KIRMIZI RUJ, OJE ve LALELER

Bugün dudaklarımı kırmızıya boyadım ve tırnaklarıma kırmızı oje sürdüm. Senin düşüncenin aksine ben “kadınım” işte. O günü anımsıyor musun? Hani bulabileceğim en saçma, ama en klasik bahaneyi bulup bir fincan şeker için kapını çalmıştım. Kapı komşularının bazı görevleri vardır. Karşı komşumuz Mücella teyze nasıl bizi her ziyaretinde anneme kahve falı bakmakla yükümlüyse sen de bir şeylerden sorumlusun işte. Ben haftada en az üç akşam şeker istemek için ya da tv’nin sesinin yüksekliğinden rahatsız olduğum için kapında bitivermeliyim yaban otu gibi, sen de şaşkın ama sabırlı tebessümünle açmalısın kapıyı. Ezmelisin o otu, ama görmezden gelmemelisin.Üzerinde yine o beyaz gömleğin olmalı.Üstten iki düğmesi açılmış ve kırışmış olmalı; çünkü sen sıkıntıya gelemezsin ve o kadar yaramaz bir çocuksun ki gömleğin hiç ütülü kalamaz. Şapşal şapşal başını kaşımalısın ve “bir dakika, mutfakta olacaktı,” deyip titreyen elime aldırmaksızın çiçekli fincanı alıp gözden kaybolmalısın.

Evet, bugün dudaklarımı kırmızıya boyadım ve tırnaklarıma kırmızı oje sürdüm. Kadınım ben.empty-meal

Diğer yanda Mücella teyze elindeki fincana o kadar odaklanmış, yaptığı şeyi öylesine ciddiye alıyor ki…
“Bak güzelim burada kocaman bir at var,” fincanı anneme doğru çevirmiş, işaret parmağıyla söz konusu atı gösteriyor ve çapkın bir bakış atıyor anneme.”Vallahi murat bu.”
Annem de utanmış rolü yapıyor; “yok canım, bu yaştan sonra, sen de.” O da muzip bir bakış fırlatıyor Mücella teyzeye.

Devam ediyor Mücella teyze; “aaa bak bir de yılan var kız!” Yüzünde sahte bir endişeyle sağ elini bir yılan gibi oynatıyor. “Bak şöyle, hanenize doğru sürünüyor.”

Annem eliyle eyvah anlamında bir işaret yapıyor, onun yüzünde de aynı endişeli ifade var.

Bak bir de kuş, haber var kızım,” diyerek fincandaki bir lekeyi gösteriyor, annemi ikna etmek ve az önceki kötü yorum için kendisini affettirmek istermiş gibi bir tavırla.

Bu sahneyi her akşam üstü izleyebilirsiniz bizim evde. Midem bulanıyor. “Yok artık, bence hayvanat bahçesi kuracağız,” diye düşünüp sırıtıyorum. Kapının aralığından onları izlediğimi gören Mücella teyze takma dişleriyle o şuh kahkahasını atıyor yine.

Aaa gelsene ayol, ne dikiliyorsun orda? Sana da bakayım mı? Eee ne de olsa koca kız oldun artık.”

Bunları söylerken baştan ayağı bir süzülüyorum. Sanırım kusacağım.

Annem fark etmiş olmalı, eliyle yaklaş işareti yapıyor. “Ne sürdün sen bakayım yüzüne?”

Cevap vermeden arkamı dönüp çıkıyorum odadan. Arkamdan “hay Allah ne oldu bu kıza böyle?” diye hayıflandığını duyuyorum.

Mücella teyze yine görmüş geçirmiş tavrıyla “karışma sen, büyüyor kız,” diye sakinleştirmeye çalışıyor annemi.

Ama daha on dört yaşında, böyle makyaj yapıp dolaşıyor evde,” diye endişesini dile getiriyor.

Kapının yanındaki boy aynasının önünde dikiliyorum. Kot eteğimin altındaki şekilsiz bacaklarıma bakıyorum. Ensemde at kuyruğu yaptığım siyah saçlarıma dokunuyorum. İçerideki konuşmalarda adın geçiyor. Annemden senin yüzünden nefret ediyorum. Annem sekiz senedir dul ve Mücella teyze sırf kapı komşumuz olduğun için ve bekarsın diye seninle yakıştırıyor onu. Ensemden aşağıya soğuk bir ter damlası yuvarlanıyor. Dünya ayaklarımın altından çekiliyor sanki. Küçükken yaramazlık yaptığımda abimin beni dolaba kilitlediği zamanlardaki kadar boğuluyorum. Kendime geldiğimde çoktan ziline basmışım. Uykulu gözlerle kapıyı aralıyorsun birazdan. Tahminimce yine tv karşısında uyukluyordun. İşte üzerinde yine o beyaz gömleğin. Hafifçe geriliyor dudakların.

Yine ne kalmamış evinizde?” diyerek gülümsüyorsun.

Hiç!” diyorum en ciddi tavrımla. Birden düşüyor yüzün, az önceki gülümsemeden eser yok. Huzursuzca kıpırdanıyorsun olduğun yerde.

Öyleyse…”

Biliyorum “öyleyse ne var?” diyeceksin. Cümleni bitirmene fırsat vermeden “konuşalım,” deyip kapıyı iterek içeri giriyorum. Ben kendime “güvenimle” kol kola girmiş bir şekilde salona doğru ilerlerken arkamda, hala kapının önünde, şaşkınlıktan apışıp kaldığını hayal edebiliyorum. Ve bu hoşuma gidiyor. Arkamdan salona giriyorsun ve koltuklardan birini seçip oturuyorsun. Huzursuzca gözlerini kırpıştırıp elini burnuna götürüyorsun. “Ne konuşalım?” diyebiliyorsun sadece. Bense hala ayakta, olduğum yerde gömleğimin üst düğmesini çözüyorum. Birden gözlerini patlatıp “ne yapıyorsun sen?” diye çıkışıyorsun. İşte oyun avantajı yine sana geçti. Sandığımdan daha çabuk toparlandın ve ben yine ürkek bir tavşan gibi inime kaçmak istiyorum içten içe.

Ben güzel miyim?” diyorum yutkunarak.

Çocuksun sen,” diyorsun ve bakışlarını lale desenli halıya kaçırıyorsun.

Sanırım halı benden daha güzel; çünkü bana değil ona bakıyorsun.” diye üsteliyorum inatla.

Gülüyorsun. Gömleğimin ikinci düğmesini çözmekten vazgeçip yanına oturuyorum. İçimden “keşke her şey filmlerdeki kadar kolay olsa,” diyerek iç geçiriyorum. Bir süre bakışıyoruz, gözlerini ilk kaçıran sen oluyorsun.

Üzgünüm, bugün gelmek için bir bahane bulamadım, yani evde şeker de var tuz da…”

Gülüyorsun tekrar. “Benim favorim; ‘bizim televizyon göstermiyor. Acaba sizinki gösteriyor mu, antende bir sorun mu var?’ dediğin gündü,” diye ekleyip gülüyorsun. Beni de güldürüyor bu söylediklerin. En azından ikimiz de neden burada olduğumu anlamışız. Birazdan dudaklarıma dalıyor bakışların. Gülümseyerek tırnaklarımı da gösteriyorum. Gergin bir tebessümle karşılık veriyorsun. Gözlerini tekrar halıdaki lale motiflerine dikip sağ elinin işaret parmağıyla koltuğa görünmez çizgiler çiziyorsun. Ben de bakıyorum lalelere. Kırk üç yaşındasın, ama eminim şu anda benden daha çocuk hissediyorsun. İşte yine avantaj bende. Birazdan masanın üzerinde duran vazodaki lalelere çarpıyor gözlerim. Sen ne çok seversin laleleri. Keşke adım Lale olsa! Beş dakika kadar havadan sudan konuşup uğurluyorsun beni. Kapıyı kapatmak üzereyken parmak uçlarımda yükselip kırmızı rujumla imza atıyorum yanağına. İz ne kadar da laleye benziyor. Şaşırıyorsun kapıyı kapatırken. Şah ve mat! Kendini kandırmak bazen lalelerden bile güzel kokar, bilir misin yan komşu?

Alina

Alina was born in a small village by the Baltic Sea. Her mother jumped out of her child bed and ran into the street singing and dancing to declare the birth of her first baby girl. While Alina’s mother was giving birth, her father, Ivan, was playing cards and drinking vodka at the café of the village. His youngest son, Alexis, ran to the café and informed his father that the new-born was a girl. After five boys, Alexis’s mother had lost hope of having a baby girl and had given the sixth boy a girl’s name. She could hardly convince her husband it was also used as a boy’s name. She not only gave him a girl’s name, she raised him like a girl. She dressed him up in skirts and cute dresses when her husband left early to go fishing. She managed to grow Alexis’ hair down to his shoulders until her husband heard other kids mocking him “Alexis is a girl”. He grabbed Alexis by hand and dragged him to the house, made him sit down on the floor and shaved his blond locks ignoring the boy’s tears and his wife’s begging, and the next day he took Alexis with him to the sea with the other boys. From then on Alexis often ran away, sat on a rock cursing at his father, and looked at his hands wounded by the fish nets. He liked it better to stay at home with his mother and knit than going to fishing. Beating him up didn’t stop the boy from running away so Ivan let him get away with it. When Alexis whispered the news into his father’s ears, Ivan responded by inhaling smoke from his joint and laid one of the cards in his hand on the table. His friends called Ivan “The Bear” for he killed a bear when he was young. Bear fighting was a tradition for young Russians who were ready to prove they grew into manhood. The new-born was wrapped in pig fat and bear fur immediately. Ivan came home, took off his fur coat, poured some vodka into an oily glass and took a look at the new-born. He immediately sensed there was something wrong with the baby. She frowned like an adult and turned her hands into fists. The baby was named Alina, which meant “odd” in Russian. For a month, no one but the family members were allowed to see the baby. The curious neighbors knocking on the door with goat milk and rye bread were turned down politely. As time passed they were surprised by the newborns eyes with different colors, one being blue and the other green. The priest rejected to baptize her. Alina’s mother hardly convinced him with lots of begging, a sack of wheat, and a bottle of vodka as he lifted his brows twice, caressed his beard and nodded yes. Contradicting her mother’s expectations, in a few years, Alina grew to be a tomboy. She only played with boys, fought like a boy, and turned her nose up at girls. Other kids told her she was a witch or a source of bad luck for the village. When she was six, her father left home to chase after a monster supposedly seen on Estonian sea-shore and never came back. Stanislav, told Alina’s mother the bad news looking at his hat he played with in his hands. According to the story he told, the crew of the boat kept track of the monster of the Baltic Sea for hours and captured it three miles away from shore. There was a storm in the sea. Lightning momentarily lit up the dark sea that shook like a glass of water. The watchman yelled out the appearance of the monster on the surface of the water. The monster was at least ten feet long. It escaped the fish nets and the gunfire wasn’t enough to take its life. Three members of the crew had disappeared. Ivan was one of them. Stanislav’s freckly cheek blushed with excitement as he told the story. He breathed fast and spat as he talked. The sun was sinking at the window. The fire in the fire-place had grown weak. The woman tucked her mouth with pieces of bread listening to Stanislav’s story. Her eyes fixed up somewhere on the wall. A tear came down her face when she had trouble swallowing a big piece of bread. She disappointed Stanislav who thought she would say something when she coughed. On a summer day, when Alina was twelve, two little girls ran into their garden. They told Alina and her mother that Alexis was fighting with a bear at the village square. They followed the two girls to the square and walked into the crowd. Alexis was lying on the ground with his shirt ripped and stained from blood. They brought him home where he lay unconsciously for a night and died the next morning. Nobody took responsibility for the death. Alexis wanted to prove he was a man just like his father Ivan, the Bear. He had so much pride and was tired of being called nicknames. He could never find a wife unless he proved he was a real man. They went to Nikolai, an old man who traveled from one village to another with his bear that he taught how to dance holding on a stick. The crowd gathered in the square around the old bear and the boy who stared at each other for minutes. The bear got bored and laid down. The crowd got impatient and booed Alexis. He shook in fear, waiting for the bear to make the first move, but the bear was domesticated and lazy. Somebody in the crowd threw him a stick. He hit the bear on its head. It stood up on two feet and roared, yet didn’t attack back. He hit it again in the stomach. The bear roared so loudly that everybody in the village heard it. When Alina was fourteen, a Turkish man who was visiting the village for business purposes at the time laid eyes on her. For the first time, somebody wasn’t frightened by her eyes. On the contrary, the next day the priest was sent to her mother. The priest told the mother the Easterner was willing to pay a lot of money to have the girl. If she didn’t accept the offering, he would burn down the whole village. He was a friend of the Czar’s and was going to make people sit on sticks, and throw them into boiling water. One afternoon, as the sun descended below the horizon, the cow Alina took to the grassland outside of the village came back to the barn alone. Nobody answered her mother when she ran the streets calling out Alina. The housekeeper of the mansion that the Turkish man stayed at told her to pray the Virgin, the girl was in good hands, already in a ship that was sailing towards Istanbul.

The Bridge

I

People who came back the next morning saw thousands of shoes lying on the bridge. Stilettos, boots, sandals, sneakers and slippers of all kinds and colors. The government erected tents by the river to lay the corpses. It was not supposed to happen. The water festival was organized to celebrate the peace that came after seven years of cold war and four years of battling with the neighboring country. The river was declared borderline between two countries. A year after reconsecration being secured, the government decided to start an annual festival in the honor of peace, and built a bridge over the river. The bridge was twenty six feet wide, three hundred and twenty eight feet long, made of steel, and decorated with thousands of light bulbs for the festival. A boat race, fishing competitions, dance performances and concerts took places during the first and second days of the festival. On the third and last day people were going to be allowed to walk to the end of the bridge and meet their relatives at the other side of the border, even if behind the fence. Three hundred and seventy people died and seven hundred were injured on the bridge that night.

There were different speculations about what happened. The conservative daily review The True Path told its readers that the cause of the deaths was the increasing number of homosexuals in the country. God punished those infidels at last. According to an underground group of Communists, which was called Agora, the rich people were to blame. They gave high voltages of electricity to the bridge to watch the poor people run and burn like chickens. The pro government daily review The Liberty News wrote that the perpetrator of the event was the neighboring country. They couldn’t stand their fast growing economy and set a trap to take them down. They were jealous of the financial aid from The United Nations and The European Union.

The government sent police and soldiers to the avenue next day and started an investigation. Four tents were erected by the river to keep the corpses. There weren’t enough coffins. They were not ready for such a disaster. The tents looked like fish markets, with the corpses laid side to side waiting for people to identify them. Four days after the disaster sixty percent of the corpses was identified by their families and an unbearable odor surrounded the area. The police stood guard at night to keep the dogs, crows and wild animals away from the bodies. On the sixth day all the corpses were identified, and on the seventh day the government arranged a funeral for the dead.

Everything went back to normal after the funeral. People stopped talking about that night as if they agreed on finding the solace in silence. Nobody realized the absence of young Hun until the twelfth day. On the twelfth day, his neighbor got suspicious because she hadn’t seen him in a while. She went to the shack he lived in to check on him in the morning. He was gone. Nobody knew where he was. She went to the police station and filed a missing person’s report. The news of the missing boy spread in the town quickly. The president decided it was a great opportunity to regain the prestige he had lost because of the unfortunate event. He appeared on TV and yelled out, spitting on all over the microphone and the press members that the boy had to be found. He was the last hope remaining from the disaster. He would be a consolation to the mothers who lost their children on that sad night. It was the civic duty of everyone to look for this youngster. A religious group spread a rumor that people who take part in the search of this boy would go straight to heaven. Shortly after, everyone was looking for the boy. All the newspapers started speculating about the missing boy this time. Another investigation was started rapidly. An old woman said that she saw the boy on the bridge that night. He had a halo on his head and enormous wings made of light. He stepped on people’s shoulders and passed the bridge, then disappeared in the starry night. He was the angel of death.

The old lady frowned under her glasses and stared at a spot on the floor as if she was trying to remember that day. The young policeman beat the wooden floor with his shoe heels impatiently. Silence followed the question. They were sitting in a small room on the ground floor with a few pieces of furniture – a table, a sewing machine, two chairs and a velvet curtain separating the room from the dressing room.

“I saw him on the way to the farmer’s market that morning. He told me he was going to get some milk and bread before heading to his job at the post office. I told him we were going to throw a big dinner that night. It was the twenty-eighth anniversary of my husband’s death. I told him he should come out and have some turkey and rice. The poor kid was very thin. It was hard to tell if he had been eating anything lately. My little stupid granddaughter was in love with him. I wanted him to be my grandson in law. I convinced him to come over for a cup of coffee after work once. I even made a new sky blue dress for my granddaughter and told her to brush her hair before he arrives. Oh, my little foolish girl! As he was looking at her carrying the coffee cups, ‘this is going to happen,’ I thought. Then she got so excited that she stumbled and spilled all the coffee on the ground. His face was filled with horror looking at the girl lying on the ground. He rushed out of the room and never came back again. It’s so sad that he disappeared. No one else will marry my granddaughter. She is a nice girl, she knows how to cook and she is very clean. But she is silent, you know. She doesn’t talk much. It’s good that she doesn’t because as soon as she opens her mouth men understand how stupid she is and take advantage of her. She is beautiful like an angel, but has no brains,” she said hitting her head softly with her index finger and looked out the window for a moment. There were two young ladies staring at the window of a boutique across the street. A fruit vendor was slicing a peeled apple for a middle aged man. A group of young men were walking side to side. Their faces were invisible between their hats and their collars. All of them had their hands in their pockets. They worked at the only factory in town like most of the men.

“We hardly made her finish the fifth grade. It’d be good for both sides. The boy would have someone to do his laundry and eat warm food every day. He didn’t have any relatives. His poor mom died a long time ago, and his father, that son of a bitch, left with his little sister during the war. He took the little girl because he wanted to make her work for him, I bet. It’d be hard to handle a young boy. Thank god that we heard he had died of cancer. The little girl was very easy going but the boy was very shy. Whenever I tried to talk to him about my granddaughter he blushed. He moved impatiently where he stood as if he was in some kind of physical pain or had to pee, looking away, as if asking for permission to leave. He said he was going to the water festival after work. I didn’t insist. All the young people were interested in seeing the new bridge. The governor said that they were organizing a race in the honor of the new bridge and the first one to reach to the other side would get five hundred dollars. The entire town wanted the money. I would run myself too if I could, but these old rheumatic legs wouldn’t let me,” she said, putting the needle between her lips, caressing her knee for a moment, then holding the needle between her two fingers again. “I don’t blame them. It’s good money, especially in this economy after the war.” The policeman looked at the old woman’s knee and thought of his mother who complained all the time about her diabetes, high blood pressure or the ulcer she claimed to have. Old people are all the same, he thought. They love complaining. They almost can’t stand young people with no health problems. They would exile the youth if they could, his mom would at least. He hadn’t seen her happy in a long time.

The police officer left the tailor’s shop shortly after and walked down the dusty yellow roads with his hands in his pockets like the young men he saw an hour ago. He passed some shopkeepers sitting in front of their shops and reading the morning paper, sipping their coffee, discussing the latest speculations about the lost boy and the bridge. Two men were playing chess in front of a barber’s shop. He went into a small grocery store to buy a pack of cigarettes and matches. The grocer was slicing a chunk of meat behind the counter. During the silence of a few seconds where the two strangers exchanged glances, the middle aged grocer took a chance to start a conversation.

“I know they are not going to find him,” he said, looking at the paper on the counter. Then he handed the stranger a pack of cigarettes and matches.

“How do you know?”

“The whole town is talking about him,” he said, stabbing the chunk of meat with his knife. For a moment they both looked at the thin slice separating from the chunk and falling on the counter.

“What difference would it make if he was found anyway?” he kept going. The stranger looked at his fat hands with curly hair and felt a slight nausea thinking of eating the meat with the grocer’s hair stuck on it.

“National pride and all that bullshit that the president talked about on TV. He is just one person. All they want is people to forget about what happened. Three hundred and seventy people died on that bridge. My son died on that bridge,” he yelled, and stabbed the meat again. “Do you know what they did? I received an envelope in my mailbox the other day with twelve hundred and fifty dollars and a letter of condolence from the government in it. And there was supposedly a foreign money crisis in the country. That’s good money, though. Especially considering people who were injured got only two hundred and fifty.” He started laughing hysterically and added waving the knife in the air. “My son wouldn’t be able to make that kind of money in a year working at the factory. His little sister had seen foreign money for the first time in her life. She looked at the picture on the green banknotes and said ‘who is that man daddy?’ I told her he was a bad guy who caused the war.”

The police officer’s eyes were caught by the hammer and sickle figures on the wall. Any kind of communist discourse was banned in the country and books about socialism and Marxism were collected after the war. The president appeared on TV and told his nation that capitalism would be their savior. Liberal economy was glorified everywhere. The police officer would report such cases normally but he didn’t want to be burdened with a new case and preferred to ignore it this time.

The case of young Hun was closed after two months of investigation. The police officer in charge reported that some witnesses claimed that they saw the young man jump off the bridge in the chaos. The newspapers wrote that he was carried away by the river and possibly eaten by the fish. However, the people of the country preferred to believe the rumor about him being an angel. The government agreed on the idea of declaring him a saint would help them gain some respect and ease the public frustration. They built a monumental tomb quickly. It was the perfect idea. Just within a week, his tomb was visited by thousands of people coming from all over the country. The sick came to beg for cure, women wished for wealthy husbands, and young men asked for jobs from the newly sainted. They rushed in the crowd to rub their hands and faces against his marble. An old men was seen passing out, uttering some words in an unknown language, saying he saw the holy light of god after he regained consciousness afterwards. The tomb was lit by so many candles that it would be visible from a long distance in the night.II

 II

I remembered him right away when I saw his picture in the paper. Only I saw what really happened that night. They never asked me. I don’t know if I would tell them if they asked though. Here is what really happened. I was on the bridge that night. It was very crowded, so no one could run. About a thousand men and women were walking on the bridge as fast as they could. People were pushing each other. He was walking a few feet away from me. He wasn’t a saint or an angel as people say. He was the devil himself. His face was pale with sweat in the winter cold. He was looking at the end of the bridge as if he was in a trance. The crowd was making its way on the bridge. He cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled “the bridge is collapsing!” Within a few seconds everybody started repeating what he said. “The bridge is collapsing!” I don’t know whether he planned it or the idea occurred to him at that moment. People started screaming, running, and pushing each other off the bridge. The weaker ones fell down and the ones who were able to stand straight stepped on them. I saw a child who was lying on the floor and held her high above my head. There was nowhere to run. We couldn’t move. We were stuck on the bridge. Then some people yelled out that young people should jump off the bridge to make room. I saw him making his way in the crowd like an angry bull. I wouldn’t believe that such a thin body could be so strong if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. It was the power of those who are ready to destroy everything on their way to get what they wanted. He probably passed the border jumping over the fence, taking the advantage of the soldiers’ absence at the other side. I read that he had a sister at the other side of the border in a newspaper. I have relatives that I haven’t seen in years on the other side too.