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CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

I Have Two Souls Inside My Body

on love, insignificance, and

blue’s disappearance

At a quarter to five, Ka stepped out of the Snow Palace Hotel. Turgut Bey and Kadife had not yet returned from the meeting at the Hotel Asia, and Ka still had fifteen minutes before he was due to meet Fazıl, but he was too happy to sit still. He turned left off Atatürk Avenue and walked as far as the Kars River, slowing down from time to time to gaze into the windows of grocery stores and photographers’ and teahouses crowded with men watching television. When he reached the Iron Bridge, he smoked two Marlboros in quick succession; with his head full of visions of living happily ever after with Ipek in Frankfurt, he didn’t ˙ feel the cold at all. Across the river was the park where rich families of Kars used to go to watch the ice skaters; it was now ominously dark.

Fazıl was late to the Iron Bridge rendezvous, and when he emerged from the darkness Ka for a moment mistook him for Necip. Together they went into the Lucky Brothers Teahouse, where Fazıl reported everything he could remember about the meeting at the Hotel Asia. When he got to the part where he declared his feeling that the history of his small city had become as one with the history of the world, Ka silenced him as one might hush another in midsentence upon catching the thread of something important being said on the radio; he then proceeded to write the poem entitled “All Humanity and the Stars.”

In the notes he made afterward, Ka described its subject as the sadness of a city forgotten by the outside world and banished from history; the first lines followed a sequence recalling the opening scenes of the Hollywood films he had so loved as a child. As the titles rolled past, there was a faraway image of the earth turning slowly; as the camera came in closer and closer, the sphere grew and grew, until suddenly all you could see was one country, and of course—just as in the imaginary films Ka had been watching in his head since childhood—this country was Turkey; now the blue waters of the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus and the Black Sea were visible; as the camera moved in farther you could see Istanbul, and the Ni¸ santa¸ s of Ka’s childhood, with the traffic policeman on Te¸svikiye Avenue, the Street of Ni˘gar the Poetess, and trees and rooftops (how lovely they looked from above!); then came a slow pan across the laundry hanging on the line, the billboard advertising Tamek canned goods, the rusty gutters and the pitch-covered sidewalls, before the pause at Ka’s bedroom window. Then a long tracking shot through the window of rooms packed with books, dusty furniture, and carpets, to Ka at a desk facing the other window; panning over his shoulder, the camera revealed a piece of paper on the desk and, following the fountain pen, came finally to rest on the last letters of the message he was writing, thus inviting us to read:

ADDRESS ON THE DAY OF MY ENTRANCE

INTO THE HISTORY OF POETRY: POET KA,

16/8 NIGÂR THE POETESS STREET,

N˙I¸ SANTA¸ S, ISTANBUL, TURKEY

As discerning readers will already have guessed, this address, which I think must also appear in the poem itself, is located on the Reason axis but positioned to suggest the power of the imagination.

Fazıl’s main preoccupation was clear by the end of his story; he was now very uneasy about having threatened to kill himself if Kadife bared her head. “It’s not just because committing suicide is tantamount to losing your faith, it’s also because I didn’t mean it. Why did I say something I didn’t mean?” Fazıl claimed that right after his vow, he had said, “God forgive me, I’ll never say that again!” But then, coming eye to eye with Kadife at the door, he had trembled like a leaf.

“Do you think Kadife thought I was in love with her?” he asked Ka.

“Are you in love with Kadife?”

“You know the truth already; I was in love with Teslime, may she rest in peace. My friend Necip, may he also rest in peace, was the one who was in love with Kadife. I feel so ashamed of myself for falling in love with the same girl not a day after his death. And I know there can be only one explanation. This scares me too. Tell me why you’re so sure that Necip is dead!”

“I looked at the place where the bullet entered his forehead before I laid my hands on his shoulders and kissed him.”

“It’s possible that Necip’s soul is now living inside my body,” said Fazıl. “Listen. I stayed away from the gala last night; I didn’t even watch it on television. I went to bed early and passed out immediately. Only later did I hear about the terrible things that had happened to Necip while I was asleep. Then the soldiers raided our dormitory, and I had no doubt they were true. By the time I saw you at the library, I knew Necip was dead, because his soul had been in my body since early morning. The soldiers who came to empty the dormitory passed me by, so I spent the night on Sunday Street, at the home of one of my father’s friends from army days—he’s from Varto. As I lay in his guest bed, my head suddenly started spinning and a deep rich feeling came over me. My friend was at my side again; he was inside me. It’s just as they say in the old books: The soul leaves the body six hours after death. According to Suyuti, at that instant the soul is a playful, mercurial thing, and it has to sit in Berzah till the Day of Judgment. But Necip’s soul decided to enter my body instead.

I’m sure of this. I’m also very much afraid, because this is never mentioned in the Koran. But there’s no other way I can explain how I fell in love with Kadife so quickly. So the idea of committing suicide over her wasn’t mine either. Do you think it could be true that Necip’s soul has taken refuge in my body?”

“If that’s what you believe,” said Ka carefully.

“You’re the only one I’m telling. Necip told you secrets he never told anyone else. I beg you, tell me the truth: Necip never once told me that the doubt of atheism had taken root in him, but he could have mentioned it to you. Did Necip ever tell you that he—God forbid—doubted God’s existence?”

“It wasn’t the sort of doubt you imagine; what he told me was different. Like imagining your parents might die one day and taking pleasure from that sadness, it was about thoughts that came to him unbidden about what might happen if his beloved God did not exist.”

“Now the same thing’s happening to me,” said Fazıl. “I’ve no further doubt that Necip’s soul has planted these thoughts in me.” “These uncertainties don’t equal atheism.”

“But I’m already siding with the suicide girls,” said Fazıl sadly. “Just a few minutes ago, I said I was ready to commit suicide myself. I don’t want to believe that my dear departed friend was an atheist. But now I hear the voice of an atheist inside me, and this makes me very scared. I don’t know if it’s the same for you, but you’ve been to Europe; you’ve met all the intellectuals and all those alcohol and sleeping-pill addicts who live there.

So please, tell me again, what does it feel like to be an atheist?” “Well, they certainly don’t fantasize endlessly about suicide.” “I don’t fantasize endlessly, but sometimes I do think about it.” “Why?”

“Because of Kadife. I can’t get her out of my mind! I close my eyes and there she is, shimmering before me. When I’m studying, watching television, waiting for evening to fall, everything reminds me of Kadife, even if it has nothing to do with her, which causes me great pain. This started happening before Necip died. To tell you the truth, it was not really Teslime; it was always Kadife I loved. But because my friend loved her I hid my feelings. It was actually Necip who provoked it, by talking endlessly about Kadife. When the soldiers raided our dormitory I knew there was a chance they had already killed him and, yes, this thought made me glad. It wasn’t because I saw a chance to make my feelings plain; it was because I thought it served him right for provoking this love in me.

Necip is dead now, and I am free, but that only means I love Kadife more than ever. I’ve been thinking of her ever since I woke up this morning; she’s consuming my thoughts; it’s got so I can’t think about anything else and—dear God—I just don’t know what to do!”

Fazıl buried his face in his hands and began to sob. Ka lit a Marlboro as a wave of selfish indifference passed through him. But he still reached out to comfort the boy and, for the longest time, stroked his head.

Saffet, the detective assigned to follow him, had been sitting at the other end of the teahouse, watching them with one eye and the television set with the other; now he got up and walked over to the table.

“Tell this boy to stop crying. I didn’t take his identity card to headquarters; I still have it with me.” When this failed to stem Fazıl’s tears, he put his hand in his pocket and produced the identity card; Ka reached out and took it. “Why is he crying?” asked Saffet, half out of professional curiosity and half out of compassion.

“He’s in love,” said Ka. The detective immediately relaxed. Ka watched him leave the teahouse and vanish into the night.

Later, Fazıl asked what he had to do to get Kadife’s attention, mentioning that all of Kars knew Ka was in love with Kadife’s sister. Fazıl’s passion seemed so plainly hopeless and impossible that Ka wondered whether his own love for Ipek might not be similarly doomed. As Fazıl’s ˙ sobs faded away, Ka dolefully repeated the advice Ipek had given him: ˙ “Just be yourself.”

“That’s not going to be possible as long as I have two souls inside my body,” said Fazıl. “Especially with Necip’s atheist soul slowly taking over.

For years and years, I’ve thought my friends and fellow classmates were wrong to get mixed up in politics, and now suddenly I want to join the Islamists and do something to protest this military coup. But even there my motivation, I think, is to make Kadife notice me. It scares me to have nothing but Kadife inside my head. It’s not just because I don’t know her.

It’s because this proves I’m a typical atheist. I don’t care about anything except love and happiness.”

When Fazıl broke down into sobs again, Ka thought of telling him that he shouldn’t be discussing his infatuation with Kadife in public; he would be in serious trouble if Blue found out about it. If everyone knew about his own relationship with Ipek, Ka reasoned, it followed that ˙ everyone also knew about Kadife’s relationship with Blue. In this case, Fazıl’s professed ardor would be a direct challenge to the Kars Islamist hierarchy.

“We’re poor and insignificant,” said Fazıl, with a strange fury in his voice. “Our wretched lives have no place in human history. One day all of us living now in Kars will be dead and gone. No one will remember us; no one will care what happened to us. We’ll spend the rest of our days arguing about what sort of scarf women should wrap around their heads, and no one will care in the slightest because we’re eaten up by our own petty, idiotic quarrels. When I see so many people around me leading such stupid lives and then vanishing without a trace, an anger runs through me because I know then that nothing really matters more in life than love. And when I think that, my feelings for Kadife become all the more unbearable—it hurts to know that my only consolation would be to spend the rest of my life with my arms around her.”

“Yes,” said Ka ruthlessly. “These are the sorts of thoughts you have when you’re an atheist.”

Fazıl started crying again. Ka either couldn’t remember what they said afterward or he chose not to write it down; the notebooks show no record of the end of the conversation. On the television screen a horde of little American children were clowning for the camera. They were knocking over their chairs, an aquarium was bursting, and then they were all crouching on the ground to the sound of canned laughter. Like everyone else in the teahouse, Fazıl and Ka forgot their troubles and sat laughing at the antics of the American children.

When Zahide entered the teahouse, Ka and Fazıl were watching a truck weave stealthily through a forest. She gave Ka a yellow envelope in which Fazıl showed no interest. Ka opened it up and read the note inside; it was from Ipek. She and Kadife proposed to meet him in twenty min- ˙ utes at the New Life Pastry Shop. Fortunately, Zahide had found out from Saffet that he was in the Lucky Brothers Teahouse.

As Zahide was leaving, Fazıl said, “Her grandson is in our class. He’s mad about gambling. If there’s a cockfight or a dogfight going on, he’ll have a bet on it.”

Ka handed him his student identity card. “They want me back at the hotel for dinner,” he said, as he rose to his feet.

“Are you going to see Kadife?” asked Fazıl, hopelessness in his voice.

The pity and annoyance he could see on Ka’s face made him blush with shame. As Ka left the teahouse, Fazıl shouted, “I want to kill myself ! If you see her, tell her that if she bares her head I’m going to kill myself ! But it won’t be because she’s bared her head, I’ll do it just for the pleasure of killing myself in her honor.”

Having more than enough time to get to the New Life Pastry Shop, Ka decided to take the back roads. Walking down Kanal Street, he saw the teahouse where he’d written “Dream Streets” that morning; only when he went inside did he realize that he was not destined to write his next poem in this smoky half-empty teahouse; what he wanted was to go straight across the room and out through the back door. He walked into the snow-covered courtyard, stepped over the low wall he could hardly see, now that it was dark, and went past the same barking dog down three steps into the basement.

A weak lamp illuminated the interior. Mixed with the smell of coal and the stench of old bedding there were now also raki fumes. He could see several silhouettes huddled around the humming stove. When he saw it was the hook-nosed MIT agent drinking raki with the tubercular Georgian ˙ woman and her husband, he wasn’t at all surprised. Neither did they seem surprised to see Ka. Ka noticed that the woman was wearing a fashionable red hat. She offered him boiled eggs with pita bread, and her husband poured him a glass of raki. While Ka was still peeling his boiled egg, the MIT agent told him that this furnace room was not merely the warmest ˙ place in Kars, it was heaven itself.

The poem Ka wrote during the ensuing silence, without a single difficulty or missing word, was the one he would later call “Heaven.” If he placed it on the Imagination axis of the snowflake, far from the center, way at the top, it was not to suggest that heaven was the future we remember: For Ka, heaven was the place where you kept your memories.

Recalling this poem afterward, he would summon one by one a string of recollections: the summer holidays of his childhood, the days he’d skipped out of school, the times he and his sister had gone into their parents’ bed, various drawings he’d done as a child, and the time he went on a date with a girl he’d met at a school party and dared to kiss her.

As Ka walked to the New Life Pastry Shop, his mind was busy with Ipek. When he arrived, he found the sisters already there. ˙ Ipek looked so ˙ beautiful, and Ka felt such happiness at the sight of her, that tears came to his eyes—although it’s possible that his reaction might have had something to do with the raki he’d just drunk on an empty stomach. To sit at a table with two lovely women didn’t just make him happy, it made him proud. He thought of those worn-out Turkish shopkeepers in Frankfurt who smiled and waved at him every morning and evening and imagined what they would think to see him now with these two women. Today he had no audience; no one else was here apart from the old waiter who’d been present when the director of the Institute of Education was assassinated. But even as he sat in the New Life Pastry Shop with Ipek and Kad- ˙ ife, Ka knew he would always remember this scene; like a photograph taken from outside the shop, it showed him sitting at a table with two beautiful women—never mind that one of them had wrapped her head in a scarf.

The two women were as agitated as Ka was calm. After Ka explained that Fazıl had given him a full report of the meeting at the Hotel Asia, Ipek came right to the point. ˙

“Blue left the meeting in a fury. And Kadife now regrets what she said there. We sent Zahide to his hiding place but he wasn’t there. We can’t find Blue anywhere.” When she started speaking, it was in the tone of the elder daughter trying to help a sister in trouble, but soon it was clear that she too was distressed.

“If you find him, what then?”

“We want to be sure they haven’t caught him. Above all, we need to know he’s still alive,” said Ipek. She glanced at Kadife, who looked as if ˙ she was about to burst into tears. “Please find him and ask him if he has anything he wants to say to us. Tell him Kadife’s ready to do whatever he asks.”

“You know Kars a lot better than I do.”

“It’s dark and we’re just two women,” said Ipek. “You’ve learned your ˙ way around the city by now. Go see what you can find out at the Man in the Moon Teahouse and the Divine Light Teahouse—that’s where the religious high school boys and the Islamist students go. They’re both swarming with undercover police, and those men are terrible gossips. If something bad’s happened to Blue, they’re sure to be talking about it.” Kadife had taken out her handkerchief and was blowing her nose. Ka thought she was still on the verge of tears.

“Bring us news of Blue,” Ipek said. “If we stay here any longer, our ˙ father will begin to worry. He’s expecting you for dinner.” “Don’t forget to check out the teahouses on Bayrampa¸sa Avenue!” Kadife said, as she rose from her chair.

Her voice was about to crack; it seemed to Ka that both girls were terrified and fast losing hope. Ka was uneasy about leaving them in this state, so he walked them halfway back to the Snow Palace Hotel. Fearful as he was of losing Ipek, the knowledge of being their accomplice, help- ˙ ing them do something behind their father’s back, bound him to them both. As they walked, he imagined one day when he and Ipek would be in ˙ Frankfurt and Kadife would come to visit, and the three of them would weave in and out of the cafés on Berliner Avenue, stopping from time to time to gaze at a shop window.

But after giving it some thought, he began to doubt he’d be able to accomplish the mission they had set him. He had no trouble finding the Man in the Moon Teahouse, a place so ordinary and uninspiring that Ka soon forgot why he was there; for the longest time he sat alone watching television. There were a few men there who seemed young enough to be students, and although he did try to coax them out with a few remarks about the football match on the screen, none of them responded. Ka’s next move was to take out his cigarettes, so that he’d be ready to offer them to anyone who might approach him; he even went so far as to put his lighter on the table. When he realized that no one, not even the crosseyed man at the counter, was going to talk to him, he went next door to the Divine Light, where he found a handful of youths watching the same football match in black-and-white. If he hadn’t gone over to the wall to look at the newspaper clippings and the schedule of all Karsspor matches to be played that season, he would not have remembered that this was the teahouse where, only yesterday, he and Necip had discussed God’s existence and the meaning of life. Looking again at the doggerel someone had scribbled on the Karsspor poster, and seeing that another poet had added a few more lines since yesterday, he took out his notebook and began to copy them down:

So it’s settled: our mother’s not coming back from heaven, Never again will we know her embrace,

But no matter how many beatings she suffers at our father’s hand, She’ll still keep warming our hearts and breathing life into our souls, Because that was fate,

And the shit we’re sinking into smells so bad

it even makes the city of Kars look like heaven.

“Are you writing a poem?” asked the boy at the counter.

“Congratulations,” said Ka. “Tell me, do you know how to read writing upside down?” “No, big brother, I can’t even read when it’s right side up. I ran away from school, so I never managed to crack the code. But that’s all in the past now.”

“Who wrote the new poem on the wall here?”

“Half the boys who used to come here are poets.”

“Why aren’t they here today?”

“Yesterday the soldiers rounded them all up. Some are locked up now, and the rest are in hiding. Ask those men over there if you want; they’re undercover agents, so they should know.”

The boy pointed toward two young men in the corner in feverish discussion of the football match, but rather than approach them to ask about the missing poets, Ka headed for the door.

He was glad to see that the snow had started falling again. He was sure he’d find no clues to Blue’s whereabouts in the teahouses of Bayrampa¸ sa Avenue. Immersed as he was in the dusky melancholy that had begun descending over the city, he still felt happy. A long procession of images paraded before his eyes as he awaited his next poem—a waking dream of ugly unadorned concrete buildings, parking lots buried in snow, teahouses and barbershops and grocery stores all hidden behind their icy windows, courtyards in which dogs had been barking in unison since the days of the Russians, stores selling spare parts for tractors alongside horse-drawn carriage supplies and cheese. He was seized by the certainty that everything he saw—the banners for the Motherland Party, the little window hidden behind those tightly drawn curtains, the slip of paper someone had taped to the icy window of the Knowledge Pharmacy

months earlier to announce that the shot for Japanese influenza had finally arrived, the yellow antisuicide poster—every last one of these little details would stay with him for the rest of his life. There arose from these minor things a vision of extraordinary power: So certain was he that “everything on earth is interconnected and I too am inextricably linked to this deep and beautiful world,” he could only conclude another poem was on its way, and so he stepped into one of the teahouses on Atatürk Avenue. But the poem never arrived.

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