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HOME > Classical Novels > A Thousand Splendid Suns > Chapter 12
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Chapter 12
Jtvamadan came in the fall that year, 1974. For the first timein her life, Mariam saw how the sighting of the new crescentmoon could transform an entire city, alter its rhythm andmood. She noticed a drowsy hush overtaking Kabul Trafficbecame languid, scant, even quiet. Shops emptied. Restaurantsturned off their lights, closed their doors. Mariam saw nosmokers on the streets, no cups of tea steaming from windowledges. And atifiar, when the sun dipped in the west and thecannon fired from the Shir Darwaza mountain, the city brokeits fast, and so did Mariam, with bread and a date, tasting forthe first time in her fifteen years the sweetness of sharing in acommunal experience.
Except for a handful of days, Rasheed didn't observe the fast.
The few times he did, he came home in a sour mood. Hungermade him curt, irritable, impatient. One night, Mariam was afew minutes late with dinner, and he started eating bread withradishes. Even after Mariam put the rice and the lamb andokraqurma in front of him, he wouldn't touch it. He saidnothing, and went on chewing the bread, his temples working,the vein on his forehead, full and angry. He went on chewingand staring ahead, and when Mariam spoke to him he lookedat her without seeing her face and put another piece of breadinto his mouth.
Mariam was relieved when Ramadan ended.
Back at thekolba, on the first of three days of Eid-ul-Fitrcelebration that followed Ramadan, Jalil would visit Mariam andNana. Dressed in suit and tie, he would come bearing Eidpresents. One year, he gave Mariam a wool scarf. The three ofthem would sit for tea and then Jalil would excuse himself "Offto celebrate Eid with his real family," Nana would say as hecrossed the stream and waved-Mullah Faizullah would cometoo. He would bring Mariam chocolate candy wrapped in foil, abasketful of dyed boiled eggs, cookies. After he was gone,Mariam would climb one of the willows with her treats. Perchedon a high branch, she would eat Mullah Faizullah's chocolatesand drop the foil wrappers until they lay scattered about thetrunk of the tree like silver blossoms. When the chocolate wasgone, she would start in on the cookies, and, with a pencil, shewould draw faces on the eggs he had brought her now. Butthere was little pleasure in this for her. Mariam dreaded Eid,this time of hospitality and ceremony, when families dressed intheir best and visited each other. She would imagine the air inHerat crackling with merriness, and high-spirited, bright-eyedpeople showering each other with endearments and goodwill. Aforlornness would descend on her like a shroud then andwould lift only when Eid had passed.
This year, for the first time, Mariam saw with her eyes theEid of her childhood imaginings.
Rasheed and she took to the streets. Mariam had neverwalked amid such liveliness. Undaunted by the chilly weather,families had flooded the city on their frenetic rounds to visitrelatives. On their own street, Mariam saw Fariba and her sonNoor, who was dressed in a suit. Fariba, wearing a white scarf,walked beside a small-boned, shy-looking man with eyeglasses.
Her older son was there too-Mariam somehow rememberedFariba saying his name, Ahmad, at the tandoor that first time.
He had deep-set, brooding eyes, and his face was morethoughtful, more solemn, than his younger brother's, a face assuggestive of early maturity as his brother's was of lingeringboyishness. Around Ahmad's neck was a glittering allahpendant.
Fariba must have recognized her, walking in burqa besideRasheed. She waved, and called out,"Eidmubarak!"From inside the burqa, Mariam gave her a ghost of a nod.
"So you know that woman, the teacher's wife?" Rasheed saidMariam said she didn't.
"Best you stay away. She's a nosy gossiper, that one. And thehusband fancies himself some kind of educated intellectual Buthe's a mouse. Look at him. Doesn't he look like a mouse?"They went to Shar-e-Nau, where kids romped about in newshirts and beaded, brightly colored vests and compared Eidgifts. Women brandished platters of sweets. Mariam saw festivelanterns hanging from shopwindows, heard music blaring fromloudspeakers. Strangers called out"Eidmubarak" to her as theypassed.
That night they went toChaman, and, standing behindRasheed, Mariam watched fireworks light up the sky, in flashesof green, pink, and yellow. She missed sitting with MullahFaizullah outside thekolba, watching the fireworks explode overHerat in the distance, the sudden bursts of color reflected inher tutor's soft, cataract-riddled eyes. But, mostly, she missedNana. Mariam wished her mother were alive to see this. Toseeher, amid all of it. To see at last that contentment andbeauty were not unattainable things. Even for the likes of them.
* * *They had Eid visitors at the house. They were all men, friendsof Rasheed's. When a knock came, Mariam knew to goupstairs to her room and close the door. She stayed there, asthe men sipped tea downstairs with Rasheed, smoked, chatted.
Rasheed had told Mariam that she was not to come downuntil the visitors had leftMariam didn't mind. In truth, she was even flattered. Rasheedsaw sanctity in what they had together. Her honor, hernamoos,was something worth guarding to him. She felt prized by hisprotectiveness. Treasured and significant.
On the third and last day of Eid, Rasheed went to visit somefriends. Mariam, who'd had a queasy stomach all night, boiledsome water and made herself a cup of green tea sprinkledwith crushed cardamom. In the living room, she took in theaftermath of the previous night's Eid visits: the overturnedcups, the half-chewed pumpkin seeds stashed betweenmattresses, the plates crusted with the outline of last night'smeal. Mariam set about cleaning up the mess, marveling athow energetically lazy men could be.
She didn't mean to go into Rasheed's room. But the cleaningtook her from the living room to the stairs, and then to thehallway upstairs and t............
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