Your friend may find these fragments from 'The Pomegranate Peace' familiar:

…The only place on the sprawling embassy compound that used the Afghan/Persian calendar was the bar. The Duck and Cover pretended its dinginess signified intimacy and that poor lighting was conducive to the sort of raging romances that are legendary when life is lived behind barbed wire, sandbags and high walls and conditions are so confined the plainest woman gets to pick and choose. The Duck and Cover’s name was a straight lift from standard civil defense procedures and every new arrival rapidly grew used to the screaming warnings that would issue from loudspeakers across the compound at the weekly safety drill and every so often, at the first sign of trouble: ‘Duck and cover, move away from the windows. Take cover and await further instructions.’

The bar sign, which had a duck in a British tin hat jauntily astride a pile of sandbags with the snow-covered Hindu Kush mountains in the distance, read ‘est. 1387’.

In the solar hijri 1387 is 2008. It was the one place that Americans recognized real time in Afghanistan. The Duck and Cover bar was also the one place we could never take the generally teetotal Afghan local staff or our few Afghan visitors.

--

The Duck and Cover:

The odds are good

But the goods are odd.

Little Sam’s fourteen-syllable summary was a fairly accurate computation of the chances that yin and yang would come together – however briefly – on the compound. They did, the whole time. The odds were very good – if you were an unaccompanied woman. The men – predatory or passionate or just passing through on what was called TDY or temporary duty – were decidedly odd. They were a mix – military, diplomats, development workers, private contractors. It didn’t matter if they were married, unaccompanied and prowling, or unmarried and prowling – all of them suffered acutely from an affliction that Americans in the badlands of Afghanistan knew, dreaded and awaited with dreary expectation: an acute, aching loneliness. Being an American in Afghanistan was the loneliest you could get.

PhD. Journalism by trade & inclination. Writer. My novel 'Pomegranate Peace' is about my year in Afghanistan. I teach journalism at university

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Rashmee Roshan Lall

Rashmee Roshan Lall

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PhD. Journalism by trade & inclination. Writer. My novel 'Pomegranate Peace' is about my year in Afghanistan. I teach journalism at university