When I was a child, it was in my dream to grow into a young man who would go to school and become educated with a hobby and a good job. My wishes were to be happy, without sorrow, to live without hurting anyone. These wishes were like the ones every human has in his heart.

Time passed, day-by-day, month-by-month, and year-by-year. Days passed with light and sunshine. Nights passed with the white shine of the moon and the bright stars. I believed I would grow to have my wishes happen. There were part-time jobs—at the grocery stores, or as a mechanic, or a carpenter with unpleasant conditions. You know, this was because of my empty pocket. I was always a good son for my poor mother who gave me real love; I was alive and had enough potential to be strong and run up against every challenge.

I was impatient for action. I conceded that analysis is useful, that debate and discussion can occasionally yield valuable insights, but deep down, I knew that only action makes things happen. I had become a handsome, strong young man. I thought how lucky I am that almighty Allah had given so much to me and my family. I gave thanks to God for the many gifts; for nature’s perfection, for the sun and the perfect water. I thought, I am a flower of the Afghan garden. Afghanistan has many colorful flowers in its garden the same as me; we can say we are our garden’s flowers.

In my internal conversations I thought that the whole environment was perfect and every moment was beloved by Allah. My heart told me to do something good—do a great job for my poor society and family, something full of honesty and love.

I worked hard because I believed this. I never considered cheating, or fraud or deceit. I had much stamina. I was busy and productive. I didn’t think about sickness, hunger, or homelessness.

Time passed, day-by-day, month-by-month, and year-by-year. I didn’t know that was life passing.

Suddenly I saw negative changes in my country; new wars came blowing in. Everything was damaged and destroyed. I tried to do something for my mother and family to save them from harm. I started a new job in a construction building with a low salary and conditions bad for my health and my soul. With feelings of hunger, sickness, and homelessness, I could not get to my education. After one year, I felt no energy and power. Day-by-day, month-by-month, and year-by-year, I believed I had become an ugly old man.

On one of these long, hard days, I walked into a restaurant to eat lunch. There on the television was our country’s national leader, talking about himself, saying how I did my job more than twenty years and I need more time to be in my position. I am the most respectable, kind caretaker of our nation, compassionate, superior quality, exalted and adored, worshipped, votary grand leader! And now I need your poor people’s votes in the election!

Hearing this, I became sorrowful and wondered, Aren’t humans full of wild animal nature? Where are the great feelings of humanity?

This ended the wishes and dreams of my heart. It became like the end of my life.

This story is like so many of the tales of my country’s generation of youth. Our country is like a garden, filled with thousands of beautiful flowers that bloom and die, while our hearts hope to bloom again.

By Mina T.

Editor’s note: This story was inspired by the true story of a young man the author befriended as a boy.