A/N: A college assignment where I chose to explore how an orphan under Zaman's care might view things. I had fun writing it and thought I'd put it up here in case anyone else was interested :) Feel free to review if you feel the urge too.
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Through the Eyes of One
It's cold in the orphanage. We try to share the blankets, but there still aren't enough for all of us. I've tried to count how many of us there were before, but I always lose track. Sometimes I will try to count boys first so I can add girls later, but boys are always running around so I gave up on that. Once I tried to give people names as I counted so I wouldn't count them twice, but I forgot who had what name and it didn't work anymore.
The best way to do it is to name and count people based on what they look like. I've gotten the farthest with that. It's easier to remember them that way, but I still give up around a hundred. Kosha is what I call the small boy who gets teased about being a Hazara. No one knows if he is, but they tease him anyway. I wish they wouldn't, but I guess he probably is a Shi'a so it doesn't really matter. Mastana is what I call the girl who is missing one of her legs. She's always with all the others, playing and laughing. I think I've heard them call her Shola, but I call her Mastana in my head anyway. I don't know how she smiles and plays all the time, I couldn't do that. I don't even do that now, with both my legs.
Most of the time I sit in the corner of the room and watch the others. The frames of the beds hide me, but since a lot of them don't have mattresses I can still see them if I sit in the right spot. The others don't like to play with me. They say my skin is strange and that's why. My brother played with me. His skin was like mine—he was in the fire too. Father and Mother jan couldn't get out, but brother was able to save me and him. Last winter when brother and I shared a blanket, he was one of the ones who never woke up. There are a lot of us that never wake up, especially in the winter. There's still too many of us though, we hear Zaman Agha say so a lot. Zaman Agha has to send the other kids that come here away all the time. No one plays with me now that brother is gone. I miss him still.
Zaman Agha is nice to me. He's nice to all of us. He takes care of us and makes sure we get breakfast and dinner. I overheard Zaman Agha say we wouldn't have rice soon, once. We never seem to run out though, even if he says that. I've checked before when I was curious and it looked like we had lots of rice, and the next time I checked it looked like we had even more. I think it's because of that man with the sunglasses. Every time he comes here we get more food afterwards. I think I'm the only one who notices. I'm the only one who watches.
We all know he takes one of us every time; it's hard not to notice that. None of us know why. The others have turned it into a game. They try to outdo each other with their guesses, and every guess gets bigger and better than the one before it. The ones they like the best are the ones where they say the man in the sunglasses takes them to a big mansion where there are rooms full of toys, and where they'll get new warm clothes and eat three meals a day. They say that maybe they would even get a dessert, and get to sleep in a big bed with a new blanket and a pillow that's still soft. Others guess that the man is taking them to a pretty couple in America who are adopting them, and he's taking them away to live with them. No one really believes that one though, because sometimes the ones he takes come back.
Whenever someone comes back from the man with the sunglasses, the others gather around her, because it's usually a her, and question her for hours. She never answers any of them. Most of the time the girls who come back just stare at their feet and cry. The older kids say it's because they're spoiled now and hate being back at the orphanage. I think they might be right because the ones that come back never want to play with the others again after. They just sit along the walls and cry a lot.
I wouldn't cry if the man in the sunglasses took me. I think I would be happier with him. I wouldn't get spoiled, I'd be happy just to go to his house even for a little bit. Even if it was just a day! A day to see his big house and maybe play with some of the toys… I would be happy with a day. If I could, a night too—just so I could sleep in the big bed with the warm blankets and the soft pillows! And at his house, maybe it's quiet, so it would be easier to go to sleep at night. Maybe you can't hear the yelling in the streets where he lives. And maybe you can't hear it when they use the guns. Maybe…
The man in the sunglasses would never pick me. He likes the prettier girls, the ones that always run around and play during the day; the ones that look happy, who don't cry when everyone else is asleep, and don't need something to be happy about. The few of us that have light eyes always get picked too. I think he really likes the light eyes. My skin is too weird and my eyes are too dark. He never notices me. He only notices them. I wish I had something to be happy about. I wish he would pick me, just once.
Zaman Agha tries to make us happy, but he's too afraid to even let us play outside most days. The days that he does let us, I don't like any better than when the ones he doesn't. They're almost worse. When we're inside, it's easy to forget. Forget that the buildings are all falling apart. Forget that the streets are all torn up. Forget about the poor people on the street. Forget about the smoke and bad smells in the air, about the bodies being left for the dogs, about the sounds of angry people and guns shooting. Forget about the red trucks and the men in them. It all comes back when we go outside. I wouldn't mind if Zaman Agha stopped letting us go outside at all, I think. At least we can pretend to be safe inside. At least we can pretend.
Zaman Agha also has a hard time making us happy because he isn't very happy either. He's always worried, or mad, or sad. He tries to hide it from us, but he's not very good at it. We hear him talking to people on the phone about things, and he always sounds like he's trying not to be mad. He talks about things like wells and food and blankets on the phone, and how we need them or don't have them. I don't tell anyone, but sometimes when he hangs up, I swear to Allah that I hear him crying. Zaman Agha cries, just like some of us do. I still don't know if that makes me feel better or worse.
That isn't the only time Zaman Agha gets upset. A lot of times I hear him mutter about the electricity and how it never works, and the heat that we don't have, and the water that we need more of. But I think what makes Zaman Agha the most upset is when the man in the sunglasses comes. Everyone notices that, too. He goes about shaking his head and refusing to look at any of us. Sometimes it even looks like he'll start crying, right in front of us. We all think it's because he hates to see us go. He always seems relieved to see any of us return after the man in the sunglasses takes us. But I wouldn't want to come back if I had a choice, even though I would miss Zaman Agha very much.
The man in the sunglasses came today. He took a boy for the first time, the little Hazara one I call Kosha. Zaman Agha seemed more upset than I had ever seen him. He kept mumbling something about not taking Sohrab, anyone but Sohrab. The man in the sunglasses didn't listen and took Kosha with him anyway. I feel bad for Zaman Agha; I think the Hazara was his favorite out of us. I don't know why he would be, but I still feel bad for Zaman Agha since he'll probably miss him a lot. The rest of us are just jealous. Why was he picked when he's just a little Hazara boy?
I don't care that much though. The man in the sunglasses came, and tomorrow we'll have more rice and one less mouth to feed and one less body to cover. Not much more than that seems to matter anymore.
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