My parents and I walked home on the single mud lane that pierced the village. All the dwellings were huddled together on either side for warmth and protection. I knew the path so well I could have walked it blind and turned at just the right moment to reach our house, the last one before our village gave way to sand and scrub. My father pushed open our carved wooden door with his shoulders, and we entered our one-room home. Its walls were made of packed mud and straw brightened with white plaster, which my mother kept sparkling clean. A small door led to an enclosed courtyard where we enjoyed the sun without being seen by other eyes.
My mother and I removed our head scarves and placed them on hooks near the door, slipping off our shoes at the same time. I shook out my hair, which reached my waist. For good luck, I touched the curved ibex horns that glowed on a low stand near the door. My father had felled the ibex on one of our Friday afternoon walks. Ever since that day, the horns had held a position of pride in our household, and my fathers friends often praised him for being as nimble as an ibex.
My father and I sat together on the red-and-brown carpet I had knotted when I was ten. His eyes closed for a moment, and I thought he looked especially tired.
Are we walking tomorrow? I asked.
His eyes flew open. Of course, my little one, he replied.
He had to work in the fields in the morning, but he insisted he wouldnt miss our walk together for anything other than Gods command. For you shall soon be a busy bride, he said, and his voice broke.
I looked away, for I couldnt imagine leaving him.
My mother threw dried dung in the stove to boil water for tea. Heres a surprise, she said, bringing us a plate of fresh chickpea cookies. They were fragrant with the essence of roses.
May your hands never ache! my father said.
They were my favorite sweets, and I ate far too many of them. Before long, I became tired and spread out my bedroll near the door, as I always did. I fell asleep to the sound of my parents talking, which reminded me of the cooing of doves, and I think I even saw my father take my mother in his arms and kiss her.
THE NEXT AFTERNOON, I stood in our doorway and watched for my Baba as the other men streamed back from the fields. I always liked to pour his tea for him before he walked in the door. My mother was crouched over the stove, baking bread for our evening meal.
When he didnt arrive, I went back into the house, cracked some walnuts and put them in a small bowl, and placed the irises I had gathered in a vessel with water. Then I went out to look again, for I was eager to begin our walk. Where was he? Many of the other men had returned from the fields and were probably washing off the days dust in their courtyards.
We need some water, my mother said, so I grabbed a clay jug and walked toward the well. On my way, I ran into Ibrahim the dye maker, who gave me a peculiar look.
Go home, he said to me. Your mother needs you.
I was surprised. But she just told me to fetch water, I said.
No matter, he replied. Tell her I told you to go back.
I walked home as quickly as I could, the vessel banging against my knees. As I approached our house, I spotted four men bearing a limp bundle between them. Perhaps there had been an accident in the fields. From time to time, my father brought back stories about how a man got injured by a threshing tool, suffered a kick from a mule, or returned bloodied from a fight. I knew hed tell us what had happened over tea.
The men moved awkwardly because of their burden. The mans face was hidden, cradled on one of their shoulders. I said a prayer for his quick recovery, for it was hard on a family when a man was too ill to work. As the group approached, I noticed that the victims turban was wrapped much like my fathers. But that didnt mean anything, I told myself quickly. Many men wrapped their turbans in a similar way.
Copyright © 2007 by Anita Amirrezvani
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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