Tag Archives: Tamo

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 3

“There are two types of girls,” Tamo had proclaimed one day, three years before I met Butrus, “those to have fun with and those to marry.”  I was almost fifteen, and had begun to notice how men of various ages were looking at me with intent, even though my mother was with me wherever I went.  She said nothing when Tamo’s brief but authoritative monolog took place.  So, neither did I.  Besides, my brother was my idol.  I grew up to that age being told how he deserves my respect and obedience as the third eldest family member.  In return, my parents always reminded him how he must take care of me as his little sister, look after me under any and all circumstances, no matter what age we would be in.

I looked up to my brother, with full submission, and that admiration didn’t have anything to do with my parents’ expectation or hope from me when my brother was concerned.  It, therefore, was no big feat: of course, I was going to continue to make Tamo proud again.  Proud of me.  The way I made him proud whenever his male friends came over.  He had many.  And, they all got together in our home quite often.  “Mom, we are ready for our goodies,” Tamo would call from his room in a routine he initiated for each of these visits.  My mother would prepare snacks and drinks or elaborate meals, depending on the length of their stay.  I would then carry them on a large tray to Tamo’s room where he would take them in through just a crack of the otherwise tightly closed door.  I was as inaccessible to his friends as possible.  All of them were high school juniors–like Tamo.  I was yet to finish middle school.

“You can’t be serious!”

Having spoken both at once, my parents then looked at each other, surprise shining through their faces.  Then, both frowned and just sat there.  Tamo kept quiet.

“Are you sure you want to go to that school?”   My father’s voice was faint but steady a short while later.

“Do you know what to expect there?”  My mother’s, not at all; in fact, she sounded disappointed.

“I think Huban has the right idea,” uttered my brother in a loud enough voice, not easy to disregard, “what’s wrong with my school, the same establishment, only for boys?  I think an all-girls’ high school will be just what best fits Huban.”  Then, he gave me a quick smiling look.  I read pride in his eyes and entire pose.

In a few months, I was going to begin high school, in other words, to enter–according to my young adult book choices, the most notorious world of young, head-strong men chasing after their co-eds only to have a certain way of fun.  My parents and I had been discussing various possibilities for quite some time.  Lately, though, I had been contemplating on Ankara Kız Lisesi, the only all-girl high school in our city.  Tamo’s approval during our last brief family exchange signaled the confirmation of my school selection.  My parents enrolled me in this educational institution–modeled after Catholic schools, minus the religious tradition, at least when formal classes were concerned.  Proper conduct and a rigid dress code made up the core of instructional design.

The scholastic credibility and far-reaching influence of the school, one of the best in the country, were important aspects to me as an honors’ student during my prior schooling –five years of elementary and three years of middle school instruction.  I intended to also achieve honors throughout my upcoming three years in high school.  That I was to graduate in the right category of females, however, that is, as one trained in appropriate behavior with men, was an enormous force behind my decision.  My school’s strict dress code didn’t bother me as it had most girls in my classes.  Quite in the contrary.  I wore the skirt of my uniform even several centimeters longer below the knee than was required.  My thick, waist-long hair of a distinct blackish red shine was routinely in tight braids, either on each side of my face, or as one big braid but folded into another small one on my nape, in order not to attract any attention to lose locks.  My teachers but my principal and vice principal, in particular, were all so very proud of my intact appearance on days of unannounced screenings, or at the end of a school day, on our way out of the school’s impressively ornate large iron gate.  On weekends and holidays, though, I had to show off the glimmer all around my what my mother called exceptionally eye-catching eggplant maroon full head of hair.  She insisted.

On each school day, though, and with diligence at that, I put the proper conduct I had been learning about into practice: on the students from Atatürk Erkek Lisesi, the only all boys’ high school of our city–Tamo’s territory, where he was a senior now.  I would secretly bestow upon myself a symbolic medallion of honor each day on my way home.  For succeeding in my attempts to escape the attention of those boys, who would rush after school to settle atop the short walls of my school’s extended garden to check out the girls.  Suggestive words were made, though with some caution, from the side of the boys to most girls in sight, but not to me.  It was as if I were invisible.  This outcome alone was to me something to be extremely proud of.  I was not going to be one of the girls with whom a boy could have fun.  Oh no!  No, indeed!  I was to save myself for marriage to a man who would appreciate my purity, my untainted innocence.  So, my routine appearance in public, especially when passing in front of those boys, included a notable big frown on my face, drooped down eyes, slouched body posture and rushed feet.  The bushy eyebrows I flashed most certainly contributed to the uninviting physique I was aiming for.  After all, I had to become, be, and remain a good girl.

(Once again, more parts to come.)

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