REPUBLIC OF TURKEY MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND TOURISM

SUNDAY AT THE COUNTRYSIDE - Necati CUMALI

SUNDAY AT THE COUNTRYSIDE

On Saturday night, when we were about to leave, in front of the garden gate, Nihal lifted her head backwards slightly. At that moment I also lifted my head. I saw that the sky was full of shining stars. I felt inside the smells of that warm May night.

The honeysuckles have bloomed, she said. How much I like them…

It was the season. But I was not aware whether the honeysuckles had bloomed or not. Indeed, I would not have been aware of that if Nihal hadn't told me. How many springs passed, I was loveless. How could I know the nights that the honeysuckles bloomed and the sky is full of shining stars?

I extended my hand. I broke the end of one of the branches that were hanging down the street from the top of the garden gate. I gave it to Nihal. I had many things to say to Nihal at that moment, which I thought there was nothing more important in the world to say. I told none of them. I uncomfortably murmured:

Tomorrow, tomorrow are we together?

She smelled the branch I gave, spinning it between her thumb and first finger. She laughed flippantly.

How many days it has been we are together. Aren't you bored of me yet?

She was smiling. Her eyes were shiny. I became cheerful:

Tomorrow will be the last, I said.

She told me to take her from home at eleven o'clock the following day. She looked for her key in her bag and found. She passed through the garden gate. She bowed in front of the door of the apartment building. She inserted the key in the lock. She opened the door. Before entering, she waved to me. Suddenly I was destroyed with a desire to rush towards her, hold her hands and tell her everything I would. But I could not move and only waved to her.

I saw her disappearing behind the closing door and that the light from the corridor was shining outside through the glass of the door. As the door of the apartment building closed crashing slightly, I felt as if a glass was broken inside me. I heard something like a crashing sound:

"Nihal, I love you…"

A burning wind blew inside me. I again wanted to rush towards her, to knock on her door, and cry out:

"Nihal, open the door, listen, I love you!"

The light of the corridor was turned off. The curtains of the next rooms were illuminated. I understood that she moved into the next room. I was annoyed by the man who was crossing the street, since he was staring at me for a long time not knowing how he would interpret my standing there. I got away from the garden gate involuntarily.

On my way home, I was sorry as if we don't have a date tomorrow, as if I could not see Nihal forever, as if I could not tell her that I love her. I thought I was alone, on my own, had no friends or relatives in the world, and I got angry about my incompetence, my being devoid of courage.

When I came to the beginning of the street where my house was located, I turned back. I did not want to enter my room. I started to walk towards Kizilay through the Boulevard not knowing where to go.

The weather was still warm. The Boulevard did not lose its all vividness yet. The scent of the sweating street, the horse chestnuts spread over the air. I met the ones that were trying to delay going home by walking slowly. There were the ones that were trying to extend their nights by eating ice cream at the cafes. Everybody removed the urgency of the months of the winter.

At that warm night I felt as if what I wanted to tell Nihal but I could not were like a burden inside me like a winter sweater or a coat that I want to take off. I called at every place that was still opened then, I looked around and looked for one of my friend with whom I would talk and pour out my grievances to. None of them was there.

I tuned towards Maltepe from Kizilay. While I was walking I repeated: "Nihal, I love you, I love you very much" whomever I saw, whatever I looked at. Every time I said I love you I heard the voice of Nihal: "the honeysuckles have bloomed!" inside my ear.

I stopped over the Demirkopru, the iron bridge. I leaned on the railings and looked at the houses, trees, and the street under the bridge. I lifted my head backwards and murmured: "Nihal, I love you!" and Nihal replied: "the honeysuckles have bloomed!" with her own voice in my ear.

I realized that I was transformed as Nihal's voice was repeated as "the honeysuckles have bloomed!" Her voice, these words seemed to me as if they were bearing some different meanings with being uttered by her. I remembered all of her states, all of her words, all of her looks at that night, and the all Nihals of the days when we had met before that night. Gradually I became happy… At last a smile covered my face. I took a deep breath: "oh!" I said, "she loves me!"

However I asked myself there what her voice, her words meant may be for a one more hundred times. Every time I asked I said: "thanks a million! It's clear, very clear that she loves me!"

I walked the way I came back with slow steps. All the resting places have been closed; all the goods of the former bright ice cream shops were silent in the darkness. The vividness of the all places that have been crowded until late in the evening was chewing the cud with the roar of the day. While I was passing by those piney woods, those horse chestnuts that were reflecting the light of the street lamps from the outer leaves I said: "She loves me either." all the time silently.

I slept among the Milky Ways that night not in my bed. I dreamed and dreamed over.

In the Sunday morning, the first lights of a bright, deep blue day that filled in my room made me wake up very early. I looked at the watch. It was a little past five. I have slept for hardly three hours. It was a year to eleven o'clock; but if it's possible to sleep pulling the quilt over your head then you sleep! Stay in bed if you can! It's such a nice that as if it came by the window and knocking it to say you: "come"

I shaved, dressed up, I went out to the street. Such a sweet day it was that, there was if the taste of a beater apple in the air. While was having my breakfast settled in an armchair of Ozen in the pavement, a cup of my tea and the moon shaped cookie before me it was only stroking seven. The streets weren't so crowded, yet. None of our kids weren't appeared, yet either. I was astonished that everybody stayed home in the morning of such a lovely day.

I was penniless, as I was every morning. In those years, after I had paid for my debts when I withdraw my salary every month, no money would remain in my hands. I used to spend my day with little amount debts that I took from my several friends. And at the end of every day, I would not manage to save some more money than the amount that would be enough to afford a cup of tea, the bus fee of the next day.

I interpreted the loveliness of the weather of that day on which I would meet Nihal as my luck and with that optimism I believed that I could find money easily. I looked for my friends to appear in the Boulevard until nine o'clock. It stroke nine o'clock but even one of them did not appeared. Slowly, I became bored. What would differ if one of them came? Which had more money than me? At nine o'clock in order to take care of my affairs, I got up and went back to my room. I took my coat thinking that I would buy a new one in winter. I set off to rag fair. On my way from rag fair, I had enough money, which was encouraging me, to enable us to have a proper lunch at the countryside and rest at a place and then go to the cinema in the evening in my pocket.

I went to call Nihal at half past ten. Their maid opened the door. The woman stared at me as if she knew something, as if she was sharing a secret with me for a while. I smiled and I told her some words to please her. She liked very much.

When I entered their living room, Nihal, holding a mirror in her hand, her face turned towards the window, was combing her hair. She lifted the mirror with her head so as to see my entrance from the mirror. She turned to me on her heels.

- How am I?

She was wearing a skirt of check material and a light blue woolen sweater. On her feet there were heel free shoes with rubber soles. She was so beautiful that I replied in a wondering admiration as if I hadn't seen her last night:

- You're very beautiful!

She laughed.

Her mother and her elder sister entered the room. I don't why but I used to get bored when I was with them. They had an attitude that revealed that they did not like me. Nihal also knew that. We had a simple talk about daily matters. Both of them were as if entered the room to talk with Nihal. They asked Nihal where we would go. Nihal "We'll see…" said shortly. I said that we would have lunch out side, maybe in the Farm. They both did not like my plan. They told Nihal not to be late and not to stay under the sun for a long time.

Nihal said, "Don't worry…" and we left.

Nihal's first sentence in the street was:

- Why did not you come earlier? I was almost growing impatient.

I could not tell how much I had been impatient until that time suddenly:

- I came half an hour earlier than the time we had fixed.

- Puff! I have been very bored since the morning! They have been annoying me since the morning.

- I said if only you came and we went out all the time.

- What's going on?

- Long story. It's better you dint know. I'm cheered up now.

I did not insist on. However she could not help herself again. Her mother and sister did not tolerate her being friend with me, her going to the cinema in the evenings, and her Sunday trips. There was a rich man who wanted to marry her. Nihal did not like him but her mother and sister were claiming that he was a chance of marriage not to be missed and insisting that she should marry him. For that reason she did not get on well with them those days. Nihal was laughing, teasing the man who wanted to marry her and getting a sour look on her face in a lovely manner, and she was telling all these quickly to indicate that she did not want to talk about this matter so long.

A women beggar made us stop before we had time to move on to a new subject. She, saying a prayer including something like: "May God not make you separated. May God give whatever you whish…" extended her hands. I gave some money. After we passed the woman two or three steps Nihal's and my looks met. She was more cheerful now. The woman beggar was laughing; she was still saying something after us…

When we were about to turn from Nihal's street into the Boulevard we met our common friends, Cahide, Haluk, Omer, Iffet; Cahide was a girl who enjoyed to be seen vivid all the time. She rushed towards Nihal.

- Shame on you! Were you trying to get rid of us? See, we were coming to take you.

Haluk added that they had known that they would find me near Nihal. Haluk's those words, which indicated that they thought us same made warmness spread inside me. Nihal standing next to me said that she was happy to see them. Since I would not be able to be alone with Nihal among them, I became bored and I was upset as if I was caught up without warning when I saw them. I tried to conceal that I was upset and tried to be seen as if I was happy that we met by talking too much than needed. At last all together we decided to go to the Farm.

Cahide offered to go on foot. Haluk used to accept whatever Cahide offered, to tell the truth he used to let Cahide make all decisions about what would be done. On the other hand, Omer used to offer a different thing every time. And that day, he said that it was nearly the noon and it would be more convenient to turn back on foot on our way home. While he was trying to persuade Cahide not to walk a brand new Chrysler, which was looking for clients in the street, stopped near us. The driver who took his head out of the window, firstly without deciding who he was addressing:

- Do you need a taxi, brother?

The man was good at his job while we were looking at each other to determine what to say, his looks were stopped at Cahide after passing all of us quickly. Cahide had to reply:

- We're crowded…

He had opened the door already:

- Get in, sister, get in. It's large enough for all of you…

To the driver Cahide could not object. As a matter of fact, each time the first suggestion would come from her but at the end she was the first to adjust herself to everyone.

Haluk and Omer set next to the driver. Cahide, Iffet, Nihal, and me quite closely settled ourselves at the back. Cahide said:

To the Farm. Through the way to the station… the car departed.

Along the way all the windows of the houses were opened. Eiderdowns with white sheets suspended out of bedroom windows, kites floating at the hills were as though announcing the excellence of the weather to those passing by. Children and the young were playing with ball, from the slop of the garrison were coming down toward Ankara groups of soldiers enjoying their free day.

I was sitting pressed on a one-inch space next to the right door of the taxi and was trying not to move so that the others were comfortable. I got Nihal's entire weight on me. Our knees and legs were touching. After a while I began to warm up with her heath. Her hand on my arm she was constantly telling me to be at ease and comfortable.

We were all cheerful. We were teasing each other, were starting every talk smiling and completed it in laughter. We got off the taxi in the Farm, in front of the station. I wanted to pay for the taxi. Haluk was faster. As we were having spat Cahide interrupted:

No need for spat. We will divide all the money we spend today up among ourselves. No matter who paid this time.

We ate at the Farm restaurant. The meal lasted long. With the thirst due to the first summer heath the six of us drank four glasses of beer. Nihal was sitting again next to me at the table.

After the meal Cahide wanted us to go to the zoo. We left all together.

After leaving the restaurant we walked together till the suspended bridge that was over the railway. The direction to the Farm had got crowded. On passing the bridge the opposite direction of the way left almost only for us. at some points Nihal and I began to fall always some five or ten steps behind the others. In every hundred steps they were stopping for a while and waiting for us but though we kept up with them for a few steps later we were realizing that we were abstracted in our talks and fall behind them.

We visited the deer, rabbits, monkeys, and the pigeons. In the section of the birds Nihal told me how lovebirds lived only in pairs, how the surviving one died of his/her sorrow when his/her partner had died. I heard her voice saying, "honeysuckles are bloomed" while she was telling about these. I listened to what Nihal told longing to live with her a whole life like lovebirds.

Late afternoon we strolled over Bahcelievler to Ankara through the Etimesgut way. Again Nihal and I were five steps behind the others. At one point Nihal realized on our left yellow brooms at the edge of a narrow dirt road turning into gardens. She could not resist:

Oh, how nice, she said. Come on let's pick some…

We turned into the dirt road. The brooms were extended to the road over the upper side of a slight slope that was leading to the field at the end of the road. Leaning against my arm with one hand Nihal reached out for the brooms. She could not stand without holding on to me, she was slipping. The brooms were both thorny and difficult to pick. I drew near to the blossoms. As we were picking up the blossoms holding to each other Nihal's hair was touching my face. At a point, while picking up a blossom in the middle of the heap, Nihal's hair slipped. As she leaned against me so as not to fall, my lips touched her hair, just near her ear.

I felt a shudder that stupefied me on my lips. I could not understand how it happened. I embraced Nihal, and first kissed her on the point that I felt shudder and then on her lips.

She did not resist at all. Getting free of my arms with all her gentleness, she downcast her eyes.

-Let's go back, she said. They will worry; we had better not be late.

She slightly blushed. I felt that I also blushed.

We got on the asphalt. Haluks were about a hundred steps ahead of us. As if they forgot about us, they were going forward, talking to each other and laughing.

The shadows of the trees started to get long already. Far away, the last lights of the day refracted on the huge buildings of Ankara ascending towards the Castle were multicolored. An evening rising from the ground like mist with no hurry, silent, and caressing like the hand of a mother filled up the air.

Nihal's hand was in my hand. We were walking with a kind of drunkenness, our steps mixing with each other. In every step I felt that her shoulder touched my shoulder, and her steps drew my steps. All my cares and worries flew away. I was so light and tranquil inside. For a while we walked without talking, just her hand in my hand and tangling to each other. At a moment that I did not expect, spontaneously:

- Nihal, I said, I love you.

Those words came out between my lips like two air bubbles rising from my breast.

Nihal, with downcast eyes, with a light and faint voice:

- Good, she said only.

I repeated without thinking:

- I love so much…

She squeezed my hand in her hand slightly. Getting angry:

- Love, she said.

At that moment, ahead of us Cahide called out turning backward:

- Nihal, come on, my dear! Where have you been?

Nihal shook herself as if she woke up from a dream:

- We are coming…

Cahide turned towards the ones beside her. With a voice that we could also hear:

- What's the matter with them today, for God's sake? She said.

We heard Omer saying " Don't ask that much…"

They laughed.

We were laughing too. Nihal rushed forward pulling me from my hand with an enthusiasm, she was unable to control her joy. We began to run like children in order to reach them…

Necati CUMALI