World Affairs

Nonfiction - June 22

I slept with a member of the Taliban.

It was a really chance meeting. It’s not like I had frequented Afghanistan.

He was on a special visa to my school in a non-degree program. I think he wanted to study astronomy. At least he said whenever he felt overwhelmed by his troubles he could look up at any one of the stars in the vastness of space and remember that we are all dust, our troubles don’t matter.

He would also, in bed with his arm around me, say things like, “Can you imagine this little boy growing up on one side of the world and this little girl on the other? What but fate could bring them together like this?” It was poetry like that made me fall for him a little. Halim.

For background I should state that Halim was a spokesman for the Taliban, an English translator. He interviewed on talk shows, fielded reporters’ questions. He defended the organization’s policies without personally believing in them. To him it was just a job.

When I saw him the first time, though, I had no idea who he was. I just saw his eyes. Green and gold, they pierced me from across a giant dining hall. It was as if the whole world became this gray haziness behind him. I had to have him. Never before and never since have I felt so strongly and so instantly that I could not rest until this man was mine.

It so happened that the boyfriend of one of my good girlfriends was Halim’s best friend on campus. Drew, this jock-looking jocular fellow, instructed Halim on the ins and outs of American college life—which basically meant meeting girls.

The night I landed him, Drew set up a game of Texas Hold ‘Em. I sat across from Halim, and I can only remember a few things from that night: first, Halim and I unabashedly playing footsie under the card table; second, Halim christening me his “little heretic”; and third, the two of us desperately trying to dodge this nosy co-ed from the party on the walk home so we could make our way stealthily to his apartment.

We were trying to be sneaky about it because, as it turned out, Halim was married with two kids.

In Afghanistan, I’d say to myself, as if that negated their existence.

It was a big struggle for me knowing he had a wife. Sure, the marriage was arranged. He said she was a typical conservative Muslim woman whom he couldn’t relate to. He said he felt in marriage the same way he did in the Taliban: trapped, a total foreigner, like he’d been born in the wrong place. But he could be frank and honest in this country and with me, his little heretic.

I swallowed his sweet words to keep down the guilt, and yet one night I woke up sweating and shaking from a dream that I had been crawling on his cold, dead wife’s grave. I was so ashamed I would have fled home but he wouldn’t let me. He took the floor because I refused to touch him.

In what was perhaps unconscious punishment for my shame, I had to deny myself something. Now remember, Halim was bound to a strict, passionless matron (or so the story goes), and as a result, he had never gone down on a woman. He wanted so badly to kiss me there, with one caveat: I had to shave. So, I did the only thing I could. I let it grow wild. Like a jungle. You could have found the cure for AIDS down there. He pushed and prodded and begged, and I wanted it, but there was only so much happiness I could allow myself. In a small way it made me feel like less of a terrible human being.

But the last night we were together, after we learned that the university had been getting too much slack in the donation department for housing a terrorist and would not let him return for another semester, that night Halim had had enough of my tactics. He wouldn’t take No. He undressed himself. He undressed me. He led me by the hand to the shower where he turned on the water at a trickle, got down on his knees, and ever so slowly and gently, with one of those plastic pink razors, he shaved me. Those green and gold eyes hardly left mine. We never said a word. It was the single most erotic experience of my life.

When he had finished we were both so exhausted we ended up just lying in bed and going to sleep in each other’s arms. We kissed goodbye in the morning, and that was that. He went back to his half of the world and I stayed in mine.

Where I sit. Dormant. Lying in wait. Not for Halim specifically, but for that feeling. That connection. Whatever it is that’s worth hunting again.

Cynthia Oquendo is a Physician Assistant in the field of HIV/AIDS in Atlanta who performs at Atlanta's Write Club reading series any chance she gets. She should probably write more often.

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