He says that he is “at least” ninety years old.
He has kind eyes, does Abdullah. And good eyesight.
He always says thank you to everyone, when food is brought or when his bandages are changed.
He can’t read or write, and has lived all his life in Musa Qala, a district four hours drive north of Lashkargah.
When he first arrived he had to be taught to unscrew the top of the fruit juice bottle if he wanted the fruit juice to come out.
This is the second time in his whole life that he has entered this city: the previous time he had come with some of his eleven children, to sell cotton.
Now he has returned, to be treated for wounds in our hospital.
He has never once been to Kabul.
He remembers the times when Zair Shah was king, and how “he wanted to open a lot of schools” in his home area. But he also remembers times before that. He remembers that for at least the last sixty years he has seen and heard fighting and wars raging around him and throughout his nation.
He remembers that this time too, fierce fighting had broken out nearby, while he was working in the fields, helping his sons. He remembers a sudden terrible burning feeling in his buttocks. After that, he remembers nothing.
When he reached us he was in a state of shock. The bullet had entered through his buttock and exited through his stomach. He was operated successfully and is now a model patient.
His tired but lively eyes unendingly admire everything going on around him.
He keeps saying thank you for everything we do for him, for the beauty and the usefulness of our hospital, for the way “it cures everyone free of charge” and “even” charges nothing for the meals it serves him three times a day.
He will probably return home today and then – as he keeps telling us – he will tell everyone how he felt so happy at the Emergency Hospital in Lashkargah.
To a memory crammed with years of work, fatigue, poverty and war, a new memory will have been added, a small but shining fragment of hope.
Who knows whether it was written in his destiny that he would have clashed with war at his venerable age, after a lifetime spent on its fringes?
(*Medical Coordinator at the Emergency Hospital in Lashkargah, Helmand)