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The Kite Runner


The Kite Runner: Page 62


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"This is Sohrab," I said. "Sohrab, this is Mr. Faisal, the lawyer I told you

about."



Sohrab slid down the side of his bed and shook hands with Omar Faisal.
"Salaam alaykum," he said in a low voice.



"Alaykum salaam, Sohrab," Faisal said. "Did you know you are named
after a great warrior?"



Sohrab nodded. Climbed back onto his bed and lay on his side to watch
TV.



"I didn't know you spoke Farsi so well," I said in English. "Did you grow
up in Kabul?"



"No, I was born in Karachi. But I did live in Kabul for a number of years.
Shar-e-Nau, near the Haji Yaghoub Mosque," Faisal said. "I grew up in Berkeley,
actually. My father opened a music store there in the late sixties. Free love,
headbands, tie-dyed shirts, you name it." He leaned forward. "1 was at
Woodstock."



"Groovy," I said, and Faisal laughed so hard he started sweating all over
again. "Anyway," I continued, "what I told Mr. Andrews was pretty much it, save
for a thing or two. Or maybe three. I'll give you the uncensored version."



He licked a finger and flipped to a blank page, uncapped his pen. "I'd
appreciate that, Amir. And why don't we just keep it in English from here on
out?"



"Fine."



I told him everything that had happened. Told him about my meeting with
Rahim Khan, the trek to Kabul, the orphanage, the stoning at Ghazi Stadium.





"God," he whispered. "I'm sorry, I have such fond memories of Kabul.
Hard to believe it's the same place you're telling me about."



"Have you been there lately?"



"God no."



"It's not Berkeley, I'll tell you that," I said.



"Go on."



I told him the rest, the meeting with Assef, the fight, Sohrab and his
slingshot, our escape back to Pakistan. When I was done, he scribbled a few
notes, breathed in deeply, and gave me a sober look. "Well, Amir, you've got a
tough battle ahead of you."



"One I can win?"



He capped his pen. "At the risk of sounding like Raymond Andrews, it's
not likely. Not impossible, but hardly likely." Gone was the affable smile, the
playful look in his eyes.



"But it's kids like Sohrab who need a home the most," I said. "These rules
and regulations don't make any sense to me."



"You're preaching to the choir, Amir," he said. "But the fact is, take current
immigration laws, adoption agency policies, and the political situation in
Afghanistan, and the deck is stacked against you."



"I don't get it," I said. I wanted to hit something. "I mean, I get it but I don't



get it.




Omar nodded, his brow furrowed. "Well, it's like this. In the aftermath of a
disaster, whether it be natural or man-made--and the Taliban are a disaster,
Amir, believe me--it's always difficult to ascertain that a child is an orphan. Kids
get displaced in refugee camps, or parents just abandon them because they can't
take care of them. Happens all the time. So the INS won't grant a visa unless it's
clear the child meets the definition of an eligible orphan. I'm sorry, I know it
sounds ridiculous, but you need death certificates."



"You've been to Afghanistan," I said. "You know how improbable that is."



"I know," he said. "But let's suppose it's clear that the child has no
surviving parent. Even then, the INS thinks it's good adoption practice to place
the child with someone in his own country so his heritage can be preserved."



"What heritage?" I said. "The Taliban have destroyed what heritage
Afghans had.



You saw what they did to the giant Buddhas in Bamiyan."



"I'm sorry, I'm telling you how the INS works, Amir," Omar said, touching
my arm. He glanced at Sohrab and smiled. Turned back to me. "Now, a child has
to be legally adopted according to the laws and regulations of his own country.
But when you have a country in turmoil, say a country like Afghanistan,
government offices are busy with emergencies, and processing adoptions won't
be a top priority."



I sighed and rubbed my eyes. A pounding headache was settling in just
behind them.



"But let's suppose that somehow Afghanistan gets its act together," Omar
said, crossing his arms on his protruding belly. "It still may not permit this
adoption. In fact, even the more moderate Muslim nations are hesitant with
adoptions because in many of those countries, Islamic law, Shari'a, doesn't
recognize adoption."



"You're telling me to give it up?" I asked, pressing my palm to my
forehead.




"I grew up in the U.S., Amir. If America taught me anything, it's that
quitting is right up there with pissing in the Girl Scouts' lemonade jar. But, as
your lawyer, I have to give you the facts," he said. "Finally, adoption agencies
routinely send staff members to evaluate the child's milieu, and no reasonable
agency is going to send an agent to Afghanistan."



I looked at Sohrab sitting on the bed, watching TV, watching us. He was
sitting the way his father used to, chin resting on one knee.



"I'm his half uncle, does that count for anything?"



"It does if you can prove it. I'm sorry, do you have any papers or anyone
who can support you?"



"No papers," I said, in a tired voice. "No one knew about it. Sohrab didn't
know until I told him, and I myself didn't find out until recently. The only other
person who knows is gone, maybe dead."



"What are my options, Omar?"



"I'll be frank. You don't have a lot of them."



"Well, Jesus, what can I do?"



Omar breathed in, tapped his chin with the pen, let his breath out. "You
could still file an orphan petition, hope for the best. You could do an independent
adoption. That means you'd have to live with Sohrab here in Pakistan, day in and
day out, for the next two years. You could seek asylum on his behalf. That's a
lengthy process and you'd have to prove political persecution. You could request
a humanitarian visa. That's at the discretion of the attorney general and it's not
easily given." He paused. "There is another option, probably your best shot."



What?" I said, leaning forward.




"You could relinquish him to an orphanage here, then file an orphan
petition.



Start your 1-600 form and your home study while he's in a safe place."



"What are those?"



"I'm sorry, the 1-600 is an INS formality. The home study is done by the
adoption agency you choose," Omar said. "It's, you know, to make sure you and
your wife aren't raving lunatics."



"I don't want to do that," I said, looking again at Sohrab. "I promised him I
wouldn't send him back to an orphanage."



"Like I said, it may be your best shot."



We talked a while longer. Then I walked him out to his car, an old VW Bug.
The sun was setting on Islamabad by then, a flaming red nimbus in the west. I
watched the car tilt under Omar's weight as he somehow managed to slide in
behind the wheel. He rolled down the window. "Amir?"



"Yes."



"I meant to tell you in there, about what you're trying to do? I think it's
pretty great."



He waved as he pulled away. Standing outside the hotel room and waving
back, I wished Soraya could be there with me.




SOHRAB HAD TURNED OFF THE TV when 1 went back into the room. I sat on the
edge of my bed, asked him to sit next to me. "Mr. Faisal thinks there is a way 1 can
take you to America with me," I said.



"He does?" Sohrab said, smiling faintly for the first time in days. "When
can we go?"



"Well, that's the thing. It might take a little while. But he said it can be
done and he's going to help us." 1 put my hand on the back of his neck. From
outside, the call to prayer blared through the streets.



"How long?" Sohrab asked.



"I don't know. A while."



Sohrab shrugged and smiled, wider this time. "I don't mind. I can wait. It's
like the sour apples."



"Sour apples?"



"One time, when I was really little, I climbed a tree and ate these green,
sour apples. My stomach swelled and became hard like a drum, it hurt a lot.
Mother said that if I'd just waited for the apples to ripen, I wouldn't have become
sick. So now, whenever I really want something, I try to remember what she said
about the apples."



"Sour apples," I said. "_Mashallah_, you're just about the smartest little
guy I've ever met, Sohrab jan." His ears reddened with a blush.



"Will you take me to that red bridge? The one with the fog?" he said.



Absolutely," I said. "Absolutely.




"And we'll drive up those streets, the ones where all you see is the hood of
the car and the sky?"

"Every single one of them," I said. My eyes stung with tears and I blinked
them away.

"Is English hard to learn?"

"I say, within a year, you'll speak it as well as Farsi."

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