فصل 34

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فصل 34

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Kadife Will Never Agree to It Either

the mediator

Ka stood at his window smoking a cigarette. It had stopped snowing, and finally, as the pale streetlamps cast their ghostly glow over the empty snow-covered courtyard, the stillness of the scene brought him peace. But the peace he felt had more to do with love than the beauty of the snow. He was so happy he could also admit that his peace derived in part from the easy sense of superiority of knowing he was from Istanbul and Frankfurt.

There was a knock at the door; Ka was astonished to see it was Ipek. ˙ “I can’t stop thinking about you, I can’t sleep,” she said, as she stepped inside.

Ka knew at once that they would make love till morning, even as Turgut Bey slept under the same roof. It was the most sublime surprise to wrap his arms around her without first enduring the agony of waiting.

Their long night of lovemaking took Ka to a place beyond the outer reaches of happiness, or at least of what he had thought happiness to be; he was outside time, impervious to passion; his only regret was that it had taken him a lifetime to discover this paradise. He felt more at peace than he ever had before. He forgot the sexual fantasies kept in ready storage at the back of his brain, the pornographic images from magazines. As he and Ipek made love, he heard music play inside him, music he’d never ˙ heard before, never even imagined, and it was by obeying its harmonies that he found his way forward.

From time to time he fell asleep and dreamed of summer holidays bathed in heavenly light; he was running free, he was immortal; his plane was about to fall out of the sky but he was eating an apple, an apple he would never finish, an apple that would last for all time. Then he would wake to the warm apple aroma of Ipek’s skin. Guided by snow light and ˙ the faint yellow glow of the streetlamps, he would press his eyes against hers and try to see into them; when he saw she was awake and silently watching him, it seemed to him they were like two whales basking side by side in shallow water; it was only then he realized that they were holding hands.

At one such moment, when they had woken up to find themselves gazing into each other’s eyes, Ipek said, “I’m going to speak to my father. ˙ I’m going with you to Germany.”

Ka couldn’t go back to sleep for a long while after that. Instead, he watched his life play before him like a happy film.

Somewhere in the city, there was an explosion. It was strong enough to shake the bed, the room, and the hotel. They heard distant machinegun fire. It was muffled by the snow that still covered Kars. They embraced each other and waited in silence.

The next time they woke up, the gun battle had ended. Twice Ka rose from the warm bed and smoked a cigarette as the icy air coming in through the window cooled his perspiring body. No poems came to his mind. He felt happier than he’d ever felt before.

When he was awakened in the morning by a knock at the door, Ipek ˙ was no longer lying beside him in bed. He had no idea what time it was, or what he and Ipek had talked about, or what time the gunshots had ended. ˙ It was Cavit, the receptionist. He’d come up to tell Ka that an officer had appeared at the front desk with an invitation from Sunay Zaim: Ka was to report to headquarters at once; the officer was downstairs waiting to escort him. No matter; Ka took his time shaving.

The empty streets of Kars looked more beautiful, more enchanted, than the previous morning. Somewhere high up on Atatürk Avenue, he saw a house with broken windows, a shattered door, and a front wall riddled with bullet holes.

At the tailor shop, Sunay told him there’d been an attempted suicidebomb attack. “The poor man got his houses mixed up, and instead of coming here he attacked a building farther up the hill,” he explained. “He blew himself up into so many pieces we don’t even know yet whether he died for Islam or the PKK.”

Ka was struck by the childish gravity of a famous actor taking himself so seriously. Freshly shaved, he looked clean, pure-hearted, bursting with energy.

“We’ve captured Blue,” Sunay said. He looked straight into Ka’s eyes.

Ka made a valiant effort to conceal his joy at this news.

Sunay wasn’t fooled. “He’s an evil man,” he said. “He’s definitely the mastermind behind the assassination of the director of the Institute of Education. He goes around telling everyone that he’s against suicide while he’s busy turning poor brainless teenagers into suicide bombers.

National Security is not in any doubt that he’s come here with enough explosives to send the entire city of Kars up in smoke! On the night of the revolution, he managed to lose the men we’d put on his tail. No one had any idea where he was hiding. Of course you know all about that ridiculous meeting yesterday evening at the Hotel Asia.”

It was as if they were onstage, playing a scene together; Ka gave Sunay an affected theatrical nod.

“My aim in life is not to punish these heinous creatures, these reactionaries and terrorists in our midst,” Sunay said. “There’s actually a play I’ve been longing to do, and that’s the real reason I’m here. There’s an English writer who goes by the name of Thomas Kyd. They say Shakespeare stole Hamlet from him. I’ve discovered another injustice too, a forgotten play by Kyd known as The Spanish Tragedy. It’s a blood feud, a tragedy that ends in suicide, and like Hamlet there’s a play inside the play.

Funda and I have been waiting for an opportunity to perform it for fifteen years.” When Funda Eser came into the room, brandishing a long elegant cigarette holder, Ka greeted her with an exaggerated bow which obviously pleased her. With no encouragement from Ka, the couple now launched into talk of The Spanish Tragedy.

“We want people to enjoy our play, to be uplifted by it, and toward this end I’ve simplified the plot,” said Sunay. “We plan to perform it tonight at the National Theater in front of a live audience, and of course it will go out on television at the same time so the whole city can see it.” “I’d love to see it too,” said Ka.

“We want Kadife to be in it. Funda will play her evil-hearted rival.

Kadife will appear onstage wearing a head scarf. Then, in defiance of the ludicrous customs that have given rise to the blood feud, she’ll bare her head for all to see.” With a broad theatrical flourish, Sunay took hold of the imaginary scarf around his head and made as if to rip it off.

“This is bound to cause more trouble!” said Ka.

“Don’t worry, there won’t be any trouble at all. Remember, the army’s in charge now.”

“Anyway, Kadife will never agree to it,” Ka said.

“Kadife is in love with Blue,” said Sunay. “If Kadife bares her head, I can have Blue released at once. They can run off together to some foreign land and live happily ever after.” Funda Eser’s face radiated the compassion of a good-hearted auntie from a nice Turkish melodrama who smiles as she watches the two lovers departing to find happiness in the great beyond. For a moment, Ka imagined his own love affair with Ipek bringing the same smile to her lips. ˙ “I’m still very doubtful that Kadife will agree to bare her head on live TV,” said Ka.

“You seem to us to be the only one who might be able to talk her into it,” said Sunay. “To bargain with us is to bargain with the biggest devil in creation. She knows you are concerned about the head-scarf girls. And you’re in love with her sister.”

“It’s not just Kadife, you’d also have to persuade Blue. But Kadife must be approached first,” said Ka, still smarting from the brutal directness of his last remark.

“You can do it any which way you like,” said Sunay. “I’ll give you whatever authorization proves necessary and your very own army truck.

You have permission to negotiate in my name.”

There was a silence. Sunay had picked up on Ka’s reluctance.

“I don’t want to get involved,” said Ka.

“Why not?”

“Well, it could be because I’m scared. I’m very happy right now. I don’t want to turn myself into a target for the Islamists. When they see her bare her head, those students will think I’m the atheist who arranged the performance. And even if I can manage to escape to Germany, they’ll track me down. I’ll be walking down a street late one night, and someone will shoot me.”

“They’ll shoot me first,” said Sunay proudly. “But I admire your courage in admitting you’re afraid. I’m the coward to end all cowards, believe me. The only ones who survive in this country are the cowards. But there’s not a coward in the world who doesn’t dream of the day when he might find himself capable of great courage. Don’t you agree?” “As I said, I’m very happy right now. I have no desire to play the hero.

Heroic dreams are the consolation of the unhappy. After all, when people like us say we’re being heroic, it usually means we’re about to kill each other—or kill ourselves.”

“Yes,” Sunay insisted, “but isn’t there a small voice somewhere inside reminding you that this happiness of yours is not destined to last very long?”

“Why do you want to scare our guest?” said Funda Eser.

“No happiness lasts very long,” said Ka cautiously. “But I have no desire to do something heroic that will get me killed just because I know how likely it is that I’ll be unhappy again at some point in the future.” “If you don’t get involved, as you put it, they’re not going to wait until you’re back in Germany to kill you; they’ll kill you right here. Have you seen today’s paper?”

“Does it say I’m going to die today?” Ka asked with a smile.

Sunay took out the Border City Gazette, turned to the front page, and pointed to the article Ka had read the previous evening.

“ ‘A godless man in Kars!’ ” read Funda Eser in a booming voice.

“That’s from yesterday’s first print run,” said Ka evenly. “Later on in the evening, Serdar Bey decided to correct the inaccuracies in this article and print a new edition.”

“In the end he was unable to do so. This is the edition that went out this morning. Never take a journalist’s promise at face value. But we’ll protect you. Those fundamentalists can’t do anything against the military, so naturally they’ll want to vent their spleen by taking a potshot at a Western spy.” “Are you the one who told Serdar to write this piece?” asked Ka.

Raising his eyebrows and pursing his lips, Sunay glared at him and played the affronted man of honor, but Ka still recognized him as a politician pulling a fast one.

“If you agree to protect me all the way, I’ll be your mediator,” said Ka.

Sunay gave his word and, still in Jacobin mode, threw his arms around Ka, congratulated him, and gave his assurance that his two men would never leave Ka’s side.

“If necessary, they’ll even protect you from yourself !” he boomed.

They sat down to work out the details of Ka’s mission, with two fragrant cups of breakfast tea to help them along. Funda Eser was all smiles, as if a brilliant famous actress had just joined the company. She spoke for a time about the power of The Spanish Tragedy, but Ka’s mind was elsewhere: He was looking at the wondrous white light pouring through the high windows of the tailor shop.

His dream ended abruptly when, upon leaving the shop, he met the two burly armed guards who’d be protecting him. He’d hoped at least one of them would be an officer or a plainclothes detective with some modi cum of sartorial sense. Once upon a time, there was a famous writer who went on television saying that Turks were fools and he didn’t believe in Islam; Ka had once seen him with the two bodyguards the state gave him toward the end of his life: They had excellent manners and wore stylish clothes. They insisted on the sort of exaggerated servility Ka thought befitting famous writers of the Opposition; not only did they carry the man’s bag, they even held the door open for him and locked arms with him on staircases, to protect him from any fan or enemy who might pass.

The soldiers sitting next to Ka in the army truck could not have been more different. They acted like jailors, not protectors.

When Ka walked into the hotel, he felt as happy as he had in the early hours of the morning. Although he longed to see Ipek, he dreaded having ˙ to tell her about his mission; he feared she might take it as a betrayal.

However small it might be in the scheme of things, he still worried it could diminish their love. It would be better all around, he thought, if he could find a way to see Kadife alone first. But he ran into Ipek in the ˙ lobby.

“You’re even more beautiful than I remembered!” he told Ipek, look- ˙ ing at her in awe. “Sunay Zaim summoned me for a meeting. He wants me to be his mediator.”

“What for?”

“They’ve caught Blue. It happened yesterday, in the evening,” said Ka. “Why is your face changing? We’re not in any danger. Yes, Kadife will be upset. But in my view, it’s a relief, believe me.” Very quickly, he told her what Sunay had told him: the noises they’d heard during the night, the gun battle, everything. “You left this morning without waking me. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of things; no one will come out of this with so much as a bloody nose. We’re going to Frankfurt; we’re going to be happy. Have you spoken to your father?” He told her he was charged to negotiate a deal, and that was why Sunay would send him to speak to Blue, but first he had to speak to Kadife. He registered the extreme concern in Ipek’s ˙ eyes as a sign that she was worried for him, and this made him glad.

“I’ll send Kadife upstairs in a few minutes,” she said, and walked away.

When he reached his room, he saw that someone had made the bed.

The room in which he had spent the happiest night of his life had changed; the glare from the snow outside had given a new aspect to the bed, the table, and the pale curtains—even the silence in the room seemed different. But there was still the lingering smell of their lovemaking for him to breathe in. He lay down on the bed and, gazing up at the ceiling, thought of all the trouble ahead if he couldn’t manage to win Kadife’s and Blue’s cooperation.

Kadife burst into the room. “Tell me everything you know about Blue’s capture,” she said. “Did they treat him roughly?” “If they’d roughed him up, they wouldn’t be letting me see him,” said Ka. “They’re going to take me over in a few minutes. They captured him after the hotel meeting, that’s all I know.”

Kadife gazed out the window at the snow-covered avenue below. “So now you’re the one who’s happy, and I’m the one who’s sad. How things have changed since our meeting in the storage room.”

Ka thought back to their meeting yesterday in Room 217, where Kadife had held a gun on him and made him strip before they left to see Blue; the sweet, distant memory bound them together.

“That’s not the whole story, Kadife,” Ka said. “Sunay’s associates are convinced that Blue had a hand in the assassination of the director of the Institute of Education. What’s more, it seems that the dossier connecting him to that Izmir television host has also reached Kars.”

“Who are these associates?”

“A handful of people from the Kars MIT, plus one or two soldiers ˙ who have links to him. But don’t think Sunay is completely in their pocket. He has artistic ambitions too. Here’s what he has asked me to propose to you. This evening he means to perform a play at the National Theater, and he wants you to be in it. Don’t make a face—listen. There’s going to be a live broadcast too, with all of Kars watching again. If you’re willing to play this part, and if Blue can convince the religious high school boys to come watch the play and sit quietly, to be polite and clap at the right moments, Sunay will have Blue released. Then this whole thing can be forgotten, and we’ll all come out of it without so much as a bloody nose. They’ve asked me to be the go-between.”

“What’s the play?”

Ka told her everything he knew about Thomas Kyd and The Spanish Tragedy, explaining as well that Sunay had changed the play to make it more relevant. “In the same way that during their long years of touring Anatolia they’ve made Corneille, Shakespeare, and Brecht more relevant by adding belly dances and bawdy songs.”

“I suppose I’m the one who gets the blood feud started by being raped on live television.”

“No. You’re a proper Spanish lady with a covered head, but then you tire of the blood feud and in a burst of anger you pull off your scarf to become the rebel heroine.”

“To play the rebel heroine in Turkey you don’t pull off your scarf, you put it on.”

“This is just a play, Kadife. And because it’s just a play, it shouldn’t be a problem to take off your scarf.”

“I see now what they want from me. But even if it’s a play, even it’s a play within a play, I’m still not baring my head.”

“Look, Kadife, the snow’s going to melt in two days, the roads will open, and the people sitting in jail will pass into the hands of men who know no pity. If that happens, you won’t see Blue again in this life. Have you really thought this through?”

“I’m afraid that if I do think about it, I’ll agree to it.” “You could wear a wig underneath your scarf. Then no one would see your real hair.”

“If I’d wanted to wear a wig, I would have done it a long time ago, like a lot of other women I know, and I’d be back at the university.” “This is not a question of sitting outside the university and trying to save your honor. You’ll be doing this to save Blue.”

“Well, let’s see if Blue will want me to save him by pulling off my scarf.”

“Of course he will,” said Ka. “You won’t hurt his honor by baring your head. After all, no one even knows you two are involved.” Ka could tell at once from the fury in her eyes that he had found her weak spot, but then she gave him a strange smile that filled him with fear.

Mixed in with this fear was jealousy. He was afraid that Kadife was about to tell him something damning about Ipek. ˙

“We don’t have much time, Kadife,” he said. He could hear that strange note of dread in his voice. “I know you’re bright enough and sensitive enough to get through all this with grace. I’m saying this to you as someone who’s spent years as a political exile. Listen to me: Life’s not about principles, it’s about happiness.”

“But if you don’t have any principles, and if you don’t have faith, you can’t be happy at all,” said Kadife.

“That’s true. But in a brutal country like ours where human life is cheap, it’s stupid to destroy yourself for the sake of your beliefs. Beliefs, high ideals—only people living in rich countries can enjoy such luxuries.” “Actually, it’s the other way round. In a poor country, the only consolation people can have is the one that comes from their beliefs.” Ka wanted to say, But the things they believe aren’t true! but he managed to hold his tongue. Instead he said, “But you’re not one of the poor, Kadife. You’re from Istanbul.”

“That’s why I do what I believe in. I don’t fake things. If I decide to bare my head, I won’t go halfway, I’ll really do it.”

“All right, then, what would you say to this? Let’s say they give up on the idea of a live audience. What if they just televise it, and that’s the only performance that the people of Kars ever see. So when they get to the part where you have your moment of fury, all they show is your hand pulling off the scarf. Then they can cut to another woman who looks like you, and we’ll simply show her hair swinging free, but from the back.” “That’s even more dishonest than wearing a wig,” said Kadife. “And in the end, when the coup is over, everyone will think I really did bare my head.”

“What’s more important, honoring the law of God or worrying what people might say about you? The important thing is, if we do it like this, you won’t really have bared your head. But if you are so worried what people will think, it’s still not a problem, because once all this nonsense is over, we can make sure everyone knows about the last-minute switch.

When it gets around that you were prepared to do all this to save Blue, those boys at the religious high school will be even more in awe of you than they are now.”

“Has it ever occurred to you,” said Kadife, her tone suddenly very different, “that when you’re trying with all your might to talk someone into something, you say things you don’t believe at all?” “That can happen. But it’s not that way now.”

“But if it were, and you managed to convince this person in the end, wouldn’t you feel some remorse for having fooled her? I mean, for having left her out on a limb?” “This is not about leaving you out on a limb, Kadife. It’s about using your head and seeing that this is the only option. Sunay’s people are ruthless. If they decide to hang Blue, they won’t hesitate—you’re not prepared to let them do that, are you?”

“Let’s just say I bared my head in front of everyone. That would be admitting defeat. And what proof is there that they’d release Blue? Why should I believe any promise that comes from the Turkish state?” “You’re right. I’m going to have to discuss this with them.” “With whom are you going to speak and when?”

“First I’ll meet with Blue and then I’m going back to speak to Sunay.” They were both silent. By now it was clear that Kadife was more or less prepared to go along with the plan. But Ka still needed to be sure, so he made a show of looking at his watch.

“Who has Blue, MIT or the army?” ˙

“I don’t know. It probably doesn’t make much difference.” “If it’s the army, he may not have been tortured,” said Kadife. She paused. “I want you to give these to him.” She gave Ka an old-fashioned jeweled lighter coated with mother-of-pearl and a pack of red Marlboros.

“The lighter belongs to my father. Blue will enjoy lighting his cigarettes with it.”

Ka took the cigarettes but not the lighter. “If I give him the lighter, Blue will know I came here to talk to you first.”

“Why shouldn’t he?”

“Because then he’ll know what we’ve been talking about and he’ll want to know what your decision was. I wasn’t planning to tell him I’d seen you first, or that you were ready to bare your head, so to speak, in order to save him.”

“Is that because you know he’d never agree to it?”

“No. He’s an intelligent, rational man, and he’d certainly agree to your doing something like baring your head if it would save him from the gallows; you know this as well as I do. The thing he would never accept is my having asked you first instead of going straight to him.”

“But this is not just a matter of politics; it’s also personal, something between him and me. Blue would understand this.”

“That may be, Kadife, but you know as well as I do that he wants the first word. He’s a Turkish man, and a political Islamist. I can’t go to him and say, ‘Listen, Kadife’s decided to bare her head to set you free.’ He must believe it’s his decision. I’m going to ask him what he thinks of the various options—whether you should wear a wig or if it’s better to do that montage with another woman’s hair. He must convince himself that this will save your honor and solve the problem. Believe me, he’ll never venture into such murky areas where your uncompromising ideas of honor can’t be reconciled with his more practical understanding. If you are to bare your head, he certainly won’t prefer to see you do it openly without playing some tricks.”

“You’re jealous of Blue; you hate him,” said Kadife. “You don’t even want to see him as a human being. You’re like all republican secularists, you see someone who isn’t westernized and you dismiss him as a primitive underclass reprobate. You tell yourself a good beating is bound to make a man of him. Do you enjoy seeing me bow to the army to save Blue’s skin? It’s immoral to take pleasure from something like this, but you’re not even trying to hide it.” Her eyes glittered with hatred. “Anyway, if it has to be Blue’s decision, and if you are an enlightened Turkish man, why didn’t you go straight to him after you left Sunay? I’ll tell you why: You wanted to watch me deciding to bow my own head. This was to make you feel superior to Blue—a man who terrifies you.”

“You’re right about one thing, he does terrify me. But everything else you said is unfair, Kadife. Say I’d gone to Blue first and then come to you with his decision that you have to bare your head. You would have taken it as an order, and you’d have refused.”

“You’re not a mediator, you’re cooperating with the tyrants.” “My only ambition is to get out of this city in one piece. You shouldn’t take this coup any more seriously than I do. You’ve already done more than enough to prove to the people of Kars what a brave, clever, righteous woman you are. After we get out of this, your sister and I are going to Frankfurt. We hope to find happiness there. I would advise you to do the same—to do whatever you must to find happiness. If you and Blue can manage to get out of here, you could live happily ever after as political exiles in any number of European cities, and I’ve no doubt your father would want to join you. But before any of this can happen, you’ve got to put your trust in me.”

All this talk of happiness had sent a large tear rolling down Kadife’s cheek. Smiling in an odd way that Ka found alarming, she quickly wiped it away with the palm of her hand. “Are you sure my sister is ready to leave Kars?”

“I’m positive,” said Ka, though his voice didn’t sound sure.

“I’m not going to insist that you give Blue the lighter or tell him that you came to see me first,” said Kadife. She was speaking now like a haughty but forbearing princess. “But before I bare my head in front of anyone I must be absolutely sure they’ll set him free. I need more than the guarantee of Sunay or one of his henchmen. We all know what the word of the Turkish state is worth.”

“You’re a very intelligent woman, Kadife. No one in Kars deserves happiness as much as you do,” Ka said. He was tempted to add, Except for Necip! But no sooner had he thought this than he forgot it. “If you give me the lighter right now, I can take that to Blue, too. But please, try to trust me.”

Kadife bent forward to pass him the lighter, and they embraced with a warmth that neither expected. For a fleeting moment, Ka enjoyed the thrill of touching Kadife’s body, which was much lighter and narrower than her sister’s, but he stopped himself from kissing her. A moment later, when there was a loud bang on the door, he could not help but think it was a good decision.

It was Ipek, come to tell Ka that an army truck was waiting for him. ˙ She stood there and gazed softly, searchingly, into their eyes, as if trying to understand what Ka and Kadife had decided. Ka left the room without kissing her. When he reached the end of the corridor, he turned around in guilty triumph to see the two sisters locked in a silent embrace.

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