فصل 24

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فصل 24

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I, Ka

the six-sided snowflake

With the black dog following close behind, Ka walked back to the hotel, savoring the empty beauty of the snow-covered streets. He dashed off a note to Ipek— ˙ Come at once!—and asked Cavit, the receptionist, to take it in to her right away. Then he went upstairs and threw himself down on his bed. As he waited he thought of his mother, but soon his thoughts turned instead to Ipek, who had still not arrived. It ˙ was not long before he felt racked with such pain as to make him decide he had been a fool to fall in love—or to come to Kars at all. He had been waiting for some time and still there was no sign of her.

Thirty-eight minutes after Ka returned to the hotel, Ipek walked into ˙ his room. “I had to go to the coal seller,” she said. “I knew there would be a line once the curfew ended, so I went out through the back courtyard at ten to twelve. After twelve I spent some time wandering around the market. If I’d known you were here, I would have come straight back.” Ipek brought such life into the room, Ka’s mood soared—so wildly ˙ he was terrified of doing something to destroy this moment of bliss. He gazed at Ipek’s long shiny hair. Her hands never stopped moving. In no ˙ time at all, her left hand traveled from her hair to her nose, to her belt, to the edge of the door, and on to her beautiful long neck, before it was back straightening her hair again, only to be found a moment later fingering her jade necklace. (She must have just put it on. Only now did Ka notice it.) “I’m terribly in love with you, and I’m in pain,” Ka said.

“Don’t worry. Love that blooms this fast is just as fast to wither.” Ka threw his arms around her and tried to kiss her. Ipek kissed him back; she was as calm as he was frenzied. He felt her small hands on his shoulders, and the sweetness of her kiss sent his head spinning. He knew from the easy way she moved her body that she was ready to make love; he was so happy that his eyes, his mind, and his memory opened fully to the moment and to the world.

“I want to make love, too,” said Ipek. For a moment she looked straight ˙ ahead; then she lifted her eyes with swift determination and met Ka’s gaze. “But as I’ve already said, it can’t happen under my father’s nose.” “So when is your father going out?”

“He never goes out,” said Ipek. “I have to go,” ˙ she said, and she pulled herself away.

Ka stood in the doorway watching Ipek until she had disappeared ˙ down the stairs at the end of the dimly lit corridor. Then he closed the door, sat down on the edge of the bed, whipped his notebook out of his pocket, and, turning to a clean page, began writing the poem he would call “Privations and Difficulties.”

After finishing the poem, Ka continued to sit on the edge of the bed.

He realized, for the first time since his arrival in Kars, that apart from chasing Ipek and writing poems there was nothing in this city for him to ˙ do. The insight made him feel deprived and liberated in equal measure.

He felt sure that if he could convince Ipek to leave Kars with him, he ˙ would find lifelong happiness with her. He knew that the moment was fast approaching when he must persuade her but now that he had a

plan—he felt grateful for the snow.

He threw on his coat and went outside, unnoticed by anyone except

Saffet. Instead of heading toward the city hall, he turned left on National Independence Avenue and walked down the hill. He went into the Knowledge Pharmacy to buy some vitamin C tablets, turned left off Faikbey Avenue, keeping a straight way and pausing now and then to look into restaurant windows, and turned into Kâzım Karabekir Avenue. The campaign banners he’d seen fluttering above the avenue the day before had all been taken down, and all the shops were open. One stationery and cassette vendor was playing loud music. The pavements were crowded with people who’d come out just to mark the end of the curfew; they walked down as far as the market and then back up the hill, pausing now and then to shiver in front of a shop window. Those who usually came to the city on minibuses serving the outlying areas, frequenting the city center to doze in the teahouses and perhaps stop off at the barber’s for a shave, had not come in today, and Ka was pleased to see so many teahouses and barbershops empty. The children in the streets made him forget the fear inside. He watched the children sledding on the bridges, throwing snowballs, playing and fighting and cursing in the vacant lots, the snow-covered squares, the school playgrounds, and the gardens surrounding the government offices. Only a few wore coats; most were wearing school jackets, scarves, and skullcaps. They were happy about the coup because it had given them a school holiday. Whenever the cold got too much for him, Ka went to join Saffet at the nearest teahouse; he’d go straight to the detective’s table, have a glass of tea, and then go outside again.

Now used to Saffet’s following him, he no longer found the man

frightening. If they really wanted to find out everything he did, they’d use a man he couldn’t see. A visible detective’s only use was to provide cover for an invisible colleague. That’s why Ka panicked when, at one point in his walk, he lost sight of Saffet, and why he went in search of him. He found Saffet, with a plastic bag in his hand, panting on the corner of Faikbey Avenue—the spot where the tank was the night before.

“The oranges were very cheap, I couldn’t help myself,” said the detective. He thanked Ka for waiting, adding that he had proved himself to be well-intentioned by choosing not to give him the slip. “From now on, why don’t you just tell me where you’re going? That would save us both a lot of effort.”

Ka didn’t know where he was going. But after two more glasses of raki in yet another empty teahouse, he realized he wanted to pay another visit to His Excellency Sheikh Saadettin. There was no chance of seeing Ipek again in the near future, and he dreaded the torment of letting him- ˙ self think about her, preferring to bare his soul to the sheikh. He’d begin by telling him about the love of God in his heart, and then they could have a civilized conversation about God’s intentions and the meaning of life. But then he remembered that the sheikh’s lodge was bugged: When the police heard what had to say, they’d never stop laughing.

Still, when he passed His Excellency’s modest residence on Baytarhane Street, Ka stopped for a moment to look up at the windows.

Later on his walk, Ka noticed that the doors of the local library were open, so he went inside and walked up the muddy stairs. On the landing was a bulletin board onto which someone had carefully tacked the seven local newspapers. Since, like the Border City Gazette, they had all been printed the day before, there was no mention of the revolution but a great deal about the splendid performance at the National Theater and the continuing blizzard.

Although the city’s schools were closed, he saw five or six students in the library reading room; there was also a handful of retired government officials; like the students, they had probably come here to escape the cold in their houses. In a corner, among the dog-eared dictionaries and tattered children’s encyclopedias, he found several old volumes of The Encyclopedia of Life, which had given him so many hours of pleasure as a child. Inside the back cover of every volume was a series of colored transparencies, which, as you leafed through them, revealed the organs and inner workings of a car or ship or the anatomy of a man. Ka went straight for the fourth volume, hoping to find the series featuring the baby nestled like a chick inside an egg within its mother’s distended tummy, only to find that the pictures had been torn out; all that remained were frayed edges attached to the back cover.

On page 324 of the same volume, he found an entry that he read with care:

SNOW. The solid form taken by water when falling, crossing, or rising through the atmosphere. Each crystal snowflake forms its own unique hexagon. Since ancient times, mankind has been awed and

mystified by the secrets of snow. In 1555, a priest named Olaus Magnus in Uppsala, Sweden, discovered that each snowflake, as indicated in the diagram, has six corners. . . . How many times Ka may have read this entry during his stay in Kars, to what degree he internalized its illustration of a snow crystal, is impossible for me to say. Years later, when I went to visit his family home in Ni¸santa¸ s to spend long hours discussing Ka with his tearful and—as always—troubled and suspicious father, I asked whether I could look at the old man’s library. Memory told me that what I was looking for would be not in Ka’s room with all the other books from his childhood and youth but in a dark corner of the sitting room on the shelves where his father kept his own collection. Here, among the handsome spines of his father’s law books, the collection of novels from the forties—some in Turkish, others in translation—and the row of telephone directories, I found the beautifully bound volumes of The Encyclopedia of Life. The first thing I did was turn to the back of the fourth volume to glance at the anatomical illustration of the pregnant woman; then I directed my attention to the book as an object. I was still admiring its perfect condition when there, before my eyes, was page 324. It was almost as if the book had opened of its own accord to that page. By the entry on snow, I found a thirty-two-year-old piece of blotting paper.

After Ka had finished looking at the encyclopedia, he reached into his pocket and, like a student sitting down to do homework, took out his notebook. He began to write a poem, the tenth to have come to him since his arrival in Kars. In the opening lines, he extolled the singularity of snowflakes, going on to describe his childhood memories of the mother with child he had this time failed to find at the back of the fourth volume of The Encyclopedia of Life; in the poem’s final lines, he mapped out a vision of himself and his place in the world, his special fears, his distinctive attributes, his uniqueness. The title he gave this poem was “I, Ka.” Ka was still writing down the poem when he noticed someone else

sitting at his table. Lifting his eyes from the page, he gasped: It was Necip.

He felt no terror at this apparition, and neither was he amazed; instead he felt ashamed—here was someone who didn’t die so easily and yet Ka had been willing to believe he was dead.

“Necip,” he said. He wanted to throw his arms around the boy and kiss him.

“I’m Fazıl,” said the youth. “I saw you in the street and followed you.” He glanced over at the library table where Saffet was sitting. “Tell me quickly—is it true that Necip’s dead?”

“It’s true. I saw him with my own eyes.”

“Then why did you call me Necip? You’re still not sure, are you?” “No, I’m not.”

For a moment Fazıl’s face crumpled, but then he pulled himself


“He wants me to take revenge. This is why I am convinced he’s dead.

But when school opens all I want to do is study; I don’t want to take revenge. I don’t want to get involved in politics.”

“Revenge is a terrible thing.”

“Even so, I would do it if I thought I had to,” said Fazıl. “I’ve been told you discussed this with him. Did you give those letters to Hicran—I mean Kadife?”

“I did.” Fazıl’s gaze made him uncomfortable. Should I correct that?

he asked himself. Say I was intending to instead? But it was already too late.

For some reason, his lie made him feel more secure. The pain on Fazıl’s face was hard to bear.

Fazıl covered his face with his hands and cried a little. But he was so angry the tears wouldn’t come. “If Necip is dead, who is the person I should be taking revenge on?” When Ka said nothing, Fazıl looked him straight in the eye. “You know who it is,” he said sternly.

“I was told that sometimes the two of you thought the same thing at the same time,” said Ka. “If you can still do that, you know who it is.” “But what he thinks, the thing he wants me to think, causes me terrible pain,” said Fazıl. For the first time, Ka saw in his eyes the same light he’d seen in Necip’s. It was like sitting across from a ghost.

“So what is it that he’s forcing you to think?”

“Revenge,” said Fazıl. He cried a little more.

Ka could tell right away that Fazıl’s own thoughts were of something other than revenge. And Fazıl said so himself when he saw Saffet the detective rise from his table to join them.

“Please, may I see your identity card?” said Saffet the detective, giving him a fierce look.

“They have my school identity card at the circulation desk.”

Ka watched the fear that swept over Fazıl as he realized he was talking to a plainclothes policeman. They all walked over to the circulation desk. The detective snatched the identity card from the hand of the terrified woman on duty, and when he saw that Fazıl was a student at the religious high school, he shot Ka a look that said I might have known and, like an old man confiscating a child’s toy, he put the identity card into his pocket.

“If you want this religious high school ID of yours back, you’ll have to come to police headquarters and ask for it.”

“With all due respect,” said Ka, “this boy has gone to great lengths to stay out of trouble, and he’s only just heard that his best friend is dead.

Couldn’t you give him his card back now?”

Having tried so hard to ingratiate himself earlier in the day so that Ka might put in a good word for him, Saffet now refused to budge.

Hoping he might persuade Saffet to entrust the card to him later on, when no one was watching, Ka arranged to meet Fazıl at five o’clock at the Iron Bridge. Fazıl left the library at once. By now all the other people in the reading room were on tenterhooks, thinking that they too were going to have their identity cards checked. But Saffet was not paying attention; he went straight to his table, where he returned to a 1960s volume of Life magazine to read about the sad Princess Sureyya, who had been spurned by her husband the shah after failing to give him a child, and to look at the last picture taken of Adnan Menderes, the former prime minister, before he was hanged.

Calculating now that he would not be able to get Saffet to give him Fazıl’s identity card, Ka too left the library. When he returned to the enchanted white street to see swarms of joyous children throwing snowballs, he forgot all his fears. He felt like running. In Government Square he saw a gloomy line of shivering men clutching burlap sacks and packets wrapped in newspaper, tied up with string. These cautious citizens of Kars had decided to take the coup seriously and were turning over all the weapons in their houses to the state. The authorities didn’t trust them and had refused to let them inside the provincial headquarters, but they were still lined up like cold little lambs at the main entrance. When it was first announced that all weapons were to be turned in, most Kars residents had gone straight out into the snow in the dead of night to hide their guns in the frozen ground where no one would think to look for them.

While he was walking down Faikbey Avenue, Ka ran into Kadife and

felt his face go red. He’d just been thinking of Ipek, and because he asso- ˙ ciated one sister with the other he now thought Kadife extraordinarily beautiful. He had to exercise great self-control to keep himself from embracing her.

“I must have a very quick word with you,” said Kadife. “But there’s a man following you, so I can’t say anything while he’s looking. Could you go back to the hotel and come to Room Two-seventeen at two o’clock?

It’s the last room at the end of your corridor.”

“Are you sure we can speak openly there?”

“If you don’t tell anyone we’ve spoken”—Kadife opened her eyes wide—“and I mean not even Ipek, no one will ever know.” She gave him ˙ a stern and businesslike handshake. “Now look behind you as casually as you can and tell me if I have one or maybe even two detectives following me.” Ka nodded, smiling slightly. He was surprised at his own coldbloodedness. Although the thought of meeting Kadife secretly in a room confused him, he had no trouble putting it out of his mind.

He knew at once that he didn’t want to see Ipek again before his ˙ meeting with Kadife, not even by chance, so he decided to continue his walk to kill time. No one seemed to be complaining about the coup; instead, the mood was much as he remembered from the coups of his

childhood: There was a sense of new beginnings and of a change from the vexing routines of everyday life. The women had gathered up their handbags and their children and gone out to pick through the fruit in the stalls and at the greengrocer’s in search of a bargain; the men with their thick mustaches stood on street corners, smoking filterless cigarettes and gossiping as they watched the crowds go by; the beggar he’d seen feigning blindness twice the day before was no longer in his station under the eaves of an empty building between the garages and the market. The vendors who had been selling oranges and apples out of pickup trucks parked right in the middle of the street were gone. The traffic, normally light, was lighter still, but it was hard to say whether this was owing to the coup or to the snow. There were more plainclothes policemen out on the streets (one had been made a goalkeeper by the boys playing soccer at the bottom of Halitpa¸sa Avenue). The two hotels next to the garages that served as brothels (the Hotel Pan and the Hotel Freedom) were, like the cockfight ring and the unlicensed butchers, not to be permitted to pursue their black arts “indefinitely.” As for the explosions they’d heard coming from the shanty areas, especially at night, the people of Kars were accustomed to this, so their calm was generally undisturbed. Ka found the general lack of interest liberating. This is why he went into the snack bar on the corner of Little Kâzımbey Avenue and Kâzım Karabekir Avenue, and ordered himself a cinnamon sharbat, and he drank it with relish.

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