About the author: Muhammad Ali Hujjati is in the 11th grade at Marefat High School and plans to study business or economics in the future.
I had just put my head on the pillow to take a nap when someone banged loudly on the door. “Go and check who it is,” my mother said, working at her sewing machine and looking over her eyeglasses.
It was very hot outside. The noon sun was blazing. My plastic slippers were very hot and almost burnt my feet as I walked to the door and opened it halfway. Someone pushed the door hard, and it hit my chest and threw me to the ground. It was Negar, my younger sister, who said nothing.
“No salaam. No respect. Hitting me with the door and walking away without saying sorry? Look at her attitude!” I shouted. I was angry, but I understand how hard it is for her. Perhaps she was harassed again. She is 15 and is harassed every day by strangers. She fights back, but it is enough to ruin her day. As a good brother, I am always there to support her. This time the case seemed especially serious. Both Negar and my mother were standing, and Negar was crying helplessly in my mother’s arms. I walked towards them and took Negar’s wrist.
“What has happened?” I almost shouted.
“She was a very faithful woman, a good woman. She died in my hands. The doctors said that she died!” Negar cried, showing us her hands. Her eyes were red and swollen. I took her head in my arms and let her empty her heart.
“Sh…, she was a … a faithful wo … woman.” Negar was stuttering amid her hiccups and trembling in my arms. I could feel my chest being soaked in her tears. My mother was also worried. She was rubbing Negar’s back with her palm.
“Ali! Go and fetch your sister a glass of water,” My mother said, taking Negar in her arms.
I went to the kitchen and filled the glass of water and threw an ice cube in, which took a few minutes. When I came back Negar’s crying had stopped along with her hiccups. I sat beside them and handed the water to Negar, who took a tiny sip and handed the glass back to me. She had already started explaining what had happened.
“I had gone to visit my father’s grave, because today is Father’s Day. Do you remember?” Negar asked, looking my way
“Oh yes. I was about to go. Why didn’t you tell me so we could go together?” I asked, pretending to remember Father’s Day as I swallowed all the water from the glass.
Negar continued. “It’s good that you didn’t see the scene I saw.”
“What? What did you see?” my mother and I asked.
Negar pressed her forehead with two fingers before starting her story.
“I was sitting there on my father’s grave. I had said my prayers and was leaving when I saw a woman. Her poor clothing and anxious, fearful looks made me curious. I heard her saying, ‘Jamal! Long time, no see. Sorry, you know how busy I have been. By the way, Haji Ewaz, our neighbor, is going to Mecca again, but your orphans, they don’t have clothes for Eid yet. Your girls’ wrists have no bangles on them. You undeniably know about my last work. I have come to repent. I was compelled to sell my body to buy your daughters’ lives and buy food for them.’
I saw her rubbing the gravestone and crying silently. Her teardrops were flowing down her wet face, soaking the grave. The thought of selling her body for food seemed so tragic to me. I thanked God that our father has left us with our own house and my mother knows how to sew. I walked towards the poor woman and tried to console her by saying that this will be healed by the passage of time. But I think I was not aware that the wounds on her heart were stronger than the healing power of time.”
‘It won’t,’ the women murmured, still crying.
I was curious to know what she had been through, Mom! As I sat near her, putting my hand on her shoulder, she burst into tears and told me about everything she had endured. She was talking as if she knew that I was the last person that she was going to talk with.”
My sister continued to tell us about the woman. “She said that she once had a happy life. Her husband was a few years older than she. They moved to Kabul after her parents died and her only brother was put into an Iranian jail for attempting to enter Iran illegally. In Kabul, her husband owned a fruit cart. He could earn money for food and simple clothing and pay rent. But unfortunately, he died in an explosion last year, leaving his wife with two small girls. Since then her life was pure misery. She found a job keeping house for a merchant and earned a small amount of money in return for the hard labor. She pretended all was normal, despite the looks she got from men, the hardships, the poverty, until one daughter got hepatitis and needed a blood transfusion. She asked her employer for a loan, but he refused. He said he would give her money in return for her body. So she sold her body, her dignity and her soul to save her daughter’s life.”
Negar then described how she took the poor woman into her arms and tried to console her. As she was rubbing her back, she fell on the ground. Negar yelled for help. The woman was taken to the hospital, where the doctors said she was dead, from a severe heart attack.
“Shhh! Shhh!” I said gently, holding both my mother and Negar in my arms. The knot in my throat opened and teardrops slid silently across my cheekbones. My heart was replete with sadness. I kissed Negar’s forehead and promised myself that I would never leave my mother and sister. I cannot relate to people who squander their wealth when their neighbors or employees struggle to feed their families. I will not live in comfort while the people around me suffer. As long as I live, I will help everyone for the sake of humanity – that is what it means to be a human.