We are eating breakfast. Julie is still asleep. Pietà looks up from her porridge.
‘How do you spell Gail?’
I think I know where this is heading.
‘What do you mean – Gail the name or gale the wind?’
‘Gail the name’.
‘You can spell it two ways. G-a-i-l or G-a-y-l-e.’
‘The Gail who was shot’s name’
‘G-a-y-l-e. I think. I read it spelt both ways.’
Elijah has been following the conversation. ‘Why did they shooted her?’
‘Some people didn’t like her being here.’
‘Why? Which people?’
‘There are some people here who think Afghanistan should be only an Islamic nation. A nation for Muslims only. Gayle was not a Muslim, she was a Christian. We think that was why she was killed. That’s why we are driving places now. To be a bit safer. That’s why we don’t walk on the street. Because Gayle was killed walking, and because the people who killed her might try to hurt other foreigners.’
A pause. Elijah ponders. ‘But Afghans are still walking and there are Afghan kids on the streets.’
‘Yeah, you’re right Lijy. But the people who killed Gayle aren’t trying to hurt other Afghans. Only foreigners. People from countries like Australia or England. Mostly.’
Even as I speak I realise that most of the victims of the Taliban and insurgent groups here are Afghans. Complexities. I want to be honest with the kids, but some answers are too long and complex and just don’t make enough sense. And I have to try to answer the question they are asking. I push on, changing my tack a bit.
‘Most Afghans – nearly everyone, everyone you will meet, all the Afghans we know – Nasir, Taher, Sediqa – are good, friendly people who like us and who we like…’
‘Like Ali’, Pietà says.
‘Yeah. Exactly. And…
‘And like… like the lady at your office Dad?’ Elijah is asking about Karima.
‘Yes. Exactly. Most Afghans are really good. The people who want Afghanistan to be only an Islamic nation, the people who killed Gayle – not all of them are Afghans anyway. Some are from Saudi Arabia, some are from Pakistan, or Chechnya.’
I am remembering the earlier times, when an international pirate crew of fanatics and radicals hostile to all Westerners ran Kabul. I am not really sure if there are too many Chechnyans here now.
‘From Dehli?’ asks Elijah.
‘Ahh, yeah, maybe from India too. And…’
‘Dad, I want some more porridge.’
‘Ok mate. But pick up that bit from the table first. Pietà you want some more?’
‘Naaa. Can I leave?’