فصل 37

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فصل 37

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CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN

The Only Script We Have This

Evening Is Kadife’s Hair

preparations for the play to end all plays

As I have already mentioned, Ka had always shied piness for fear of the pain that might follow, so we already know away from happiness for fear of the pain that might follow, so we already know that his most intense emotions came not when he was happy but when he was beset by the certainty that this happiness would soon be lost to him.

When he rose from Sunay’s raki table and returned to the Snow Palace Hotel with his two army bodyguards, Ka still believed that everything was going according to plan, and the prospect of seeing Ipek again filled his ˙ heart with joy, even as the fear of loss was fast overtaking him.

When my friend later alluded to the poem he wrote on Thursday

afternoon around three o’clock, he made it clear that his soul was vacillating between these two antipodes, so I feel it my duty to pass on what he said. The poem, to which Ka gave the title “Dog,” seems to have been inspired by another chance encounter with the charcoal-colored stray, this time on his way back from the tailor shop. Four minutes later, he was up in his room writing out this poem, and great as his hopes for happiness might have been at the time, the fear of loss was now spreading through his body like poison: Love equaled pain. The poem refers to his great fear of dogs as a child, to the strays that would bark at him in Maçka Park when he was six, and to a cruel neighbor who was always letting out his dog to chase passersby. Later in life, Ka had come to see his fear of dogs as punishment for his many hours of childhood bliss. But he felt a paradox underlying all this: Heaven and hell were in the same place. In those same streets he had played soccer, gathered mulberries, and collected those player trading cards you got with chewing gum; it was precisely because the dogs turned the scene of these childish joys into a living hell that he felt the joys so keenly.

Seven or eight minutes after hearing of his return to the hotel, Ipek ˙ went up to his room. Considering that she could not have been certain of his actual return, and bearing in mind that Ka had sent her no message, it was a very modest delay; for the first time ever, they managed to meet without Ka’s having read any dark motives into her tardiness, much less the conclusion that she’d abandoned him. The achievement made Ka

even happier. What’s more, Ipek’s face was also radiating happiness. Ka ˙ confirmed that everything was going to plan, and she did likewise. She asked about Blue, and Ka told her his release was imminent. Ipek lit up at ˙ this news, just as she had done when he told her all the other things. It was not enough to be convinced that their own fortunes were still on course; they had to believe all the misery around them had been extinguished to keep a shadow from falling over their own happiness.

Despite incessant embraces and impatient kisses, they refrained from getting back into bed to make love. Ka told Ipek that once they were in ˙ Istanbul he’d be able to get her a German visa in a day; he had a friend at the consulate. They’d need to marry right away to qualify, but they could always have a proper ceremony and celebration later if they wished. They discussed the possibility of Kadife’s and Turgut Bey’s joining them in Frankfurt once their own affairs in Kars were settled, with Ka even mentioning the names of some hotels where they might stay; and now their heads were so dizzy with wild dreams that they were even a bit ashamed of themselves. Ipek changed the tone to tell Ka about her father’s anxi- ˙ eties, particularly his fear of suicide bombers, and she warned him that on no account was he to go out into the street again. Then, promising each other that they would leave the city on the first bus once the snow melted, they spent a long time standing at the window, hand in hand, gazing at the icy mountain roads.

Ipek said she’d already started packing. Ka told her not to take any- ˙ thing, but Ipek had quite a few treasures she’d been carrying around with ˙ her since childhood, things so much a part of her that she couldn’t imagine life without them. Still in front of the window, they saw the dog that had inspired Ka’s poem dash in and out of sight, and Ka took stock of those things Ipek insisted she couldn’t leave behind: a wristwatch her ˙ mother had given her when Ipek was a child in Istanbul, all the more pre- ˙ cious now that Kadife had lost the one given her on the same day; an ice blue angora sweater that her late uncle had brought her from Germany, a garment of high quality but so tight-fitting she’d never been able to wear it in Kars; a tablecloth from her trousseau, embroidered by her mother with silver filigree, that Muhtar had stained with marmalade on the very first use—which explained why there hadn’t been a second; seventeen miniature perfume and alcohol bottles holding the collection of evil eyes that she’d started for no particular reason many years ago and now saw as bringing her good luck; photographs of herself as a child on her parents’ laps (the moment she mentioned these, Ka wanted to see them); the

beautiful black velvet evening dress Muhtar had bought her in Istanbul, its back so low he had only allowed her to wear it at home; the embroidered silk satin shawl she’d bought to conceal the plunging neckline, in the hope of one day inducing Muhtar to change his mind; the suede shoes never worn for fear the Kars mud would ruin them; the jade necklace that she was able to show him because she happened to have it with her.

If I say now that I saw the same great jade stone hanging on a black silk cord around Ipek’s neck exactly four years later, as she sat across from me ˙ at a dinner hosted by the mayor of Kars, I hope my readers won’t accuse me of having strayed too far from the subject. To the contrary, we are now approaching the heart of the matter: For until that moment I could have said I had seen nothing for which I had been prepared so utterly, and so it must be for all of you following the story I have related in this book: Ipek was more beautiful than anyone could have imagined. At this ˙ dinner, where I had my first glimpse of her, I must confess to have found myself stunned, bedazzled, and deeply jealous. And as this passion overtook me, my dear friend’s lost poetry collection, which mystery I’d been trying to unravel, turned into a story of a very different order. It was at this astounding moment that I must have decided to write the book now in your hands, but at the time my soul remained entirely unaware of the decision. I was beset by all manner of those feelings that women of exceptional beauty never fail to inspire; gazing at this paragon before me, I felt myself crumbling, I felt possessed. When I think back now to the transparent maneuvers of the other Kars residents at that same table— ploys I’d foolishly ascribed to the aim of exchanging a few words with this novelist who had come to town, or of collecting a few tidbits for the next day’s gossip—it is clear to me that all their palaver served a single purpose: to draw a veil over Ipek’s beauty, concealing it not just from me but from themselves. A terrible jealousy was gnawing at me that I feared might turn to love: For a while, just like my dear friend Ka, I too dreamed that I might enjoy the affections of a woman this beautiful. For a

moment, I let myself forget my sadness at how Ka’s life had come to nothing in the end and found myself thinking admiringly, Only a man with a soul as deep as his could have won the heart of a woman like this!

Did I myself have the slightest chance of beguiling Ipek and whisking her ˙ off with me to Istanbul? I would have proposed to her on the spot or, if she wished, kept her as my secret mistress until the day it all fell apart, but by whatever path I wanted to end beside her! She had a wide, commanding forehead, moist eyes, elegant lips so much like the film star Melinda’s I could hardly trust myself to look at them. What, I wondered, did she think of me? Had I ever come up in conversation between her and Ka?

Even without another sip of raki, my head was swimming, my heart

pounding. Then I noticed Kadife, sitting just a few places away and lancing me with fierce looks. I must return to my story.

As they stood before the window, Ka picked up the jade necklace, draped it around Ipek’s neck, and, giving her a tender kiss, carelessly recited the ˙ words fast becoming an incantation: They would be happy in Germany.

Just then Ipek saw Fazıl dart into the courtyard; she waited a moment and ˙ went downstairs, where she found Kadife standing alone at the kitchen door; it was here she must have heard the good news about Blue’s release.

The two girls bounded up to their room. I have no idea what they talked about or did. Ka was still in his own room, his heart so full of his new poems and his new faith in love that, for the first time, the part of his mind that had kept track—sometimes meticulously, sometimes fancifully—of their every movement through the Snow Palace Hotel was now at rest, and he let them go.

As I would later discover, it was at about this time that the weather bureau announced the first clear signs of a thaw. The sun had been shining all day, and now the icicles dangling from the trees and eaves had begun to drip and then drop. The rumors started long before any meteorological development now spread throughout the city: The roads were sure to open tonight and the theater coup would come to an end. Those who remembered the evening’s events in detail would tell me that it was just following the weather report that Kars Border Television ran the first announcement of the new play that the Sunay Zaim Players would be performing that evening at the National Theater. It was Hakan Özge, the city’s favorite young announcer, who advised the people of Kars that the bloody events two days earlier were no cause for concern and in any case no excuse for nonattendance; security forces would be flanking the stage, and as the event was free to the general public, the people of Kars should feel welcome to bring the entire family. The effect of these assurances was to fan popular fears and empty the streets earlier than usual.

Everyone was sure of yet another evening of violence and madness at the National Theater, so—apart from the usual assortment of wild-eyed ne’er-do-wells prepared to attend virtually anything just to say they did (their not inconsiderable ranks comprising aimless unemployed youths, bored leftists with a penchant for violence, elderly denture wearers so desperate for entertainment it little mattered to them if anyone got killed in the process, and staunch Kemalists who’d seen Sunay on television and admired his republican views)—most Kars residents decided they would stay home and watch the live broadcast on TV. Meanwhile Sunay and

Colonel Osman Nuri Çolak met again; fearing that the National Theater would be empty, they sent out the army trucks to gather up all the religious high school boys and let it be known that every student at every lycée, every resident teacher, and every government official in the city was required to report to the performance in coat and tie.

After the meeting, a number of people saw Sunay passed out in the

back of the tailor shop on a small dusty floor mat, surrounded by scraps of cloth, paper wrappers, and empty boxes. It wasn’t drunken expedience.

For years now, Sunay had been convinced that soft beds would make his body go soft, so he was in the habit of napping on a hard coarse mattress before any performance of great importance to him. Before he could lie down, however, he’d had a row with his wife about the script, which had yet to be finalized, so he put her into an army truck and sent her over to join Kadife at the Snow Palace Hotel and begin rehearsals.

Funda Eser sauntered into the Snow Palace Hotel like a woman to

whom all doors are open; she went straight up to the sisters’ room, and I am able to report that the warm dulcet tones by which she so effortlessly created an atmosphere of female intimacy offered offstage a more compelling proof of her greatness than the play that night would ever allow her. Certainly her eyes must have been fixed on Ipek’s crystalline beauty, ˙ but her mind was on the role Kadife was to play that evening.

My view is that her own estimation of this role derived from the

importance her husband gave it, because during the twenty years she’d been touring Anatolia playing wronged and raped women, she never had another goal in presenting the victim above arousing the men in the audience. Marriages, divorces, the covering of heads or the baring of them— they were all just means to the same ordinary end—to reduce the heroine to such a state of helplessness that no man could resist her—and although it is impossible to say whether she fully understood her roles in dramas celebrating the republican enlightenment, it must be allowed that the male dramatists who invented these stereotypes could not see a heroine expressing a notion any deeper or more refined than eroticism or social duty.

Funda Eser used these roles to splendid effect in her life offstage, and to a degree these male dramatists would have scarcely anticipated.

Not long after having entered the sisters’ room, therefore, Funda was able to suggest to Kadife that they rehearse the scene in which she was to bare her head and reveal her beautiful hair. Kadife feigned reluctance but not for long; when she loosened her mane Funda let out a loud cry,

remarking on how healthy and shiny it was and that she couldn’t take her eyes off it. Sitting Kadife in front of the mirror, she picked up an imitation ivory comb and, running it slowly through her hair, explained that the essence of theater was not the words but the images. “Let your hair speak for itself, and let the men go mad!” she said.

By now she had Kadife’s head spinning so she kissed the young

woman’s hair to calm her down. She was clever enough to see that this kiss awakened the dormant evil that Kadife kept hidden, and experienced enough to draw Ipek into the game too. Providing a flask from her bag, ˙ she began to pour cognac into the tea glasses Zahide had set for them.

When Kadife objected, she mocked her, saying, “But tonight you’re going to bare your head!” Kadife burst into tears, and Funda planted insistent little kisses on her cheeks, her neck, her hands. Then, to amuse the girls, she recited what she called Sunay’s unknown masterpiece, “The Innocent Air Hostess Protests,” but this, far from diverting the girls, only made them more anxious. When Kadife said she wanted to study the

script, Funda proclaimed, “The only script we have this evening is Kadife’s hair,” the moment when all the men of Kars gazed dumbfounded at her long, beautiful, radiant mane. The women in the audience would be so moved by love and jealousy they would want to reach out and touch it.

As she spoke this, Funda kept refilling their glasses with cognac. She said that when she looked into Ipek’s face she saw happiness, and when ˙ she looked into Kadife’s she saw courage and fury. But she couldn’t decide which sister was more beautiful.

Funda Eser continued in this amusing vein until a purple-faced Turgut Bey burst into the room. “They’ve just announced on television that Kadife, the leader of the head-scarf girls, is going to bare her head during this evening’s performance,” he said. “Tell me, is this true?”

“Let’s go watch television,” said Ipek. ˙

“Please allow me to introduce myself, sir,” said Funda Eser. “I am the life partner of the illustrious actor and newly anointed statesman Sunay Zaim, and my name is Funda Eser. I would like to congratulate you on having raised two such marvelous and outstanding girls. Thanks to Kadife’s heroic decision, I can advise you that you have nothing to fear.” “If my daughter does this, the religious fanatics in this city will never forgive her!” said Turgut Bey.

They moved to the dining room so they could all watch the television.

Funda Eser took Turgut Bey by the hand and said something to the effect that she could promise, in the name of her husband, the city’s supreme ruler, that everything would go according to plan. Hearing noise in the dining room, Ka came to join them, whereupon a happy Kadife informed him that Blue had been released. Without waiting for Ka to ask, she declared she was planning to keep the promise she had made to him that morning, and that she and Funda Hanım were preparing to rehearse the play. As everyone watched television, talking at the same time, Funda Eser applied herself to charming Turgut Bey, lest he stand in the way of his daughter’s appearance.

Ka would often think back to this ten-minute interlude as one of the happiest of his life. He was now utterly free of doubt about his destiny of lifelong happiness and dreamily imagining life as part of this jovial family.

It was not yet four o’clock, but the dark old wallpaper in the highceilinged dining room was already the shade of a childhood memory.

Looking into Ipek’s eyes, Ka could not help but smile. ˙

Seeing Fazıl standing at the door, Ka hastened to push him back into the kitchen and, before the boy could ruin the mood, pump him for

information. But Fazıl resisted: He stood fast in the doorway, pretending to stare at the image on the TV screen, but in fact his angry eyes were fixed in astonishment on the animated crowd around it. Seeing Ka was trying to get the boy into the kitchen, Ipek stepped over to them. ˙ “Blue wants to talk to you one more time,” said Fazıl, and it was clear from the tone of his voice that he was happy to be ruining the party.

“He’s changed his mind about something.”

“About what?”

“He’ll tell you himself. The horse and carriage will pick you up in the courtyard in ten minutes,” he said, leaving the kitchen to return to the courtyard himself.

Ka’s heart began to pound. It wasn’t just reluctance to set foot outside the hotel again today; he was also afraid that his own cowardice would betray him.

“Please, whatever you do, don’t go!” Ipek cried, giving voice to Ka’s ˙ own thoughts. “After all, they know about the horse and carriage by now.

No good can come of this.”

“No, I’m going,” said Ka.

Why, given his reluctance, did he decide to go? It was an old habit. In school, whenever a teacher asked a question he knew he couldn’t answer, he’d always raise his hand. He would go into a store and, finding the perfect sweater, perversely buy something else not nearly as nice for the same money, knowing all the while it made no sense. It may have been a form of anxiety that made him do this, or perhaps it was his fear of happiness. They went up to his room, taking care not to let Kadife notice.

How Ka wished that Ipek had used a little ingenuity, contrived something ˙ imaginative to let her linger peacefully in the room, but as they stood looking out the window, Ipek could voice only the same impotent words: ˙ “Don’t go, darling; don’t leave the hotel at all today; don’t put our happiness at risk.” Ka listened dreamily, like a sacrificial lamb. Soon the horse-drawn carriage appeared in the courtyard: He was shocked to see how quickly his luck had turned and it broke his heart. Without pausing to give Ipek a ˙ kiss, but not forgetting to embrace her and say his farewells, he went downstairs; his two bodyguards were in the lobby reading the papers but he managed to slip past them into the kitchen and then out through the back door into the hated horse-drawn carriage, to lie down once again underneath the tarpaulin.

It is tempting to read too much into this moment—we are, after all, fast approaching the point of no return, and the mission on which Ka was now embarked would change his life forever—so I feel obliged to caution readers against viewing Ka’s decision to accept Blue’s invitation as the pivotal moment in this story. Certainly I am not of this view myself: Ka had not yet run out of chances. He still had time to make a success of his visit to Kars, and he would have other opportunities to right his for tunes and find “happiness”—or whatever it was he meant by that word.

But when the events in this story reached their conclusion, and all his bridges were burned, it was this moment that Ka would look back on

with stinging regret and undying curiosity as to how things might have turned out if only Ipek had managed to keep him in his room. She might ˙ have said something to talk him out of going to see Blue, but even having racked his brain hundreds of times during the following four years, he still had no idea what the right words might have been.

As we turn back to the image of Ka hiding under the tarpaulin, we are right to see him as a man who has surrendered to his fate. He was sorry to be there; he was angry at himself and at the world. He was cold, he was afraid of falling ill, and he knew no good could come of this appointment. He paid careful attention to the noises of the street and the things people said as the carriage passed by, just as he had done during his first journey in this conveyance, but this time he was not in the least interested to know where in Kars the carriage was taking him.

When the carriage came to a halt, the driver prodded him and Ka emerged from underneath the tarpaulin; before he could make out where he was, he saw in front of him a decrepit building that, like so many others in Kars, was lurching to one side and shedding flakes of paint. Inside, he made his way up a narrow, crooked staircase to a landing two floors up.

(In a happier moment, he would remember seeing a door lined with

shoes and a child’s bright eyes staring at him through the gap in the door.) The apartment door opened, and he found himself face-to-face with

Hande.

“I’ve made up my mind,” said Hande with a smile. “I’m refusing to cut myself off from the girl I really am.”

“It’s important for you to be happy.”

“What makes me happy is being here and doing what I want,” said Hande. “It doesn’t scare me anymore if I’m someone else in my dreams.” “Isn’t it dangerous for you to be here at all?”

“Yes, but it’s only in times of danger that a person can really concentrate on life,” said Hande. “What I understand now is that I will never be able to concentrate on things I don’t believe in, things like baring my head. Right now I’m happy to share a cause with Blue. Could you write poems here?”

Although only two days had passed since their first meeting, Ka’s memories of their dinner conversation were now so distant that for a moment he stood there gaping like an amnesiac. How much did Hande

wish to draw attention to her intimacy with Blue? The girl opened the door to the next room for Ka to find Blue watching a black-and-white television.

“I knew you’d come,” said Blue. He looked pleased.

“I have no idea why I’m here,” said Ka.

“You’re here because of the turmoil inside you,” said Blue. He looked very knowing.

They eyed each other hatefully. It didn’t escape either of them that Blue was very pleased about something while Ka was full of sorrow.

Hande left the room and closed the door.

“I want you to tell Kadife not to have anything to do with that disaster they plan to stage this evening,” said Blue.

“Couldn’t you have sent this news with Fazıl?” said Ka. He could tell from the expression on his face that Blue had no idea who Fazıl was, so Ka added, “He’s the religious high school boy who sent me here.” “Ha!” said Blue. “Kadife wouldn’t have taken him seriously. You’re the only one she’s going to take seriously. And it’s only when she hears this from you that she’ll understand how serious I am about my decision.

And she’ll understand why after she’s seen the loathsome way they’re promoting this on television.”

“When I left the hotel, Kadife was already starting to rehearse,” Ka said with pleasure.

“Then you can tell her I couldn’t be more opposed to this performance! Kadife didn’t decide of her own free will to bare her head, she did it to free me. She was negotiating with a state that takes political prisoners as hostages, so she’s under no obligation to keep her word.”

“I can tell her all this,” said Ka, “but I can’t predict what she’ll do.” “In other words, if Kadife decides to play this her way, you’re not responsible; that’s what you’re trying to tell me, is it?” Ka said nothing.

“Then let me make it clear—if Kadife goes onstage this evening and bares her head, you too will be to blame. You’ve been involved in this deal every step of the way.”

For the first time since his arrival in Kars, Ka felt the peace of righteousness: At long last, the villain was talking like a villain, saying all the vicious things that villains say, and this cleared his head. “You’re right to think you’re a hostage!” he said, in the hopes of calming Blue, as he considered how he might get out of this place without angering him further. “Give her this letter,” said Blue. He handed Ka an envelope. “Kadife may refuse to believe my spoken message. And one day, when you’ve found your way back to Frankfurt, I trust you’ll also find a way to make Hans Hansen publish that statement so many people risked so much to sign.”

“Of course.”

There was something in Blue’s face that hinted at frustration. He’d been far more relaxed that morning as he sat in his cell awaiting execution. Now he’d managed to save himself, he was already looking ahead in anger, aggrieved to know he’d never manage to do anything in life but generate more wrath. Ka was slow to realize that Blue saw what Ka could see.

“It doesn’t matter where you live, here or in your beloved Europe; you’ll always be imitating them; you’ll always be groveling.” “If I’m happy, that’s all I care about.”

“You can go now!” shouted Blue. “And know this: People who seek only happiness never find it.”

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