"During the Taliban, being with a friend was difficult, but now it is easy again," said Ahmed Fareed, a 19-year-old man with a white shawl covering his face except for a dark shock of hair and piercing kohl-lined eyes. Mr. Fareed should know. A shopkeeper took him as a lover when he was just 12, he said.
Muhammad Daud, 29, says he first spotted Mr. Fareed seven years ago at an auto repair shop owned by Mr. Fareed's father and pursued the boy for months.
"If you want a haliq" -- a boy for sex -- "you have to follow the boy for a long time before he will agree," said Mr. Daud, smiling at Mr. Fareed in a hostel in Kandahar where the two consented to give an interview.
"At first he was afraid, so I bought him some chocolate and gave him a lot of money," said Mr. Daud, laughing. "I went step by step and after about six or seven months, he agreed."
"At that time, I had no beard," Mr. Fareed said, smiling.
"We had to be very careful then," said Mr. Fareed, shrinking instinctively from the crowd that had gathered around the site during a reporter's visit. He said he and his lover could meet only at night in each others' homes, but that they tried to refrain from physical contact for fear that the Taliban's extensive intelligence network would discover them.
While men are courting boys once again, few do so openly.
"Still, we feel ashamed in front of our older brothers or parents," said Mr. Fareed.
But he insisted that he does not regret being lured into a relationship by his older friend. When asked if he would do the same to a young boy, Mr. Fareed said, yes.
"I'm looking for one now," he said with a smile.