Salmaan walked into the dimly lit bedroom with a small syringe containing a volume of clear liquid, ready for injection. He laid it next to my father, Aamir, hoping he would agree to take it, and then walked over to the calendar to change the date: April 19th, 2050. He had been one of my father’s most trusted advisors, helping create the largest opium and heroin empire that the world had ever seen. Despite the immense sums of wealth and power that both garnered throughout their decades of smuggling, distributing, and profiting from a substance that ruined their lives, he felt helpless at the sight of his friend succumbing to the unfortunate consequence of those many euphoric nights stemming from the white poison. My father refused the dose, as he did everyday, since he made the decision to quit or die trying. I stood by the doorway, watching, until he granted me permission into his room.
Looking at my father’s feeble frame, I knew that he would not live to see the next day. I had just received a high post as an inspector for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries with my degree in petroleum engineering and stellar academic record. My father had always urged me to do what I love and love what I do, and I found that mutual relationship in my study of engineering. I asked him what he did for a living, and whether he was doing what he loved, and he always replied,
“I gather and sell what I like to call ‘white gold’. I never had the luxury to love, only obsess.”
My father never revealed his involvement in the heroin business, nor the fact that he was the leading dealer of the ‘white gold’ in the world, until that fateful night, when my purpose in life changed forever.
As I walked over to my father’s bed, I saw a man filled with remorse, a pain of some sort, bearing down his soul and forcing him to struggle with every breath he took. I saw a burnt silver spoon and a needle resting on the nightstand and went to pick it up.
“No! Don’t touch it. Promise me you will never touch it,” my father exclaimed gasping with every shout.
I quickly pulled back my hand and tried to ease his distress. He scrambled for a business card he had kept securely in his left shirt pocket, and quickly wrote down a familiar name and number on the back. After stuffing the piece of paper in my hand, he calmed a bit.
My father began, “Irfaan, I gave you everything you needed and could ever want in life, but the one thing I never gave was an honest answer to your question. Son, I am dying today because of a choice I made, or rather, the career I chose.”
He went on to describe his lucrative heroin business and its many intricacies ranging from his partners in crime to his remorse for the damage he caused. He also related the story of his childhood in Afghanistan and his father, my grandfather, yet another mystery he never spoke of throughout his life. As he finished, his breathing became shallower and heart rate began to increase until suddenly, it dropped to a...