That fall, during Ramadan, Mariam is surprised at how the entire city shuts down. She enjoys breaking the fast each night with the entire city, one of her only communal experiences. Rasheed only rarely fasts, since hunger makes him irritable. One night Mariam is late with dinner and he refuses to speak to her, or to eat her dinner even when it’s ready, stuffing bread into his mouth instead as the veins on his temple pulse with anger.
Ramadan in a city like Kabul lends Mariam a sense of communal belonging that she never had while living isolated at the kolba. This community feeling, though, is not reflected in her relationship with Rasheed, which seems to be shifting beyond its initial “honeymoon” stage.
Mariam recalls how Jalil would visit Mariam and Nana at the first of the three days of Eid-ul-Fitr, the celebration to end Ramadan, before excusing himself to celebrate with his “real” family, as Nana said. Mullah Faizullah would also come and bring sweet treats for Mariam. However, Mariam usually dreaded Eid, since it was a time of hospitality meant for large families.
Mariam’s past was not entirely devoid of love and belonging. However, these celebrations were always marred by Mariam’s inability to feel accepted and at ease because of her shameful status as a harami.
This year, Mariam and Rasheed walk the streets and she is astounded by the liveliness. They see Fariba and her husband, and when Fariba waves and calls out to her, Mariam only nods. Rasheed admonishes her not to spend too much time with Fariba, a gossiper, and her husband who thinks he’s an intellectual.
Though Fariba had seemed kind to Mariam before, to Rasheed all that matters are her more progressive opinions regarding the status of women, and what he sees as suspicious intellectualism on the part of her husband.
Strangers call out Eid mubarak to her, and that night they watch fireworks above the city. Mariam wishes her mother was alive to see this, to know that even Mariam could have some beauty in her life.
For years, Mariam had rebelled against her mother’s belief that no happiness awaited her or her daughter; this sliver of joy, though, comes too late for Nana.
For Eid, Rasheed invites friends to her home, and tells Mariam to stay upstairs while they’re there. She is flattered that Rasheed values her honor, and she feels wanted and significant. On the last day of Eid, Mariam feels sick to her stomach, and makes tea while she cleans up the mess from the men last night. She finds herself in Rasheed’s room, where she slides open the top drawer of his dresser, feeling guilty. She finds his gun, and then a magazine filled with pictures of naked women. She is shocked and disgusted, feeling he is hypocritical with all his talk of honor and shame. Though she feels embarrassed and confused, she eventually convinces himself that he is a man with needs unknown to her, and she, as a harami, is in no place to judge.
Rasheed’s command to Mariam to remain upstairs might be seen as stifling (and unfair, given that she is the one to clean everything up afterwards), but Mariam is so starved for love that she interprets this demand as a gesture of love and honor. Even the hypocrisy she uncovers by finding Rasheed’s pornographic magazines, she justifies with a similar desire for love mixed with her feelings of shame about her heritage and identity.
In the bottom drawer, Mariam finds a picture of Jalil’s son, Yunus, and below that, a beautiful woman standing next to Mariam. She feels a flicker of jealousy, though it also seems almost as if the wife is sullen and leaning away from Rasheed. Later, she regrets having sneaked around the room, and feels sorry for Rasheed and the loss he’s been through. She imagines his grief after his son’s death, and feels a certain compassion for and kinship with him.
Mariam pays little attention to the subtle signs of discontentment she sees in Rasheed’s earlier wife’s eyes. Instead, she thinks of what they have in common—the death of a mother or son—and finds a sense of kinship in this shared suffering, which for her can stand in for or at least lead to love.