Translated by from the Uzbek language Sarah Kendzyor. U.S.A.
In this world it is very difficult to find a faithful friend, they are few and far between. But I did have such a friend. His name was Abduvoxid, although he went by the nickname of "Po'kis". He had doe eyes and curly hair, and was by nature a happy, interesting person blessed with the gift of gab. If we didn't see each other for an hour, we would miss each other and would almost always find each other. We studied together at the same school, and I spent almost as much time at his house as I did my own.I liked his parents, brother and sister very much; they became like close relatives to me. Po'kis's father was a man named Yigitli, a tall cheerful man who we called "Rakatak" [a kind of motorcycle] because he was never worried about anything. Yigitali had a sonorous voice, like he was singing a song, and both of us came to memorize his repertoire. In the spring we would play in the yard, and as Yigitali would tend the soil he would sing:
I don't untie my boots
I don't drink your noodle soup.
I cut the trees in the snow
I don't spare any truths.
Your train is trickling
The firebox with the wheel
One of the brave young men of Andijon
Fled to Dvinskiy.
One of the brave young men of Andijon
Did not flee to Dvinskiy.
The cannons of Nikoali
Were forced to flee to Dvinskiy.
At this time the batteries in the transitor radio ran out, and the cassette player wasn't working either. The unmarried young men would play the "Xazar", "Glala" and "Okean" radio stations and sing out songs about love, attracting the attention of nearby girls and expressing our desires to them.
Po'kis's friend Ne'mat aka had stolen some radio airwaves with a police officer using a plate he had installed, and in his homemade studio he would play the songs of Sherali Jo'raev. At this time it was common for young people to do things with pirated radio. When you turned to a certain frequency you could hear unmentionable words or insults. The war of words would reach its peak and as some people became familiar with these broadcasts, they would befriend each other, and we would witness the marriage of various in-laws.
Patriotism and censorship don't mix, and as a result, our nation's beloved singer. [master singer] Sherali Jo'raev was ousted from the arena and his songs came to be broadcast in unofficial radio stations.
Despite their lack of talent, a number of singers who praised the government came to appear on stages and on television. Their bland songs -- the musical equivalent of gruel -- became the voice of the nation and were played on state radio. They disliked the unofficial radio stations and told the government to close them down. But even a dictatorial regime and its sycophants cannot separate themselves from their homeland's beloved singer.
In the heart of the national philharmonic were dark leaders who intended to surrender Sherali Jo'raev's song "You sing a song despicably" to the authorities and ridicule it. But God understands both those who trample the good people of the world as well as those who help those who trample. The holes dug for Sher aka also trapped themselves and were their own downfall.
Sometimes Ne'mat aka would give both Po'kis and I a transistor radio and send us to a far-off neighborhood to check and see if his station was on the air. We would grin from ear to ear when we heard his familiar voice coming from the radio in nearby neighborhoods. Po'kis could be heard in the high cliffs of the Qoradaryo. We used to sit on the shores of the river and watch with pleasure the airplanes departing the aerodrome. The airplanes would soar through the sky, and beneath their wings the combine harvesters would pick the leaves off of the cotton stocks and sprinkle their poisons. We children would joyfully call out to the passengers in the plane, paying no attention to the poison being filtered through the air around us, tipping our doppis [national Uzbek hats] to the sky and waving them farewell.
Naturally, before the poison was spread the collective farm radio would issue a warning. There was a picture of the head of the farm smirking near a cotton field covered in poison, holding up a sign that said "Do not enter!" But we curious children did not care about this sort of thing.
Sitting with my friend in front of the collective farm center as the smoke spread on those summer nights, I would enjoy the sorrowful song of the g'ijjak (a kind of violin) as it played from the radio. We would listen to the sad lullabies and fairy tales told by a female storyteller. We would talk until the ground was coated in dew, laughing at our amusing words. Coutless stars would light the pitch-black skies of these neighborhoods, and somewhere a star would fall, its light tracing its way to the ground until it was nowhere to be seen.
One day Po'kis showed me a bottle with a black liquid [kuzbaslak - ask] inside. I used this liquid to draw a picture of a tiger on an old wall of Po'kis's house. According to Ne'mat aka, this picture is still there and hasn't faded. One time an uncle of Po'kis's returned from military service, and said he had been given his own military belt, which he proceeded to show off. At this time in my youth I didn't like this conceited man. I became enraged for reasons I don't fully know, maybe it was Satan tempting me, and unexpectedly I punched my friend in the jaw. The blow caused Po'kis to lose his balance. He swore at me and fell. I began to run away, laughing. He chased after me. At this time a small piece of earth struck me between the ears and then broke into eight smaller pieces.
Though the fight ended and we eventually made up, we were never close friends again. I still have not forgiven myself for hitting my friend Po'kis. I was so disgusted with myself for doing it I wanted to cut off the offending arm with an axe.
Years passed and we grew up. The military officials came and shaved our heads for military service. People of the same age had to enlist one after another, and before they left they wished each other farewell, and said goodbye like brothers. Po'kis invited me to say goodbye with the other young men in the village. We did service until dawn and then slept. We arose with the neighborhood gamblers who used to stay up all night playing cards. In the morning my time for saying goodbye had passed. We had slept for two full days. When evening came, Po'kis and I picked up our white calico travel bags and wrote on our photos of girls, "Wait for me and I will return." I was very glad to look at the picture in my friend's travel bag.
He said goodbye and was about to head home when for some reason his nose started bleeding. We stopped the blood together. The result was that we ended up staying up around the clock. I took pity on my friend. After that we left for our military service. I served for two years with the Soviet army in Leningrad. Oh Leningrad! Leningrad! If I were to write about my time in the military, it would fill another book.
One day my friend Po'kis wrote me a letter. "Our military unit is being sent to Afghanistan," it said. At the time there was a terrible war going on in Afghanistan. I wrote in response, "My friend, please take care of yourself." At that time I had reached the end of my military service and was returning home.
Once I was walking along a concrete bridge with someone in my village when I ran into Ne'mat aka and my friend on the street. We walked toward each other, saw each other...and I saw that my friend had grown thin. Eventually I found out that in Afghanistan his company had been drinking toxic water from a well. As a result of this terrible event my friend was released from military service and managed to get back home. But he wasn't able to stay in his home long. He became weary and he left. In the morning I went to see him. I went to the place he was staying and brought him out to the street. We recalled the wondrous times of our distant past, our children in the fields near the collective farm. Then Po'kis told the story of his experiences in the war in Afghanistan.
"One day," he recalls, "our unit was under siege. The 'enemies' located on the hill were shooting our soldiers down like they were sparrows. When news of this got out our commanders sent in helicopters, and the 'enemies' stopped their firing and vanished. Despite this, our brothers-in-arms who I was talking with were killed. Very few got out safely. Our Russian commander, seeing these dead soldiers, was devastated and wept, feeling like a father separated from his children. "Children, forgive me, for I did not take care of you," he said, crying. When the car for them arrived, we stacked it with corpses like they were firewood. As the car took off, I got down on my knees and took the boot off a soldier's leg, saying to my commanding officer:
"Commander! The leg, Usman's leg!" I said. Because I saw that one of the legs of Usmon, a man from Tashkent, was missing from the corpse. The commander began to cry harder:
"Yes, bury it, to please God," he said.
"We've seen such days, my friend," Po'kis said to me and gazed into the distance silently for a long time. Then he said:
"I have one more month left to live. A month from now, I will die," he said.
"Oh, keep going. You are just feeling afraid," I said. My friend grinned horribly.
"Do not grow weary," I said, and brought him to his house and put him to bed. Days passed. After a little while my friend's condition began to worsen.
One day I came to see him, and Yigitali aka was sitting behind the mosquito netting where my friend was lying and crying.
"Come, my son, come," he said, unable to stop the tears from falling from his eyes. "Your friend has become thin, and sounds hoarse," he said.
My friend's arm was sticking out of the netting. It was like the arm of Alexander extending from the bier. Yigitali aka moved over to the head of the coffin.
"Abduvohid, oh Abduvohid, rise my son, your friend is here," he said, and my friend woke up. His arousal indicated what life he had left in him.
"You don't have to, please don't get up. You should rest. I can come back in the morning," I said.
I woke up the next morning and made my way to my friend's house and up the stairs.
As I entered this room of misfortune, others from our village gathered on the street, holding hands. They stood outside the gate in their traditional robes. I saw Nemat aka trimming the garden, and I began to weep uncontrollably. We embraced warmly, Ne'mat's face coated with tears like dew on the ground at dawn.
I had become alone, separated from my dear friend. Though years have passed, I still do not walk down my friend's street. Because one day I saw his younger sister:
"Xoldor-aka, come to our home. We see you like you are our brother," she said.
"If I come in, you will cry," I said.
"We won't cry," she said, and started to cry. I became afraid that they would all cry.
I curse the war that took the lives of thousands of young men, among them my friend, my wonderful friend from whom I had grown apart.