The Button

September 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

This is a trial run of some short pieces. Maybe this will work; maybe not. I will publish the conclusion tomorrow.

The Button

It was Malalai’s story before it was mine and it started because I could not find the top of my pen. She had come to class and now was staying an extra hour to work on her composition. She was writing of her father’s house—the house she grew up in outside Kabul when the scent of apricots was in the air. This was before the Russians came when she was a child and the dusty roads were not filled with soldiers with their bad teeth and snarling voices. It was before the bombs. Anyway, she was writing this story and I was going over the sentences but I couldn’t find the top of my pen and if I couldn’t find the top of my pen, I couldn’t correct the sentences because the pen did not fit well in my hand. I said this to Malalai and she laughed. “I know this,” she said. “I know this thing.” Then she told me the story of the button.

It was when she was a student in the University of Kabul before she escaped and came here to the United States. She had this professor. We will call him Mohammed Jalalai. He was a tall and nervous man who would enter the amphitheater where the class was held and sometimes drop his papers or teeter the podium. Students must show respect so someone would help him and no one would laugh and Professor Jalalai would clear his throat and begin his lecture on the cardio-vascular system. While he lectured he would fidget with the second button on his suit jacket. It was a black wool suit jacket, frayed and faded for Professor Jalalai was not a rich man and the Russians with their bombs and bad teeth and snarling voices had taken over his city, his beautiful Kabul. So, he was not a rich man but a nervous one with this one suit jacket and he would play with the button turning it back and forth with the fingers of his left hand while he lectured. The students saw this every Tuesday morning at 7 o’clock in the amphitheater–Professor Jalalai lecturing and playing with his button, droning on about the cardio-vascular system to these young medical students while the Russians made patients that one day the students would try and put back together.
There was a wild boy in the class named Reza who was not a good student. He wanted to be a poet, he said. But his father wanted him to be a doctor. He had black, curly hair and very white teeth. But he was not a serious student and he didn’t care about the cardio-vascular system. It was Spring and the Russians were everywhere. Reza wanted to go for a picnic. He wanted to get out of Kabul and eat apricots.

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