There is a memory that I dearly wish I could show to you, by telepathy
or by technology, though I fear that the moment will die with those of us who were there.
The sun was lumbering down the backside of the mountains out West
, seeming to take longer in its final fifteen degrees of sky than it had in the last ninety, a tennis ball sized lump of glowing iron
smashing down through the countless crags and draws of these ancient peaks
, and bringing a last ray
onto the paths of how many home-bound shepherds
, how many women bringing in the scattered children, how many sleepy mujahidin
We sat out under the plywood awning, burning one last nail before heading inside to start loading magazines and cracking jokes
about dying in a nighttime helicopter mishap. And suddenly- - -
The sky was magnificent.
This was no television sky
, this was no Heavens-like-a-hotel-wall that you could be surrounded by in your moments of boredom and ecstasy both and still ignore.
burned down to filters
, frost collected in beards, and the smoke pit was quiet. Angels hovered under the eaves, grateful for a moment of respite from the noise of ten young killers
The largest peak, the one we called Musharraf's
Middle Finger, wasn't just a great place for the muj to put a mortar tube
anymore. It was haloed
with the last moments that we might ever see of the sun, a mellow golden-sepia
that warmed us with spectacle in lieu of radiant heat
The sun dragged its color behind it like a pack of dogs, up into the clouds that always seemed to brew on the Pak side of Af
, vaulting up and up and up into a magnificent orange-crimson-rust gradient that is impossible to recreate with pigment
- I've tried a thousand times to paint it and never will
. Rust gave way to a razorthin line of verdance
, an almost imperceptible, impossible, incredible border of emerald green that took the sky into the color of a tropical ocean, crystal blue darkening, darkening, now the indigo of a perfect sapphire on your lover's neck, now Ahab's seas
, and fading into the blackest black, what the Pashtuns
call "tor-ta-lub", darker than midnight, the Void. The color of outer space from the Earth, when no stars yet gleam.
And all around, as far as the eye could see in any direction from our terrible valley, the mountains were like the many-toothed jaws of a shark
, the sky now our last glimpse of anything other than the cold and wet and dark of a predator's belly. The country was finally swallowing us up, obscenely literal, the peaks flashing with mica
reflections of the petering efforts of the star Sol
, the mountains grey, blue, brown, gripped in shadow and fading light
, but never green, not in this land of dust and hunger.
The sun banked downwards
and the wonder followed, the Void expanding ominously, an oil-drop ever thinner but no less pitch, no more translucent, replacing color with the carbon buildup of burnt powder and then the wings that perched on Pallas
, the line of green pressed evermore dense and soon it too was gone, replaced with the uneven glimmer of stars and galaxies, the Milky Way
, the lights of a hundred thousand suns all that was left to remind us that we hadn't, yet, been consumed