Tag Archives: Huban

“Orientals!” – Autobiographical Fiction, Part 1

Almost up to the time short before my mother’s death, our home in Doluca was often open to family gatherings of loving and caring exchanges, flavored with strong laughter and thorough enjoyment of delicious food and of each other’s company – young and old.  Even today, multiple decades later, I can almost taste the honey suspended in mid-air dripping over me – as if only over me but also embracing all those dear ones.  We were a large enough crowd then.  My mother’s side of the family alone.  My grandfather, step grandmother, great uncle, great aunt, both uncles, both aunts, my parents and my brother.  The members of the “prominent crowd.”  On special holidays, my grandfather’s sisters and their families from Istanbul would also join us.

Being the shy child, my brother would hardly ever get a chance to say much and therefore lose his chance for attention at almost all the gatherings.  I, on the other hand, was the singer, the dancer, the public speaker, the impersonator, and many other things for after meal times.  That is, until a certain age when my upper body began to change and showed it too.  For that entire awkward period, I wished and wished and wished some more for no one to notice me.  But, of course, attention was on me.  As the newest “girl” in the family.  Besides, my attention-hungry singing voice, my quite capable dancing feet, my eager speeches (or dramatic poem recitations) and impersonations of a large variety of celebrities were all missed.

“Sit up straight,” my grandfather started saying one day right at the onset of one of his visits with his wife, that is, after noticing me taking my chest inward as much as physically possible, in my attempt to turn my breasts invisible.  He then made a knuckle with one hand and pressed it against my upper back, mumbling something like “back straight.” His way of saying, I assume today, how proud (straight-backed) I was supposed to be as a female.  That sweet man is long dead.  I never had the courage to ask him what he wanted me to do about my body.  And then, we all started suffering from his dementia.  His younger brother was far more silent about this “issue.” I too often felt I, or better yet, my body’s changing shape, was being sign-languaged behind my back – held straight or not.  My father was neither vocal nor symbolic about it.  Nor had he come up with a similar tactic as my grandpa to help me feel confident.  I don’t recall my mother’s initial take on this issue.  All I remember is how “modest” she wanted me to appear in any situation when it came to my physical traits and what I did with them, including slanting my legs together to one side when seated, if in a skirt.  My younger uncle acted just like my mother.  Somewhat tight-lipped and stern-faced.  My older uncle, on the other hand, was quite relaxed and vocal about my – their girl’s – growing up reality.  As for my brother, he was too young to participate in any silent or vocal reactions yet.

My family’s men and their take on my noticeable femininity – as far back as I have known them in close settings, told me at my matured age what I had not realized back then: namely, how different they all were from one another in their comfort levels when facing female distinctions in their household, or extended household.  They were all born and raised in the same country and had been exposed to the same cultural traditions and practices – differing in nuances alone.  So, shouldn’t they all have had the very same view on everything that mattered the male and the female gender?   My German aunt – the older uncle’s wife, thought so.  I believe I was ten when I heard her for the first time use a term, since then her by far most favorite phrase when referring to Turkish men: “Orientals!”  Several ages later, I began to live what that reference entailed when my only brother was concerned – without yet realizing how severe my resentment was going to be at myself at a late stage in my life for having felt obligated to cater to that mindset.



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“Saying Goodbye” – Part 3/The End (for the moment)

My flight had taken me only to the company of my aunt and a long-time family friend.  No sight of my mother.  There was quite a bit of distance to drive after we left the airport.  During the ride, my aunt told me about my mother’s most recent surgery, one of late yesterday.  Once again, the word was “to relieve her from water collection in her abdomen.”  We finally arrived in the hospital.   Leading my mother’s surgeons’ team, my uncle gave me a brief speech about what to expect in an IC unit.  I had never been to one.  His colleagues didn’t appear comfortable with the idea of a young, unsuspecting female to enter the area.  Since the patient was her mother.  One whom the daughter was known also there to have worshipped her for her entire life.

When I entered the IC unit, my mother seemed to be just waking from her anesthesia.  Barely recognizable, noticeably weak and pale.  She looked up.  As soon as she saw me see her in that horrible condition she became severely agitated and began to struggle as if to fend off her daughter’s image there – what she knew to be her deathbed.  Of all her loved ones, I was not supposed to see her like this.  What about the promise her husband and her brother had made to her?  Why was I there?  At the ending time of her life?  With her looking the way she looked?  Helpless.  So very helpless.  In a matter of what I remember to be a few minutes, my mother’s attending doctor added more sedative to her IV bag.  If not asleep, she could harm herself beyond any more help, against his efforts to lessen her pain, he told me; for, her suffering would only increase very soon.

Before the sedation took its effect, or, maybe even after – as my mother was an extremely willed individual, she signaled for writing items with frantic hand and arm movements she barely had any strength to control.  Everyone in the room was startled.  Seeing her fight off what we were told was a heavy sedative that she was under.  Paper and pencil were gathered from the nearby office of one of the doctors.  Not being able to move much with all the vital sign hooks and various needles and bags and whatever else was attached to her I had no idea about for what reason, and in what must have been great physical pain, she scribbled something on the paper, on her lap, without being able to look down much.  My father lifted her plea up: “Please. I am dying. Let’s end this. I want this to end.”  Almost every letter crooked but legible.  When she took in the lack of any movement on behalf of her physicians, she signaled for another paper and repeated her words.  When also her second effort did not do what she hoped would be the outcome, she lunged her fingers at all the life-prolonging foreign items on and around her body.  More sedatives were added to her IV bag in an instant.  A short while later, all her movements stopped all at once.  The life machine had overruled her will to die right then and there.  She was muted.

Ovarian cancer.  Once again.  It had now taken three mothers in my family out of their daughters’ lives too soon.   All at or close to the age of fourty-eight.  My mother’s aunt – my grandmother’s older sister.  My grandmother herself – my mother’s mother, that is.  And when my mother had found out her pregnancy with me, at that…

For years, I didn’t and couldn’t stop blaming my father and my uncle – however in silence – for keeping a fatally flawed promise they made to my mother.  I felt betrayed.  Being robbed of the time I should have been given the opportunity to spent with my mother.  For not ever being able to say my final goodbye to the person whom I loved the most before I became a mother myself.











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“Saying Goodbye” – Part 2

Then came the second surgery. Before the final one.  Without any of the grueling specifics reaching my ears.  For my mother made my father and my uncle promise not to interfere with my newly formed marriage by telling me how serious her condition was.  I would find out after it was too late for me to unite with her one last time.  She had made them swear by her life – a demand too many in my family took way too seriously – to keep their promise under any and all circumstances.  When I finally gathered my courage years after my mom’s death to question their decision, they both spoke up about her iron will – a trait of hers I, too, was very well aware of.  Their eyes, welled with tears, voices trembling, and their faces, etched with permanent lines of pain.  Whenever they told me that they had to honor her last wish – sometimes in elaborate details, at other times, in what seemed to me to be a cruel matter-of-factual brevity, I wanted to know more.  Hear more.  Find out more.  To be able to pretend I was there with her as long as they had been, all along her final year.  She must have also calculated in the importance of my studies, I had no doubt.  She was so very proud of me for having attained not only admission to a highly respected U.S. university but also for having been hired as a full-time teaching assistant.

It was near the end of my first semester in my doctoral program when the phone call came.  My uncle, still active as the head of the hospital he entered years ago as an intern in Germany, was now telling me to come for a visit, if I could.  While my mother was being treated under his care for something quite routine, as the word was.  She had just undergone another surgery to relieve her from water collecting inside her abdomen due to “a non-alarming reason,” was the fleeting summary.  Feeling faint, I immediately thought back, remembered how her abdomen looked like back in Doluca, before the wedding.  How stupid could I have been all this time to believe what everyone told me back then: “she is suffering from a rare case of arthritis”?  How uninformed was I to settle for such an idiotic reference to her diagnosis?  About two years prior to her first-time hospitalization, my mother had, indeed, been diagnosed with a severe case of arthritic rheumatism, with an unset of stiffness and swelling of her joints suggesting that diagnosis to her doctors.  But, the swelling of the abdomen?

After my brief phone exchange with my uncle a sharp pain settled in me, all over my body.  My head, in a swimming sensation.  My breath, hard to take in and let out.

The ticket had to be bought right away.  I finally realized the situation must have been grim.  No other phone conversation with my uncle before had any mention of me going there for a visit, if I could.  Everyone knew my semester was approaching its end with all its high demands of papers to complete in addition to the classes to finish teaching.  Of all the people in my family, my uncle wouldn’t ask me to come, if I could.  Also, knowing how difficult it was to attain an entry visa as an entire process, let alone in such a short amount of time?  Impossible, I concluded in despair.  Yet, one urgent appointment request over the phone to that wonderful man – whose name I thought I would not forget, ever, but did – in the German consulate on a Saturday morning nevertheless, made my sudden trip to Germany possible.  I had to ask for two incompletes.  One of my professors had decided to give me an extremely difficult time.  Preaching to me about the sense of responsibility one should possess when involved in such serious academic endeavors; the honor in abandoning them altogether, if one were to take family matters first.  I didn’t care less then.  I couldn’t care less.

Our financial situation was not of great standing. Our salaries as first-year students were rather miniscule but our friends pitched in for the money to get me in to the earliest, hence, very expensive flight.  Only the business section had seats available.  For the first time in my life, I was now going to travel “business class.”  What a nonsense, I thought.  At a time like this.  I would of course have much rather flown in the baggage section, if that had been allowed.  Instead of having to travel among the financially privileged, only to end up facing what I felt deep inside me to be a dire reality.  Throughout my trip of grueling length, I tried to shake off from my mind’s staging powers the fatally sick image of my mother.  Trying to picture how carefully I would be hugging her at the airport.  After all, she would be weak and fragile for certain, after having force her doctors to travel regardless of her condition, in a wheelchair nevertheless, to greet me herself as soon as I landed.  Smiling at me and telling me that all is fine.  That all will be fine.


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“Saying Goodbye” – Part 1

The door, shut behind me with force from the draft of the windy, early May air breezing in from the open window in to my mother’s lonely, sterile room led me out.  To what seemed to be the longest corridor of the hospital, one that was to take me out of that ice cold building into the train station, on the first leg of my overseas trip.  With Alaz, my husband, a man whom I barely knew, whom I had married after being introduced to him by one of his colleagues a mere handful of months ago.  Having since known him in a highly restricted man and woman exchange.

The sound of the door.  A recurring reminder of profound sadness but also confusion.  If only I had known that evening was going to be the last time for me to hear my mother’s voice, smell her, hug her, caress her rapidly disappearing hair, touch her still amazingly beautiful face, kiss her, take in the undecipherable look of those remarkably beautiful dark green eyes that always knew how to find my soul.  With my mother being able to respond to my embrace in full consciousness one last time, that is.  Her hand in mine and her inquisitive eyes on my face and demeanor, seeking an answer for the level of my happiness in my few days-old marriage.

Against the orders of her surgeons, my mother made sure to make her appearance in the cocktail salon where the so-called happy celebration happened.  I preferred not to recall any details of that night, or any other nights following it, with her or with anyone else.  Yet, I pretended to be happy.  Especially, whenever with my mother, during the time slots the hospital allowed me the short visits:  I would put on my happiest possible facial expressions.  My preference was to stay behind as the fiance, until after Alaz settled in the States to make sure it was there he would want to pursue his doctorate degree.  He could always come back for us to get married – was how I tried at different times to convince my mother.  She just wouldn’t listen.  Avranos had still been living in the flat right across from ours.  As with my mother, it was common knowledge in our closest vicinities how much in love the two of us were, regardless of how final our separation had been.

“You are not a man, if you leave your fiancé behind,” is how my mother had confronted Alaz, as he told me the year she died.  Only then, did he reveal to me how she convinced him to go against my wish and decision in order to make sure the wedding took place before anyone would leave for the States.  It was that day when I discovered the other reason, or better yet, the reason, behind my mother’s insistence for me to marry and leave at once to begin my own life far away from my unachievable love’s home.  Her prognosis had in reality been far worse than she pretended to be the case.  Worse than anyone in my family pretended to me to be the case.  Before my wedding date, specialists had known she would have less than a year to live – barely a month before her first surgery.

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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 5

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…)

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Autobiographical Fiction, “Butrus” – Part 4

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.)

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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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Autobiographical Fiction, “Butrus” – Part 1

“Please don’t be mad at me.  I don’t mean to bother you.  And please know, I am very sorry, if I do.  You see, I am an avid reader.  Apparently, you are also one.  When I saw you from the end of the hallway over there, looking immersed in your book atop that radiator piece –”

I started laughing.  (It was more a giggle first.)  All along, thinking I should frown upon his blunt approach to me.  The minute he began to describe my strange seating choice, however, I couldn’t help but look up and laugh, almost out loud, feeling relieved he didn’t look anything like a serial killer or a Don Juan.  Tall–above the top of my head, for sure, even though my radiator seat gave me extra inches and I wasn’t practicing the correct posture my mom always instructed me with.  Anyway: tall.  Slender, shapely body in a sporty outfit, slanting eyes of dark brown hues behind clear, stylish glasses.  Light brown, mid-length hair–as straight as leak, as we phrase hair, lacking body in Turkish (at times, with jealousy for the no-show of those typical dense curls).  I must have looked real strange, even comical, perched on the rather narrow marble sill the builders tended to put back then on top of public radiators in order to diffuse the heat beyond the point of burning someone who may accidently touch the open bars (in homes, each household was responsible for such mobile installments–a welcome addition to keep the teapot, a most essential household item for Turkish families, warm enough in any room for those early morning, afternoon and evening tea rituals).  My giggle must have given him the relief he seemed to have needed–he was rather tense until my first laugh echoed in the high ceiling of the hallway opposite of the one he said he saw me from:

“May I please join you?  Unless you are studying for an exam –,” he asked.

“Do have a seat.  But please be careful.  What you will be sitting on is, after all, a rare collection item.”

Now, we were both laughing–hard.  His eyes almost disappeared into a thin line what I thought to be quite adorable.  Faint laugh lines appeared below and on the corners of his lower eyelids.  How both of his lips curled upward when the first laugh came to him gave me a sensation somewhere inside my body I could not locate.  I knew, though, I had not yet felt that way before.  The sound he made with his whole-body laugh was the first example for me for an attractive laughing style some people were talking about.  I ended up sharing my radiator with him as well as what was to be the first of countless long conversations between us for the next most unforgettable four years to come:

“No, this is not a course book,” I blurted, fearing he may disappear fast right before my eyes–the way he had appeared, if I responded any slower, “with the library still under construction, whenever I find a quiet corner between classes, I read as much as I can from my favorite novels.”

“I am sorry to take away from your quiet time.  I really am.  But, I must also be frank: even if you’d ask me to leave, I can’t and won’t.  Unless, of course, you decide to call the campus police on me.  Come to think of it, even then, I won’t leave.”

I gave him a look what must have seemed to him like a gigantic question mark.

“You see, I didn’t actually see you from the hallway over there.  At least, not for the first time today.  I noticed you on the first day of the semester.  It was a rather cold October day.  You were dressed almost all in black: high-neck black top, black-belted black pants with a beige long cardigan on top – “

Now, I was worried.  Alright, no Don Juan or a serial killer maybe, but what about a stalker?  He was describing details about my appearance I myself no longer remembered.  Without noticing my distracted moment, he went on:

“You were wearing a thick cord necklace with a large image of the sun in gold color, black medium-high heel boots and you had your hair down, just like today.  You didn’t see me.  I was behind you on the first day of registration.  Waiting in line to the right of you, with students who didn’t request any advising.  You were together with a woman.  She was in the middle of a discussion with a counselor.  Your attention was fixed on them.  So, I didn’t talk to you then.”

He gave me such a sweet smile that I stopped thinking I may have a stalker right before me.  How could those eyes, that diction, those refined mannerisms belong to someone who had issues those personalities do?  No way!  He behaved as balanced as I knew myself to be.

“I came with my mom that day,” I replied.  “I still wasn’t sure what area of study I was going to enroll in.  She was getting a crash course for both of us on several possibilities from one of the advisors on site.”

“Do you have a major yet?”

“Education.  And you?”

“Sociology,” he blurted with enthusiasm, “with a possible second major in Philosophy.”

“I wish I could also study Philosophy but my parents think –”

What my parents, family members or neighbors would have thought of Butrus didn’t enter my mind for years.  If a person could, indeed, be too happy, he made me into one.  In every which way I knew how to be.  The world was surely a magnificent place to live in with him.

“Hello, my rose, hello!  Right on time, true?  Oh, how I love our nightly routine!

To hear your voice once more before our day ends.  Let me tell you something to smile about: the waiters at the Café are making strange eyes at me right now, while I am looking at them through the phone booth’s window, behind the ancient old ivy’s strategically thick curve.  I can guess what they must be thinking: ‘Wasn’t this guy here just this evening, until closing time, sitting with his gorgeous girlfriend at their usual table?  What’s he doing, still sticking around after hours?’

“Oh, so you hear them tell each other I am gorgeous, is that so?”

“Well, you ARE!  I still can’t believe you are my girlfriend, Huban,” he almost shouted, “please, tell me one more time.  For the night.”

“Hello, hello, announcement incoming: Butrus and I are boyfriend-girlfriend.  Put that on record so that no one will ever forget it, okay?”

“Okay, Okay, I won’t ask you anymore.  Until tomorrow.  One more thing, though, before we say goodbye for the night: the guys at the Café must also be talking behind our backs, wondering what kind of a boyfriend and girlfriend team we are, not even holding hands –“

“Butrus, you know –“

“I know, I know.  I am sorry for bringing it up like this.  Could we, please, talk about it sometime, though?”

“You know how I am, how I was brought up.  So, please –“

“Alright, alright,” he interrupted me, “I am being unfair to you.  I’ll stop talking about us in that way.”

(Thank you for visiting.  Please come back for the next parts.  I hope you won’t be disappointed.)

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