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A Cold Summer in Afghanistan

When I was in the eighth grade, I used to go to school with Mustafa. I used to be much better than him at school, and I was able to help him with his homework even though he was very misbehaved.

One day, as per usual, when we came back from working on the farm, he went to prepare lunch, and I went to start the homework for that day. When I got to the language class, I asked Mustafa “what did you do with the language homework?”

Mustafa responded with a joke and then continued by saying, “Mujtaba it is too late to do something now, I should have done it earlier, now the teacher will punish me”.

I was happy to be able to do something for my brother, because he was an example of a perfect brother. He was always kind to me, helped me with his heart and soul, and most importantly, he was great at cooking.

I remember that our homework that week was about the fifth and sixth century poets of the Dari language and literature. In turn, students would show their homework to the teacher, and he would proudly sign under their work.

Mustafa and several other students were in line to show their homework to the teacher. Mustafa was very pale and anxious, as he had to write some of the tasks on the blackboard. He was frozen because he knew nothing to write except the title of the lesson, since I had done all his homework. Then because I was one the best student in the class the teacher asked me to write the homework on the blackboard since I knew it all. I very quickly wrote down all of it and the other students clapped for me. At the same time Mustafa was very embarrassed and was waiting for his punishment. After that the teacher asked me to slap him and Mustafa was looking at me with the sad smile on his face.

The teacher was obviously not joking, and I didn’t expect this at all. I couldn’t do it. Mustafa was my brother, the brother who was super kind to me from the bottom of his heart. The teacher repeated telling me to hit him again and again, while Mustafa stood in front of me with a bitter smile.

Every time I would refuse to slap Mustafa, the teacher would hit my legs with a stick while repeating the words “hit him”.

It was like time had stopped. I was trying to ignore the pain. I could only hear the teacher’s voice in my ear and with each repetition of his words, the strikes to my legs were getting stronger.

In short, I slapped my brother in the face. I don’t know if my slap hurt as much as the teacher’s strikes, but the word that he was repeating had changed and sounded in my ear like a bad song (harder, harder).

When the school hours finished Mustafa wasn’t there anymore, I could only hear the laughter of my fellow students who said how much of a coward I was. The school day was over, and I didn’t know what I had done to Mustafa.

I came home from school with great embarrassment. I found a big silence around the house, and I saw no one. The night was cold and bitter without Mustafa. The following day I woke up and I was still embarrassed. I went alone to fetch the sheep from the farm. Then, when I was getting ready to go to school, I grabbed my books through the window of the guest room, when I heard Mustafa crying. Next to him was my mother, and she was comforting him with tears. They were crying together. I sat by the window and listened to them. Mustafa spoke of leaving school and going to Iran due to the shame he was feeling from his classmates and friends.

I continued to go to school, but without Mustafa, I had no more enthusiasm. I could no longer laugh. My brother’s last touch was the slaps I gave him, and the last words I heard were his crying that forced him to emigrate.

Mujstaba Rahimi

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