“Bus Ride to the City,” by Marsha Mathews

Afghanistan, 2013

Father’s beard twitches whenever my older sister, Mezhgan, comes into the room. His eyes glaze the way they do when they fall on a flower in the snow. I have tried and tried to elicit that same response.

I have trimmed my dark brows like Mezhgan’s, I walk slow and purposefully like Mezghan. I have a bright purple banqa like Mezghan. Last summer, I learned to make minced lamb like Mezhgan, and pistachio dessert, too, but I have never once seen Father so much as lift his head for me. Am I not his daughter, too?

I have cried until no tears ran. I walked to the river, and the river explained, “You are Hazaras.” Hazaras. Five mirrors I have shattered because of my small, flat Hazarus nose and my chinky eyes. Why did Mezhgan get the fine, stately nose? The large flower eyes with lids? I love my sister, yes, but even so. I asked the Kabal River to wash her away.

Today, on the bus, Grandmother puts her hand on my arm. I don’t know how she knew. I don’t know how she got the money. But here we are, approaching Kabal, and my heart is all drums. I’ve never seen such commotion. People, everywhere. They walk and walk. So many out at once. The streets, full. And the buildings, tall, taller as we drive . Yet the signs confuse me, so many shapes and colors.

Grandmother doesn’t smile but nods at me as we wait to see the doctor. “When your procedure is over and bandages come off, you will not look Hazarus. Your nose will be large and dignified. Your eyes big, so big.”

My heart tatatats like a kite pushing into a gale. “And Father?”

Her large hands clasp each of my shoulders. “Don’t worry about him,” she whispered. “For he, knows where he’s from, though his features do not shout it.”

My hand reached for my bandaged nose. My fingers touched the soft gauze. My story unraveled.

Printed with permission from Marsha Mathews, copyrighted by Marsha Mathews @ 2013. This piece originally appeared in Issue No. 15 of the Los Angeles Review.

Author: A Room of Her Own

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