After Rasheed learns from Zalmai that Laila had been downstairs alone with Tariq, he sits back and allows himself to relax. For a few brief moments, he appears merely thoughtful, like a ship captain informed of imminent mutiny taking his time to ponder his next move. Then he sends Zalmai upstairs, and on the boy’s face, Mariam sees alarm. Rasheed has to take the boy by the elbow and force him up the stairs. He comes back down with his belt in his hand. Without a word, he begins beating Laila. Laila fights back, but he swings the weapon again and again. Her fingers claw his face, chipped nails digging into his jowls and pulling at his hair and scratching his forehead.
Then, he lets Laila go and approaches Mariam. Before he reaches her,
Mariam sees what a fool she has been. She wonders what harmful thing she
has done to warrant his malice, his continued assaults, the relish with
which he tortures her. She had given him everything including her youth.
Now he comes for her with his hands as if they can do so much more than
the belt. However, Mariam sees Laila pick up something from the ground.
Laila raises it high over her and brings it down against the side of his
face. Glass shatters everywhere and Rasheed and Laila thrash about together.
He finally gets himself on top of her and wraps his huge hands around
her neck. He means to kill her. So, Mariam runs to the toolshed and grabs
a shovel. She knows that Rasheed will continue until Laila is dead. He
has taken so much in the twenty-seven years they’ve been married. She
will not allow him to take Laila, too. She calls his name and then brings
the shovel down against his temple. The blow knocks him off Laila. For
a moment, something soft passes between them, and Mariam imagines he might
see the truth of his actions now, and maybe there is room for change.
Is it respect she sees in his eyes? Is it regret? But then his lip pulls
back in a sneer and Mariam know it is futile and she is responsible for
fnishing this. In his eyes, she seesmurder for them both and so she raises
the shovel high again with sharp edge vertical. It occurs to her that
this is first time that she is deciding the course of her own life.
And with that, Mariam brings down the shovel, and this time, she gives
it everything she has.
This is the ultimate example of decisions made after years of abuse.
Mariam finally makes a decision about her own life and removes the evil
that has permeated her life and Laila’s.
The chapter opens with Rasheed’s throttling of Laila as seen from Laila’s point of view. She is dimly aware of his face over top of her, all teeth and tobacco and foreboding eyes. She sees the cobwebs in the corner of the ceiling and the crack that has never been repaired. The ceiling begins to shrink in size and Rasheed’s face becomes a sunspot. She sees blinding lights, bizarre geometric forms in the light, worms, egg-shaped things moving up and down, sideways, melting into each other. Voices are muffled and distant. Then the darkness begins to lift and she has the sensation of being lifted up, of rising. The ceiling comes back, and she hears Mariam’s voice asking if she’s all right. She tries a breath and even though she is coughing and wheezing, she’s breathing.
The first thing Laila sees is Rasheed. Then she sees the shovel and says softly, “Oh, Mariam.” She begins to pace wondering what they must do and then, she tells Mariam that they must move him before Zalmai sees. They take the bedroom key from Rasheed’s pocket before wrapping him in a bedsheet. With almost more effort than they can muster, they drag him into the toolshed. Once they return to the house, Mariam takes the time to tend to Laila’s wounds. Then, they begin to discuss the fact that they must leave. Laila lays her head in Mariam’s lap and while they talk, Mariam stokes Laila’s hair. They will leave this unforgiving house and city and with Tariq they will go somewhere distant and remote with lots of trees. They will be deserving of all the happiness and simple prosperity they can find. Laila sess that it will be an existence rife with difficulties, but ones they can take pride in, value, as one would a family heirloom. Mariam is now in charge, not Laila, and that fact brings Laila comfort. She will know what they should do and tell Laila in the morning. For now, Mariam says, Laila must tend to her son. On her face is the most stricken expression Laila has ever seen on a human face.
Through the night, Laila endeavors to explain to Zalmai where his Baba jan has gone. She tells him she doesn’t know when he will be coming back, but she comforts him with the words that nothing is his fault and he finally falls asleep. Then, she goes downstairs to speak with Mariam. Laila tells the older woman that they will go away together to Murree where Tariq lives. But she realizes that Mariam’s indication that she would go with them was just a lovely lie. Laila says she doesn’t want any of it without Mariam and she begs her not to leave them and break Aziza’s heart. But Mariam knows that the Taliban will find Tariq and Laila as guilty as her and she has decided that she won’t have them on the run like fugitives. She asks Lalila what would happen to her children then? Laila insists that it isn’t fair, but Mariam tells her it is. She says she has killed their husband and deprived Zalmai of a father. It isn’t right that she runs. She will never escape Zalmai’s grief. How will she look at him in the future? She says, “For me it ends here. There’s nothing more I want. Everything I’d ever wished for as a little girl you’ve already given me. You and your children have made me so very happy. It’s all right, Laila jo. This is all right. Don’t be sad.” All Laila can do is surrender and sob, like a child overwhelmed by an adult’s unassailable logic. All she can do is roll herself up and bury her gace one last time in the welcoming warmth of Mariam’s lap.
Later that morning, Mariam packs a lunch for both Aziza and Zalmai.
She tells Lalila to kiss Aziza for her and to tell the little girl that
she is the noor of her eyes and the sultan of Mariam’s heart. Lalila
asks Mariam when she will see and promises that she will testify for her.
Mariam just gives her a soft look and bends down to Zalmai, telling him
to be good to his mother. She also tells the little boy how sorry she
is for his pain and sadness. Laila takes Zalmai’s hand and begins to walk
down the street. She turns at the corner and looks back at Mariam standing
there waving to them. She waves back and never sees Mariam again.
The death of Rasheed is a relief, but it is also a major problem. How will
they ever get away with it? Mariam is the only one who understands what
must be done - she must accept the punishment for both of them, because
Laila’s children will need her. And so they part never to see each other
Cite this page:
Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on A Thousand Splendid Suns".
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