Rich, foreign jerk

Work refunds my airline tickets to Afghanistan. I ask for small bills, and all Afghan currency. N gives me a wad of American hundred dollar bills.

It’s dark by the time I get back to the house, so I ask Max to walk with me to the grocery store. As we pass the vendors chatting and roasting nuts and families strolling to the mosque together, I feel extremely foolish. What am I afraid of? Why did I drag my housemate away from his movie to babysit me while I shop for canned soup?

Because you don’t want to to be kidnapped, I tell myself.  Because walking with a man at least ensures you will have a witness the courts in this country will take seriously. Because you don’t want to be alone.

I throw my groceries into the red plastic basket and bring them to the register. The  teenage cashier rings them up and I reach into my bag. The hundred dollar bills. I hesitate and grimace as I hand one of them over. The boy gives a little sigh and pulls out his calculator. I bite my lip.

To the Afghans watching, I know what this must look like: another rich, foreign jerk, lavishly salaried for easy work, rubbing her dirty money in the faces of people who will work themselves into early graves without ever handling such sums.

“Don’t worry about it, ” Max tells me as we leave the store.

Beggar children gather. I don’t have change for them.

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