Hamvatan

I walked out of the airport into the stale, humid air of Washington, dragging my suitcase to where taxis parked. The taxi driver was a dark, middle-aged man, maybe in his early forties, who politely asked where I was coming from. I explained that I spent some time in Belgium. He asked if I were from there, and I said that I was Iranian. Something in his half a smile told me that he was from the same area. And indeed I was right. He was Afghani. It was then that we switched languages and spoke in Farsi. I was afraid of misunderstanding him since Afghans speak slightly faster and with a heavier accent. But I kept up. He spoke of Afghanistan as if it were no longer his; perhaps because it really wasn’t, for he had not seen it in more than 20 years.
“I ran away right when the Russians invaded. I haven’t seen it since. It is not possible to go back,” he said sadly.
I felt sorry for the both of us. Sorry for our bitter goodbyes, for what we left behind, for what we couldn’t hold onto.
“The mullahs, what they have done to our countries!” he said and I nodded yes.
He told me that he was an educated man with a degree in Farsi literature in Afghanistan. In America, he said, he became a taxi driver, feeding his family, his wife and two kids. This is what I’ve become here, he said.
I was sad to have ended our sweet conversation in my mother tongue, but I found myself, once again back home. I parted from the friendly hamvatan, who reminded me of Khaled Hosseini’s Kite Runner, and went inside, disappointed by the familiar smell of unfamiliarity.

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