Newfound redemption meant a new life for me. No more secrets, no more lies. "There is a way to be good again", I recalled those few words Rahim Khan had so carefully picked out and spoken. Each word hit me like fresh raindrops from the sky. It brought back childhood memories, the pain and sadness I had carried with me all these years, and yet they gave me hope. Now I was free, free like a bird, like a kite.
Like a kite, indeed. I remembered the time when Sohrab and I went kite running together for the very first time. He had opened up a little bit, not a lot, but it still counted for something. I ran the kite for him, just like Hassan did for me. I told him "For you, a thousand times over!" just like Hassan had told me. The words that slipped out of my mouth naturally, they weren't just repeated words. I meant them.
I loved Sohrab just as much as I loved Soraya. Not only had I redeemed myself because of him, but he had also grown a special place inside my heart. Sohrab wasn't just my salvation. He was practically my own child. I treated him like one and took assiduous care of him. I spent every waking moment thinking about his wellbeing. Over time spent with Sohrab, I had learned to be patient, to give him time and space. Who was he in his own mind? Sohrab believed himself to be dirty and wrong, but all I could see whenever I looked at him was an innocent youngling who had to see with his own eyes, the cruel world, too early.
Sometimes, I'd shed a few tears at night for Sohrab feeling his pain, and I'd wonder what he was thinking at the same time, in his own bed in the next room. Every time I do so, Soraya would easily find my slightly tear-soaked pillow and comfort me until I finally fall asleep. I was lucky to have Soraya by my side at all times. Soraya was the morning sun to my yelda. Always.
I once told Soraya to give Sohrab some time. She was upset over the fact that he was so silent, even around the house. Soraya took my advice well, and even though Sohrab wouldn't say a thing anymore, she loved him dearly and did well as a mother. Sometimes I wonder whether Soraya was better at looking after Sohrab than I did. Sohrab never spoke, only when he had to. When he did, he did not speak more than a sentence, but uttered a few words instead. There was still hope for Sohrab though. Whenever Soraya and I were engaged in conversation, our amusing exchange of jokes would get to Sohrab, and the corner of his lips would turn up. They'd be gone in a second though, and the lost look would return in his soulful eyes. It pained me to see him so full of misery.
One day, I was lounging in the television room, watching a reporter. The September 11 incident news had been blaring on televisions worldwide for an extended time now. My heart went out to those who were victimized. I felt for them, for their loss of their loved ones. I was an expert in knowing these kinds of emotions. A shadow of a small figure passed in front of me and I spun around, facing Sohrab. The expression on his face was unfathomable.
"Hey. You alright?" I asked gently. Sohrab was never usually up this early in the morning.
As usual, Sohrab made no comment and instead, came to sit next to me. As I wrapped an arm around him, I noticed that he did not flinch or attempt to move away, but I could feel him stiffening up slightly. I was used to this.
Sohrab's lips twitched. I could tell he wanted to say something, but couldn't quite say them out loud. All I could do was wait.
Silence filled the air.
"I…I…have to ask you s-something." He finally said, his voice barely a whisper.
"Yes?" I made my voice as low as possible as well, so he wouldn't feel less comfortable speaking to me.
Sohrab was fiddling with his hands. He lowered his head, took a deep breath and said, "Do you remember what you said to me? When you said that you weren't a very good friend to my father?"
This time, I stiffened up. My back felt oddly tight. I didn't know whether to be shocked at the fact that he had spoken two full sentences, or that he had asked me a question so difficult and too personal to reply to.
No more secrets, no more lies. Wasn't that what I had promised myself at the beginning? I wasn't about to break any more promises either. Not after what Sohrab did the last time I broke one that I made to him.
There was no backing out now. I chose my words carefully, "See Sohrab…Your father was always there for me when I needed him. I wasn't there when he needed me most, even thought I could have helped him." I bit my lip. Sohrab was looking at me intently. Carry on, Amir. Carry on. So I did. My confessions slipped out of my mouth easily, telling Sohrab how I had used to tease his father because of his illiteracy, treated him unfairly, envied him, and most of all, how I had ran like a coward when Hassan was raped.
It took me a while to explain the whole story to Sohrab. What I had to tell him shamed me, but it also lifted off the burden that I kept on me for so long I had almost forgotten what it felt like. Once again, Sohrab brought out the good in me. Sohrab. My attention snapped back to him. His face was a mix of emotions, miserable and confused. I waited for him to say something. Say something, I begged in my mind.
Silence filled the air once again; this time, uncomfortable silence.
Sohrab was the first to break the tension between us, "It's okay."
It took me a second to register what he just said, "What?"
"My father always used to tell me that people deserved second chances…He talked about you a lot…." I waited for Sohrab to continue after he paused. "I know that he has forgiven you. He loved you just as much as he loved me."
I breathed out, realizing that I had been holding my breath for a long time. Hassan. Memories of him and the name itself would always affect me emotionally. I brought Sohrab closer to me and to my surprise, he leaned his head against my shoulder. I smiled at my nephew affectionately. Our talk had led to a whole new bond between us. It loosened the ties around us. I could feel it. Sohrab was beginning to learn, trust, and move on. Someday, Inshallah, Sohrab's emotional scars will turn into his strength. He will be happy again.
He will be free, free like a bird, like a kite.