Sohrab. That is my name. My Father once told me that a name is the only thing that stays with you forever. I thought him crazy at the time, but now I believe.
My Father was killed, so was my Mother. They were killed because we had something someone wanted, and because they were Hazara. There are days I wish that died with them.
My home was taken.
My dignity was stripped.
My innocence was washed away.
I thought my life hopeless, until a man, claiming to be my uncle came, he was Pastun. He brought me to this place called America; I do not know if I hate him or love him for it.
It was he who suggested that I write a tale "Write about anything" he said. He should know something about writing since he is a writer.
So I shall write about something.
My name is Sohrab, son of Hassan and Farzana, and this is my story.
My earliest memory is of me sitting on Father's lap, Mother on one side and my grandmother on the other side, I called her Sasa. Rahim Khan sits across from us; we are sitting around a fire. It was a peaceful time. My family lived in a hut, the hut where Father was born and raised. We took care of Rahim Khan's house, he had a huge house.
The first sad memory that I can recall is when I was four, Sasa died. I remember wondering where she went. I was a child, I had no idea what death was then.
After that I have happy memories Mother cooking, Father taking me to the zoo to see the great lion. Rahim Khan showing me pictures, Father and Rahim Khan teaching me how to write. I devoured any book that Rahim Khan brought me. I remember Father taking me Kite Fighting and shadowing my eyes when he did not want me to see something. I remember Father showing me how to use a slingshot. Rahim Khan once commented to my Father "Soon he will be better then you Hassan", and my Father answered "I hope so".
Those were the days when I was able to be a kid.
Then when was 10, almost 11, my world was shattered.
Rahim Khan had left on a trip, leaving Father, Mother and me to take care of the house, but not soon after Rahim Khan's car had left the driveway, strange men came.
"Take Sohrab and go in the house" Father told Mother, when he saw they had guns. Mother obeyed and we went in the house. We looked out a window to see what was happening. I never heard what passed between father and those men, but I do remember them forcing Father to his knees and a gun being lifted…..
Mother screamed and ran out the door my eyes watched her go, so I just heard the shots that killed my father. When my eyes returned to stare out the window, I saw Father's lifeless body on the ground, and Mother running towards it and the men. Two more shots rang out and Mother fell lifeless beside my father. I was terrified. I did what kids do when there scared, I hid.
When the strange men came into the house I heard them walking, and they came closer and closer, then a man was squatting, in front of me. He pulled the curtain that I was hiding behind away from me.
"Come with me" he said and held out his hand, I was confused so I took it.
They brought to an orphanage, where the man in charge, was called Zaman, he and the strange men, who were the Taliban had a few words, and then the men left.
I stood there clutching my slingshot, the only thing that I had kept with me.
I was getting used to the orphanage living with kids like me, my own age. Then the man called Zaman came and pulled me aside. "Be nice to this man, he is very important" he hissed in my ear, and then I was shoved in front of a man. He looked like a Taliban, turban around his head, no hair showing. The thing that scared me the most was his dark glasses, and his crazy grin, you could not tell what he was thinking. He and Zaman had a few words and the next thing I knew was that the Taliban had me by the arm and was leading me to a strange building.
"Where we going" I dared to ask. The man looked down at me with the strange glasses. "Speak only when spoken to" was all he said.
The next thing I knew, I was shoved in to a room full of women, all the women faces were not covered. "Make him look pretty" the Taliban commanded and left.
I found myself in the arms of many women; they were washing my face, putting stuff around my eyes. They pulled off my pants and put another pair on, I blushed in embarrassment. They laughed a nervous titter. "What is happening" I managed to say. All the women looked away, expect for one. "What may happen to you will hurt you bad, but you must remember that if you stay strong you will get though this". The other women gasped at her words. I never got her name, for it was then that the Taliban had returned. He grabbed me, I gasped in surprise and pain. The new pants I had on felt funny, and it felt like my eyes were dirty. The Taliban man dragged me to a room, which had a bed, the bed was clean.
"I knew your Father" The man said. I looked at him not saying a word. He watched my eyes, though his dark glasses. When he took off his glasses I was surprised to see that they were blue.
"My names Assef" he said "your father ever say anything about me".
I still said nothing. Father had said something about a man called Assef. He said that if I should ever meet up with him that I should run, and run fast. I looked around the room, there was nowhere for me to run. My gaze returned to the man called Assef, a strange glint was in his eye.
That night was when my dignity and innocence were lost for good, my hope was almost gone, it was the night that I learned of fear. It was the strange woman's words that kept me going. Soon I was numb to anything that Assef and the Taliban did to me. Every night I held my sling shot repeating "if you stay strong you will get though this", over and over in my head, hoping that it would get better.
Days, months, hours, minutes, they mean nothing to me. My name was the only that I had left, and my sling shot, I never let go of it. Then one day something seemed different, everyone was acting strange. Tension was in the air.
When I asked the woman who was helping me get dressed, what was going on, she just said that the Master was seeing an old friend. Master was what everyone here called Assef. When I asked her more she would not answer.
Then a Taliban guard came, Javid was his name I believe. He did not say a word, just motioned for me. I put my eyes down, now was the time to play the meek captive. I had bells around my ankles, and they jingled when I walked.
I waited until my cue and I stepped out, I saw Assef right away. I never thought of him as the Master. I spotted another man in the room, our eyes connected. What did I see there? Was I to service him also? I glanced down and saw my feet, "meek captive" I thought. I heard the sound of music, and I began to dance, a dance that I had perfected long ago it seemed. I heard the cheering, and the whistles but they meant nothing to me.
When I stopped Assef called me over to him. I stood between his legs, facing him, my eyes downcast. "Meek captive" played in my head. I heard him dismiss Javid and the other guard. Assef spun me around; I was now facing the other man. I felt Assef's hands over my body; I had to try hard not to shiver. I heard them talking, but I paid no attention. Until Assef said "Amir jan" my ears perked up, Father had talked about a man named Amir. He was Father's best friend. Then when Assef said "the boy" and when Amir answered yes, I knew that they were talking of me, but why? I started shaking, then when Assef stuck a grape in my mouth I almost choked, but I did not. Then Assef started kissing me, just on the neck, but I still flinched, could this Amir be my way out of here? I listened to their conversion; they talked about money, and about Assef. The thing about Assef was that he talked about himself way too much. He liked to hear himself speak. I closed my eyes and my mind started to drift away.
I was caught by surprise when Assef shoved me in the back, I fell right into a table, making it flip over, and making me land in the grapes. My hips hurt, and I felt foolish for having grapes all over me, a funny feeling to have at a time like that. "Take him then" (pg. 299)" Assef said.
Amir came over and helped me to my feet. He offered his hand, I took it, like I had the Taliban's, I took it because I was confused. Amir's hands were soft, like they were not accustomed to hard work. We started walking towards the door. This is way too easy I thought and I was right.
Assef stopped us at the door. "Of course" he said "I didn't say you could take him for free"
Amir turned. "What do you want?" he asked.
"You have to earn him"
"What do you want?" Amir repeated.
Assef grinned, "We have some unfinished business, you and I, you remember, don't you?" (pg. 300)
My eyes switched back and forth between the two. Assef called the guards back in and gave them some instructions. Then they left the room, Assef seemed like he was going to throw a fit. Assef ordered that I stay in the room, to teach me a lesson, he said.
Assef put on some music, and I jumped when he started fighting Amir. When did he bring out the Brass Knuckles? Assef brought Amir to the ground fast. Was Amir not used to fighting? I stood there, not sure what to do. Then I looked down, and reached into my pants. I brought up my sling shot, I never went anywhere without it. I gulped, and brought it up "Bas".
They stopped fighting and looked at me with stunned looks on their face.
"Please no more" I said. (pg 303)
"No more Agha, please" I said "Stop hurting him". I felt snot and tears on my face. I was scared, and I did not like this. But Amir was my ticket out of here, so I held the sling shot steady.
"What do you think your doing?" Assef finally managed to say.
"Please stop" I repeated, my eyes starting to water again.
"Put it down, Hazara, put it down or what I'm doing to him will be a gentle ear twisting compared to what I'll do to you" Assef hissed.
Tears flowed down my face," Please Agha" I said, no turning back now. "Stop"
"Put it down"
"Don't hurt him anymore"
"Put it down"
"PUT IT DOWN" Assef thundered, he was really ticked now.
PUT IT DOWN", as he said that, he jumped for me. (pg 304) I panicked and released the sling shot. My aim was true though it landed in his eye.
The rest is a blur, I remember Assef clutching his eye, I remember grabbing Amir's hand, and I could not believe that he was still walking with the beating that he took. We ran out of the building, where a man that Amir must have known came running to us. He took Amir, and put him in the car. We spoke, I told him what had happened, he said that his name was Farid, I climbed in the back with Amir, while Farid drove to a hospital. I started crying, I was so glad I was out of there, but I hated that Amir had to go through.
After that, I stayed with Farid, he explained his connection with Amir and Amir's connection with me. Amir was my uncle, when we visited him, I stared. This broken thing was Father's brother? But he was Pastun and Father was Hazara, so how?
When Amir awoke me and Farid went to visit him, I was nervous. He and Farid passed words, then he introduced himself. ""I am Amir".
I looked at him. "You are the Amir agha Father told me about" I said.
"Yes" he said "I owe you thanks too, Sohrab jan" He said "You saved my life. (pg. 312)
I looked at him and did not take his offered hand, I was no longer confused. He said something about my clothes; I had borrowed them from Farid, who said that they were his son's.
Farid and Amir shared words again. It was decided that I stay with Amir until evening. I sat beside Amir's bed not saying a word, although Amir tried to talk to me, I did not feel like talking.
After Amir got better, I started staying with him, Farid left to go join his family. From what I understood, Amir was trying to adopt me and take me to a place called America, I was unsure of how I felt.
Most of that time passed in a blur. I remember the freedom of choosing, eating good meals and having baths. My days were peaceful once again, but a hole was in my heart, Father and Mother were missing. Amir had given me a photo of me and Father; I wanted a picture of Mother also, but I knew that Amir would not have one, for he had only known Father.
My days and nights were nice; Amir was doing all he could to get me to this place called America. I was still unsure; I just knew that I never wanted to go back to an orphanage.
Then one night Amir said that I might have to go back to an orphanage, I did not want to go. I forget what was really said, but I know that I did not want to leave. Amir was tired and went to lie on the bed, so I went to go have my nightly bath. The water flowing over my body felt good.
I thought about going back to an orphanage. I looked around and spotted Amir's razor on the sink I reached up, and undid the safety latches.
I would be so easy, I thought, then I would not have to feel anything again. A few woman back at Assef's place had done it, had broken free in that way.
I would have been able to join Father and Mother and Sasa,
I took the razor and held it over my veins. Some say, suicide is the cowards way out, but I believe that it takes more strength to go though with it.
I gasp, as I lower the razor.
I awoke, I cursed, I was not supposed to wake again. I was connected to a bunch of tubes; I must have looked like Amir when he was in the hospital. Amir was leaning on the bed at my side, I looked away. What did I feel, guilt? Why did I cause Amir more pain? My throat felt raw.
When Amir tried to get me to speak I just told him I was tired. It hurt to talk, I damaged myself badly.
When Amir asked what I wanted, I told him the truth. I wanted Father, Mother, Sasa and even Rahim Khan, I wanted my life back. When Amir did not give me the answer I wanted, I turned my back to him. I never said another spoken word to him again.
Amir brought me to America. I did not say that I wanted to go, but it was better there, then in Afghanistan.
When we got to America, we meet Amir's wife, Soraya. She was pretty, but not as pretty as my own Mother.
I gave everyone in America the cold shoulder, adults and children alike. Adults were too bossy, and children too innocent.
I could and would never be a child again.
That is my story. That is Sohrab's story. I escaped from Afghanistan. I never told anyone my story, and this is the first time that I had written it down.
Amir was right; I do feel a bit better. Although it does not give me Father, Mother, Sasa or Rahim Khan, it does not give me my innocence back.
It does give me the chance to forgive myself, made me realize that it was not my fault.
Hosseini, Khaled. "The Kite Runner", Canada, Random House. 2003
*Anything in italics is from the book, The Kite Runner.