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The Kite Runner


The Kite Runner: Page 61


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Give it up. That's my advice to

you."




Duly noted," I said. "Now, perhaps you'll tell me why.



"That means you want the long answer," he said, his voice impassive, not
reacting at all to my curt tone. He pressed his hands palm to palm, as if he were
kneeling before the Virgin Mary. "Let's assume the story you gave me is true,
though I'd bet my pension a good deal of it is either fabricated or omitted.
Not
that I care, mind you. You're here, he's here, that's all that matters. Even so, your
petition faces significant obstacles, not the least of which is that this child is not
an orphan."



"Of course he is."



"Not legally he isn't."



"His parents were executed in the street. The neighbors saw it," I said,
glad we were speaking in English.



"You have death certificates?"



"Death certificates? This is Afghanistan we're talking about. Most people
there don't have birth certificates."



His glassy eyes didn't so much as blink. "I don't make the laws, sir. Your
outrage notwithstanding, you still need to prove the parents are deceased. The
boy has to be declared a legal orphan."



"But-



ii



"You wanted the long answer and I'm giving it to you. Your next problem
is that you need the cooperation of the child's country of origin. Now, that's
difficult under the best of circumstances, and, to quote you, this is Afghanistan
we're talking about. We don't have an American embassy in Kabul. That makes
things extremely complicated. Just about impossible."



What are you saying, that I should throw him back on the streets?" I said.




I didn't say that.



"He was sexually abused," I said, thinking of the bells around Sohrab's
ankles, the mascara on his eyes.



"I'm sorry to hear that," Andrews's mouth said. The way he was looking at
me, though, we might as well have been talking about the weather. "But that is
not going to make the INS issue this young fellow a visa."



"What are you saying?"



"I'm saying that if you want to help, send money to a reputable relief
organization. Volunteer at a refugee camp. But at this point in time, we strongly
discourage U.S. citizens from attempting to adopt Afghan children."



I got up. "Come on, Sohrab," I said in Farsi. Sohrab slid next to me, rested
his head on my hip. I remembered the Polaroid of him and Hassan standing that
same way. "Can I ask you something, Mr. Andrews?"



'Yes.



"Do you have children?"



For the first time, he blinked.



"Well, do you? It's a simple question."



He was silent.



"I thought so," I said, taking Sohrab's hand. "They ought to put someone in
your chair who knows what it's like to want a child." I turned to go, Sohrab
trailing me.




Can I ask you a question?" Andrews called.



"Go ahead."



"Have you promised this child you'll take him with you?"



"What if I have?"



He shook his head. "It's a dangerous business, making promises to kids."
He sighed and opened his desk drawer again. "You mean to pursue this?" he said,
rummaging through papers.



"I mean to pursue this."



He produced a business card. "Then I advise you to get a good
immigration lawyer. Omar Faisal works here in Islamabad. You can tell him I
sent you."



I took the card from him. "Thanks," I muttered.



"Good luck," he said. As we exited the room, I glanced over my shoulder.
Andrews was standing in a rectangle of sunlight, absently staring out the
window, his hands turning the potted tomato plants toward the sun, petting
them lovingly.



"TAKE CARE," the secretary said as we passed her desk.



"Your boss could use some manners," I said. I expected her to roll her
eyes, maybe nod in that "I know, everybody says that," kind of way. Instead, she
lowered her voice. "Poor Ray. He hasn't been the same since his daughter died."



I raised an eyebrow.




Suicide," she whispered.



"I know it sounds crazy, but I find myself wondering what his favorite _qurma.
will be, or his favorite subject in school. I picture myself helping him with
homework..." She laughed. In the bathroom, the water had stopped running. I
could hear Sohrab in there, shifting in the tub, spilling water over the sides.



"You're going to be great," I said.



"Oh, I almost forgot! I called Kaka Sharif."



I remembered him reciting a poem at our nika from a scrap of hotel
stationery paper. His son had held the Koran over our heads as Soraya and I had
walked toward the stage, smiling at the flashing cameras. "What did he say?"



"Well, he's going to stir the pot for us. He'll call some of his INS buddies,"
she said.



"That's really great news," I said. "I can't wait for you to see Sohrab."



"I can't wait to see you," she said.



I hung up smiling.



ON THE TAXI RIDE back to the hotel, Sohrab rested his head on the window, kept
staring at the passing buildings, the rows of gum trees. His breath fogged the
glass, cleared, fogged it again. I waited for him to ask me about the meeting but
he didn't.




ON THE OTHER SIDE of the closed bathroom door the water was running. Since
the day we'd checked into the hotel, Sohrab took a long bath every night before
bed. In Kabul, hot running water had been like fathers, a rare commodity. Now
Sohrab spent almost an hour a night in the bath, soaking in the soapy water,
scrubbing. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I called Soraya. I glanced at the thin line
of light under the bathroom door. Do you feel clean yet, Sohrab? I passed on to
Soraya what Raymond Andrews had told me. "So what do you think?" I said.



"We have to think he's wrong." She told me she had called a few adoption
agencies that arranged international adoptions. She hadn't yet found one that
would consider doing an Afghan adoption, but she was still looking.



"How are your parents taking the news?"



"Madar is happy for us. You know how she feels about you, Amir, you can
do no wrong in her eyes. Padar... well, as always, he's a little harder to read. He's
not saying much."



"And you? Are you happy?"



I heard her shifting the receiver to her other hand. "I think we'll be good
for your nephew, but maybe that little boy will be good for us too."



"I was thinking the same thing."



Sohrab emerged from the bathroom a few minutes later. He had barely
said a dozen words since the meeting with Raymond Andrews and my attempts
at conversation had only met with a nod or a monosyllabic reply. He climbed into
bed, pulled the blanket to his chin. Within minutes, he was snoring.



I wiped a circle on the fogged-up mirror and shaved with one of the
hotel's old-fashioned razors, the type that opened and you slid the blade in. Then




I took my own bath, lay there until the steaming hot water turned cold and my
skin shriveled up. I lay there drifting, wondering, imagining...



OMAR FAISAL WAS CHUBBY, dark, had dimpled cheeks, black button eyes, and
an affable, gap-toothed smile. His thinning gray hair was tied back in a ponytail.
He wore a brown corduroy suit with leather elbow patches and carried a worn,
overstuffed briefcase. The handle was missing, so he clutched the briefcase to his
chest. He was the sort of fellow who started a lot of sentences with a laugh and
an unnecessary apology, like I'm sorry, I'll be there at five. Laugh. When I had
called him, he had insisted on coming out to meet us. "I'm sorry, the cabbies in
this town are sharks," he said in perfect English, without a trace of an accent.
"They smell a foreigner, they triple their fares."



He pushed through the door, all smiles and apologies, wheezing a little
and sweating. He wiped his brow with a handkerchief and opened his briefcase,
rummaged in it for a notepad and apologized for the sheets of paper that spilled
on the bed. Sitting cross-legged on his bed, Sohrab kept one eye on the muted
television, the other on the harried lawyer. I had told him in the morning that
Faisal would be coming and he had nodded, almost asked something, and had
just gone on watching a show with talking animals.



"Here we are," Faisal said, flipping open a yellow legal notepad. "I hope
my children take after their mother when it comes to organization. I'm sorry,
probably not the sort of thing you want to hear from your prospective lawyer,
heh?" He laughed.



"Well, Raymond Andrews thinks highly of you."



"He did?"



"Oh yes.... So you're familiar with my situation?"



Faisal dabbed at the sweat beads above his lips. "I'm familiar with the
version of the situation you gave Mr. Andrews," he said. His cheeks dimpled with
a coy smile. He turned to Sohrab. "This must be the young man who's causing all
the trouble," he said in Farsi.

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