بخش 95

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بخش 95

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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Ella

KONYA, SEPTEMBER 7, 2009

By his bed she was sleeping on a plastic chair when she suddenly opened her eyes and listened to an unexpected sound. Somebody was saying unknown words in the dark. She realized it was the call to prayer coming from outside. A new day was about to begin. But she had a feeling it would also be the end of something.

Ask anyone who has heard the call to morning prayer for the first time and he will tell you the same thing. That it is beautiful, rich, and mysterious. And yet at the same time there is something uncanny about it, almost eerie. Just like love.

In the stillness of the night, it was to this sound that Ella woke with a start. She blinked repeatedly in the dark until she could make sense of the male voice filling the room from the open windows. It took her a full minute to remember that she was not in Massachusetts anymore. This wasn’t the spacious house she had shared with her husband and three children. All that belonged to another time—a time so distant and vague that it felt like a fairy tale, not like her own past.

No, she wasn’t in Massachusetts. Instead she was in another part of the world altogether, in a hospital in the town of Konya in Turkey. And the man whose deep, steady breathing she now heard as an undertone to the call for the morning prayer was not her husband of twenty years but the lover for whom she had left him one sunny day last summer.

“Are you going to leave your husband for a man with no future?” her friends and neighbors had asked her again and again. “And how about your kids? Do you think they will ever forgive you?”

And that is how Ella had come to understand that if there was anything worse in the eyes of society than a woman abandoning her husband for another man, it was a woman abandoning her future for the present moment.

She switched on the table lamp and in its soft amber glow inspected the room, as if to make sure nothing had changed since she’d drifted off to sleep only a few hours ago. It was the smallest hospital room she had ever seen, not that she’d seen many hospital rooms in her life. The bed occupied most of the floor space. Everything else was placed in relation to the bed—a wooden closet, a square coffee table, an extra chair, an empty vase, a bed tray with pills of varying colors, and next to it the book Aziz had been reading since the beginning of this trip: Me & Rumi.

They had come to Konya four days ago, spending the first days in the city being no different from the average tourists—visiting monuments, museums, and archaeological sites; stuffing themselves with the local dishes; and taking pictures of every new thing, no matter how ordinary or silly. Everything was going well until the day before, when Aziz, while having lunch at a restaurant, collapsed on the floor and had to be rushed to the nearest hospital. Since then she’d been waiting here by his bedside, waiting without knowing what to expect, hoping against hope, and at the same time silently and desperately quarreling with God for taking back so soon the love he had given her so late in life.

“My dear, are you sleeping?” Ella asked. It wasn’t her intention to disturb him, but she needed him awake.

There came no answer other than a fleeting lull in the rhythm of his breathing, a missing note in the sequence.

“Are you awake?” she asked, whispering and raising her voice at the same time.

“I am now,” Aziz said slowly. “What is it, you couldn’t sleep?”

“The morning prayer … ” Ella said, and paused as if that explained everything: his deteriorating health, her growing fear of losing him, and the absolute folly that love was—everything encapsulated by those three words.

Aziz sat straight up now, his green eyes unblinking. Under the wispy light of the lamp and surrounded by bleached white sheets, his handsome face looked sadly pale, but there was also something powerful about it, even immortal.

“The morning prayer is special,” he murmured. “Did you know that of the five prayers a Muslim is supposed to perform every day, the one in the morning is said to be the most sacred but also the most testing?”

“And why is that?”

“I guess it’s because it wakes us up from dreams, and we don’t like that. We prefer to keep sleeping. That’s why there is a line in the morning call that doesn’t exist in the others. It says, ‘Prayer is better than sleep.’ ” But perhaps sleep is better for the two of us, Ella thought. If only we could fall asleep together. She longed for an easy, unperturbed slumber no less magical than Sleeping Beauty’s, one hundred years of absolute numbness to ease this pain.

In a little while, the call to prayer came to an end, its echoes drifting away on retreating waves. After the last note faded, the world felt strangely safe, but unbearably silent. It had been a year since they’d been together. One year of love and awareness. Most of the time, Aziz had been well enough to keep traveling with Ella, but in the past two weeks his health had deteriorated visibly.

Ella watched him go back to sleep, his face serene and so very dear. Her mind filled with anxieties. She sighed deeply and walked out of the room. She passed through corridors where all the walls had been painted shades of green and entered wards where she saw patients, old and young, men and women, some recovering, others failing. She tried not to mind the inquisitive gaze of the people, but her blond hair and blue eyes made her foreignness incandescent. She had never felt so out of place anywhere before. But then Ella had never been much of a traveler.

A few minutes later, she was sitting by the water fountain in the hospital’s small, pleasant garden. In the middle of the fountain, there was a statue of a little angel, and at the bottom of it a few silver coins shone, each bearing somebody’s secret wish. She groped in her pockets for a coin but couldn’t find anything there other than scribbled notes and half a granola bar. As her gaze fell upon the garden, she saw some pebbles ahead. Smooth, black, and shiny. She picked one of them up, closed her eyes, and tossed it into the fountain, her lips murmuring a wish she already knew would not be realized. The pebble hit the wall of the fountain and bounced aside, falling right into the lap of the stone angel.

If Aziz were here, Ella thought, he would have seen it as a sign.

When she walked back half an hour later, she found a doctor and a young, head-scarved nurse in the room and the bedsheet pulled over Aziz’s head.

He had passed away.

Aziz was buried in Konya, following in the footsteps of his beloved Rumi.

Ella took care of all the preparations, trying to plan every little detail but also trusting that God would help her with the ones she couldn’t handle. First she arranged the spot where he would be buried—under a huge magnolia tree in an old Muslim cemetery. Then she found Sufi musicians who agreed to play the ney and sent an e-mail to Aziz’s friends everywhere, inviting them to the funeral. To her delight, quite a number of them were able to come, from as far away as Cape Town, St. Petersburg, Murshidabad, and São Paulo. Among them were photographers like him, as well as scholars, journalists, writers, dancers, sculptors, businessmen, farmers, housewives, and Aziz’s adopted children.

It was a warm, joyful ceremony, attended by people of all faiths. They celebrated his death, as they knew he would have wanted. Children played happily and unattended. A Mexican poet distributed pan de los muertos, and an old Scottish friend of Aziz’s sprinkled rose petals on everyone, raining over them like confetti, each and every one a colorful testimony that death was not something to be afraid of. One of the locals, a hunched old Muslim man who watched the whole scene with a wide grin and gimlet eyes, said this must have been the craziest funeral Konya had ever witnessed, except for the funeral of Mawlana centuries ago.

Two days after the funeral, finally alone, Ella wandered the city, watching the families walk past her, merchants in their shops, and street vendors eager to sell her something, anything. People stared at this American woman walking in their midst with her eyes swollen from crying. She was a complete stranger here, a complete stranger everywhere.

Back in the hotel, before she checked out and headed to the airport, Ella took off her jacket and put on a fluffy, peach-colored angora sweater. A color too meek and docile for a woman who’s trying to be neither, she thought. Then she called Jeannette, who was the only one of her three children who had supported her in her decision to follow her heart. Orly and Avi were still not speaking to their mother.

“Mom! How are you?” Jeannette asked, her voice full of warmth.

Ella leaned forward into empty space and smiled as if her daughter were standing right across from her. Then she said in an almost inaudible voice, “Aziz is dead.”

“Oh, Mom, I’m so sorry.”

There was a brief lull as they both contemplated what to say. It was Jeannette who broke the silence. “Mom, will you be coming home now?”

Ella tipped her head in thought. In her daughter’s question, she heard another unstated question. Would she be going back to Northampton to her husband and stopping the divorce process, which had already turned into a maze of mutual resentments and accusations? What was she going to do now? She didn’t have any money, and she didn’t have a job. But she could always give private lessons in English, work for a magazine, or who knows, be a good fiction editor one day.

Closing her eyes for a moment, Ella prophesied to herself with jubilant conviction and confidence what the days ahead would bring her. She had never been on her own like this before, and yet, oddly enough, she didn’t feel lonely.

“I’ve missed you, baby,” she said. “And I’ve missed your brother and sister, too. Will you come to see me?”

“Of course I will, Mama—we will—but what are you going to do now? Are you sure you aren’t coming back?”

“I’m going to Amsterdam,” Ella said. “They have incredibly cute little flats there, overlooking the canals. I can rent one of those. I’ll need to improve my biking. I don’t know.… I’m not going to make plans, honey. I’m going to try living one day at a time. I’ll see what my heart says. It is one of the rules, isn’t it?” “What rules, Mom? What are you talking about?”

Ella approached the window and looked at the sky, which was an amazing indigo in all directions. It swirled with an invisible speed of its own, dissolving into nothingness and encountering therein infinite possibilities, like a whirling dervish.

“It’s Rule Number Forty,” she said slowly. “A life without love is of no account. Don’t ask yourself what kind of love you should seek, spiritual or material, divine or mundane, Eastern or Western.… Divisions only lead to more divisions. Love has no labels, no definitions. It is what it is, pure and simple.

“Love is the water of life. And a lover is a soul of fire!

“The universe turns differently when fire loves water.”

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