Ayfer Tunç was born in Adapazari in 1964. She graduated from the Istanbul University Faculty of Political Sciences. During her university years, she wrote many articles for various literature, culture and art magazines. In 1989, she participated in the Yunus Nadi Short Story Competition organized by the daily Cumhuriyet newspaper. Her short story titled Saklı (Hidden) received the first prize.
Between 1999-2004, she worked as the chief editor of Yapı Kredi Publishing House. Her book titled Maniniz Yoksa Annemler Size Gelecek-70’li Yıllarda Hayatımız (My Parents Will Visit You If You Aren’t Occupied – Our Life in the ’70s) was published in 2001 was met with great enthusiasm. In 2003, the same book won the International Balkanika Award, co-organized by seven Balkan countries, and qualified for being translated into six Balkan languages. In addition, the book was published in Arabic in Syria and Lebanon.
Ayfer Tunç also wrote a script titled Havada Bulut (Cloud in the Sky), based on short stories by Sait Faik, and it was filmed and broadcast on TRT in 2003.
Ayfer Tunç’s published works:
- Hidden (story) 1989
- Cover Girl (novel) 1992
- Two-Faced Sexuality (research) 1994
- Friends From The Cave (story) 1996
- The Aziz Bey Phenomenon (story) 2000
- My Parents Will Visit You If You Aren’t Occupied (life) 2001
- Rock- Paper- Scissors (story) 2003
- Evvelhotel (story) 2006
- This They Call Life (life) 2007
- The VERY ERRONEOUSLY Narrated Short History of a Madhouse (novel) 2009
They were my cowardice, my cringing, my introversion.
And then they were my beardlessness, and therefore they were my wife’s cutting my hair, as it grew long.
My old wounds were the cardboard I put in my shoes in layers, that I renewed as they were worn down… at home on Sundays… secretly.
They were my wife’s large but scary, black but tear-jerking eyes, her bones bulging from her finger joints.
They were the prints of red lips appearing on the coffee cups that I carried in my first youth when I was an apprentice with merchant tailors, my hands trembling with fear.
And for the rest they where my weird, wretched wedding photograph taken by the drunken photographer who had a shop in the neighbourhood. We both looked as though we were crying.
But despite all this, I would not have wanted my end to be like this. I had not known. A little before the tale that I am about to relate took place I was: between thirty and forty, between being married and being single, between being alive and being dead. My life resembled a straight, long, thin line. This was something like a sick person’s moment of death. It was as though I were one who was condemned to walk to eternity on this long, thin line.
Sometimes, for some reason always in winter as night fell, I used to sit at the end of the counter of my shop next to the window and look outside and ask myself if I were a happy man. I had a passable shop, a passable wife, a roof over my head, a meal on the hob and two children. In that case I ought to be happy I used to murmur to myself.
Although I used to say that, I would catch a glimpse of the mirror opposite me. In the mirror I used to see a literally blue man, a face creased and shrunk like a cheap blue skirt lining. It was as though blue ink enlaced the lines of my face. My mien resembled a deserted pet dog. For no reason I would take down the bunches of zips from the shelf, when it was quite unnecessary I would change the places of the button boxes. I would attempt to sweep up the shop and try to forget the deserted, blue pet dog that I saw in the mirror.
And so for this reason, as though rolling very softly down a mound of sand its foot lapped by the waves of a warm sea, I abandoned myself to this strange game.
The game started after I became acquainted with Turcan. Before him in the shop next door to me there was a quiet old Jew who sold stockings for varicose veins. If we met in the mornings he would say “hello neighbour”, would enter his shop and leave quietly in the evenings. One day he quietly died. Turcan bought the Jew’s shop. Thus quietness too became dead. If it had been up to me, when I met this man who covered his pate with a small chestnut coloured wig and who, with every step he took, left an acrid tobaccoish smell in the street, I was going to brush over acquaintance by wishing him a dry good luck.
However that wasn’t how it turned out to happen. One day a small lorry drew up to the door and while mirrors of different sizes were being unloaded an altercation began between Turcan and the porters. Turcan dismissed the porters who had unloaded half the mirrors, and sticking his head into my shop; without formality as though we had been friends for forty years and with a funny expression in his large grey-blue eyes, astounding me and even frightening me but seeming very merry and also very friendly, asked me, “neighbour would you give me a hand?” I couldn’t say a thing; there was the sourness of a lemon in my mouth, as though if I tried to speak the words would come out shrivelled. I came out of the shop, humped the mirrors on my back and carried them into his shop.
That day he took me to lunch and thus to his woman stories. We drank raki, and ate bean salad and pickled bonito. Turcan invariably talked about women. And I noticed that it was as though all the women he described were virtually boneless. I thought about those women’s hands, my eyes were dazzled by the whiteness of their skin. And then how talkative and warm were the women that he talked about. They knew how to laugh.
It would have been good if it had stayed like that. It was always women who called Turcan on his mobile ‘phone. He spoke suggestively to them, roared with laughter and belched every now and then. While he laughed his forehead sweated and when he wiped away his sweat his wig moved. While he was speaking to women, to the women that I guessed were virtually boneless and excessively white, I thought how very many and beautiful women there were in the world. While thinking about the beautiful women in the world my wife never entered my head. My old wounds hurt. My rib cage that was as though a huge fist had slammed into it and it had collapsed, had grown too small for the trouble within me; all those woman tales had enveloped my insides like a deep and fatal affliction.
A few days later Turcan introduced me to two of his friends and took me out to dinner. Woman stories multiplied and became varied. They, three tall men, who put their coats over their shoulders, incessantly called by women on their mobile ‘phones, spoke of cheques, due-dates, and women. I listened to them, I was too late laughing and had difficulty in understanding. Then at a late hour they got up to meet the women they had been talking about; I assumed a knowing smile and shook my head as though I had understood. They did not let me pay the bill. They smiled in a fatherly manner and patted me on the shoulder.
As we left the restaurant it was snowing reluctantly. I said goodbye to them with a cordiality that I had never before experienced and while the three men in a dashing way got into the car brought from the car park I said I would take a cab and beckoned to a taxi. I opened the door of the taxi that stopped and waved to them before I got in. The car that the three men had got into passed below the street lamps of the road that had not a trace of its daytime crowds, and like the guffaws of the three men it noisily disappeared and I turned to the taxi driver and said “oh dear. I’ve forgotten something inside, don’t wait for me, go.” I closed the door of the taxi and walked towards the restaurant. I entered a street and listened to the sound of the taxi. I heard the driver wait for a while then drive away accelerating with rage, making his car screech and skidding on the empty road. I came out of my hiding place and began to walk. The pieces of cardboard that I had put in my shoes had grown thin, my rib cage caved in, and I felt that my face had begun to sour; I said to myself it’s from the snow, it’s from the wind.
When I entered the street where I lived the worn out, poor washing on the lines stretched between the houses was waving dejectedly. The lights changing from blue to orange of the street lamps were reflected in the dark windows of the neighbourhood that had long since gone to bed. As I approached home a strange joy grew within me. I took the first step in this game that was to bring me to a tragic end, in front of my front door. An erectness came to my shoulders, as though I had grown taller. I stroked my non-existent beard with my hands blue with cold and despite having a key and knowing full well that the automatic door system was broken I pressed the bell from downstairs. Then I lifted my head and looked up. Whether the lights in my apartment were on or not, I cannot remember. This was because I looked but I did not see; women in their sundry states passed in front of my eyes. That is why I did not notice then the anxiety that I remembered much later to be there on the face of my wife who had put on a cardigan over her flannel nightdress and had come down the five flights of stairs in a fluster.
That night I know that I kept smiling as I slept.
I experienced five nights like these. Five nights between short intervals… However each night was more disagreeable than the previous one, each time Turcan and his friends took less interest in me than on the previous one. At the end of the fifth night they forgot me in the toilet. I was a handful of ashes they had blown away and scattered.
The sixth night was never experienced because they did not invite me again. However I continued these nights on my own.
Why I played this game and to whom? I don’t know. But while playing it I enjoyed it, I was happy. That’s all. Would I ever have played it had I known it would turn out like this?
When I realized that a sixth night was not to happen I asked myself three questions.
One: At the end of these five nights was the thing that I had seen on the face of my wife who came down five floors and opened the door for me, anxiety?
Two: When I arrived home I faintly remembered that it was warm inside. I wonder was it from the warmth given by the drink that I had not felt cold or was the house warm because my wife had waited for me the whole night and while waiting had thrown coal on the stove?
Three: In the early hours of the morning of these nights, in the moments when I was about to fall asleep from fantasies full of woman stories, in the dark I used to feel my wife’s eyes set on my face and her wiping the sweat from my brow with her bony fingers with short-cut nails whose tips burnt like fire, but I used to think I was dreaming. Furthermore those bony fingers that entered my fantasies full of those beautiful women used to make me angry and for that reason I used to have an uneasy sleep. Was this feeling the result of a dream or were those bony fingers real?
Then I pondered over it. I found the answers to my questions.
One: At the end of these five nights my wife was anxious each time I arrived home. I remember that she whispered broken and uneasy words about her concern for me and that I looked at her angrily with my bloodshot eyes and gave no answer.
Two: During these five nights the stove had always been alight, in other words my wife had waited for me. Because when I got up in the mornings heavy-eyed I would find the dying ember of a large piece of coal that had been thrown onto the stove at some late hour.
Three: I was angry at those fingers that wiped the sweat from my brow with that bony but caring touch because they were not the things I desired. However after harshly pushing away the fingers whose tips burnt like embers I would also hear a suppressed sob dissolve and disappear in a weak and tired body.
And so it is because of this that I began the sixth-night game.
In my shop I was sitting in my own silence. From next door came the sound of Turcan’s high-heeled shoes and female laughter that reminded one of the tinkling that comes from cut glass. I imagined that there was a crowd of women with Turcan. Virtually boneless, chatty, lively women with shiny skin… Then it was evening, the lights from the chemist, the second-hand bookseller and the kiosk opposite that shone one by one were reflected in the puddles of the cobbled street. The city’s tired and stooped people hastened their steps. I forgot to put on the lights. Women came out of Turcan’s shop; because I smelt vanilla, lilac, lemon blossom and coconut. I closed my eyes tightly and sank into these strange, scented invisible clouds. In the street the sounds abated, all the shops closed. The rubbish from the shops and houses was piled up in the middle of the street. The sounds of the street changed. They turned into vulgar yells, oaths, screams, police sirens and running steps. Night fell; night progressed.
I got up from where I had sat all day; I put my scarf round my neck and put on my coat and my cap that was too small for my misshapen head; I closed the shop and pulled down the metal rolling shutters; I began to walk slowly. I came to the main street. I walked up and down the main street, how many times? I don’t remember. Then in one of the side streets I went into a small, poky, cheap tavern down four steps. I drank half a small bottle of raki in small sips, taking my time. I looked at my watch; it was much too early. While drinking my raki my eyes kept filling with tears, I wiped them with the back of my hand; to those around I was pretending I had got cigarette smoke in my eyes.
I left the tavern and again walked up and down the length of the main street. I got cold and I passed in front of the taverns where groups of men and women were singing songs together. I looked at the neon lights of the cheap nightclubs from a distance and I didn’t get near enough any of them to see the photographs of the dancers in the glass panels that they hung beside the doors. There were police cars parked in the middle of the street, I heard the screeches of cats, glue-sniffing children tumbled about in front of me, the hearty curses of women past their prime assailed my ears. The road that I was walking along ended and I began again; it finished, I walked again.
My shoes got wet and I got cold. Inevitably I returned to the shop but first I bought a bottle of wine from the liquor shop on the corner. I quietly opened the shutters and as I turned the lock my hands shook. Like a thief I sneaked into my shop and I didn’t turn on the lights. I went to the counter and sat on my stool. I was confused and in a strange way I was excited; I was tired with the strain of pretending that something that was not happening was happening and for this reason I forgot to turn on the electric fire.
Suddenly I felt like crying. I leant my head on my arms and fell asleep crying.
When I woke up my back was like ice, I turned on the small light on the counter and looked at the clock; for the sixth night it was a good time to return home. I took a couple of large swigs from the wine bottle, plugged in the cork and hid the bottle under the counter. Again like a thief I sneaked out of my shop and went home.
Well those three questions had continually bothered me and this time from below I looked at the windows of my home. I was maudlin. I wanted to hug my wife, to bury my face in her shoulder, to say “I haven’t been anywhere tonight…” I felt my wife’s protruding shoulder blades under my hands. Then I remembered her ribs and the bones that bulged from her fingers, the dullness, the lifelessness of her yellowy swarthy face. The windows were changing colour with the rays of the television that was on. That bony woman had not slept.
And so that anger, that anger that dragged me into this meaningless game suddenly grew inside me. It was unjust, I know… But it happened. I rang the bell longer and with more rage than previously. I did not look at the face of my wife who virtually raced down the stairs with flustered steps. I was afraid that the fantasies of women of sweet colours who were boneless, whose faces reminded one of twittering birds and who entered my dreams – in the shop – as I went to sleep crying, would be spoiled. I heard my wife asking something in a murmur with her peeved, hurt voice. Shut it! I said harshly. I lay down on the bed in my clothes. I passed out.
Actually I didn’t pass out. I was conscious; I wasn’t asleep. But a drunken snore came from my mouth. I heard my wife sobbing with a frail little sound and I felt a broad smile spread over my face and that I wasn’t in control of this smile. I was lying on my back but it was as though the panes of the window at the foot of my bed had risen to the ceiling and with my open eyes I saw my face in these panes that covered the room’s ceiling. In the light from the moonlight that filtered into the room the smile on my face resembled a gaping bleeding wound. I thought I was having a nightmare.
On the seventh night I did not visit the same tavern. I did not have the money to spend there. I bought cheese, pickles, and dried fruit and nuts. I spread them all out on the counter on a sheet of newspaper. And I drank the rest of the wine. To save money every now and then I turned off the electric fire. I put my coat over my shoulders. I fell asleep again. This time I didn’t cry; I went further with the women in my dreams. Again I returned home towards morning. Again I rang the bell from below. This time I didn’t just tear a strip off my wife, but I also pushed her roughly by the shoulders. When I got up in the morning I realized that my wife wasn’t speaking to me. I laughed to myself. With difficulty, as well as the money for the market, she also asked for money to buy the lad some shoes. She wasn’t talking to me but she still had to ask for money. I left the money as though throwing it front of her.
A few days later a fat woman with perspiration above her lips came to the shop. She bought a whole load of things, lining, interfacing, binding, buttons, a zip and I don’t know what. She was in a hurry, in a fluster; she was chatty. As she left she forgot her bag; I didn’t say a word. As soon as the woman left I rummaged through her bag. How I managed so quickly to take the lipstick out of her bag, throw it in the till and taking the bag in my hand come out of the shop and run after the woman shouting “Mrs you’ve forgotten your bag!” I don’t know. I did this very quickly. After hastily checking her bag she thanked me profusely. My heart was pounding in case she realized that the lipstick was not in the bag but she did not notice my taking her lipstick. I smiled at the woman with an honest, honourable face and then I watched the heavy hips of the woman swaying from right to left while she was mingling with the crowd, happy that she had escaped lightly from this little incident. The people of the city were flowing from the streets to the main street; it was crowded. I was fed up with watching them even for a few seconds and turned back into my shop. I was amazed at why my hands were trembling so much as I took the lipstick out of the drawer of the till and also at their burning as though I had grasped a glowing coal. My palm sweated. I put the lipstick down, wiped my palms on my trousers and took it in my hand again.
That night as I went home, went early to bed and heard my wife saying to the children, “be quiet your father’s tired, he’s sleeping”, I kept thinking about that lipstick. The red resembling blood, its softness…
The following night I ate my dinner in the shop and drank my wine. I ‘phoned home and heard my wife saying hello! hello! in her excited and frightened voice; I put the phone down without saying anything.
– Later I did this frequently. I was lucky, when I was at home the phone had rung a few times, I had picked it up and put it down saying it was the wrong number, it really was the wrong number. However my wife had looked at me with her sorrowful eyes and had gone to bed early. –
For a while I read those ordinary magazines that my neighbour opposite, the second- hand book seller, was forced to take from his respected customers but because there was no chance of selling them he handed out here and there – to me too – and used to wrap up parcels. It was pouring in torrents. I heard it beating on the half opened shutters. It was as though the rain was covering up something that I was doing secretly, it was concealing it and smothering it with a din. The lipstick was on the counter. I got undressed and took off my shirt. I applied the lipstick to my lips and transferred the lip print of lipstick onto my shirt collar. I also touched it a little against the edge of my vest.
I had looked at the mark on my shirt for such a long time and during that time so many and such a variety of women had passed through my mind; I was in such a trance and stayed for so long in that state that I had got cold. I came to and hastily got dressed. Just as I was about to leave the mirror caught my eye. I saw an extremely pathetic man’s countenance in the mirror, blue-faced with red lipstick; I recoiled. I wiped my lips with a serviette. I rubbed the serviette so hard on my lips that my lips turned red and looked as though they had lipstick on. I sat for a while and waited for the redness of my lips to pass.
I learned much later that my wife who noticed the spot of lipstick the next morning had cried all day.
Meanwhile time passed. A few days of the week I went home on time. The other days I listened to the radio in the shop and built castles in the air. I enjoyed my wife wandering around me with a sulky face, her looking at me with beseeching eyes; I felt her crying secretly and I smiled. I heard her moaning as if she had fallen into the clutches of some terrible illness. I can’t guess how long all this lasted. However with every passing day I enjoyed this game even more. Now I had a woman story and the only one who believed in it was my wife.
While my frail, unattractive, bony wife, whose large eyes that for a long time had been veiled in tears and were looking with deep sorrow evoked not beauty but the feeling of crying, was growing thinner day by day, I was trying to write the end to a non-existent woman story and even forgetting to caress my children.
I bought a red tie with little blue hearts on it from a salesman who came to the shop one evening as night was falling. The salesman said that he worked on ships and swore that he had brought this tie from Europe. I did not even believe that the salesman had seen a town with sea outside Istanbul. I put the tie on over my garish coffee-coloured wool shirt. I knew that it did not go very well but I did not mind a bit. There was a strange joy inside me as if I had not bought that tie with my own hands but like an unexpected gift I had found it suddenly in the palm of my hand.
I turned on the radio and while wondering whether the lady presenter who was saying “tell your loved one you love her at every opportunity” was blonde or brunette, customers suddenly turned up. I treated them really cheerfully, I did not even get angry with those who made me bring down the boxes near the ceiling, who made me open bolts of lining material and who left without buying anything. I did not tell the apprentice of the dressmaker Mukadder abla that her debts had accumulated.
Then I closed my shop when everyone else did, at night I wandered about the streets with the tie round my neck and then returned to the shop again; I opened a tin of fried aubergines and drank two bottles of beer. Then I went home. I saw that my wife’s glances that had for some time been continually tearful were fixed on my tie and that she had suddenly drooped as if the blood had drained from her. Without saying a word to me she went to bed. The following morning I saw that contrary to what she always did she had not hung my shirt and trousers on a hanger but had just left them there, and that she had not touched the tie. While I was getting dressed I watched her from the corner of my eye; while I was tying my tie at length she wasn’t looking at me, not turning her face, she kept on trying to be busy with something and shouting at the children for no reason. I smiled.
What was strange was that although all this made my wife believe that I had a lover it wasn’t enough for me. And now after all that has happened I wonder whether the man who came that day to the shop, gave a tidy order and paid like clockwork, and whom I thought was such good luck for me, was my wife’s dark destiny.
The days had lengthened, spring had arrived and a few shoots had sprung from the foot of the tree stump in the street that had been cut and heavy wheels had passed over it hundreds of times. In spite of spring my wife was desperately unhappy.
It was an hour early in the morning; while the chap in the kiosk had not yet arranged his döner on the spit and the lazy second-hand bookseller had not yet opened his shop, an elderly man with sweaty hands came inside. He had retired, he was going to open a shop for his wife and he had ready cash. If we could agree he was going to buy a heap of things. He wondered whether I could be of help to him. He was a strange customer, a little naïve and it was obvious that he hadn’t a clue about business. Our bargaining went on until midday. I made the greatest sale of my life. I sold a huge amount of goods to the man who was going to open a shop for his wife who was bored at home. He paid half immediately and wrote a cheque for the remainder. I suddenly had a lot of money. I was so joyful, cheerful, but towards the evening I was frightened of this large sum. I could not stay in the shop. As soon as I put the money in my pocket I left.
I went to a nightclub that I always looked at from a distance but never had the courage to go through its door. The money in my pocket had intoxicated me. The bouncers at the door laughed and said “it’s much too early. Come towards midnight.” “OK” I said. I didn’t know what to do. For a moment it occurred to me to go and sit in the shop but I didn’t feel like it. This was because spring had arrived. There was the smell of pollen in the air. I was fed up of sitting just quietly in the dark behind closed shutters.
I went to a tavern. As I entered I checked my pocket. My money was in its place. However I could not drink; I was frightened that I would get drunk and get my money stolen. Then, so that they didn’t think that I wasn’t drinking because I had no money, I ordered a whole lot of appetisers. For instance I ordered broad beans in yoghurt, then artichokes, I hadn’t eaten them for years. I ordered a mixed grill and then ordered another. I surreptitiously spilled the raki on the floor. I kept looking at my watch. It was only just nine. I decided to go to the cinema; I went. I looked hungrily at the naked women in the film. As I left the cinema the time had come. However I didn’t go to the same nightclub, I went to another one.
It was strange, it was as if they knew I had money; at the door they showed me respect. I went inside and sat at a table. My tie was round my neck. I was very excited. I was going for the first time, I was afraid too. I was trying to conceal my fear. A woman came and wanted to sit at my table. I felt myself stammering and sweating. With difficulty I was able to say “of course, do sit down.” Then the woman began to pester me. She was white, just as I had imagined, but she spoke incessantly and I couldn’t hear what she was saying from the noise; I was looking at her mouth, her mouth kept on opening and closing, she had a rotten tooth and it smelt. Then I noticed that white woman’s sweaty, flabby armpits and the parts of that blue dress with an excessively low neckline that were under her arms had become pitch-black. The woman was drinking and I drank too.
As I drank I relaxed, I became clearer. First I talked about this and that, then I showed my money with the excuse of getting the waiter to fetch some cigarettes. Then I really got up courage. I became tall and straight-shouldered. To the woman I said “there is just one thing I want from you. Whatever it’ll cost, I’ll pay you.” The woman thought I wanted to sleep with her, she looked me over and I saw her lip was twisted with a mocking expression; my blood drained, my old wound, my old fear, … never letting me go…
“Just say the word, my stud,” said the woman, “but I’m expensive. So think about it.” In the place where the colourful lights painted the woman’s face a different colour at any moment my eye was seeking out the photographer who was wandering around with an obsequious expression continually making the flash go on his camera. “Let’s have a photo taken with you but let it be an intimate photo. Look at me as though you love me.”
The woman laughed at such length that I clenched my fists. “Don’t even mention it big boy. Just give the money and then see how I love you.” Then, before I could say another word, she called out to the photographer, drew close to me, put her head on my chest and an arm round my waist. I was bewildered; as though I hadn’t been the one to make the proposal. I didn’t know where to put my hand. The photographer said, “you embrace her too, mate; you’re as stiff as a board.” He held my head and turned it to the woman and put my arm on the woman’s bare, oily shoulder. He said, “look into my lady’s eyes. For heavens sake smile a little mate!”
The flash went, again and then again. I noticed that the woman was really enjoying herself. She had joined forces with the photographer and they were shoving me into various shapes. She pressed her cheek to my cheek, she kissed me, and then while she was rubbing off the trace of lipstick she smiled at the photographer; we entwined our arms and drank. Then the woman got bored. She said “come on that’s enough” to the photographer. “Now push off.”
Towards morning the photographer left a load of photographs on the table. The woman chose one from amongst them; she said “hang on mister, let me write on the back of it.” Clicking her fingers she summoned the waiter, “give us a pen” she said. The fingers that asked for a pen quivered in the air, were agitatedly waiting. The waiter held out to the woman the pen with which he wrote the bill, and wanting to join in this entertainment he leaned his thigh against the table, put his hand to his waist and began to watch. The woman bit the top of the pen and then said, “what’s your name big boy?” “Why do you ask?” I said. “Look we’re going to write,” she said. “Never mind my name,” I said. “Well what are we going to write then?” she said. This strange request of mine must have been heard in a short space of time among all the staff of the nightclub that the waiter chipped in and said, “write ‘to my greatest love’, miss.” “That’s good, man, bravo,” said the woman: I just looked. Bewildered, shrunk…She wrote a lifeless memory, to ‘my greatest love’. Then she turned to me, “what should my name be,” she said. “What?” I said; “what is your name?” “It writes Cansev on the poster but I’ll be whatever you want, love,” said the woman. “What shall I write on the back of the photo?” “Cansev will do,” I said, “that’s fine.” “Certainly said the woman; whatever you want it shall be, big boy, he who pays the piper calls the tune.” She wrote Cansev and signed it. Then she giggled. “Wait, let me look at those again,” she said; she looked at the pictures one by one, one or two of them she didn’t like and ripped them up; she said, “I haven’t come out well.” Then she said, “who are you going to fool with these, my stud? Are you going to show off to your friends?” I gave no answer. She smiled a little as though she pitied me and then she got tired of waiting, and saying, “Oof what’s it to me man!” she got up. She couldn’t stand on her feet and she was swaying. Her face became serious as though the fun was over, the cinema crowd had dispersed. She said, “pay the bill and let’s go.” She stretched out her hand with short stubby fingers and long nails painted the colour of dried blood.
When I left the cheap nightclub my money had pretty well dwindled away but I had a whole lot of photographs in my jacket pocket and furthermore they were signed. I went to the shop and when I partly opened the shutters I made a lot of noise. I went inside, sat on the counter and looked at the photos one by one; I read the woman’s scrawly writing and smiled. Then I removed the thin cardboard covers on the photos with the name of the nightclub written on them and tore them up. I put the signed photograph in my pocket and spread the others over the counter. As day broke I went home. I rang the bell from downstairs. I felt that my wife’s footsteps were no longer agitated and timid sounds, but that she walked as though dragging her steps. She did not look at my eyes; after opening the door she went upstairs again with tired, weary steps, we went to bed without speaking.
The next morning I deliberately did not wear that jacket; using spring as an excuse I went out in my shirt and came to the shop. Then in the evening I saw that my wife was very subdued. She was quiet, it was though she didn’t see me; she wasn’t even sulking, her behaviour was very strange. She did not take any notice of the children’s noise. In the morning the boy came to me and said “daddy, we are going to our uncle’s house today.” “Good,” I said, “go;” I didn’t bother about it.
That day I felt uneasy, I spread out the photos that I had looked at a hundred times again on the counter and kept waiting for Turcan. Turcan didn’t appear, his assistant looked after the shop. In the evening I went to a shop that sold appetizers, I was planning to drink in the shop again, then suddenly I decided not to. My feet dragged me home.
It was crowded in front of my door. A police car and an ambulance with their red and blue lights stood in front of the door. I walked towards my house with a bewildered face; the sun had set, the streetlights had come on and the revolving lights of the police car and the ambulance were reflected in the windows. There was a stir and when the opposite neighbour saw me she called to the police, “her husband’s arrived! her husband’s arrived!”
I felt dizzy and I cannot really remember what happened. Through the door they brought out a black bag placed on a stretcher. They put it in the ambulance. They wouldn’t let me go home. When I went home a few days later I saw that the plaster where the hook in the ceiling for the chandelier was, had fallen down. My wife had hanged herself. With a washing line. She had left the children with her elder brother. Her swaying at the end of the line like that was reflected as the sun shone in the window of the apartment opposite. It had attracted the attention of the top floor. On the dining table had been the red tie with blue hearts and my photo taken with Cansev. The police had taken the lot.
My wife was a bony woman.
No, she wasn’t beautiful, but she was a woman with a heart.
I didn’t think she had one.
Ayfer Tunç 1999
© Translation by Stephanie Ateş
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