Editor’s note: This story was inspired by previous times—back in the 1980s and early 90s—when Afghan boys over the age of eighteen were required to serve in the Army.

The voice of the school bell rang like always. The boys all came out, some running. Among the students was Naveed with his untidy hair. He was wearing a white shirt with black trousers. He seemed depressed, lost in deep thinking. Slowly he walked in the direction of his house. He didn’t go to the door but stood for a few minutes looking around. There were two doors with entries to the yard, one open, the other closed. 

A girl was there sweeping the yard, and when she saw him looking at her, she stood up and asked to be excused from these rowdy boys. Then she closed the door.

Naveed again walked to his house. When he arrived home it was nearly dark. He put his books away but he didn’t eat dinner. When he went to bed he thought about what would happen and what he would do. He thought about how his family had one son and if he were to go away from his family, they would be left alone.

All these relationships were held together by kindness. Forgetting love, it is very difficult.

He thought again about the girl, how she made herself busy with yard work, and came to the door for that partial view of him. In his mind was his teacher’s speech—how his teacher said, “Today Afghanistan needs the young generation to serve their country. This is an opportunity to bring your Islamic conscience to the battlefield, because to suffer martyrdom is the way of truth.”

Night passed in thought about tomorrow morning when he would say goodbye and leave home, riding in that car which all young boys rode. He saw the car move, and his family watching from behind, until the car was so far away, his family seemed like dust. 

By Yalda J.

Afghan National Army non-commissioned officer recruits march through colored smoke during a parade to mark a graduation ceremony at the Turkish-run Camp Ghazi. Ahmad Masood / Reuters