fish bones

Editor’s note: This story is fiction inspired by many stories from women our writer has heard over the years. She was inspired to write it for all the brave Afghan women and girls who make many sacrifices for their children.

This story starts when I was a child. I was the daughter of a poor family, and we didn’t have enough food for feeding ourselves. When we were eating a meal, my mother would give me her piece of bread. While she was giving me her piece of bread, she would say: “Eat this bread. I am not feeling hungry.” That was the mother’s first lie.  

When I was growing up, my mother went fishing with me. She was cooking the fishes and then said to me: “Eat it, my child.” When I finished eating the fishes, my mother took my fish and ate the meat that was still on the bone. I was really hurt when I saw this, and I took my chopstick and gave her the other fish on my plate. But she suddenly rejected it and said: “I dislike eating fish. Eat your fish.”  This was the mother’s second lie.

Then when I was a student in junior high school, to help me begin my studies, she went to an economic enterprise where she would bring home used matchboxes that needed to be stuck together. It gave her some money to cover our needs.

Once in the cold weather of winter, I woke up from my sleep and looked at my mother. She was still awake. She was sitting close to the light of a candle and was sticking some used matchboxes together.

I said: “Mother, go and sleep. It’s too late.”  She replied: “Go to sleep, dear. I am not tired.” That was the mother’s third lie.

When the time for final exams arrived, I was going to school to take the exam and she waited for me under the hot sun for several hours. As the bell rang indicating the end of the exam, my mother welcomed me and gave me juice. I said: “Mother, you drink it. Maybe you will be thirsty because you were waiting outside in the hot weather.”

She replied: “No, no I am not thirsty. You drink it. I will buy more juice from this cart nearby.” I knew she didn’t have enough money to buy juice. That was the mother’s fourth lie.

After the death of my father due to illness, my poor mother had to be a single parent. She had to provide for all our needs. She was working in a flea market just to feed me.

After I had finished my studies and got a job, it was the time of her retiring, but she didn’t want to. She would go to the marketplace and sell vegetables. I sent her money, but she returned my money. She told me: “I have enough money.” But that too was a lie.

After finishing my Masters degree, I was living in America and was able to have a very comfortable life. I suggested that she come to America. But she ignored that and said: “I am not used to that place.”

In her old age, she got stomach cancer and had to be hospitalized. I went to visit her; she lay in weakness on her bed after having an operation. My mother, who looked so old now, was staring at me deep in thought. She tried to smile and not show her pain, but the disease had made her so weak. I was hurt almost more than I could bear. I came near to her and started shedding tears. She squeezed my hand and said: “Don’t cry, my child, don’t cry,” and, saying this over and over, she passed away.

By Gharsany