FOREIGN EXCHANGE by Nick Hahn (due 2014)

Chap-6 Alex



“Salaam, staa num tsa dhe” (hello, what is your name?)


This was a greeting I hadn’t expected, he spoke in quiet tones as I was lifted up and out of the smell. My legs were cramped and stiff, barely able to support me. The hood was removed and the restraints loosened but not taken off. We were parked on the side of a road, I couldn’t tell if it was dawn or dusk in the dirty grey light that shrouded this god forsaken country day in and day out.

He motioned to the bushes making it plain that this was a rest stop, I was escorted by a subordinate with a rifle slung over his shoulder but he turned his back as I fumbled with my zipper and squatted. If nothing else women were treated with respect in a muslim country if not equality.

Shuffling back to the car the leader offered me a bottle of water, I held it gratefully in both hands in spite of the wrist restraints. The water spilled down my chin as I gulped, the leader carefully pulled the plastic away from my face, he shook his head in a silent admonishment as I gagged.

The hood was back on my head but I was now on the floor in the back seat of the ancient Lada, the Soviet car of choice for lower caste Pakistani’s. This one was sun faded brown with rusted trim, the interior smelled like a locker room after the game. In this case the players all smoked, the strong odor of french Gauloises mixing with sweat and garlic.

There were three of them, two in the front and one in the back with me, his shoes bumping  my head every time we took a corner.

I had no sense of time only the monotony of the sounds; tires, brakes, horns, shouts and Pashto, an eclectic auditory mix assaulting me mile after mile.

Gas stops were frequent, with the fill-cap on my side of the car smells filtered into my stomach already groaning from burnt rubber, garlic, body order and Gauloises cigarettes. I tried to judge the mileage by the time intervals between stops, this was a game we played when Dad took us on vacation in Maine, he loved the certainty of numbers and always reduced an unknown to an equation. In this case I didn’t know the miles per gallon of the old Lada but tried to estimate anyway, it helped to keep my mind occupied and off my circumstances.

I was a kidnap victim, I didn’t know who they were or why they wanted me. The attack took place in broad daylight on a busy bridge in the middle of Islamabad, people were killed, bystanders were hurt. It was sudden, violent, unexpected and without warning. I had no clue as to their objective in snatching a 17 year old American girl without a security clearance and no access to political or military intelligence.  Why hadn’t they gone after Dad, the senior US diplomat in the country?

I wanted to ask them, I wanted to know if Sally and Owen were OK, I wanted to know where they were taking me and what was expected of me. I thought of Patty Hurst, I had read her book and seen the TV production of her story. Would these men expect the same, unquestioned obedience and sex on demand? I was not a virgin, Billy made sure of that in the backseat of his Father’s SUV a year ago. It was the first time for both of us, crude and fumbling, took him 10min to figure out how to unroll that condom still not sure he did it right but apparently good enough, didn’t get pregnant. If these men rape me, would they use a condom, funny the thoughts charging through my throbbing head, I need more water and another pee stop.

Back home in Indiana people read about kidnappings, if they were in our state or other parts of the US we’d express concern but wouldn’t get to excited unless there was a celebrity or other notable citizen or maybe an Amber Alert, I thought of the Patty Hurst case, would I be brainwashed, compromised in some way, induced with drugs to do things I’d never do on my own. When it happened in Pakistan or Afghanistan or other third world countries we shake our head maybe say something to a spouse or friend but quickly move on to the sports page. Unless, of course, it happened to be an Ambassador’s daughter.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s