I don’t know my real birthday. December 31, 1997 is the date the United States of America gave me. My mom and brother got the same birthday. When I was born in Afghanistan, Russia was invading our country. I never met my dad because he was murdered by the Taliban. At least that’s what my mom tells me. She was pregnant with me when it happened. My family was in a refugee camp and my dad was resting in a tent when the bomb went off. My mom saw the explosion. She collapsed and had a stroke; the right side of her body was paralyzed. But that’s what my mom tells me. I don’t remember Afghanistan at all. My first waking memory was in Pakistan.
I was four-years old when my older brother Shafi, who was five at the time, fell off a roof. He was walking backwards flying a kite. His feet took him three stories to the ground. I thought he was dead with the pool of blood around his head. Nargis, my older sister, panicked and cradled Shafi as she ran barefoot towards a taxi. I was holding her baby. I wasn’t strong enough to lift the baby; his feet dragged on the ground as I carried him. Nargis explained that she didn’t have money for the taxi but the driver told her to get in. The baby and I were left alone. We walked home and I couldn’t carry him up the stairs. The neighbor from the downstairs apartment took my nephew and disappeared, leaving me all alone. That’s my first memory, my childhood in Islamabad.
Yasmeen Qasimi fled Afghanistan and lived in Islamabad, Pakistan before immigrating to the United States where her family settled in Louisiana. She currently resides in the Bay Area and writes poetry and short stories chronicling her life as a refugee.