فصل 39

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فصل 39

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CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE

The Joy of Crying Together

ka and ˙ipek meet at the hotel

Ka declined the escort. After wiping the blood from his nose and murderous villains who’d been holding him captive, bade them good evening, as timid as an uninvited guest who’d nevertheless stayed for supper.

Like a common drunk he staggered down the ill-lit Atatürk Avenue, turning for no particular reason into Halitpa¸sa Avenue; and it was when he passed the little shop where, during one of his first walks through the city, he’d heard Peppino di Capri singing “Roberta” that he began to sob. It was here too that he ran into the slim and handsome villager who’d been his traveling companion three days earlier on the bus from Erzurum to Kars, and who’d been so gracious and uncomplaining when Ka fell asleep, allowing Ka’s head to fall onto his shoulder. It seemed all the rest of Kars was inside watching Marianna, but as Ka continued down Halitpa¸ sa, he also ran into the lawyer Muzaffer Bey and later, turning into Kâzım Karabekir Avenue, the bus company manager and his elderly friend, both of whom he’d first met in the lodge of His Excellency Sheikh Saadettin. He could tell from the looks these men gave him that tears were still streaming from his eyes. All those times he’d walked up and down these streets, past icy shop windows, teeming teahouses, photography shops exhibiting pictures of Kars in better days, flickering streetlamps, the great wheels of cheese in the windows of grocery stores, he knew—even if he didn’t see them on the corner of Kâzım Karabekir and Karada˘ g avenues—that his plainclothes shadows were there.

Before entering the hotel, he paused to assure the bodyguards everything was on track and did his best to steal up to his room without being noticed. There, he threw himself onto the bed and immediately broke down. When he had managed to calm himself, he settled in to wait, and though it was only one or two minutes before there was a knock on the door, it seemed longer than any time he’d ever passed, waiting as a child, lying in bed, listening to the sounds of the streets.

It was Ipek. The boy at reception had told her something strange ˙ seemed to have happened to Ka Bey, and she came straight up. When she saw Ka’s face she gasped and fell silent. Neither spoke for some time.

“I’ve found out about your relationship with Blue,” Ka finally whispered.

“Did he tell you himself ?”

Ka turned off the lamp. “Z Demirkol and his friends hauled me in,” he said, still very softly. “They’ve been taping your phone conversations for four years.” He lay down again, weeping silently. “I want to die,” he said.

When Ipek reached out to run her fingers through his hair, he cried ˙ even harder. Despite the loss they were suffering, they’d both relaxed—as people do when they realize they’ve run out of chances for happiness.

Ipek stretched out on the bed and wrapped her arms around him. For a ˙ while they cried together, and this drew them closer.

As they lay together in the dark, Ipek told her story. She said it was all ˙ Muhtar’s fault; not only had her husband invited Blue into his home; he also wanted his Islamist hero to marvel at what a wondrous creature his wife was. Muhtar was treating Ipek very badly at the time and blaming her ˙ for their childlessness. And as Ka knew only too well, Blue had a way with words and so knew just how to turn the head of an unhappy woman.

No sooner had she succumbed than she found herself frantic to forestall disaster. Her first concern was to keep Muhtar in the dark; she still cared for him and didn’t want to hurt him. But when the love affair started to flicker out, her main worry was how to extricate herself.

In the beginning, the thing that made Blue so attractive was his superiority to Muhtar: Muhtar made a fool of himself, talking so ignorantly about political matters that Ipek would feel ashamed for him. And even ˙ after she and Blue had found each other, poor Muhtar was still praising him, always urging him to visit Kars more often and chiding Ipek for ˙ not treating him with more hospitality and tolerance. Even when she moved to the new house to live with Kadife, Muhtar had no clue; unless Z Demirkol and his friends set him straight, he would never know. Sharp-eyed Kadife, on the other hand, had worked it all out by the end of her first day in the city; her only real motivation for associating with the head-scarf girls was to get closer to Blue. Ipek, who’d been living ˙ with Kadife’s jealousy since childhood, was not blind to her interest in Blue; it was only on seeing the fickle Blue returning Kadife’s affection that Ipek’s own feelings cooled. And she saw opportunities: If Kadife ˙ was to become involved with him, Ipek would be free of him; and once ˙ her father moved to Kars too, she was able to keep her faithless lover at bay.

This account effectively reduced the affair with Blue to a mistake already buried in the past, and Ka might have been inclined to believe her had she not quite suddenly succumbed to some childish impulse and blurted out, “The truth is, Blue doesn’t really love Kadife, he loves me!” It was not what Ka wanted to hear, so he asked what Ipek now ˙ thought about this “filthy man”; refusing to be drawn into this subject, she reiterated that it was all in the past, and her only wish now was to go with Ka to Frankfurt. This was when Ka brought up Z Demirkol’s final claim, that she’d been in contact with Blue by phone in just the last few days. Ipek insisted there’d been no such conversations, and anyway Blue ˙ was too savvy to take a call that might allow his hunters to track his whereabouts.

“We’re never going to be happy!” Ka said.

“No, we’re going to Frankfurt, and we are going to be happy!” said Ipek, throwing her arms around him. According to ˙ Ipek, Ka believed her ˙ for a moment, and then tears returned to his eyes.

She held him tighter and tighter, and they cried again.

As Ka would later write, it may have been now, as they were holding each other and weeping, that Ipek discovered something for the first time: ˙ To live in indecision, to waver between defeat and a new life, offered as much pleasure as pain. The ease with which they could hold each other and cry this way made Ka love her all the more, but even in the bitter contentment of this tearful embrace a part of him was already calculating his next move and remained alert to the sounds from the street.

It was almost six o’clock. Tomorrow’s edition of the Border City Gazette was ready for circulation; the snowplows were going at a furious pace to clear the road to Sarıkamı¸ s; Funda Eser, having worked her charms and spirited Kadife into the army truck, was at the National Theater, where the two women were rehearsing the play with Sunay.

It took Ka half an hour to get around to telling Ipek of the message ˙ he was carrying from Blue to Kadife. Throughout this time of holding each other and crying, they’d come close to making love, but fear, indecision, and jealousy intervened to hold him back. Instead, Ka asked when Ipek had last seen Blue; over and over he accused her of speaking to him ˙ every day; and then compulsion overtook him and he accused her of seeing him every day as well, of still being his lover.

Ka would later recall that while Ipek initially balked at his questions ˙ and accusations, angry at his refusal to believe her, later, when she came to see that the emotional undercurrents were more powerful than the words themselves, she began to answer him with more affection, and soon she herself would find the affectionate rejoinder soothing; there was even a part of her that embraced the hurt Ka’s questions and accusations were causing her. During his last four years, which he dedicated to remorse and regret, Ka would admit to himself that those given to verbal abuse are often obsessed by a need to know how much their lovers loved them—it had been that way with him throughout his life. Even as he taunted her in his broken voice that she wanted Blue, that she loved him more, his concern was to see not so much how Ipek answered him as ˙ how much patience she would expend for his sake.

“You’re only trying to punish me for having had a relationship with him!” said Ipek. ˙

“You only want me because you’re trying to forget him!” said Ka.

Looking into her face, he saw with horror that he’d spoken the truth, but this time he did not lose his composure. His outburst had renewed his strength. “Blue has sent Kadife a message from his hiding place,” he said.

“He now says he wants Kadife to continue with her work: She must refuse to go onstage and bare her head. He’s quite adamant.” “Let’s not tell Kadife any of this,” said Ipek. ˙

“Why not?”

“Because that way we’ll have Sunay’s protection all the way through.

And it’s best for Kadife too. I want to put some space between Blue and my sister.”

Ka said, “You mean you want to break them up.” He could see from Ipek’s eyes that she had ceased to humor his jealousy and he had fallen in ˙ her estimation, but he couldn’t stop himself.

“I broke off with Blue a very long time ago.”

Still unconvinced by Ipek’s protestations, Ka held back this time and ˙ decided not to speak his mind. But not a moment later he found himself staring sternly out the window and telling her exactly what he was thinking. Anger and jealousy now ruled him, and seeing this only inflamed his misery. With tears in his eyes, he waited to hear what Ipek would say next. ˙ “I was very much in love with him,” Ipek said. “But that’s mostly in ˙ the past now, and I think I’m over it. I want to come with you to Frankfurt.” “Just how much did you love him?”

“A lot,” said Ipek, and settled into a determined silence. ˙ “I want you to tell me how much.” Although he had lost his cool, Ka sensed that Ipek was wavering. She wanted to tell the truth, but she also ˙ wanted to assuage his pain by sharing it; she wanted to punish Ka as he deserved, but at the same time she was sad to see him suffer.

“I loved him more than I’d ever loved anyone before,” Ipek said ˙ finally, averting her eyes.

“Maybe that’s because the only other man you’d been with was your husband, Muhtar.”

He regretted these words even as he said them, not only because they were hurtful but because he knew Ipek would say something even more ˙ hurtful in reply.

“It’s true,” she said. “Like most Turkish girls, I’ve not had much opportunity to get to know a lot of men. You probably met quite a few independent women in Europe. I’m not going to ask you about any of them, but surely they taught you that new lovers wipe out old ones.” “I’m a Turk,” said Ka.

“Most of the time, being a Turk is either an excuse or a pretext for evil.”

“That’s why I’m going back to Frankfurt,” Ka said listlessly.

“I’m coming with you and we’re going to be happy there.” “You want to come to Frankfurt because you hope you can forget him there.”

“If we go to Frankfurt together it won’t be long, I’m sure, before I love you. I’m not like you; it takes me longer than two days to fall in love with someone. If you’re patient, if you don’t break my heart with your Turkish jealousies, I’ll love you deeply.”

“But right now you don’t love me,” said Ka. “You’re still in love with Blue. What is it about this man that makes him so special?” “I’m glad you’ve asked, and I believe you really do want to know, but I’m worried about how you’ll take my answer.”

“Don’t be afraid,” said Ka, again without conviction. “I love you with all my heart.”

“First, let me say that the only man I could ever live with is the man who could listen to what I am about to say and still find it in him to love me.” Ipek paused for a moment; she turned her eyes ˙ away from Ka to gaze at the snow-covered street. “He’s very compassionate, Blue, very thoughtful and generous.” Her voice was warm with love. “He doesn’t want anyone to suffer. He cried all night once, just because two little puppies had lost their mother. Believe me, he’s not like anyone else.” “Isn’t he a murderer?” Ka asked hopelessly.

“Even someone who knows only a tenth of what I know about him will tell you what stupid nonsense that is. He couldn’t kill anyone. He’s a child. Like a child, he enjoys playing games and getting lost in his daydreams and mimicking people; he loves telling stories from the Shehname and Mesnevi—behind that mask, he’s a very interesting person. He’s very strong-willed and decisive; in fact, he’s so strong, and so much fun— Oh, I’m sorry, darling, don’t cry, please; you’ve cried enough.” Ka stopped crying for a moment, long enough to tell Ipek that he no ˙ longer believed they’d be able to go to Frankfurt together. There followed a long eerie silence, punctuated only by Ka’s sobs. He lay down on the bed, his back to the window, and curled up like a child. After a time, Ipek lay down next to him, her arms around his back. ˙

Ka wanted to say, Leave me alone. Instead he whispered, “Hold me tighter.”

His tears had made the pillow wet: He liked the way it felt against his cheek. He liked Ipek’s arms around him. He fell asleep. ˙ When they woke up it was seven o’clock. At that moment they both felt that happiness was still within reach, but, unable to look each other in the face, they were both searching for an excuse to get away.

Ka began to speak, but Ipek said, “Forget it, darling, just forget it.” ˙ For a moment he couldn’t work out what she was trying to tell him.

Was it all hopeless, or did she know they’d be able to put the past behind them?

He thought Ipek was leaving. He knew very well that if he returned to ˙ Frankfurt alone there would be no more solace even in his melancholy old daily routines.

“Don’t go yet. Let’s sit here a little longer.”

After a strange, discomfiting silence, they embraced once again.

“Oh, my God!” cried Ka. “My God, what’s to become of us?” “Everything will turn out fine,” said Ipek. “Please believe me. Trus ˙ me. Come, let me show you the things I’m packing for Frankfurt.” Ka was relieved just to get out of the room. He held Ipek’s hand a ˙ they walked downstairs. When they reached Turgut Bey’s office, he let it go, but still he noticed that people in the lobby saw them as a couple, and that pleased him. In her room, Ipek opened a drawer and took out th ˙ ice-blue sweater she’d never been able to wear in Kars; after unfolding it and shaking out the mothballs she stood in front of the mirror, holding it up to her chest.

“Put it on,” said Ka.

˙ Ipek pulled off her thick woolen pullover and exchanged it for the ice-blue garment; it was very tight and as she fitted it over her blouse Ka was once again overcome by her beauty.

“Will you love me for the rest of your life?” Ka asked.

“Yes.”

“Now put on the dress that Muhtar would let you wear only at home.”

Ipek opened the wardrobe and took the black velvet dress off it ˙ hanger; unfastening it with great care, she prepared to put it on.

“I like it when you look at me like that,” she said, as their eyes met in the mirror.

He gazed at her long beautiful back, at the tender spot just below the hairline, and, farther down, at the shadow of her backbone and the dimples that formed on her shoulders as she gathered up her hair to pose for him. Overwhelming pleasure, and jealousy too. He felt happy—and very evil.

“Oooh, what’s with this dress?” said Turgut Bey, as he walked into the room. “So tell me, where’s the ball?” But his face was joyless. Ka took it for paternal jealousy, and that made him feel good.

“Since Kadife left for the theater, the television announcements have become much more aggressive,” said Turgut Bey. “If she appears in this play, she’ll be making a big mistake.”

“Daddy dearest, can you please explain to me why we should be against Kadife baring her head?”

They entered the sitting room to stand in front of the television set that had been on all the time. An announcer soon appeared, proclaiming that with this evening’s live performance, there would come an end to the tragedy that had visited social and spiritual paralysis upon the nation, and that the people of Kars would be delivered at last from the religious prej udices that had too long excluded them from modern life and prevented women from enjoying equality with men. Once again, Life and Art were to merge in a bewitching historical tale of unparalleled beauty. But this time the people of Kars had no reason to fear for their safety, because the central police station and the Martial Law Command had taken every conceivable precaution. Admission was free. Then Kasım Bey, the assistant police chief, appeared on the screen; it was immediately clear that his part had been taped earlier. His hair, so disheveled on the night of the revolution, was now combed, his shirt was ironed, and his tie knotted neatly in place. After assuring the people of Kars to have no qualms about attending that evening’s great artistic event, he announced that a large number of religious high school students had already reported to the central police station to promise decorous attendance and warm applause in all the appropriate places, just as one did in Europe and other parts of the civilized world. Furthermore, he admonished, this time no rowdiness would be tolerated; no one would get away with shouting or hissing or making coarse comments of any sort, which should only be too clear to the people of Kars, who issued from a civilization that had been prospering for a thousand years, after all, and so knew exactly how to behave at the theater—and with that he vanished.

The announcer returned to the screen to discuss that evening’s fare, explaining how the lead actor, Sunay Zaim, had been waiting many years to do this piece. There followed a montage of wrinkled posters from the Jacobin plays in which, so many years ago, Sunay had played Napoleon, Robespierre, and Lenin; several black-and-white head shots of the cast (how thin Funda Eser had been in those days!); and a variety of theatrical mementos that Ka imagined to be just the sort of detritus a traveling theatrical couple might be carting around with them in a suitcase (old tickets and programs, clippings from the days Sunay aspired to play Atatürk, tragic scenes staged in sundry Anatolian coffeehouses). Annoying though this promotional montage was, it was reassuring to see Sunay on screen every other moment, and in one shot, apparently very recent, he had an air of such ravaged determination as to appear every inch the dictator, whether from Africa, the Middle East, or the Soviet bloc. Having by now watched a full day of this footage, the people of Kars were coming to believe that Sunay had indeed brought peace to their city; he was one of them now, a bona fide citizen, and they were secretly beginning to nurture hopes for their future. Eighty years earlier, when the Ottoman and Russian armies had abandoned the city, leaving the Turks and the Armenians to massacre each other, the Turks had somehow devised a brandnew flag to announce the birth of a nation: Seeing this same standard now, now stained and moth-eaten but defiantly displayed on the screen, Turgut Bey decided that something terrible was about to happen.

“This man is crazy. He’s heading for disaster, and he wants to take us too. On no account should Kadife go onstage.”

“You’re right, she shouldn’t,” said Ipek. “But if we tell her you’re the ˙ one who’s forbidding it—well, you know what Kadife’s like, Father. She’ll run straight out there and uncover her head just to be obstinate.” “What can we do, then?”

“Why not let Ka go straight to the theater and talk her out of it?” said Ipek, turning around to look at him with her eyebrows raised expectantly. ˙ Ka, who had been gazing for the longest while not at the TV but at her, could not fathom what had led to this abrupt change of heart about their scheme, and his puzzlement made him very nervous.

“If she wants to bare her head, it’s better for her to do it at home, after all this is over,” said Turgut Bey to Ka. “It’s clear that Sunay has planned another unspeakable outrage for this evening’s performance. I feel like a fool, having fallen for Funda’s assurances and let my girl go off with those lunatics.”

“Ka can talk her out of it, Father.”

“Yes,” Turgut said to Ka, “right now you are the only person who could reason with her, and Sunay trusts you. What happened to your nose, my lamb?”

“I fell on the ice,” Ka said guiltily.

“You fell on your forehead too, I see?”

“Ka’s been walking around the city all day,” said Ipek. ˙ “Take Kadife aside when Sunay isn’t watching,” said Turgut Bey.

“Don’t let on that it was our idea, and make sure she says nothing to Sunay suggesting it was yours. She shouldn’t even discuss it with him— better to offer some perfectly plausible excuse, like ‘I’m feeling rather ill,’ and maybe add, ‘I’ll bare my head tomorrow at home.’ Yes, she should promise to do that. And please, tell Kadife how much we all love her. My child!” Tears welled in Turgut Bey’s eyes.

“Father, may I speak to Ka alone for a moment?” said Ipek. She took ˙ Ka over to the dining table and sat him down. Zahide had set the places but not yet served the food.

“Tell Kadife that Blue is in a quandary. Say he’s in trouble or he wouldn’t have her do something like this.”

“First tell me why you changed your mind,” said Ka.

“Oh, my darling, there’s nothing to be jealous about, please believe me. It’s just that I realized my father is right, that’s all. Right now the most important thing is to keep Kadife from this catastrophe.”

“No,” said Ka, choosing his words carefully. “Something’s happened to make you change your mind.”

“Not true. If Kadife must bare her head, she can do it later, at home.” “If Kadife doesn’t bare her head this evening,” said Ka cautiously, “she’ll never do it in front of her father. You know this as well as I do.

What are you hiding from me?”

“Darling, there’s nothing. I love you very much. If you want me, I’ll go back to Frankfurt with you. And once we’ve been there awhile and you see how surely I am bound to you, how much I love you, you’ll put these few days behind you and you’ll love and trust me, too.” She put her hand, which was warm and moist, on Ka’s. In the mirror over the sideboard was Ipek’s beautiful reflection; he was speechless at ˙ the beauty of her back under the straps of the black velvet dress; he could hardly believe how close he was to those enormous eyes.

“I’m almost certain something terrible’s about to happen.” “Why?”

“Because I’m so happy. I can’t say how or where they came from, but since coming to Kars I’ve written eighteen poems. One more and I’ll have written an entire volume, or perhaps I should say it will have written itself. I believe what you say about wanting to go back to Frankfurt with me, and I can see an even greater happiness stretching out before us. It just seems dangerous to be this happy. That’s how I know something terrible is going to happen.” “Something like what?”

“Like this: I go off to talk to Kadife, and you go off to meet Blue.” “Oh, that’s ridiculous,” said Ipek. “I don’t even know where he is.” ˙ “It’s because I wouldn’t tell them where he is that they beat me like this.”

“And you’d better not tell anyone else, either! I’m serious!” Ipek cried, ˙ knitting her brows. “Soon enough you’ll see that you have nothing to fear.”

“So what’s going on? I thought you were going off to talk to Kadife,” said Turgut Bey. “The play starts in an hour and fifteen minutes. They’ve just announced on television that the roads are about to reopen.” “I don’t want to go; I don’t want to leave the hotel,” whispered Ka sheepishly.

“Please understand that we can’t leave the city if Kadife’s in distress,” said Ipek, “because if we did, we wouldn’t be happy either. The least you ˙ can do is go over there; it will make us all feel better.” “An hour and a half ago, when Fazıl brought me the message from Blue,” said Ka, “you were telling me not to leave the hotel at all.” “All right. Just tell me what proof you’ll accept that I haven’t left the hotel while you’re at the theater—but quickly; we’re running out of time,” said Ipek. ˙

Ka smiled. “Come upstairs to my room. I’ll lock you in, and while I’m gone for a half hour I’ll keep the key with me.”

“Fine,” said Ipek cheerfully. She stood up. “Father dear, I’m going up ˙ to my room for half an hour. You’re not to worry, because Ka is going straight to the theater to talk to Kadife. Please don’t get up; we have something to take care of upstairs first and we’re in a hurry.” “I’m very grateful,” said Turgut Bey to Ka, but he still looked uneasy.

Ipek took Ka by the hand, and by that hand she led him through the ˙ lobby and pulled him up the stairs.

“Cavit saw us,” said Ka. “What do you think he thought?” “Who cares?” said Ipek blithely. In his room, there was a faint linger- ˙ ing scent of their lovemaking from the night before. “I’ll wait for you here. Be careful. Don’t get drawn into an argument with Sunay.” “So when I ask Kadife not to go onstage, should I say it’s because you and her father and I don’t want her to, or because Blue doesn’t want her to?”

“Because Blue doesn’t want her to.”

“Why?” asked Ka.

“Because Kadife’s in love with Blue, that’s why. The reason you’re going there is to protect my sister from danger. You have to forget you’re jealous of Blue.”

“As if I could.”

“When we get to Germany, we’re going to be very happy,” said Ipek, ˙ her arms around Ka’s neck. “Tell me about the cinema you’ll take me to.” “There’s a cinema in the Film Museum that shows undubbed American art films late on Saturday nights,” said Ka. “That’s where we’ll go.

We’ll stop along the way at one of those restaurants around the station and have döner and sweet pickles. After we come home, we can relax in front of the television set. Then we’ll make love. We can live on my political exile allowance and the money I’ll make doing readings from this new poetry book of mine—and neither of us has to do anything more than that: just make love.”

Ipek asked him what the title of his book was, and Ka told her. ˙ “That’s beautiful,” she said. “But now you’ve got to go, darling. If you don’t, Father will get so worried he’ll decide to go himself.” “I’m not afraid anymore,” he told her. This was a lie. “But whatever happens, if there’s some sort of mix-up, I’ll be waiting for you on the first train that leaves the city.”

“If I can get out of this room, that is,” Ipek said, with a smile. ˙ “Would you wait at this window and watch me until I’ve disappeared around the corner?”

“Of course.”

“I’m so afraid I won’t see you again,” said Ka.

He closed the door, locked it, and dropped the key into his coat pocket. He wanted to make sure he’d be able to turn around and take one last leisurely look at Ipek in the window, so when he reached the street he ˙ kept several paces ahead of his two army bodyguards. Sure enough, when he turned around there she was, like a statue, in the window of Room 203 of the Snow Palace Hotel, still wearing the black velvet evening gown, her honeyed shoulders now covered with goose bumps from the cold. Standing there bathed in the orange light of the bedside night-light, she was his image of happiness, an image Ka would hold close to him throughout the last four years of his life.

He never saw her again.

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