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Autobiographical Fiction, “Butrus” – Part 6

Butrus’ early school records were also as impeccable as mine, throughout his high school years–his was a private co-ed establishment.  We had also both been involved in art and music-related extra-curricular activities during our pre-college years.  While I took classical ballet lessons in middle school–having had to give them up during high school for various reasons, his high school time had been quite colorful for him as the vocalist and guitar player of a band he formed.  Oh, how I loved his stories about his band’s performances in his hometown’s high schools but also in various popular neighborhood clubs and bars-almost as much as our moments together when he would bring his guitar to our outdoor times together.

Ankara’s most popular park back then, a botanical garden, was a location we turned into our most favorite meeting spot after Café.  Good weather or not, we would spend our time together on one of the benches, after buying some snacks and cold drinks from the mini market nearby.  All we needed were then his voice and the remarkable tunes he created with his guitar.  The benches were quite far apart from one another, so Butrus’ private concert wasn’t bothering anyone who wanted to enjoy some quiet on a morning or afternoon to escape from the city’s usual hustle and bustle.  His talking voice was like velvet, as our native tongue would associate beautiful vocals and intonation of each speech sound.  As for his singing voice, it never disappointed me: it was even more velveteen.  Teaching me some of the English lyrics of songs he knew and sang best was as much a joy to Butrus as it was to me.  I learned my first English from him.  Through the lyrics of Simon and Garfunkel.  Today I am still as enchanted as I was the first-time I heard “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.  When you’re down and out // When you’re on the street // When evening falls so hard // I will comfort you. 

During my numerous difficult passages on personal front, Butrus was always ready to reassure me: “I will always be there for you, my rose.  I will never let you down.”  He never did.  I, however, have let him down.  Every step of the way.  I let myself down also.  Every step of the way.

Kafka, what were your life events that made you conclude you and no one else were the one who disappointed you?

~ ~ ~

“I believe these are all the presents you gave me.  As for the pictures, I’d like to keep them, if you don’t mind.”

“I wish you would keep everything I gave you, Huban.  And not just the pictures,” Butrus answered, “I wouldn’t know what to do with any of these.  Please, keep them.  To remember me by.”

I had been crying all afternoon.  On the chair my mother placed in front of the entry to our large balcony out our salon, the formal living room, behind the heavy lacy curtains she had sewn years ago, when her hands were not yet causing her this much pain.  Arthritis hit her at a very young age.  She also had to give up knitting, one of her most favorite pastime pursuits.  Knitting, sewing, cooking and baking.  My mom always loved doing any of these activities in such a quick and skilled manner that whoever saw (or tasted) the products of her work for each would sigh in awe.  Not anymore.  Lately, she had instead been getting together with her close friends for tea parties to play cards.  For the fun of it.  Probably to kill time.  Maybe also to reminisce old times.  When none of them looked the flawed way (their words) they do now nor had the physical limitations as they were having of late.  Today was one of my mom’s “away” gatherings.  Just my luck.  Had it been her turn…

It was getting dark.  Where was she?  My eyes were stuck on the street from where she would be approaching our home, behind that very tall ugly building with many tiny shops on its ground floor.  When we first moved to our flat, our apartment complex was the only one in this neighborhood.  The road what had become a boulevard about a decade ago was in clear sight to us.  But now, there were too many constructions blocking the view from our living room, even from the large main balcony in the extended front wing of our flat.  The only store I could stand in that tallest and largest building right across from us was the flower shop.  Butrus’ regular stop on his way to pick me up from the English Language Institute nearby every week for the last four years.

I am sorry, Huban.  This one was the reddest they had today.  And I thought, by now, they would know what I always want and save it for me.

It is beautiful, Butrus.  It just is so very beautiful.  You’ll get the reddest for me next time.

No more next time…

I changed much; they so tell me

How can the before be without you?

I smile as if lost; they so tell me

How can a smile survive without you?

 

My livelihood, long lost; they so tell me,

That I must try to revive the self.

It is ripped from its sustenance,

How can there be life without you?

 

My youth is the hope; they so tell me,

That it will ease the pain.

I am buried without you

How can I endure time; they won’t tell me!

 

What was taking my mother so long?  She knew today was the day when I was going to break up with Butrus.  She and Auntie Tufan had spelled it all out for me, while Asul was listening in silence.  She had broken up from her first love also for her mother’s reasons.  For Asul’s own good.

When I met Butrus today, I was an exemplary display of confidence and iciness.  Exactly how Auntie Tufan and my mother had coached me to be.  No tears.  No shaky hands or voice.  Not one single tear.  Yet now, I was experiencing pain deep somewhere inside me in such brutality that I thought I could no longer breathe.  As for my tears–I couldn’t stop them from flooding my face.

At dawn

The sea spreads infinity before me

The pain of missing you

Slivers in sobs into me

One distinct whisper in the wind

That used to lend me your breath

Condemns now upon me

An eternal life of grief without you

 

Then, a sound arose, one I never heard coming from me before.  I had heard it only once.  Coming from my mom’s petite body with such intensity and violence I didn’t know how to react to her.  On that horrible day when my father told her of my uncle’s sudden death.  My mother’s younger brother.  All alone.  Slouched on the steps of his work place with his heart failing him, while he was rushing to help one of his patients out of the emergency room.  The sound that came out of my mom was nothing like I had ever experienced before.  A wailing.  Exactly like what was now coming from within me.  In my anguish I felt desperate for the incredible hurt to cease.  My mother will make it happen, I trusted.  So, I waited.  And waited.  Wailing.  All along wailing.  Not for once concerning myself with the possibility of the neighbors hearing my outcry.

She should be running home.  She would hurry home.  To embrace me.  To help me stop this wailing.  To assure me that this overwhelming pain will leave me.  That it won’t hurt this much.  Ever again.

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Autobiographical Fiction, “Butrus” – Part 2

I had graduated from an all girl’s high school where we were taught for three full years to avoid men at all costs in order not to become what they would want us as: objects to have fun with.  Butrus was nothing like what I had learned to fear during my pre-college education.  He was gentle, patient, observant of my reactions to any physical closeness between us and respectfully distant whenever I looked uncomfortable.  I can’t remember exactly when I allowed him to hold my hand.  In private, that is.  In public, I was not at ease for a very long time.  Nothing, in other words, the waiters of Café must have been witnessing other couples do day in and day out.  We must have known one another for about a year and a half, I believe, when he reached out to my hand on the street, near my home, on our way back from one of our concert dates, and held it from then on at every chance he got.  I didn’t reject his hand touch on mine that night –or at any other time.  For, he looked so overjoyed that evening.  I thought he did straighten his upper back and his shoulders a little –he had a slight slouch what I always believed to be on my account, since I am petite, and stretched his neck somewhat, his lips hinting at a faint proud smile in their attractive upward curl, as if to shout out to the world: My rose really takes me as her boyfriend.  A real boyfriend.

After that day, much more physical attraction between us filled the air–no matter where we were.  We never acted upon that feeling of the unknown pull.  But it was there.  Notably so.  After one of our evenings of absorbing yet another spectacular performance by the Ankara Philharmonic Orchestra, only, this time, distracted by how much more closer our bodies were drawn to one another, the coat check room became our confession stand: our fiery eyes met.  He was caressing me with his, and I, him, with mine.  I felt I was running a sudden fever.  On our way home, my home, that is, where he would always take me back after any of our outings, all the way to the door, we didn’t talk for a long time.  It was snowing.  Gentle flakes.  Gentle just like my Butrus.  Although, this time, I felt his hand gripping mine in a far more strong hold than ever before.  I responded the same way.  The darkness encouraged us to an almost first-kiss-on-the-lips, when Butrus stopped walking, turned toward me, held me on my shoulders with a very soft touch and neared his face to mine.  I looked away.

“Forgive me, Huban.  I am finding it more and more difficult to resist you in this way.  I will be strong, of course, because you don’t want to take our relationship to the next level.  But, please, please know how unbearable it is for me sometime to be so close to you every day and on our concert evenings, yet not be able to feel you in the way we both seem to want.”

“Butrus, I am sorry.  I really am.  I feel the attraction to you, too.  But our relationship is so pure.  Our love is so unique.  Let us please not spoil it in any way.  Promise me?”

“Alright.  I promise, my rose.  I know we still have several years until we can get married.  For that, we must be patient.  I must be patient.  Do you think, though, you will consider allowing me a kiss after our promise ceremony?”

“I can’t tell you anything now, Butrus.  I really can’t.  Please try to understand me in this.  Now, can we talk about something else?”

A year later, we were promisedto one another in a simple ceremony, fulfilling everyone’s expectation: the parents, extended family members, neighbors, close friends and acquaintances.  We had, after all, been going out for a long time, when all others were concerned.  Our event was quite different from that of my parents: we both were adamant about not having any of the superfluous formalities.  Our families accepted our appeal, although not without trying to convince us otherwise.  With his family living in another city, the crowd was also very manageable.  I have a small family, after all.  And Butrus was an only child.  My mother, though, had insisted on inviting three people outside the family: our long-time friend, Auntie Tufan, the widow who lived in the flat right across from ours sharing the same short hallway with us.  She had become a widow when her children were very young.  The first time we met was during our apartment’s construction period when all of us children played on the dirt street before our building, the only one as far as our eyes could see, while the parents checked out the quality of the materials.  Her daughter Asul was four years my senior, her son Avranos, five.  Avranos had one arm in cast.

Our calm afternoon of promises had everyone talking even months later: a delectable collection of appetizers, champagne, fine entrees and desserts–thanks to my mom’s incredible cooking and baking skills (and remarkable capacity for physical endurance), polished silver-plated serving trays, bowls and utensils placed between delicate flower arrangements and buffeted on our round dining table atop my mother’s lace-edged linen table cloths.

Aside from now having a memorable landmark of formality in our relationship–made even more memorable by my mother’s days-long labor, nothing had changed between Butrus and me.  We were as close to one another as before.  We could complete each other’s sentences, hence, thoughts, with as much ease as before.  We loved to experience any and all cultural activities and special events Ankara had to offer us as often as before, and we were exchanging our reports of concerts, plays, films, poetry readings and music festivals with as much professional pretense as ever before.  One change, however, had happened: my mother began to invite Butrus over for meals on occasion–to his considerable excitement.  He had, after all, been one of the first-hand witnesses to my mom’s reputation as a great cook and pastry chef by any definition.  On those occasions, we were both allowed in my room.  Not as a demand from my parents but at my own will, the door always stayed open.  In my room or elsewhere, Butrus could not give me his long-awaited kiss for almost two more years.  I wanted that kiss myself.  With a strong urge, at that.  Yet, I did not think it to be proper behavior back then.  Plain but not simple.  Not simple at all.  It’s more than just the fact that I graduated from-an-all-girls’-high school; as to why I had begun to feel torn between passion for Butrus and duty–to fulfill my brother’s ideal of a good girl.  Of course, that some of my extended family members but also close family friends and vocal, self-righteous neighbors as well.

(Thank you for stopping by. Do come back, if you’d so please.)

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