فصل 14

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فصل 14

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CHAPTER FOURTEEN

How Do You Write Poems?

the dinner conversation turns to

love, head scarves, and suicide

They saw a crowd milling in front of the National Theater; in just hey saw a crowd milling in front of the National Theater; in just seemed to have deterred no one, or perhaps the snow itself had made people decide that, with so much going wrong, they might as well seize this one chance for an enjoyable evening out. Many of those gathered on the pavement in front of the 110-year-old building came from the ranks of the unemployed; there were youths who had left their homes and dormitories in shirt and tie, and youngsters who had sneaked out of the house. Many had brought their children. For the first time since arriving in Kars, Ka saw an open black umbrella. Kadife knew Ka was on the program and scheduled to recite a poem, but when Ka said he had no intention of taking part and had no time for it anyway, she made no attempt to persuade him.

He could feel another poem coming. He stopped talking and rushed back to the hotel as fast as he could. He excused himself, saying that he needed to nip back to his room to collect himself; no sooner had he opened the door than he threw off his coat, sat down at the small table, and began scribbling furiously. The poem’s main themes were friendship and secrecy. Snowflakes and stars were also featured, as were a number of motifs that suggested special happy days.

A number of Kadife’s remarks went straight into the poem without alteration; as one line followed another, Ka surveyed the page with the pleasure and excitement of a painter watching a picture appear on his easel. He could see now that his conversation with Kadife had a hidden logic; in this poem, entitled “Stars and Their Friends,” he elaborated on the theory that every person has a star, every star has a friend, and for every person carrying a star there is someone else who reflects it, and everyone carries this reflection like a secret confidante in the heart.

Although he could hear the poem’s music in his head and exalted in its perfection, he had to skip a word that eluded him here and there; there were a few lines missing too. He would later say that this was because of his preoccupation with Ipek, his not having had his dinner yet, and his ˙ being happier than ever before.

As soon as he finished the poem, he rushed down to the lobby and into the owners’ private quarters. Sitting at a bountifully set table in the middle of a spacious room with high ceilings, flanked on either side by his daughters, Kadife and Ipek, was Turgut Bey. There was a third girl as ˙ well, sitting to one side; she wore a stylish purple head scarf, and Ka knew at once she must be Kadife’s friend Hande. Across from her was Serdar Bey, the newspaperman; he seemed at home in this group. As Ka surveyed all the dishes on the table—what a strange and beautiful disorder— and watched the Kurdish maid, Zahide, gracefully darting in and out of the back kitchen, he imagined that Turgut Bey and his daughters were accustomed to spending long evenings at this table.

“I’ve been thinking about you all day, and all day I’ve been worrying about you,” said Turgut Bey. “Why are you so late?” He rose to his feet and leaned over to wrap his arms around Ka in such a way that Ka thought the man was about to cry. “Terrible things can happen at any time,” he said, with a tragic air.

He sat down in the place Turgut Bey indicated, right across from him, at the other end of the table; the maid served Ka a bowl of lentil soup, which he devoured hungrily. The two other men returned to their raki, their eyes drifting toward the television right behind him; when Ka saw that everyone else had done the same, he did something he’d been dreaming of for a long time: He stared at Ipek’s beautiful face. ˙ Because he would later describe his boundless ecstasy quite vividly in his notes, I know exactly how he felt at that moment—like a happy child, he couldn’t keep his arms or legs still. He could not have been more jittery and impatient if he and Ipek were rushing to catch the train that would take ˙ them back to Frankfurt. He looked at Turgut Bey’s worktable—piled high with books, newspapers, receipts, hotel record books—and as he gazed at the circle cast by the lamp below its shade, he conjured up the vision of another circle of light, one on his own worktable, in the little office he would share with Ipek when they returned to live happily ever after in Frankfurt. ˙ Just then he saw that Kadife’s eyes were on him. Meeting her gaze, Ka thought he saw a flash of jealousy cross her face, which was not as beautiful as her sister’s, but she managed to conceal it with a conspiratorial smile.

His dinner companions remained mesmerized by the television set; even in the thick of conversation, they kept glancing at it out of the corners of their eyes. The live telecast from the National Theater had begun; the tall thin emcee swaying this way and that on the stage was one of the actors Ka had seen while getting off the bus the previous evening. They had not been watching him long when Turgut Bey picked up the remote control and changed the channel. For a long time they sat staring at a fuzzy picture flecked with white dots; they had no idea what they were watching, but it seemed to be in black-and-white.

“Father,” said Ipek, “what are you watching?” ˙

“It’s snow,” said her father. “If nothing else, it is an accurate description of our weather here. This counts as real news. Anyway, you know that if I watch one channel for too long, I feel robbed of my dignity.” “Then, Father, why don’t you just turn the television off ? Something else is going on here that’s robbing us all of our dignity.” “Well, tell our guest what’s happened,” said her father, looking rather shamefaced. “It makes me uneasy that he doesn’t know.”

“That’s how I feel too,” said Hande. There was anger in her beautiful black eyes. For a moment everyone fell silent.

“Why don’t you tell the story, Hande?” said Kadife. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

“No, that’s not true. There’s a great deal to be ashamed of, and that’s why I want to talk about it,” Hande said. Her large eyes flashed with a strange joy. She smiled as if recalling a happy memory and said, “It’s forty days exactly since our friend Teslime’s suicide. Of all the girls in our group, Teslime was the one most dedicated to the struggle for her religion and the word of God. For her, the head scarf did not just stand for God’s love, it also proclaimed her faith and preserved her honor. None of us could have ever imagined she would kill herself. Despite pressure both at school and at home to take off her scarf—her father and her teachers were relentless—Teslime held her ground. She was about to be expelled from school in her third year of study, just on the verge on graduating.

Then one day her father had some visitors from police headquarters; they told him that if he didn’t send his daughter to school scarfless, they would close down his grocery store and run him out of Kars.

“The father threatened to throw Teslime out of the house, and when this tactic failed he entered into negotiations to marry her off to a fortyfive-year-old policeman who had lost his wife. Things had gone so far that the policeman was coming to the store with flowers. So revolted was Teslime by this gray-eyed widower, she told us, she was thinking of taking off her head scarf if it would save her from this marriage, but she just couldn’t bring herself to do it.

“Some of us agreed that she should uncover her head to avoid marrying the gray-eyed widower, and some of us said, ‘Why don’t you threaten your father with suicide?’ I was the one who urged this most strongly. I really didn’t want Teslime to give up her head scarf. I don’t know how many times I said, ‘Teslime, it’s far better to kill yourself than to uncover your head.’ But I was just saying it for the sake of conversation. We believed what the papers said—that the suicide girls had killed themselves because they had no faith, because they were slaves to materialism, because they had been unlucky in love; all I was trying to do was give Teslime’s father a fright. Teslime was a devout girl, so I assumed she would never seriously consider suicide. But when we heard she had hanged herself, I was the first to believe it. And what’s more, I knew that, had I been in her shoes, I would have done the same thing.”

Hande began to cry. Ipek went to her side, gave her a kiss, and began ˙ to caress her; Kadife joined them. With the girls wrapped in each other’s arms, Turgut Bey was waving the remote control and soon also trying to comfort Hande. Before long they were all telling jokes to keep her from crying. As though trying to distract a weeping child, Turgut Bey pointed out the giraffes on the screen; then, like a child not yet certain she’s ready to relent, Hande gazed at the screen with tearful eyes. For a long while, the girls forgot their own lives as they watched two giraffes in slow motion, in a faraway land, perhaps in the middle of Africa, in a field shaded by a heavy growth of trees.

“After Teslime’s suicide, Hande decided to take off her head scarf and go back to school; she didn’t want to cause her parents any more distress,” Kadife explained. “They’d made so many sacrifices, gone without so much, to give her the right sort of upbringing; the things most parents do for an only son, they did for her. Her parents have always assumed that Hande would be able to support them one day, because Hande is very clever.”

She was speaking in a soft voice, almost whispering, but still loud enough for Hande to hear her, and like everyone else in the room, Hande was listening, even with her tear-filled eyes still fixed to the television screen.

“At first the rest of us tried to talk her out of removing her scarf, but when we realized that her going uncovered was better than her committing suicide, we supported her decision. When a girl has accepted the head scarf as the word of God and the symbol of faith, it’s very difficult for her to take it off. Hande spent days locked up inside her house trying to concentrate.”

Like everyone else in the room, Ka was cowering with embarrassment by now, but when his arm brushed against Ipek’s arm a wave of ˙ happiness spread through him. As Turgut Bey jumped from channel to channel, Ka tried to find more happiness by brushing his arm against Ipek’s arm. When ˙ Ipek did the same, he forgot all about the sad story ˙ he’d just heard.

Once again, the television was tuned to the National Theater. The tall thin man was saying how proud he was to be taking part in Kars’s first live telecast and announced the program for the evening, promising miraculous renditions of the world’s greatest legends; secret confessions of a national goalkeeper; shocking revelations that would bring shame to our political history; unforgettable scenes from Shakespeare and Victor Hugo; amorous disasters; the greatest, most glittering stars of Turkish film and theater; as well as jokes, songs, and earth-shaking surprises. Ka heard himself described as “our greatest poet, who has returned to our country in silence after many years.” Reaching under the table, Ipek took ˙ Ka’s hand.

“I understand that you don’t want to take part in the performance,” said Turgut Bey.

“I’m very happy where I am, sir, very happy indeed,” said Ka, pressing his arm against Ipek’s even harder. ˙ “I really wouldn’t want to do anything to disrupt your happiness,” said Hande, setting everyone in the room on edge, “but I came here tonight to meet you. I haven’t read any of your books, but it’s enough for me that you’re a poet and have been to places like Germany. Do you mind if I ask whether you’ve written any poems lately?”

“Quite a few poems have come to me since I arrived in Kars,” said Ka.

“I wanted to meet you because I thought you could tell me how I might go about concentrating. Do you mind if I ask a question? How do you write poems? Isn’t it by concentrating?”

Whenever he gave readings for Turks in Germany, this was the most common question from women in the audience, but every time they asked, Ka recoiled as if he’d been asked something personal. “I have no idea how poems get written,” he said now. “A good poem always seems to come from outside, from far away.” He saw Hande’s eyes filling with suspicion, and added, “Why don’t you explain to me what you mean when you use the word concentrate?”

“I try all day, but I can’t conjure up the vision I want to see, the vision of myself without a head scarf. Instead, I keep seeing all the things I want to forget.”

“For example?”

“When they first noticed how many of us were wearing head scarves, they sent a woman from Ankara to try to talk us out of it. This ‘agent of persuasion’ sat in the same room for hours on end, talking to each of us alone. She asked things like, ‘Did your parents beat you? How many children are there in your family? How much does your father earn in a month? What sort of clothes did you wear before you adopted religious dress? Do you love Atatürk? What sort of pictures do you have hanging on the walls at home? How many times a week do you go to the movies?

In your view, are men and women equals? Is God greater than the state, or is the state greater than God? How many children do you want to have? Have you ever suffered from abuse in the home?’ She asked us hundreds of questions like this, and she wrote down all our answers, filling out a long form for each of us.

“She was a very stylish woman—painted nails, dyed hair, no head scarf, of course—and she wore the sort of clothes you see in magazines, but at the same time she was—how should I put this?—plain. Even though some of her questions made us cry, we liked her. We even hoped that the muddy streets of Kars weren’t causing her too much trouble.

Afterward I began to see her in my dreams. At first I didn’t read too much into it, but now, whenever I try to imagine myself walking through crowds with my hair flying all around me, I see myself as the ‘agent of persuasion.’ In my mind’s eye I’m as stylish as she is, wearing stiletto heels and dresses even shorter than hers, and men are looking at me with interest. I find this pleasing—and at the same time very shaming.” “Hande, you don’t have to describe your shame unless you want to,” said Kadife.

“No, I’m going to talk about it. Even though I feel shame in my dreams, that doesn’t mean I’m ashamed of my dreams. Even if I did take off my head scarf, I don’t think I’d become the kind of woman who flirts with men or who can’t think of anything but sex. After all, when I do take off my head scarf, I won’t be doing it of my own free will. Still, I know people can be overcome by sexual feelings even when they do something like this without conviction, without even wanting it. There’s one thing all men and women have in common. We all sin in our dreams with people who wouldn’t remotely interest us in our waking lives. Isn’t that true?” “That’s enough, Hande,” said Kadife.

“But isn’t it?”

“No, it isn’t,” said Kadife. She turned to Ka. “Two years before all this happened, Hande was engaged to a very handsome Kurdish teenager. But the poor boy got mixed up in politics and they killed him—” “That has nothing to do with my reluctance to bare my head,” Hande said angrily. “The true reason is that I can’t concentrate, I can’t imagine myself without a head scarf. Whenever I try to concentrate, either I turn into an evil stranger like the ‘agent of persuasion’ or I turn into a woman who can’t stop thinking about sex. If I could close my eyes just once and imagine myself going bareheaded through the doors into school, walking down the corridor, and going into class, I’d find the strength to go through with this, and then, God willing, I’d be free. I would have removed the head scarf of my own free will, and not because the police have forced me. But for now I just can’t concentrate, I just can’t bring myself to imagine that moment.”

“Then stop making so much of that moment,” said Kadife. “Even if you collapse then and there, you’ll still be our beloved Hande.” “No, I won’t,” said Hande. “That’s what’s caused me the most anguish since I left you and decided to bare my head—knowing that you despise me.” She turned to Ka. “Sometimes I can conjure up a girl walking into school with her hair flying all around her, I can see her walking down the hall and entering my favorite classroom—oh, how I miss that classroom!—I can even imagine the smell of the hallway and the clamminess of the air. Then I look through the pane of glass that separates the classroom from the hallway and I see that this girl is not me but someone else, and I start to cry.”

Everyone thought Hande was about to start crying again.

“I’m not all that afraid of becoming someone else,” said Hande.

“What scares me is the thought of never being able to return to the per son I am now—and even forgetting who that person is. That’s what makes people commit suicide.” She turned to Ka. “Have you ever wanted to commit suicide?” Her tone was flirtatious.

“No, but after hearing about the women of Kars, one can’t help asking oneself difficult questions.” “If a lot of girls in our situation are thinking about suicide, you could say it has to do with wanting to control our own bodies. That’s what suicide offers girls who’ve been duped into giving up their virginity, and it’s the same for virgins who are married off to men they don’t want. For girls like that, a suicide wish is a wish for innocence and purity. Have you written any poems about suicide?” She instinctively turned to Ipek. “Have I ˙ gone too far now; am I really bothering your friend? All right, then. If he would just tell me where they’ve come from, these poems that have come to him in Kars, I promise to leave him alone.”

“When I sense a poem coming to me, my heart is full of gratitude to the sender because I feel so very happy.”

“Is that the same person who breathes the soul into your poetry?

Who is that person?”

“I can’t be sure, but I think it is God who is sending me the poems.” “Is it that you can’t be sure of God, or simply that you can’t be sure it’s God who is sending them?”

“It’s God who sends me poems,” Ka said fervently.

“He’s seen the rise of political Islam,” said Turgut Bey. “Maybe they’ve even threatened him, scared him into becoming a believer.” “No, it comes from inside,” said Ka. “I want to join in and be just like everyone else.”

“I’m sorry. You’re afraid, and I am reprimanding you.”

“Yes, of course I’m scared,” Ka said, raising his voice. “I’m very scared.”

Ka suddenly jumped to his feet, as if someone were pointing a gun at him—or so it seemed to everyone else at the table. “Where is he?” cried Turgut Bey, as if he too sensed there was someone about to shoot them.

“I’m not afraid,” said Hande. “I couldn’t care less what happens to me.” Like everyone else, she was looking at Ka and trying to figure out where the danger was. Years later, Serdar Bey told me that Ka’s face turned ashen at this point, but there was nothing in his expression to suggest fear or dizziness; what Serdar Bey recalled seeing in his face was sublime joy. The maid went further and told me that a light had entered the room and bathed all those present with divine radiance. In her eyes, he achieved sainthood. Apparently someone then said, “A poem has arrived,” an announcement that caused more fear and amazement than the imaginary gun.

According to the more measured account in Ka’s notes, the tense, expectant air in the room brought back memories of the séances we had witnessed as children a quarter century ago in a house in one of the back streets of Ni¸ santa¸ s. These evenings had been organized by the fat mother of a friend; she’d been widowed at an early age; most of her guests were unhappy housewives, but there was also a pianist with paralyzed fingers, a neurotic middle-aged film star (but only because we kept asking for her), her forever-yawning sister, a retired pasha who was “wooing” the fading star, and also, when our friend could sneak us in, Ka and myself. During the uneasy waiting period, someone would say, “Oh, soul, if you’ve come back to us, speak!” and after a long silence there would be an almost imperceptible rattling, the scraping of a chair, a moan, and sometimes the sound of someone giving a swift kick to a leg of the table, whereupon someone would announce in a trembling voice, “The soul has arrived.” But as he headed for the kitchen, Ka was not at all like a man who’d made contact with the dead. His face was radiating joy.

“He’s had a lot to drink,” said Turgut Bey, and then, to Ipek, who was ˙ already running after Ka, “Yes, go and help him, daughter.” Ka hurled himself onto a chair next to the kitchen. He took out his notebook and his pen. “I can’t write with you all standing about watching me,” he said.

“Let me take you to another room,” said Ipek. ˙

Ka followed Ipek through the kitchen, which was full of the sweet ˙ smell of the syrup Zahide was pouring over the bread pudding; they passed through a cold room into another room half in darkness.

“Do you think you can write here?” Ipek asked, as she turned on a ˙ lamp.

Around him Ka saw a tidy room with two perfectly made beds. There was a low table and a nightstand on which the sisters had arranged various tubes of cream, lipsticks, small bottles of cologne, books, a zippered pouch, and a modest collection of other substances in bottles that had once held alcohol and cooking oil. An old Swiss chocolate box lay open on the table, filled with brushes, pens, charms against the evil eye, necklaces, and bracelets.

Ka sat on the bed, beside the frozen windowpane. “I can write here,” he said. “But don’t leave me alone.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know,” he said. Then he added, “I’m worried.” He set to work on the poem, which began with a description of

another chocolate box, one his uncle had brought from Switzerland when Ka was a child. The box was decorated with the same Swiss landscapes he’d been seeing all day in the teahouses of Kars. According to notes Ka would make later on, when he went back to interpret, classify, and organize the poems from Kars, the first thing to emerge from Ipek’s ˙ box was a toy clock; two days later he would discover that Ipek had played ˙ with this clock as a child. And Ka would use this clock to travel back in time and say a few things about childhood and life itself. . . . “I don’t want you ever to leave me,” Ka told Ipek. “I’ve fallen wildly ˙ in love with you.”

“But you hardly know me,” said Ipek. ˙

“There are two kinds of men,” said Ka, in a didactic voice. “The first kind does not fall in love until he’s seen how the girl eats a sandwich, how she combs her hair, what sort of nonsense she cares about, why she’s angry at her father, and what sorts of stories people tell about her. The second type of man—and I am in this category—can fall in love with a woman only if he knows next to nothing about her.”

“In other words, you’ve fallen in love with me because you know nothing about me? Do you really think you can call this love?” “If you fall head over heels, that’s how it happens,” said Ka.

“So once you know how I eat a sandwich and what I wear in my hair, you’ll fall right out of love.”

“No, by then the intimacy that’s built up between us will deepen and turn into a desire that wraps itself around our bodies, and we’ll be bound together by our happy memories.”

“Don’t get up; sit there on the bed,” said Ipek. “I can’t kiss anyone ˙ when my father is under the same roof.” She did not reject his first kisses but then she pushed him away. “When my father is in the house, I don’t like this.”

Ka tried to plant one more kiss on her lips before sitting back down on the edge of the bed. “We’re going to have to get married and run away from this place as soon as it’s humanly possible. Do you know how happy we could be in Frankfurt?”

There was a silence. Then: “How can you fall in love with me without even knowing me?”

“Because you’re so beautiful . . . because I’ve already seen in my dreams how happy we will be together . . . because I can tell you anything without the slightest bit of shame. In my dreams I can never stop imagining us making love.” “What did you do while you were in Frankfurt?”

“I’d think a lot about the poems I wasn’t able to write . . . I masturbated. . . . Solitude is essentially a matter of pride; you bury yourself in your own scent. The issue is the same for all real poets. If you’ve been happy too long, you become banal. By the same token, if you’ve been unhappy for a long time, you lose your poetic powers. . . . Happiness and poetry can only coexist for the briefest time. Afterward either happiness coarsens the poet or the poem is so true it destroys his happiness. I’m terribly afraid of the unhappiness that could be waiting for me in Frankfurt.”

“Then stay in Istanbul,” said Ipek. ˙

Ka looked at her carefully. “Is Istanbul where you want to live?” he asked in a whisper. His greatest wish just then was for Ipek to ask some- ˙ thing from him.

Ipek sensed this too. “I don’t want anything,” she said. ˙ Ka knew he was pushing her. Something told him he wasn’t going to be in Kars for very long—that before long he would be unable to breathe here—so he had to push as if his life depended on it. For a few moments they listened to snatches of a distant conversation; then a horse and carriage passed under the window and they listened to the wheels rolling over the snow. Ipek was standing in the doorway, slowly and meticulously ˙ removing the hair from the brush in her hand.

“Life here is so poor and hopeless that people, even people like you, forget what it’s like to want something,” said Ka. “One cannot think of life here, only death. . . . Are you coming with me?” Ipek didn’t answer. ˙ “If you’re going to give me a negative answer, don’t answer me at all,” Ka said.

“I don’t know,” said Ipek, her eyes on the brush. “They’re waiting for ˙ us in the other room.”

“There’s some sort of intrigue going on in there, but I have no idea what it’s about,” said Ka. “Why don’t you explain it to me?” The lights went off. When Ipek didn’t move, Ka wanted to embrace ˙ her, but he was so wrapped up in fearful thoughts about returning to Frankfurt alone that he didn’t move either.

“You’re not going to be able to write a poem in this pitch darkness,” said Ipek. “Let’s go.” ˙

“What is the thing you want most from me? What can I do to make you love me?”

“Be yourself,” said Ipek. She stood up and headed for the door. ˙ Ka had been so happy sitting on the edge of the bed that it took a great effort to stand up. He sat down again in the cold room next to the kitchen, and in the flickering candlelight he recorded the poem entitled “The Chocolate Box” in his green notebook.

When he rose again, he found Ipek just in front of him; he rushed ˙ forward to embrace her and bury himself in her hair, but his thoughts got in the way; it was almost as if they too were stumbling in the dark.

There, glowing in the candlelight from the kitchen, were Ipek and ˙ Kadife. With their arms around each other’s necks, they were embracing like lovers.

“Father sent me to find you,” said Kadife.

“That’s fine, dear.”

“Wasn’t he able to write his poem?”

“I did write it,” said Ka, coming out of the shadows. “But now I was hoping to help you.”

He went into the kitchen; in the light of the candle, he saw no one. He quickly filled a glass with raki and drank it neat. When the tears began to stream down his face, he poured himself a glass of water.

When he left the kitchen, he found himself plunged into a menacing darkness. Then he saw a distant candle on the dinner table and headed toward it. The people sitting there turned to look at Ka and the gigantic shadow he cast on the wall.

“Were you able to write your poem?” asked Turgut Bey. He prefaced the question with a few moments of silence, as if to convey a slight air of mockery.

“Yes.”

“Congratulations.” He pressed a raki glass into Ka’s hand and began to fill it. “What’s it about?”

“Everyone I’ve interviewed since coming here, everyone I’ve talked to. I agree with them all. The fear I used to feel in Frankfurt when I was walking in the street, that fear is now inside me.”

“I understand you perfectly,” said Hande, with a very knowing air.

Ka smiled gratefully. Don’t bare your head, my little beauty, he wanted to say.

“If, when you say you believe everyone you’ve heard here,” said Turgut Bey, “you mean to tell me that you believed in God while you were in the company of Sheikh Efendi, then let me make one thing clear.

Sheikh Efendi does not speak for the God we worship in Kars!” “So who does speak for God here?” Hande asked.

Turgut Bey didn’t get angry at her. Stubborn and quarrelsome though he was, he was too softhearted to be an implacable atheist. Ka also sensed that much as Turget Bey worried about his daughters’ unhappiness, he worried even more that his habits and his world might disintegrate. This wasn’t a political anxiety but the anxiety of a man who more than anything feared losing his place at the table, whose only pleasure was spending his evenings with his daughters and his guests, arguing for hours about politics and the existence or nonexistence of God.

The electricity came back on, and suddenly the room was bright.

They were so accustomed by now to the random coming and going of the lights that no one bothered anymore with the rituals of power outage Ka remembered from his Istanbul childhood—no one cheered when the lights returned or asked whether the washing machine might be stuck in the middle of a cycle; there was none of the joy he had once felt in saying, “Let me be the one to blow out the candles”—instead, everyone simply acted as though nothing had happened. Turgut Bey turned the television back on and, having taken possession of the remote control, began to surf the channels. Ka whispered to the girls that Kars was an extraordinarily quiet city.

“That’s because we’re afraid of our own voices,” said Hande.

“That,” said Ipek, “is the silence of snow.” ˙

Feeling defeated, they stared grimly at the ever-changing television screen. As he held hands with Ipek under the table, it occurred to Ka that ˙ if he spent his days doing nothing much at all, and his evenings holding hands with Ipek and watching satellite television, he would live in bliss ˙ until the end of his life.

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