A mini market in the same area, a little away from the main campus compound, was there for us in case of emergency; that is, whenever our Köfte-Sultan wouldn’t show up for any reason. The dry goods of the small shop, then, always did the trick in stilling our hunger as well as my sweet tooth (did I ever have a notorious, merciless one) until we would make it to our homes for dinner. Today, it wasn’t going to be any dry goods feeding us. We quickly checked what our resources were in our “bank”–Butrus’ money holder (it was more than enough.) The imaginary joint bank account was my mom’s idea, something she conceived after realizing we were going to go on many, many dates where Butrus would jump to pay for all our expenses. She wouldn’t have it! After all, he, too, was a student with no personal income. On this issue, he had to fight my mom so much –providing evidence from his summer earnings as a tour guide in Efes, his hometown, but to my significant relief, all in vain. After our few initial outings, I ended up paying for the expenses of our dates equally with my own money (well, my parents’, to be exact.) I wanted him to keep my share in his money folder, as it was an unwritten law in Turkey at the time (most likely still today) that a man would cover any and all expenses for a date. At all times.
Our joint cash safe paid for our food and drinks. The spills of the aroma took a seat on a bench nearby. Our bodies followed them up close.
“What else does he put into his dürüm? I know I say the same thing every single time but I can’t believe the taste of this food.”
“I don’t want to know, Butrus, in all honesty I just want to enjoy eating it, without worrying about how he and his wife make each köfte, or what else they put into it. You know me with hygienic practices. I wouldn’t even drink out of the same glass or cup as my equally sensitive mother’s, nor would I use any utensil of any of my family members. Yet, I am actually eating from a street vendor. My mother can still not believe it.”
“You enjoyed your food, though, right? Let’s walk up to our hill to enjoy the rest of our sodas, shall we?”
“By all means. I think I lost my appetite all of a sudden.”
“But, my rose, you ate it all, every tiny morsel,” he gave me a flirtatious wink and one of his contagious landmark smiles. He knew too well how to provoke me with his loving tease about my food choices, weaknesses, to be more honest.
“Butrus! That’s not nice! Besides, I cannot let our bank go bankrupt, can I, by wasting food which we paid for?” We both started laughing. Again.
Walking up our small hill was something we did as often as we could; that is, in-between classes when our breaks were long enough. Our university campus was on a hilly landscape, unusual for Ankara at large; hence, the origin of its name, Hacettepe, the hill of Hacet. At least, while we were still students there. The walk from the main campus building where most classes took place up to the largest hill took a good full fifteen minutes, depending on the weather conditions. When snow covered the ground, several minutes longer. On our way to what we designated to be our hill–of course, not to a point to scare unsuspecting couples away from it.
Halfway to our hilltop, there was a small, one-story building with a wood exterior and interior. We called it the “mountain cabin.” Inside, hot and cold refreshments were served during specific hours for students. With its low and backless rattan chairs, small coffee tables, Kilim donning walls and rustic accessories, the cabin offered a very cozy atmosphere. Quite different from the formality and size but also decorations the campus building structures presented day in and day out. During winter months, in particular, spending time there over a cup of brewed hot tea while hearing the audible burning sounds of the old coal stove was quite a treat. Sometimes, we would take our “mom-wiches” to the cabin, at other times, to our hill. The “mom-wiches” were eloquent sandwiches my mother would prepare (with tongue salami, goat cheese, or any new edible product she could get her hands on at her regular market) in fancy food carriers to help us out with our cash shortage, if or when that ever occurred. She would always supply me with additional money, not to be a burden to Butrus. Ever. Her point was well taken. Thanks not only for those delicious love sandwiches, mom but for everything you have done for me all your short life!
As we did on numerous other days, also on that beautiful afternoon, we sat on our regular spot on our hill –somewhat in privacy for the sake of the old large trees, where we have taken pictures of each other in countless repetitions. It is also there where Butrus one day remarked in surprise, after the sun had hit my face directly:
“Oh my goodness, Huban, you have many greens in your eyes!”
I didn’t know whether to be happy that he discovered my deep-seated desire to have some resemblance to my mom, in the face or the body, or to act, as if he caught me by the same surprise as his own. I mumbled something like, “I guess, I have some hues, perhaps after my father’s hazel eyes.”
“But no, Huban, in yours, I see green, not hazel!” I should have asked him then why he was so excited about this aspect of my eyes.
We were never short of any topic to tackle between us; in heated passion, that is. The only exception was sports–I suspected Butrus’ lack of athletic abilities to be one of the reasons as to why Tamo didn’t care much for him at all, making his dislike obvious to everyone in the family. That we could analyze literature for hours was also a trait Tamo didn’t approve about Butrus: “What is that all about? Like a girl!” As for Butrus’ academic and musical skills I would bring up in his defense behind his back, none of them had any meaning for my brother. Neither did his current scholarly success in college, where during his first year already, he was acknowledged by both of his departments as one of the most promising scholars in his field of study.
(More to come next week…)