A Thousand Splendid Suns

Why did Mariam sleep on the sidewalk on her very first visit to Jalil’s house?

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Mariam really had nowhere else to go, and she slept on the sidewalk because the chauffeur said that Jalil was not at home, and that he'd been given orders not to allow her in.


"You need to go home now," he said. "It'll be dark in less than an hour."

"I'm used to the dark."

"It'll get cold too. Why don't you let me drive you home? I'll tell him you were here."

Mariam only looked at him.

"I'll take you to a hotel, then. You can sleep comfortably there. We'll see what we can do in the morning."

"Let me in the house."

"I've been instructed not to. Look, no one knows when he's coming back. It could be days."

Mariam crossed her arms.

The driver sighed and looked at her with gentle reproach.

Over the years, Mariam would have ample occasion to think about how things might have turned out if she had let the driver take her back to the kolba. But she didn't. She spent the night outside Jalil's house. She watched the sky darken, the shadows engulf the neighboring house-fronts. The tattooed girl brought her some bread and a plate of rice, which Mariam said she didn't want. The girl left it near Mariam. From time to time, Mariam heard footsteps down the street, doors swinging open, muffled greetings. Electric lights came on, and windows glowed dimly. Dogs barked. When she could no longer resist the hunger, Mariam ate the plate of rice and the bread. Then she listened to the crickets chirping from gardens. Overhead, clouds slid past a pale moon.


A Thousand Splendid Suns/ Chapter 5