I spent some time in Afghanistan working for NATO. There are many places in the world that have a high quotient of misery, and I have lived in a few of them. Where we happen to be born, and also when, largely determines the kind of opportunities that will or will not present themselves during our individual lifetime.
He had no legs below the knees. I do not know how he learned the words of English that he said to me.
“Mister, mister, please help me.”
I had seen him coming. Our whole group had seen him coming. He pulled himself towards us on a piece of wood with wheels bolted to the underside. His ragged jeans were rolled up and pinned where his legs ended abruptly. We were on our way to a dinner hosted by our military bosses. It was inside a heavily fortified area we had no parking clearance for. He picked me, out of our group of more than a dozen.
I was in a bad mood. My back hurt, and we had spent several hours fighting Kabul’s insane traffic, moving across the city from our hotel to this base for a dinner I didn’t really want to be a part of.
“I need medicine. I need doctor.” His outstretched hands grasped up at me. He tried to hold onto my pants. Black eyes pleading for something, anything better than his current existence.
I pushed him away with my own functional legs.
He tried again. “Mister, mister.”
“Yawazi mee pregda! Leave me alone.”
He didn’t leave me alone. He visits me often when I sleep, rolling towards me, saying, “Mister, mister, please help me.”
My quotient of misery, on his rolling board, always pulling on my pant legs. Reminding me to be a little better than I am next time.
I don’t remember what dinner tasted like.