Alex arrives at the Taliban safe house in the foothills of the Hindu Kush, she’s terrified.
As soon as I walked in, an old woman shuffled up to me, she was creepy, the hair on her upper lip was right out of a freak show. She grabbed my elbow, I pulled away from her, she uttered something unintelligible and grabbed me back, this time with surprising force for an old hag.
The room was large with typical ceiling lights, three bulbs in frosted glass shades in the middle of a slow moving fan. There are eight men, seated around a low coffee table speaking in low tones and smoking, the foul smelling French Gauloises permeated the room. I began to cough, the hag yanked on my arm, it hurt.
God, I’m scared. I’m thinking of Patty Hurst, she was about my age when she was kidnapped. The idea of falling for one of these creeps and actually participating in their lifestyle turned my stomach.
Al Qaeda and the Taliban are both terrorist groups but they differ in their founding principals and tribal allegiance. The Taliban follow a combination of Sharia law and tribal codes with a mission of sustaining a community lifestyle based upon a literal and extreme interpretation of the Koran. Al Qaeda also follows Sharia law but pursues a global agenda, one designed to disrupt the Western power structure. They work together as long as there is compensation. Money is the grease that makes their wheels turn, regardless of who controls the wheels.
The one issuing orders is young, he doesn’t look older than me but of course, he has to be. They call him Omar. His beard is about four days old, like the European guys and now fashionable with Americans. His hair is long, tied back in a bob. He’s dressed in a black Jubba from neck to toe. He’s average in height and build and handsome, in a dark masculine way. In spite of my impossible circumstances, I find myself strangely attracted to him; I keep thinking of Patty Hurst.
That creepy woman from the kitchen takes me by the elbow again, she leads me down a dark smelly hallway, everything about this place is smelly. She pushes me into a small room, there are a cot, a sink and a stinking hole in the floor surrounded by stained, cracked, porcelain with ribbed foot placements. A poor excuse for a toilet, no paper, only a bucket of water and a dirty rag for washing your hands. There’s a single low wattage lightbulb in the ceiling, and a window, small, close to the ceiling, with bars. The glass is opaque. Light comes through but you can’t see out. I’m cold, no heat, there was a small brazier burning charcoal in the common room and, I assume, in the “talker’s” bedroom.
The kitchen woman leaves, her key rattles in the lock, I’m alone, it’s quiet and I’m scared.
The key back in the lock fractures the silence, Christ, she’s back.
She grunts when she enters and throws a pile of cotton on the bed; a thin blanket, a burka, a hajib, and flip-flops. Her hand motions make it clear, I’m to change into these clothes. I turn my back to her and pull off my jeans, slowly, one leg at a time. As I unbuttoned my blouse she moves to the front of me, leering, with a grin, this broad is a pervert. My underwear is disgusting, the same thong and bra I was wearing the day of the explosion, ten days ago. I would wash it in the sink if the water worked.
I turn again, in a useless effort to avoid her stare. Pulling the burka over my head is difficult, the cloth is scratchy and stiff like you get with line drying cotton in low humidity.
She takes my jeans and blouse and leaves, will I ever see them again, I doubt it.
Jesus, I’m so freaking tired, and the cold, it creeps out of every seam in the building. I’m shivering and coughing, I can feel my temperature rising. Please God, send Mustafa, I don’t know how long I can last here.
I fold over the thin cotton blanket, bunch up the hijab as a pillow and pass out.
I don’t know how long I slept. I woke to the noise, It was distant at first, scratchy static, then the voice came through loud and clear, it was the Muadhan, the person who delivers the Adhan, or call to prayer, recited five times a day starting at daybreak.
That creep showed up without warning, no knock on the door, only the key turning in the lock.
She motioned to the hijab, it was a wrinkled mess from a restless night. The creep didn’t look happy, her hand language made it clear she wanted me dressed, now!
She went for my elbow again, I pushed her shoulder with a guttural “back the fuck off lady”.
She doesn’t speak English but understood the universal language, she got my meaning.