wheel chair ready to push her towards the maternity board, her small leather brief case in his hand, panicked and terrified of Mrs. Ansari screams. He had never witnessed childbirth, appreciating his wife’s tolerant to pain, he could hear the pounding of his heart all in trepidation following the nurse pushing the wheel chair to what seemed the longest corridor he had ever seen before. He was asked to sit in the waiting lounge as they prepared Mrs. Ansari in her private room, the doctor had been called, but the nurse said it would be a few hours before he would show up notifying Mr. Ansari that she was only at 2cm. The lengthy morning lingered to Mr. Ansari, he walked the hallway what seemed to him the millionth time, he went down stairs occasionally when he could detect no noise from his wife’s room, to smoke one of his Marlboro lights in the far wing of the hospitable with his tea in hand, nervous to miss the moment when his baby would arrive, he would finish only half, and run back up to the third floor where the scent of newborn was ubiquitously in the newly painted ward.  

It was 3 pm when the doctor finally arrived with a file in hand with an intense examination of the papers in the blue sleeve, Mr. Ansari had just came down from the café exchanging his tea for a black coffee, when he noticed the doctor enclosed by two other physicians he did not recognize. He walked in his usual relaxed composure towards them, when he was spotted by the doctor in the far corner of his eye “Mr. Ansari I am glad to see you.” He said transporting his hand to Mr. Ansari for a hand shake as he did every time they meet. “I want to speak to you. Your Mrs. Is doing good and the baby is fine. There seems to be some complications with the delivery.” He stopped and seemed to be looking for the exact terminology, when Mr. Ansari interrupted him looking at the nurses behind the counter pretending to be performing paperwork but was actually listening to their conversation, nervous of what he might say, Mr. Ansari requested “Tell me what is going on”? His eyes fixed on the two nurses still, recognizing one was inflexible as she heard his sharp tone. 

“There is going to be complication to her delivery. We have to perform a C-section on your wife Mr. Ansari and need your consent.” Requested the physician standing on the right side of the doctor staring at the papers he placed in Mr. Ansari hand. 

Mr. Ansari had heard of C-section before, although he did not know of anyone who had undergone such a complicated surgery instead of natural child birth, he did read a novel once given to him by his American acquaintance at the school library.

Looking through the documents, the small inscriptions in the black print seemed foreign to him, he reread and reread it several times, before he befall conscious and noticed it was English script he was reading. “I have signed the papers. Please proceed with the surgery. Will my wife be in any danger?” Mr. Ansari Asked as he handed the papers to the doctor. “She will be fine. She is a fighter.” He said with a cheerless smile, walking towards the end of the corridor to enter the surgery room. What seemed to be a thousand nights, time passed during those fifteen minutes in gaps of seconds, he felt like a turtle walking on hot sand beating time with heat and inflexibility of his own movement. He walked around to the opposite side of the maternity ward, uncovering the space used for newly born babies, he stood watching the nurses feeding the tiny infants, some sleeping still unaware of the new world they had come into, some weeping in sleep for the unfamiliarity of the separation from the mothers wound, unable to open their eyes to the bright light of the room, and some slept in tranquility’s silence. “Mr. Ansari, I am sorry.”  The doctor put his right hand on his shoulder with a look incomprehensible to Mr. Ansari. Unable to read the inscrutable sadness in the doctors voice, at the same time unable to bring  his voice to utter the words that wore going through his mind he looked at the doctor and was waiting for him to finish the sentence. The doctor did not take his hand away from Mr. Ansari shoulder; approaching him he looked down for a split of a second to catch his breath, “The Baby was born dead!”
The words “baby born dead” frozen in his mind as he walked to the room to see his wife in the recovery room, with an empty belly unaware in deep sleep, they had given her sedatives to help her sleep, his feet took the necessary steps without guidance of his mind, still frozen, walking towards the back of the room where he would see his baby, handed to him by the male nurse he had not seen before, a flawless reflection of what he anticipated his daughter to look like, he was still frozen his daughter in his arms fighting hard not to focus on her closed eyes. After a few minutes the male nurse took the baby from Mr. Ansari, and directed him to the corridor, walking he found a unfathomable ray of feelings he did not recognize resurfacing for the first time since he had left Kabul five years ago. 

For the celebration on March 21st, Mr. Ansari drove his wife to Lake Oroville for the last time. It had been fifty days since their lost, the new fresh air embryonic in spring flavor, was composed of a distant chill. “Are you cold” asked Mr. Ansari conveying a carefulness concern. “The bitter unpleasant cold has been lengthy this year.” She said holding her hands in the same position she held covering her chest.  The leisure activity they once enjoyed seemed distant, they did not bring with them their thermos, their folding chairs, he did not offer to bring her pashmina, and she did not make his favorite appetizer, bolani. They had prearranged that there will be no more picnics.  

Since they came home from the hospital, Mrs. Ansari was busy in her bedroom, her head ducked in to her pillow most of the hours that was pretending to be sleep, some times hiding from Mr. Ansari and other times, in the light of the day, she holed up from herself. She wept the first forty days as it was customary after someone’s demise. She never saw him crying, after all she knew that an Afghan man did not cry, and if they did, never in front of a woman. 

Mr. Ansari wept in hush, during stoplights when he was in his car, in the bathroom during the long showers where he sat on the toilet instead and overheard her suffocation of moans, he shed tears like rainfall the day he covered his daughters grave with the fresh American dirt as he fell on to his knees, kissing the ground and begging his God for an answer, demanding to understand what sins he was being punished for.  
Walking on the edge of the river Mr. Ansari stopped and sat on the wood bench, marked by a writing that seemed deep-rooted in the wood, a name he couldn’t make out. Mr. Ansari took his handkerchief out of his pocket, the same one he always carried but never had a use for it, seeming to prepare for one of his meeting preparations for the UN unhurriedly with a resolute insinuation of how long it had been since they came to this area, he prepared to tell his story to his wife of that cold February morning, when he attended their daughters funeral. His tears rolling down his face before he spoke, and then after a deep breath of the chilly air Mr. Ansari recounted “That day I understood what being alone meant. Standing on her grave, I finally see your point of solitary life. Alone I stood there like a desiccated misplaced tree, I looked to my left, and then to my right, bare with a few trees on the back hills and a man who was digging a new grave in the far corner, there was no one beside me, no hand on my shoulder, no brother to hold me, my mother thousands of miles away unable to kiss my head and tell me it was the will of God, my loved ones unable to lament my grieve. I looked down in the hole where my child was sleeping and asked how can a man be so lonely at a time like this, how can I bare such a burden. I know now what you felt all those months, in bed waiting to deliver the baby alone from morning to evening until I came, but I did not come to terms with the emptiness of your hours until I was left to witness the burial ceremony, alone. Today I do not mourn my child. Today, I mourn my fate. I accept that today I do not have a home, I know now I am people-less, child-less and an immigrant” he struggled to finish the last word imm-ig-rant sniveling in the handkerchief that was swamped by his wet face, dropping the last tears in his newly adopted country. Mrs. Ansari listening to her husband, looking candidly to the water, tears rolling silently discerning her husband’s pain, she saw the man who had always stood with a firm back, inconsolable with sorrow, his back curved down like a old worn out broom, as he was burning in his pain in a lonesome and forlorn country. The remnant of their loss was witnessed by the silent water at Lake Oroville, until the last drop joined the unblemished demeanor of the lake, as they shed the last tear.

Anosha Zereh is author of The Afghan Mona Lisa

About the Author

Born in Kabul, Anosha Zereh was three when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Her father, a UN employee apprehensive for his safety under the communist regime fled his beloved nation for India in 1985.

The Zereh family was eventually granted asylum in the United States in 1987.

Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Anosha has been a humanitarian working to improve the lives of Afghan orphaned children through education in Afghanistan and locally in Fremont, California, often referred to as the “Little Kabul” of the West. She lives with her two children and husband in Berkeley, California