I made an effort only to picture my mother’s return scenario. 7pm. Winter time. Snow on the streets and on the roads. Traffic. For sure. Perhaps too much of it. She would take an express cab, though. Why isn’t she home yet?
opens my eyes.
A new morning.
The armchair of your frequent use
empty yet once again.
As if to honor the sorrow of my loneliness
even the sea takes cover
under the shade of clouds
stripped of its vibrant blue shades
abandoned by anything bright.
Your caressing eyes
no longer on me.
Your love in anticipation
no longer with me.
Tears fill my bitter longing,
My pathetic innocence!
Senseless sense of purity!
I got up. To get a drink. From the kitchen where Butrus’ full bouquet of roses first ended up on each of his visits to my home. I would arrange them in my favorite vase, placing it on my mother’s old wooden childhood dresser in the supplies balcony. It was as if all the neatly sorted dry storage items of necessity, pilav rice, köfte rice, bulgur wheat, home-made pickles – cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, cabbage, carrots, and numerous other dry soon-to-be-edibles I never cared for, would transform into the exquisite beauty of Butrus’ roses. Our refrigerator was always full with my mom’s home cooked meals; vegetable and beef dishes along with our favorite dairy desserts filled the few compartments every day. I was too afraid to ruin my rose bouquet in there but I wanted to keep it in the cold to make it survive longer. The small kitchen balcony covered with glass windows was always under the shade of the tall apartment building adjacent to ours, never letting direct sunshine in, served my purpose each time. Once, I had managed to have my Butrus roses last for over three weeks, in their first-day look. Then, every Wednesday, I had the care to give to one single red rose, one he would pick out for me after his Beginning German course at the Goethe Institute, to take me home from the English Language Institute where I was taking Beginning English classes – following a stubborn inspiration Butrus’ private lessons had left in me.
In one corner of the spacious oval landing outside the Institute’s multiple-story building, on the edge of the brick steps leading onto the street, Butrus would wait for me with one red rose in his right hand and his landmark smile. Contagious and so very attractive. Matching the smile in his eyes, caressing me with them as only they could. We would walk very slowly to my house, hand in hand – prolonging the time more and more each day, struggling to depart once in front of my apartment’s entry. Butrus, then, would start up the hill, on his way to his flat very nearby but not without first calling me from his routine phone booth destination at the entrance of our Café. We would talk and talk, as if we had not heard from one another in a long time. The next day, we would be as eager to greet each other as the day before.
When my mother finally came home, she was visibly startled. I must have been in far worse of a shape I thought I was in.
“Oh dear, my girl, what’s the matter? What happened?”
She had forgotten. In between my violent sobs, I told her.
“I am so sorry my darling, I am so very sorry. Of all the possible days, I was gone today. Please, forgive me. Can you forgive me?”
She kept apologizing. For how long, I can’t remember. All I could remember was what I had to face on that day, and that, now, it was all over. Wasn’t I supposed to feel relief? Isn’t that what Auntie Tufan had described would happen? Then, my mother wrapped her arms around me, trying to quiet my body from shaking beyond control. Streams of tears were flooding my eyes, down to my chin landing on the collar of my blouse. The sounds coming out of me were unsettling even to me.
I don’t have anything left in my memory as to how I spent that night. Did my father gave me some of the sedatives he had given Butrus when he came to my home to say goodbye to my parents soon after our break-up? I don’t know. “I’ll be right back,” my father told my mother and I, “a quick walk with Butrus will do me some good.” He had then left with Butrus. Later on, sometime that evening, I overheard my dad tell my mom, on my way to our main bathroom, right before their bedroom, with their door slightly ajar, what went on between the two of them:
“Hanam, I couldn’t leave him like that,” my dad spoke first. He always added a possessive suffix to my mom’s name. In barely audible sounds he continued: “I am glad I didn’t. Especially, after he asked me, if I had any sedatives at home for the next couple of nights. He was crying out loud. On the street. What a sad sad sight!” My mom wasn’t interrupting him at all. If she was, I couldn’t hear her. “He kept crying all the way to his apartment building,” my dad went on to describe Butrus’ state. “I walked with him upstairs, to his flat and sat with him for a while. What if, the poor boy – he looked miserable, just miserable – decided to take them all at once? When I instructed him again how he only needs one of those pills a night, he sensed how worried I was, ready to take all of them back from him, and comforted me ever so sweetly: ‘Sabas amca, please don’t worry about me. I won’t do any foolishness. I will take one tablet at a time. Honest.’ He thanked me. We hugged. He thanked me again, for having raised a daughter like Huban. He took my hand between both his hands and held it for a while. Oh, Hanam, I feel so bad for him.” Then came a long pause. Was my dad possibly crying? Or my mom? Finally, I heard him ask: “How is our girl doing?”
My mom’s whispery answer didn’t reach my ears. Then again, why would I need to hear it from her. I knew too well how their girl was doing. I knew it only too well.
How had I arrived at the point of separation from Butrus? Even multiple decades later, I have no answer to this question, let alone having been able to make sense of the mutually heart-wrenching outcome of our relationship back then. Was it my routine chatting with my mother on most details of my interaction with him, my pickiness about what he did where and why, my inexperience, or what others, two people in specifics, rather – Auntie Tufan and my mother, thought of him and told me in conflicting views in authoritative repetitions…
He doesn’t have the public presence as you do: you turn heads. But he? He will be bothered by it at some point and then, he will take it out on you, or even restrict you.
He is not even a full year older than you. Women age faster and their physique gets worse than of men their age. You are pretty now, at least attractive. But you will age. You will be hurt when he starts paying attention to younger women when you both reach a certain age.
He is an only child. They are spoiled. They are problematic. Selfish. He would always want to be the center of attention. You will be left out. You will be unhappy.
Aren’t his legs in an x-shape somewhat? And his eyes, crossed a bit? Your children will be in danger of having those traits.
He is already an extrovert, doing all that he can during summer months, away from you, in Efes – of all the inviting places in Turkey, to associate with who-knows-what-type of female tourists he is in contact with for his tour-guide position.
He is from too modern of a family, not befitting ours. Their values are different. Their expectations from your life with Butrus together will be different.
What is with his relationship with that distant female cousin of his anyway, the one who is rather loose?
All these past conversations echoed in me time and again. And for many years, I had a blame finger to point at Auntie Tufan and my mother. In fact, however, it was I who all along had the choice: to defend my love for who he was, namely a gem of a gift I thought never to experience again. Until, after painstaking decades, a remarkable man entered my life and continues to enable me the love I held under the conviction to live only once, one more time.