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HOME > Classical Novels > A Thousand Splendid Suns > Chapter 15.
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Chapter 15.
April1978On April 17,1978, the year Mariam turned nineteen, a mannamed Mir Akbar Khyber was found murdered Two days later,there was a large demonstration in Kabul. Everyone in theneighborhood was in the streets talking about it. Through thewindow, Mariam saw neighbors milling about, chatting excitedly,transistor radios pressed to their ears. She saw Fariba leaningagainst the wall of her house, talking with a woman who wasnew to Deh-Mazang. Fariba was smiling, and her palms werepressed against the swell of her pregnant belly. The otherwoman, whose name escaped Mariam, looked older thanFariba, and her hair had an odd purple tint to it. She washolding a little boy's hand. Mariam knew the boy's name wasTariq, because she had heard this woman on the street callafter him by that name.
Mariam and Rasheed didn't join the neighbors. They listenedin on the radio as some ten thousand people poured into thestreets and marched up and down Kabul's government district.
Rasheed said that Mir Akbar Khyber had been a prominentcommunist, and that his supporters were blaming the murderon President Daoud Khan's government. He didn't look at herwhen he said this. These days, he never did anymore, andMariam wasn't ever sure if she was being spoken to.
"What's a communist?" she asked.
Rasheed snorted, and raised both eyebrows. "You don't knowwhat a communist is? Such a simple thing.
Everyone knows. It's common knowledge. You don't…Bah. Idon't know why I'm surprised." Then he crossed his ankles onthe table and mumbled that it was someone who believed inKarl Marxist.
"Who's Karl Marxist?"Rasheed sighed.
On the radio, a woman's voice was saying that Taraki, theleader of the Khalq branch of the PDPA, the Afghancommunist party, was in the streets giving rousing speeches todemonstrators.
"What I meant was, what do they want?" Mariam asked.
"These communists, what is it that they believe?"Rasheed chortled and shook his head, but Mariam thoughtshe saw uncertainty in the way he crossed his arms, the wayhis eyes shifted. "You know nothing, do you? You're like achild. Your brain is empty. There is no information in it.""I ask because-""Chupko.Shut up."Mariam did.
It wasn't easy tolerating him talking this way to her, to bearhis scorn, his ridicule, his insults, his walking past her like shewas nothing but a house cat. But after four years of marriage,Mariam saw clearly how much a woman could tolerate whenshe was afraid And Mariamwas afraid She lived in fear of hisshifting moods, his volatile temperament, his insistence onsteering even mundane exchanges down a confrontational paththat, on occasion, he would resolve with punches, slaps, kicks,and sometimes try to make amends for with polluted apologiesand sometimes not.
In the four years since the day at the bathhouse, there hadbeen six more cycles of hopes raised then dashed, each loss,each collapse, each trip to the doctor more crushing forMariam than the last. With each disappointment, Rasheed hadgrown more remote and resentful Now nothing she did pleasedhim. She cleaned the house, made sure he always had asupply of clean shirts, cooked him his favorite dishes. Once,disastrously, she even bought makeup and put it on for him.
But when he came home, he took one look at her and wincedwith such distaste that she rushed to the bathroom andwashed it all off, tears of shame mixing with soapy water,rouge, and mascara.
Now Mariam dreaded the sound of him coming home in theevening. The key rattling, the creak of the door- these weresounds that set her heart racing. From her bed, she listened totheclick-clack of his heels, to the muffled shuffling of his feetafter he'd shed his shoes. With her ears, she took inventory ofhis doings: chair legs dragged across the floor, the plaintivesqueak of the cane seat when he sat, the clinking of spoonagainst plate, the flutter of newspaper pages flipped, theslurping of water. And as her heart pounded, her mindwondered what excuse he would use that night to pounce onher. There was always something, some minor thing that wouldinfuriate him, because no matter what she did to please him,no matter how thoroughly she submitted to his wants anddemands, it wasn't enough. She could not give him his sonback. In this most essential way, she had failed him-seven timesshe had failed him-and now she was nothing but a burden tohim. She could see it in the way he looked at her,when helooked at her. She was a burden to him.
"What's going to happen?" she asked him now.
Rasheed shot her a sidelong glance. He made a soundbetween a sigh and a groan, dropped his legs from the table,and turned off the radio. He took it upstairs to his room. Heclosed the door.
* * *On April 27, Mariam's question was answered with cracklingsounds and intense, sudden roars. She ran barefoot down tothe living room and found Rasheed already by the window, inhis undershirt, his hair disheveled, palms pressed to the glass.
Mariam made her way to the window next to him. Overhead,she could see military planes zooming past, heading north andeast. Their deafening shrieks hurt her ears. In the distance,loud booms resonated and sudden plumes of smoke rose tothe sky.
"What's going on, Rasheed?" she said. "What is all this?""God knows," he muttered. He tried the radio and got onlystatic.
"What do we do?"Impatiently, Rasheed said, "We wait."* * *Later in the day, Rasheed was still trying the radio as Mariammade rice with spinach sauce in the kitchen. Mariamremembered a time when she had enjoyed, even lookedforward to, cooking for Rasheed. Now cooking was an exercisein heightened anxiety. Thequrma% were always too salty or toobland for his taste. The rice was judged either too greasy ortoo dry, the bread declared too doughy or too crispy.
Rasheed's fault............
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