We live, and while we live, we have discernible impact. One of the things I adore about writing is the way it survives past the years we have in these shells, these inadequate husks. If we can put words to paper, and those words persist even after we are dust and those we loved are dust as well, a bit of our sparkle and soul remain here, on this planet, with new souls, ones we never got to meet. But maybe they get to meet us, through writing.
I want to be remembered for my stories. But what if all that survives is one of my grocery lists scrawled in shaky block letters? What if it's one of my poems written during a time of angst? Will my written aftershocks only give clue to what sort of vegetables I liked or make me seem like a bitter wretch?
Do I care? Does it count all the same if just a little bit of me stays in the physical world?
When I was a teacher, I had a student named Yasin. He was a middle-aged Afghan that would come to class in his dress shirt and tell me stories of his daughter's impending wedding. He was unassuming but proud of his heritage and his rough and sad past. He often smelled of cooked rice and he worked in a factory that made protein bars.
Yasin died in a car accident a few years ago.
The last time I was substituting at my old job, filling in for one of the other teachers, I was closing down a computer when I noticed a file on the desktop that caught my eye. It's a piece that I prompted Yasin to write about five or six years ago. I'd like to share it with you, without any editing, just as he wrote it:
I am from Kabul Afghanistan.
I was born in Kabul on 01/01/1953. Kabul is a big city and the capitol of Afghanistan. The climate is similar to Boise. I have five brothers and three sisters that live there. My whole family lives in Kabul city. I was seven years old when I started school. When I was a child, Kabul had electricity, gas, drinking water, buses and T.V. Now it does not.
Kabul had parks, gardens, university, medical school, law school, engineering, and economics.
I lived in the center of Kabul. It is a very old part of the city. All the houses are very close together. Some times I would go up on the roof and fly my kite.
The area I lived in was called Barana.
M. Yasin Khaliki
I printed off his writing, folded it into quarters, took it home in my pocket. I read it over and over. I thought of Kabul, the Kabul Yasin must have known and how it's now gone, made to rubble. I thought of Yasin, that sweet man who would only accept the best venue in Boise for his daughter's reception, the man that struggled with pronouns, and how he's now gone.
But his writing remains. It's not much. But now it's off that singular, old computer at my old job, a computer that would be replaced or wiped sooner or later. Now it's on the Internet. I've shared his words and because I have, after death, a bit of the spark that was Yasin is living again. And it will for a long while yet.
Thanks for reading his words, however simple. Thanks for experiencing his reality in an Afghanistan decades in the past. Thanks for meeting him.