“There is no room for love in Afghanistan,” said a young teenage girl to me one day as we sipped tea in the sitting room of her family’s apartment in Kabul. She said it as if it were true and had been true for years, for as long as she could remember. And not in that moment, but in the twilight of that evening and for several years after, her remark caused me to reflect on the kind of space that love itself can consume. An endless space without dimension, like a sketch without charcoal or a raindrop without water—more space than even the glorious mountains of the Hindu Kush could ever take up. Yet in the tiny precipice of this Afghan girl’s heart, where love and all of its beautiful unknowns should have blossomed, it didn’t, it couldn’t.

The love that I felt in Afghanistan was a luxury. It was a luxury because I was an outsider and could afford to let Afghanistan enter me in a way that allowed me to recognize the beauty in all of its harshness. And although this land and its strife often, almost every day, brought me to feel defeat, loss, and compassion, I always had a great fluffy cushion to land on—a cushion provided to me by the love of my family and the memories of a life monumentally different than what I was witness to there.

From the moment I landed in Kabul, that love could have gone in several directions. It could have rested on the landscape or the children or the poetry that existed in the tired sighs of the people. But I was unequivocally drawn—as one is to light in utter darkness—to Afghan women. For them I had passion and energy. For them my emotions had no boundaries. For them I gave in wholeheartedly in order to show them to others as I saw them for myself, the most intricately designed butterflies stripped of their wings.

And then one day, a surprise. A young man I had known brought to me a stack of letters. More than 600 pages. It was a secret correspondence of love, one that allowed the imaginations of him and his love to wander, for it was only in those pages and in their dreams that they could walk together. To disclose their love would mean the end and perhaps worse. That day I realized that love existed in Afghanistan—in a single glance, a certain tone, the shadow of a school yard—but not without grave risk or consequence.

For me this complicated intertwining of love took shape and form in the darkness of an old Afghan box camera. It was there as I peered into a space not larger than a small treasure chest, isolated from the rest of Afghanistan, that I could fully express how I felt for these women.

This is an excerpt of a larger project by Slezic.

OUR NEW CORRUPTION PROJECT

The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Recent

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate