Monday, June 25, 2007

No.2: The lucky man

How old were you? “I was sixteen in the war. I left when I was eighteen. I was north of Kabul. Close to Russian border”, he said. I am curious about the moments that changed him, his opinions and prejudices. I imagine my curiosity provokes visions of old places, familiar faces, perhaps haunting sounds or persistent odours. Will he dwell on the injustice of being displaced from his home or is this simply a reminder of those who have long been buried - is this resolve or repair?

Did you fight the Russians? “No, I saw war. I was in village. I was the lucky one. The Russian helicopter, the first I have seen is bombing us, me, my friends. They shoot bombs from 10 o’clock in morning to 5 o’clock in afternoon. Then, two helicopters come. They shoot bombs, missiles and they go. Then two more come. All day.” There are bombs with no sound, shrapnel with no path, air without odour and stories without fear.

Afghanistan has been invaded many times. “There was Pakistan, Russia and United States. After the Russians there was still building left. We still have food. After the Americans there was nothing. They destroy food. They piss in our bread. They shit in our food. They leave a surprise, a bomb, under plate in the house or something. The Americans destroy everything.”

Did you kill anyone? “Civilians have no guns. They are all killed. Soldiers have guns. They are not in villages. They don’t stay. In war civilians get killed and soldiers living.”

Were you afraid? How did it feel? “I was not afraid. I was eating fruit in a tree. My friends say, are you crazy? I am lucky. I knew how to win. I see the helicopter and I run. The helicopter goes this way and I go that way. Helicopter can only shoot bombs where he is looking. I run to other side each time.” He motions with his hands to illustrate his foot strategy for fighting modern wars. “My friends, some of them died. I am lucky.” He has mentioned ‘luck’ several times, not to say he has luck but as if he is luck. He is able to remember his deceased friends and family in this way, not to deserve life any more than they and not to appreciate it any less, but to live believing luck is all that separates the living and the dead. So far he is winning.

All of the while I picture his village as the hideout it may have been. I imagine the vulnerability of a farming community, a simple town plan of sandy stone and clay buildings. I see AK47’s in the hands of a few men who choose to be as steadfast as these century old buildings, the town politicians delivering a community response with bullets, conscious of the only earth they are bound to and the families they love even more. As inaccurate as my imagination may be, I can only depict from the spirit of the man I am sitting with. We are satisfied.

We arrived at my destination, he turned on the interior light of the car, motioned me forward and continued, “One day Russian tank stopped and said to the people, keep going, you are winning, keep going you are winning - a Russian.” He spoke as if his recounting of the war, his dead friends and neighbours, his narrow escapes from Russian bombs, the American shit in his food, and the dead civilians in a war between soldiers was instantly ratified by the Russian’s words. He spoke of justice for those who had no interest in the argument, for the unsuspecting family who had died today and for the lucky man driving this taxi.

As I left the cab he spoke with gratitude saying, “Thanks for the time.” “No, thank you. I asked and you told me.” This is my last thought of the lucky man.

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