Libmonster ID: UK-1337
Author(s) of the publication: RANA OF THE ANDES

story

RANA OF THE ANDES

(Afghanistan)

The cold winter day was waning, and evening was fast approaching. Believe me, I really needed money: as soon as the cold weather came, I began to dream of a warm jacket. I sat at the edge of the road in the new part of Kabul and watched the passersby carefully, hoping that one of them would come up, someone would finally bring me shoes to fix or something. However, in complete indifference to me, everyone hurried about their business. It was getting colder by the minute. The cold air seeped under my pathetic clothes, and I shivered with cold. I hid my nose in a dirty headscarf, and rubbed my stiff fingers together, trying unsuccessfully to warm them. It's not going to work today, I told myself. "I'll be freezing to death by nightfall, poor man." Today, no one will bring anything to fix it." With numb hands, I began to gather up my tools. Then I noticed a young, beautiful woman stop in front of me. From the plastic bag, she took out a pair of blue shoes and asked politely::

"If you don't mind, take a look at these shoes and fix them if you can."

I, who had not even dreamed of any work today, was delighted and readily took the shoes:

"Of course, it's my job.

After examining the shoes, I realized that it would take some time to fix them, and I said:

"It will take time to fix. Go shopping for a while. When you get back, your shoes will be ready.

She didn't like my suggestion very much, but she left. When she returned after a while, she asked with a smile:

- Are the shoes ready? How much do I owe you?

"Come on, if you don't have any money, don't worry. The woman looked at me carefully, handed me a 50 afgani note, and left.

The next morning I saw this young woman again, more like a girl, outside my workshop. She greeted me warmly and kindly asked me to take a break from my work. I thought she wanted to talk to me about something, but she didn't talk to me and left. Probably in a hurry.

A day later, before I could open my workshop, this beautiful, elegant girl appeared again. After a warm greeting, she handed me her purse. The purse is new, but the lock is jammed:

"Can you do something with my purse?"

"Why not?"

While I was busy with my purse, I stole glances at the girl and noticed that she was looking at me very intently. And suddenly, softly and tenderly, she asked::

"What's your name?"

- Gul Ahmad.

"Gul Ahmad! Beautiful name. How do you like your job? What do you see in it?

"...Um... She gives me something.

- How much can you earn in a day?

- As when. Depends on the job. Sometimes a lot, and sometimes very little.

- And when there is a lot, how much is it?

"A hundred, a hundred and fifty will do.

"And that's what you live on?"

- Of course, you don't really go on a rampage. But I try to fit in, because there's nothing else.

"Why don't you do something else?"

- Yes, there is no other job, so where can you find it?

"Are you married?"

"Not yet.

"Who do you live with?"

"With my parents and two sisters.

With that, I handed her the repaired purse. She paid and left. And in my heart I felt: "I should have asked her name!" But she was already out of sight.

* * *

On this crooked street in the new part of Kabul, the crowd was getting bigger by the minute. Someone brought me some sandals from the time of Emir Timur to fix. They were so tattered that I was very nervous when I sewed them up. As I finished my work, I heard a familiar female voice:

"Hey, Ghoul.

I really liked the address "Gul". I never heard it from anyone else's lips, only from my mother. I looked up, and there she was. I said hello, started talking, and suddenly she asks::

"Do you want to go to a place with me tonight?"

I was dumbfounded.

"What?" What?! Go somewhere with you?

"Yes, is it that dangerous?" I want you to be my guest tonight.

I... me?"

"Yes, you! There's a little restaurant right here, so we'll sit there.

"I didn't think anything of it. Maybe I should work a little... After all, I need the money.

"Come on, let's go. I'll reimburse you for the time you spend with me.


* Afgani (AFN, English - afghani) - the monetary unit of Afghanistan, equal to 100 pools (a small coin). Currently in circulation are banknotes in denominations of 1000, 500, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 afgani and coins in denominations of 5, 2 and 1 Afgani ($1 is approximately equal to AFN 50).

** Emir Timur Shah-ruler of the Afghan state in 1773-1793.

page 75

"I'm sorry, but these clothes are not suitable for going to a restaurant.

- why? What about your clothes? Okay, go like this for now, and then we'll sort out your clothes.

Reluctantly, I agreed with her. After all, she is such a beautiful, sophisticated, modern girl and not greedy towards me at all... It all seemed like a dream, and I was confused.

* * *

We came to one of the most luxurious restaurants in the new city. I must admit, I was in a restaurant for the first time.

"What are you going to eat?" "What is it?" she asked.

"I don't know what you'll order."..

She ordered a variety of dishes, and in no time at all, our table was bursting with food... To tell you the truth, I've never eaten anything so delicious in all my 20 years... Why is such a beautiful, refined girl so kind to me? I wondered. As if she had heard my thoughts, she looked at me intently and said softly::

"Do you wonder why I'm doing all this?"

- It's boring...

"I don't know. I think you're very nice. Although you haven't asked me anything yet, I'll tell you about myself.

- Yes, I wanted to ask several times, but I didn't know how to do it.

"My name is Shkela. I came from Canada with my mother. Here we live in the house of a relative... I want to marry a compatriot in my homeland and take him to Canada with me.

"Ha...ha... ha... What can I do to help you with this?" She lifted a spoonful of pilaf to her mouth, chewed a little, straightened her hair, and answered:

- I came to Kabul a month ago and saw a lot of different people... I don't know why you got my attention. I want to make a life friend of someone like you: simple, honest, and poor. I liked you from the first moment I saw you, and I feel like I've chosen who I was looking for.

She swallowed another spoonful of pilaf, her eyes fixed on me, waiting for my answer.

I was taken aback by her words, so I said:

"What are you saying? Where are you and where am I?! I'm a poor shoemaker... uneducated... You're from another life!..

- What does poverty have to do with it? I have everything. I just want to marry someone pure-hearted like you.

"But I'm a beggar!"..

"I'll help you." You will become a very wealthy person. If you come to Canada with me, you'll be fine. Find a good job, get an education.

"And my parents, my sisters?"

"You can send them money from there... It's good for you, too, and I'll get what I've been looking for.

I was silent. The woman's words puzzled me. And she went on:

"Okay, think about it. You don't have to give an answer today. You can answer later.

At home, I told him what had happened. My mother was overjoyed: "Get her home address so we can visit her." But I still couldn't understand why this woman who had come from abroad was so fond of me.

On Monday, I went back to the workshop. Reluctantly, he opened it and reluctantly set to work on the rest of the day before. It was still morning when she came again. Today she looked even more attractive than before, and to tell the truth, for the first time love came to my heart. I stood up and greeted her.

"Have you thought about my offer?"

- yes.

"So what did you decide?"

"If all this is true, it will be a great miracle for me and my family.

"Exactly," the girl laughed. "Today we'll go and buy you a decent suit and new shoes, because I want you to show up to my mother tomorrow in a decent way."

- Have you consulted your other relatives?

"I told you, there's only my mother in my life. She has bad legs and can't go out. My father is in Canada, and he is infirm. And I told my mother all about you... She'll be happy to see you."

I liked every word the girl said. I got to know her better now... She was very beautiful, gentle, and spoke affectionately. That day, I locked up my workshop at noon and we set off for the city. The girl herself bought me a suit and shoes and appointed a place where I should stand on Wednesday at 12 o'clock in this very suit. She will come with her mother for small purchases, and then I will meet a future relative. On the way back, I'll walk them home and see her family.

On Wednesday, as promised, I stood at the designated spot. Shkela was a little late. In the taxi, she was sitting with her mother, an old, sophisticated, withered woman. She returned my greeting with particular courtesy:

"Oh, son, you're so beautiful, I'm glad to see you... My daughter has told me a lot about you.

"Gul," Shkela interrupted, " get in the car, let's buy something and go home."

I sat in the front seat of the taxi. On the way, her mother started talking to me:

"I'm very happy to see you, Ghoul... This is exactly how I imagined you to be-a handsome and noble man.

At this time, we arrived at a jewelry store near the bridge over the Kabul River near Baghe Omumi... Shkela told the driver to stop and told me:

"Mom's going to sit here, and you and I are going to buy something.".. Come on, my mother's legs are bad."

"I wish I could go with you," her mother sighed... "Come on, you two go and come back quickly, because my heart is tight."

Shkela entered the jewelry store, and I followed her... She immediately picked up the large gold set as confidently as if she had seen it before and asked the vendor:

"Same price as this morning?" Don't throw it off?

"No, I told you this morning that I couldn't. Otherwise, I have no choice.

"Okay, write out the bill. My fiance will stay here with you, and I'll go back to the taxi for a moment. It's hard for Mom to walk, so let her look at the jewelry once.

The salesman looked at me and nodded. He turned back to Shkela.

"Well, your fiance will sit here, and you will go quietly.

"You sit down," she said, turning to me, " I'll just show my mom the headset and come right back."

I smiled and said yes, and Shkela left. The jeweler wrote out an invoice in my name and placed it in front of me - 3,500 US dollars.

After a long time, Shkela didn't show up... After waiting a little longer, I went out of the store with the bill in my hand, with the jeweler's permission, to see what had happened. The owner was standing behind me. I looked around: the road was empty - no taxi, no Shkela, no her mother.

Only the jeweler and I were standing on the side of the road.

January 2005, Kabul. Microdistrict**

Translated from Pashto by A. S. GERASIMOV


* Bage omumi-a public park.

** Microdistrict - a district in Kabul built by Soviet specialists in the 1970s, consisting of three-story panel buildings with all amenities, where civil servants, teachers of lyceums and universities lived, etc. There was only one such district in Kabul.


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