Bitter End to Sweet Dreams; Fatima and Abul Fazl
“I think autumn has come, then spring comes and autumn returns again. Everything is repeated before my eyes and nothing is interesting to me.” A view of the fresh flower by the window of one of the cafes where we were sitting. The petals tremble, and so does he. He thinks again of Fatima’s memories when they walked that path together every day, and perhaps her laughter and calmness still resonate in his ears. These are all memories of Abul Fazl. After the afternoon of June 12, he feels older, weaker and, most importantly, more homesick. He does not miss this and that, just misses Fatima’s jokes. Sometimes when he looks at his hands, he sees blood instead of the tangled lines of his palms. He sees the blood of Fatima, whom he cared for deeply. His hands bear witness to the realities of that day.
He smiles and says from the first day he saw Fatima, he could not take his eyes away from her innocent ones. Fatima was a graduate the faculty of painting of Kabul University while Abul Fazl was a photography graduate of the same university.
They meet for the first time in an animation project (Joseph and Zulaikha) at the French Cultural Institute. In every animated scene, when Zulaikha yearns to be with Joseph, Abul Fazl sometimes glances at her and make her laugh with his jokes, and celebrates being with Fatima in the same short moments. Fatima was unaware of Abul Fazl’s romantic feelings and he did not confess until the day when it snowed heavily and the ground had turned all white.
A few days pass. Abul Fazl sometimes practices in front of the mirror and sometimes with himself, his conversations with Fatima, whom he wants to propose to. On a day that was as cold and dry as all the days of winter, Abul Fazl talked to himself all the way to work so that he would not forget a word of what he had said. The wind was more restless that day than it was before, and it blew fast and shook the leaves and branches of the trees. When he entered their place of work, he always saw Fatima’s encouraging presence there but that day Fatima came later. When the moments passed and he found an excuse to talk, in the few seconds that Fatima looked at him with her big eyes and waited for his words, he forgot everything he had to say. Finally, with his heart pounding and his cheeks flushed, he speaks of his love for her. After hearing all his words, Fatima does not say a word and leaves him. That night, sleep does not come to Abul Fazl’s eyes. A few days pass and Fatima gives her father’s contact number to Abul Fazl to talk to her father. Abul Fazl swiftly dials the number and realizes that the answer is yes. At that moment, he considers himself the happiest man in Kabul. He wants to fly up and breathe as much as he can. A month later, they celebrate their engagement in the last days of winter: “At that time, I felt as though I was given the whole world.”
They start the new year of 2020 together and after a few months, they complete the animation project of Joseph and Zulaikha. The alleys of Kabul and the corners of the city witness the footsteps of their love, who walk slowly and together, laughing and joking. Pul Surkh area is witnessing a lot of romance, witnessing the excitement of young girls and boys who may consider it their sanctuary. Fatima and Abul Fazl also experience the cafes, bookstores, stores and even the streets and alleys of Pul Surkh. “We always walked from Pul Surkh to Pul Sokhta, and we never got tired of talking. We called and talked again at night. I always wanted to talk to Fatima, and nyone that was not her was a stranger to me.”
I try not to forget her last smile
I will not forget her last day, her last meeting, her last smile, her last photo and her last memory. On Thursday, Fatima and her colleagues at “Afghan Film” held a program in which Fatima invited Abul Fazl as her special guest. On the afternoon, when Abul Fazl goes to the Afghan Film Program, he sees Fatima at the front gate, who, like all days, was beautiful and dressed in pink and with simple make-up. In the hustle and bustle of the guests and the organizers, she shone like a star before his eyes.
That day, more than any other day, she takes Abul Fazl by the hand and they watch the movie together. After the program, they take a photo together and maybe their last photo. They eat together for the last time and on their way to Fatima’s house, she slowly put her head on Abul Fazl’s shoulder and looks out the car at Kabul. Everything passed that day for the last time and was just a memory.
Frequent but unanswered calls
The loud sound of an explosion… looks at his watch, 2:50 PM Monday, June 12. His heart trembles but he tries to comfort himself. He opens Facebook to get more news from his friends. He sees the news in the media: “Explosion in the west of Kabul”.
He can’t stand it and uploads the words of his heart on Facebook in two sentences. He goes to his mobile contacts page, at exactly 1:45 PM, he last spoke to Fatima, who had left Afghan Film and was going to the Ministry of Information and Culture. There they signed their leave form for 13 days after. They talked for about 43 minutes, and Fatima joked that she would present her new work in Afghan films tomorrow and invite Abul Fazl to the “Hot Bread, Hot Kebab” restaurant. When their jokes are over, they say goodbye. Fatima sends the last message to Abul Fazl when she arrives at the Ministry of Information and Culture.
At 3:00 PM, Abul Fazl picks up the phone and calls Fatima. Her cell phone is off. It rings twice more and is off again. At 3:30 PM, he calls again and her cell phone is still off. He thinks Fatima must have arrived home by 3:30 PM. He calls Fatima’s sister and only finds out that she is not there. At 4:30 PM, he calls Fatima again. The mobile is still off. He calls her brother and says he is not with Fatima. They were sure that Fatima would leave at four o’clock in the evening, and arrive home at five or six o’clock. Minutes pass slowly. Moments sit like an arrow on Abul Fazl’s throat and he is worried about Fatima. It’s been a few hours, but he still hasn’t heard her voice. Every day when she arrives home, she informs him by telephone that she has arrived home but where is she today? He looks at her Messenger account, which was last online at 1:40 PM, and her last message was a heart sticker. When it is five o’clock, Abul Fazl is scared and goes to her home. He tells everyone that Fatima had taken a leave of absence today and had to get home by three o’clock.
It is six o’clock. Abul Fazl and Ali Asghar, Fatima’s brother, visit all the hospitals, from 100 Bed Barchi Hospital to Mohammad Ali Hospital, from Ali Sina Hospital to Estiqlal Hospital and Forensic Medical Hospital. There is no news of Fatima anywhere, and the small room in the house where she mostly painted or talked to Abul Fazl was empty. They go to the Emergency Hospital at seven o’clock at night. Only the wounded and dead are there. They find the girl who was sitting in the car next to Fatima in Estiqlal Hospital. As she got out of the car, part of her body was burned by the blast. When a picture of Fatima is shown, she says that she does not remember her. “We were very happy and we thought it would be okay, until we went to Forensic Medical Hospital again and the characteristics they gave were similar to Fatima. They did not let us see her that night, and the next day at 9 o’clock they told us to leave. That night, Abul Fazl did not sleep until morning and stared at Fatima’s photos until dawn and prayed that she would be safe.
Early in the morning, when they go to Forensic Medical Hospital, after delay until 9:30 AM, they are taken to identify Fatima. Abul Fazl does not dare to see Fatima in that state. Fatima’s mother and brother go to the room for identification. After ten minutes, Abul Fazl hears the sound of crying and screaming. It is as if his brain is emptied, his legs are weakened, and the world, in all its greatness, envelops him. That day, Fatima was taken home with him, not safe, but burned. Even from the severity of the burn, their engagement ring was fused with her flesh and skin. Fatima’s eyes were closed and she seemed to be calm.
After that day, Abul Fazl became accustomed only to Fatima’s vacancy, and when he sits at 10 o’clock at night, he misses talking to her. All the paths they took together now he walks on them alone. “When I see the burnt photo of the car, I do not know how to bear that she burned and died.”
Fatima was a good painter. She had several collections of paintings that were shown in several exhibitions. She painted on white canvas but she could never save his life with her paint. The only color of his life was the color of blood.
June 12, Monday, Fatima and seven others were killed and six others were injured when a landmine exploded in two passenger cars in west of Kabul.