The Legend of Hamid Karzai

Two sixteen foot high chainlink fences have been built thirty-six feet apart from each other along the northern border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. There are a number of gates in the fences, and people are free to go back and forth across the border until the 8 pm curfew, when computers and machines slowly slide the gates shut, creating a long and narrow no man's land between them. The purpose, the effectiveness, and the symbolic intent of these fences are a source of confusion and frustration to almost everyone who encounters them, but they are the first tangible accomplishment of the Afghan government in many months, and Hamid Karzai is feeling a weary sense of satisfaction and can be seen riding his bicycle towards one of the gates in the fence after spending the day visiting his nephews and making a small speech in Pakistan. He glances at his watch and realizes the gates will be closing in only a few minutes - he needs to get back on the Afghanistan side. He pedals faster, excited by the idea of slipping through the gates just before they close. But he is older than he once was, and to his great annoyance he sees that the gates are already starting to groan shut. He pedals even faster, barely managing to get through the first gate, then jumps off his bicycle, expertly shoving it with his foot so that it rolls right into the second gate, jamming it as it tries to close. He had hoped the bicycle would prevent the gate from closing completely and that he could squeeze out through the gap and walk the rest of the way home; instead he has ruined his bicycle and he's still stuck between the gates. He looks at the fence, considers climbing it, decides against it. He thinks of the reporters and photographers that are likely already finding their way towards him, and the endless interviews and explanations that he will have to give, and he sits on the ground and writes the name of his wife in the dirt with his finger.