I recall an American television show, one of my daughter’s favorites that I watched with her one tired evening, where one of the leading female characters had OCD, and hence, had not yet any sexual relationship until–at a mature age–she met the man she was going to marry. The claim of the writers seemed to be to present her as an individual who associated any sexual act only with the cleaning necessity, and therefore, to be suffering from the disease. (My daughter and I laughed at the scene where this problem was hinted at again but remained silent on the topic of sex.) While the character’s portrayal was rather comical and my obsession was nothing of amusing nature and had nothing to do with physical cleansing, either, I must have been also going through a phase of the disease. As I remember vividly telling Butrus at numerous times how temiz (literally “clean” in Turkish) our platonic relationship was. As to how I inherited this thought of nonsense, I have no idea.
My strong desire and ambition to attain high quality schooling for one of the most critical phases in my overall education had become a reality: I earned top grades in each of my classes in the first and second year, making the Honors’ list. In my senior year, the school singled me out among only a few as the graduating student with highest honors as far as academic standing and behavioral and moral conduct were concerned. My painstaking efforts were, thus, noted beyond my highest expectations. I was in for a fantastic ride when my goal in life was concerned: a good girl who had proven herself also as a promising student for her next education level.
“I can’t believe your parents let you go to an all-girls’ school, Huban,” Butrus noted. “Now that I know them quite well, it just doesn’t make any sense for them to have allowed you into such a conservative environment. Academic reputation, yes, but their rigid code of conduct, and not inside the school only, outside as well? None of those demands fit your personality: you are such a free spirit. How did you tolerate it all? Tell me a little more about that phase of your life.”
“It was like a contest for me, Butrus: I had to win the competition as to which one of us girls could and would best abide by the school’s confining rules and regulations.”
I chose not to tell him about Tamo’s quest for me to be a good girl. That concept had some time ago begun to cause much confusion in me. In fact, soon after I met Butrus. He had been with me for several years now. Since the time we met, this sweet boy had not once even made a suggestive move to lead me into a situation to be the object of fun for him –the way Tamo’s memorable lecture on the subject hinted at when all men are considered. While I started pushing aside this thought of strong roots in me, my behavior was unchanged: physical closeness seemed to me still to be too improper of a conduct between us, hence, a taboo.
We learned how to avoid the temptation and maneuvered around it with the distracting help of our many common interests, outside our scholastic ambitions, that is. One of them was our involvement in our university’s folkloric dance troupe. We had both signed up to train and perform with this noted organization. Butrus handled the casting process in his usual dignified manner: I was singled out for a dance narrative as one of the two love interests of a legendary Azerbeijani warrior in the most popular dance routine. (How ironic…) He, however, was one of the stand-bys of the back row dancers. Our choreographer later designated me to more lead roles in the same group. I blended in with quite an ease to the Turkish Black Sea dancers. I must have picked up on those rapid foot steps Asım Dede, my mother’s father used to make in front of the entire family time and again. He was such a charmer! And, he could do some of the most difficult moves until a very late age. Eski toprak, he was, old soil as we call our elderly in Turkish who age with their health and mobility intact. In Asım Dede’s case, also all the hand and feet coordination skills were well preserved. As for the Sivas Girl’s group, my father’s bloodline may have helped me to learn and perform the complex footsteps. After their migration from Russia, my dad’s grandparents had stayed in Sivas until their death. Only then, the new generations moved to Afyon, where they made their permanent homes. I kept thanking my dad in silence for that asset, especially during the rather swift and continuous body moves with all the extremities shaking as if on an exposed electrical wire.
“Today’s practice was a killer, Huban! How can you stand all those multiple takes in such a short amount of time?”
“You know how much I love, really, really love dancing, Butrus. How many times did you have to listen to me talk on and on about the tiny me as an attention-seeking dancer at the age of two – some witnesses are still alive to tell you more! So, as a seasoned dancer, Sir, ahem, ahem, I absolutely enjoyed every second of our practice today. I enjoy all the reps we have to go through. Each time. Sorry…I guess?!”
“Okay then. Tell me this much: are you at least as starved as I am now?”
“Oh yes! And how! Let’s grab our usual from Köfteci Amca. We’ll go to our usual hill lot! The weather is so lovely today.”
With amca,we not only identify a blood-related uncle in Turkish but also address or refer to someone for whom we have affection (the female version is teyze). The friendly, quick-handed middle-aged man with the tiny concession stand, our only regular lunch-provider outside the university cafeteria was one such individual. Every day, for about two and a half hours during lunchtime he would park his mini-trailer and cook for us students some of his well-known killer köfte dishes. Imagine hamburgers with fresh herbs and spices, minced onions and a lot of ground cumin inside a salad leaves- and tomatoes hugging pide –different in texture and taste than the pita common in the States. The entire fast-food dish, then, would become a dürüm. Yes, long, very long before the concept of a meal “wrap” became known in the States, we had already for long been enjoying these brilliant inventions in Turkey.)
(Thank you for stopping by. I would love to hear from you regards your likes and dislikes of the essay so far.)