REPUBLIC OF TURKEY MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND TOURISM

LOVE IS LIKE BREAD - Necati GÜNGÖR

LOVE IS LIKE BREAD

Pigeons used to alight around the pool. With a light splashing sound the water used to flow. It used to overflow the little section and form a mass in the fountain. Of the birds, one used to fly and the other alight. I used to feed them with the crumbs which I had brought in my pocket without informing my granny. They used to carry off the crumbs scuffling on the wet marble with their red feet. I used to be as if I was scuffling with birds, I was flying with them. This way, I used to keep myself amused until the time of namaz [the muslim ritual prayer]. One of them was crippled. It was my pigeon. Its fingers got dull like the head of a walking stick. It used to walk hopping and skipping on the mosaic stones of the fountain. Its eyes used to glitter like the sparks of a fire. Not walking, the poor animal was hopping. But it was not worse than the others at flying. Perhaps I pitied my pigeon. I loved it because I pitied it; its acting tough, while rushing to take the crumbs, was very amazing… I used to drop the crumbs towards it all the time. So that it would become stronger and not let itself be beaten.

My granny used to have a heart to heart talk with the other beggar. They used to tell each other about the old days. They used to tell about their escaping from their home country when the war had started. The Asmali Mosque did not have any other beggars. The other did not beg but make his son, who was in a wheeled case, beg. I used to be afraid of the old man. His white hair and beard covered his whole face. He looked as if he was a thousand years old. I used to leave the birds and go near them only when my granny wanted water. The old man used to look in front side all the time. The body of his son fit into the case with difficulty. He was nothing more than a heap of flesh. His flesh puffed up. He had no other movement more than opening his eyelids as well. The passers by were dropping money in the bowl, which was put in the middle of his chest.

The man with white bread was apart from this heap of flesh as if he had no connection with him; then he got up himself and drove away the flies on his son's face. In fact the old man was not looking at anybody's face. The ones who saw him used to suppose that it was his guilt that his son was in such a situation.

I heard when he was talking to my granny. Years ago his wife died and he married a second woman. But she left him and ran away. Since then he was looking after his son himself. When he was young he used to work as a butcher at the slaughterhouse. When he became old he lost his job. He wanted to make his life by giving call to prayer but the inhabitants of the quarter did not accept this since his voice was bad; they cast the badness of his voice in his teeth. So the man was annoyed. He gave up giving call for prayer. He took his son, for whose death he used to pray to God, out and they began to beg.

The man with the white beard used to cry when he was telling us these things. He used to praise the virtue of his first wife all time. I used to see that my granny was also crying when the man was crying. The man used to say that he was feeling bitter regret for having wanted his son to die.

"God made me feel ashamed," he said, "I was tired of looking after him, but now he allays my hunger. Now every bite of food sticks in my throat. "

Just then the azan [call to prayer] started to be called. The garden of the mosque used to be filled with people rushing together for the namaz. My granny used to count people by their footsteps. The more people joined in the namaz, the more alms were given.

My granny used to come here and drink the cold water of the fountain before she lost the light of her eyes as well. Then they used to sit under the grapevine tree and take a rest there. She did not pass by before she drank water, sat and rested here. Sometimes she used to ask me "Hulusi, are there grapes on the grapevine this year? Did they remove the moss the stones of the fountain? Are the birds drinking water from the marble fountain? Did they change the broadcloth of the door? "

I had been three years old when my granny's eyes had turned blind. My father had been suffering of nephritis that year. "When he had the gripping pain he writhed to and fro in pain…" used to tell my granny. "Many doctors saw him. He spent a lot of money on drugs. Lastly they offered to do an operation. He had no other remedy, no other hope then. Went and lay down, my poor… He lay down once but he could not get up again… He passed away leaving his wife, his son behind. We did not have even a penny. We had no one to looked after us. Two women and a child… I was in great pain for both the dead and the bereaved. I was shocked. I was crying all the day for twenty-four hours. I was making the mother heart bleed and shedding tears… "

"After a short time that fainthearted whom we call daughter-in-law had run away. Already she was as short as a hand span. You were a very little baby having no idea of anything. Apparently, she did not have just a little bit mother love in her heart. Her blind heart did not know the love of a child. Many unbearable rumors arose about her. Many unbearable words were uttered. Some concocted that she jumped into a river. And some said she was working at a bad house in Adana. You can't stop people from talking. These rumors hurt me more deeply. They decayed my heart even more. Then my bloody tears did not stop anymore. I could not fall asleep for many dark nights. Meanwhile I was taking care of you. I was both crying and bringing you up, son. I was taking care of you crying for your being an orphan and for your misfortune…"

"One day my eyes were clouded with rage. A smoke fell over the world. Everything grew cloudy as the time passed. Then I could not see ever again. I did not see the world in which I lived through good times as well as bad times for years…"

I used to forget about the birds and go near my granny when the namaz was over. We used to hold the door of the mosque, which opened to the marketplace. The other door belonged to the man with the white beard. My granny did not play the tambourine while begging at the mosque door. She used to believe that it was a sin to play an instrument at such a place. She only begged from the men whose foot steps she heard:

"For the sake of the azans, namazes give us alms…"

"For the sake of your children's health…"

"For the sake of the God, don't pass by masters…"

I used to stand still near my granny watching the men dropping money. The money bowl used to be in my granny's hands. Some used to go down the steps of the mosque, and take out money from their pocket as they were passing by as if they had just seen us. Some would put their hands into their pockets before they came nearer.

Shortly after, the men used to disappear, the garden of the Mosque used to sink into the former silence again. Wingstroke of the birds, the sound of the water flowing into the fountain used to dominate.

My granny used to leave herself to my eyes and to my steps and this time we set off to the marketplace. We tried to collect money, which would be enough to survive, from people who still have a feeling of pity. My granny always used to say that while begging she was in a complete peace and comfort as she was taking tips when she was playing the tambourine at the wedding feasts.

"There is no need to take offence at taking and accepting the money which is put in my hand." she used to say; "It's only that I'm taking tips for the last time from people whom we, husband and wife, by playing instruments entertained for years."

With my childish way of thinking, I used to be astonished at the people who gave money. There is something that I did not understand in giving money without a return. It had to be something different to collecting money by playing an instrument. I had asked my granny once, "God loves his alms giving men." replied she. "For this purpose God already creates the rich. For they look after, take care of the forlorn, the poor… If not, how would the people like us make their living? Moreover their wealth won't run out by giving a penny. It's like you pick a hair from a pig… "
I was not persuaded by what my granny said. If only God had given the money to the poor. Why did the God leave it to their seclusion? Furthermore why did he create the poor at the beginning? I could not comprehend these with my childish point of view. Then I used to want to grow up quickly. When I grew up I would not let my granny beg; I would earn money and buy whatever she liked. She should stay at home all the time. She should spend her time with the other women of her age in the quarter… I would either play my grandpa's violin at the wedding feasts or work as an apprentice like the other boys of my age. I would earn money. Many children were working at the shops where we stopped to beg every day. They wore aprons. Boys of my age in soberness using hammer, driving nails, removing meat from bone near their masters… They used to seem as big men to me… But my granny did not let me do any of them yet. "You're my hands, my feet." she claimed, and did not let me reply. "I can't cope without you, son. You're the stick of my hand, the light of my eyes. When you hold my arm, I take support from you. How can I give you as an apprentice to the others? Otherwise I too, want you to acquire a craft. I too,want you to earn your living with your effort. First you will take a job and then learn to play the violin. It's my only wish in the whole world. I kept your grandpa's violin for you for so many years. I lost my eyes but I did not lose it, so that you might play it! You have taken your name from your grandpa; I hope that you, your hands will be as talented as his… It's enough that I hear your grandpa's melodies before I'm dead and buried. I don't want anything from God anymore. I don't have any other wish in the world…"

So my granny used to say. I was as if tired of growing impatient to find a job and then to become able to play the violin. And I used to get angry with my granny inside. I did not used to say anything but going out for begging was unbearable for me. I used to believe that I could never grow up. I would never have money in my pocket like the shopkeepers of the marketplace. Why on earth my father died so early? If only he hadn't had that operation on his own will… Then maybe my mother would not have run away. Even if she did, my father would go and take her home. Is it possible that she may come some day? Yet my granny would drive her away. She was working at a bad house. I could not attach any meaning to this bad house in my mind. Why did they call the house where my mother was working, bad? How was it? And also, what one can do every day at a house… She must have been cleaning the floors and the panes. Just like Yasar's mother. She goes to other people's houses for house work. And Yasar was working as a painter at the marketplace. Yasar's father was in prison. He used to go to visit him every Sunday. Yasar used to say that he would beat his father's enemies one day. He had two elder sisters as well. But he was an independent boy. He did not use to heed what he was told. Nobody would bother him. His mother used to make Yasar afraid saying, "I will complain about you to your father." When she was fed up with his behavior. In this way, the woman used to rein her son in. In fact, Yasar was not afraid of his father either; but apparently he did not want to upset him.

On the other hand, Hidir was a quiet and shy boy. He was working as a porter with his father and his brother. All three of them used to go out in the morning all together and come back all together in the evenings with food in their hands. They had come to the city migrating from the village. Since there was nothing to do, they began to work as porters as soon as they had found a rope.
I loved Yasar and Hidir since they did not talk about my mother. They did not gossip and laugh among themselves. They weren't arrogant either. I used to beg my granny to let me go to the cinema with Yasar. She did not.

There used to be a silence at the marketplace in the evenings. There was not much shopping at those times. The traveling hawkers would not cry out then; the sherbet sellers would not rush about with their kettles on their backs. The shopkeepers would put a seat in front of their shops and recover from the whole day's fatigue. It was only us who broke the silence.

"Clink clank, clink clank, clink clink clank…"

We used to play the tambourine in front of every shop for a while and then pass slowly. The shopkeepers would either drop some pennies into the bowl, which I had put forward, or try to get rid of us saying, "God grant!". We used to begin to walk again without saying anything to anyone. My granny used to keep her steps with me. If you did not pull her from her arm she would stand still and keep playing tambourine: "clink clank, clink clank…"

My granny used to cover her eyes with black glasses. She would never leave her pale, worn out coat. However she was very careful about her clothes' cleanliness. She used to get prepared as she was going to a wedding feast. The women of the quarter used to be jealous of her meticulousness despite her eyes being blind. She also used to cover her head with a black veil. Her white hair used to fall from the edge of her veil in silver gray gleams. Her tambourine playing fingers, on the other hand, looked like dried sticks. They move about the stretched leather quite exhausted; and make some sounds heard with their habit and skill acquired through the time…

Since the shoemaker's marketplace was just next to the Asmali Mosque, we used to go through here first. The marketplace used to smell of tanned leather entirely. The noise of the hammers coming from the shops used to be louder than that of tambourine. Black slippers, boots and shoes used to be hung in front of the shops. They looked as if they were decorating the marketplace with black gleams. Boys of my age were seriously cutting leather, and soling shoes. I used to watch these boys with such a growing respect inside me that I forgot to collect money.

The shoemakers knew us. The ones who were willing to give money used to take coins out of their drawers as soon as they heard the sound of the tambourine. I used to pull my granny in front of the shops watching her steps. Her black glasses were like a mask on her face; as if these glasses were the mask of the storms breaking out inside her…

After the shoemaker's marketplace we used to move to the serial bazaar, and from there to butcher's marketplace. I would never leave my granny's arm. Because she used to get very angry when I did so. She used to scold at me without considering that we were at the marketplace, among so many people. We used to walk step by step always with this fear in me. I used to walk sweating in my winter sweater in summer. What is more, I would not look at people's eyes who were giving money. I don't know whether I perceived a glimpse of teasing. Perhaps in a childish concern, I used to believe that people whose faces and looks I did not see would not see me…

There was a friend of my granny. That was an old butcher. My granny used to call him Ibrahim. He used to give bones with marrow to my granny to get broth sometimes. Butcher Ibrahim's large bushy-mustache covering his mouth. When we came by his shop, my granny, I don't know how she realized it, used to stop playing the tambourine. They used to talk about the daily events, the wedding feast of old times and singers who were forgotten by then… And every year, the old butcher used to give to my granny a young goat leather. She used to remind him very early and take the leather on time. She used to renew the leather of her tambourine. I did not know why, my granny would not go begging with loose, old leather. She used to pay great attention to her tambourine. It was shining deep black.

My granny used reproach him that he did not give young goat leather.

"Look here!" my granny used to call in front of the shop. "The Agha of the butchers, the Agha of the butchers! Was your promise like that? Spring has come and passed, the summer is also passing, you will still give me young goat leather, hah! It's a shame that you are an agha! See how kind a man you are! See, how the wedding feasts where I had made you play, lost! Were they all lies to you? I have lost everything I had. I only have this tambour. I looked on this as a memory of the deceased. It is my only hope even to beg and make my living. Its leather is loose again. It makes no good sound. Why did not you give me a piece of leather this year?"

Butcher Ibrahim used to drop a shining 25 pennies into the bowl in my hand in order to make himself excused, while smiling at my granny's words.

"You're right, Woman Elmas" he used to say. "I appeared to be a liar to you. But, I did not get leather suitable to your tambourine this year. Yours should be thin I know. It should be of a newly born goat. Like paper. Don't worry my dear. I'm keeping my promise…"
My granny would calm down then; a smile would cover her face.

"O.K. then," she would say, "roll a cigarette and let me smoke here. Since I will wait till next summer…"

She used to take her tambourine and squat down. She used to find the door with her hands and lean on it. Her face used to glitter with delight as she had received good news. I used to see as if her calm heart at her smiling face.

I stand and wait for my granny standing by her.

Butcher Ibrahim takes a cigarette rolled with smuggled tobacco from his cigarette folder and lights it; and he places the cigarette between my granny's two fingers. My granny takes a breath in complete peace and comfort; and she puffs out the smoke into the air, which she can't see.

"Your tobacco is nice, Ibrahim agha, is it hashish tobacco?"

"Yeah, of hashish tobacco… "

There used to smell tripe and salted leather. This pungent smell used to irritate one. Cats snarled at each other for the bones thrown to the street. I used to think about the abundance of meat at the shops. I wondered if the butchers weren't fed up with eating meat. They both sell and eat meat. Every day the butchers' children eat meat. There used to be meat at our house on Feasts of the Sacrifice. My granny puts the meat in a large pan and salts it not to let it go bad. We used to make a fire in the garden and cook it with sister Gulsen. I blow towards the fire, which has started to give off sparks, and sister Gulsen turns the cooking meat licking her fingers. Sister Gulsen would not eat her share but take it to her husband. I did not used to comprehend why she did so. Her husband used to beat her very badly. Since they could not have a baby. He comes home drunk some nights; pulling her from her hair, drags her along the ground in the garden. Sister Gulsen's eyes were the most beautiful of all. Her eyes turn into purple; her hair gets tangled when her husband has beaten her. I did not love her husband, Suleyman. He used to beat sister Gulsen till Father Husam came down from upstairs and set them apart. Then Suleyman would go and sleep. He did not used to oppose white haired Father Husam. Sister Gulsen would spend all night with my granny with great sobs and crying seizures then. They used to stay awake and talk all night. They used to talk in whispers not to awaken me… However I did not sleep and listened to them in my bed. My granny used to smoke all night, her eyes that had forgotten sleep. The light of her cigarette would shine and fade like a little star in the darkness. She used to try to console sister Gulsen. Sister Gulsen, who was dark-skinned, buxom and had curly hair, had met her husband at a construction site in Adana. She saw him and fell in love with him. Then they run away from Adana together. Her father was wealthy in their hometown. He expelled Suleyman from his house when he came to say that he wanted to marry Gulsen. They haven't shown concern for each other since then. Sister Gulsen did not know whether he was alive, either… There was no sense of regret in her voice when she was telling this. She used to love Suleyman despite all this and forget about what she had said. She used to praise his good nature.

Perhaps what she had told was true. Perhaps she was creating a means to rely on since she had no way to go back. But I did not understand and pity sister Gulsen. Her sobs made me feel depressed. Was it because she was kind to me all the time? Or because of the repulsiveness of Suleyman whom I knew as angry and sullen? Maybe there was something that I loved in the desperation and fidelity of her to her husband.

And sometimes, my granny and the old butcher would talk about me. I used to feel ashamed while they were talking about me. The eyes of the man were on me. Sister Gulsen, feast, meat all used to fade in my imagination, immediately. I used to be irritated because of this, because my imagination was interrupted, who knows?

"May God preserve him! He has grown up," said the old man one day. "He became a man in front of your eyes. See, he makes you move around. No man is too many. He can make his own life three or four years later. He takes care of you…"
"It's a memory for my painful heart", said my granny, "My son was my guarantee in life. I lost him, but at least the deceased left me this kid. He did not leave me desperate, when he had gone… What shall I do then? I installed him on the deceased one's place, but may he not go to such an early grave. I take him to my heart in place of him, to smell the scent of him."

"Isn't there any news about his mother, since she left."
When the old man asked this, my granny stood up as if her old wound was opened up. While she was standing she dropped her tambourine. "No, no news." she said angrily. "It's better that no news come from the one who strayed from the straight and narrow path. She was nothing to be compared to my son. His fate was bad, what can we do? If only he did not die and let her be such a person… "

Saying these, my granny dragged her hand out to me again. The skin of her face was trembling because of distress. We started walking without saying a word. She used to be like that whenever her name was pronounced. She used to mutter to herself then. I did not mind her swearwords. As if she hadn't talked about my mother but somebody else. I did not have love for a mother inside me. My granny was both my mother and my father…

I had an ardent desire to grow up early and earn money partly for this reason. In order to settle down with my granny… I should have saved my granny from begging. She should also put a cushion in front of the door and sit on it, like the other women, like the women of her age. She should smoke her cigarette. She should tell about the wedding feasts of her time continually. She should tell about the drunks who used to cry when my grandpa played his violin… The death of Tahsin, the mandolin player…

How much she used to enjoy herself telling these! Perhaps she would tell for a thousand years if she found anyone willing to listen… I used to believe so. I used to listen to them as if they were tales.

Tales that would never be lived again. Wedding feast tale. While telling, my granny used to be as if she had been living a sweet dream again. As if she had nothing else to tell. My granny's wedding feast tales were the adventures experienced in a country no one had ever been to. I used to feel sorry that I hadn't lived at those times, that I hadn't seen those wedding feasts.

My father had been only of my age then. Everything used to be abundant at our home. Whatever my father had wanted used to be bought. He had been the only son of a family… His shoes, his clothes used to be bought in pairs; she used to comb his son's hair every day… However, they used to leave him alone at home when they went to wedding feasts, because they used to stay for three days and three nights at the owner of the wedding feast's house sometimes. My granny used to worry about his son on one hand while she was making the drunks enjoy themselves on the other hand… she used to be engaged with home all the time…

"The wedding feasts of old time weren't same as today's at all." was telling my granny, "they weren't sudden and short lived… they mostly lasted for three days and nights. That three day wedding feast used to be told for a whole life and did not end. It used to be talked about everywhere like an epic poem… sometimes the wedding feasts used to end in blood. We did not take your father with us partly for this reason. We used to fear that something bad could happen to him; we might lose him in the hullabaloo… "

I used to try to imagine what my granny told. I used to find the men who shed blood while enjoying themselves strange. I used to illustrate the wedding feasts houses, which turned into a battlefield. As if there were some scenes from the films, which were told by Yasar.

"At Saturday evening the owner of the wedding feast used to take a phaeton in front of the house. Oh, we would go on foot either. Your deceased grandpa used to make the bargain on that condition. And your grandpa had a friend, Tahsin, the mandolin player. He used to come to wedding feasts with us. They were good friends! They both passed away eh… Tahsin died before your grandpa. He got tuberculosis! He was in love. His heart was heavy with anguish. Doctors did not let him get married. He was in love with a girl younger than him. While your grandpa was playing a long piece of music he used to accompany him with his mandolin. How beautiful days they were! The phaeton used to take us first and then we used to go to Tahsin's house. He used to live alone, may God have mercy on him… he had a ruined house."

"When we arrived the house of the wedding feast owner, the tables used to be already set. Firstly, we used to sit and eat our meal. They did not know where they would make us to sit among the guests. We used to be treated with great respect and honor… As the musician meant the wedding feast… "

"When your grandpa took his violin, there used to be a slight movement among the guests and the noises used to end immediately. The deceased, as if willing to increase their impatience, used to smear the resin on the bow in great detail. He would not use a bow other than that of rose tree, either. He had brought from Istanbul. Anyway… After he had smeared the bow he started to tune the strings… The patience of the guests comes to an end then; there used to be some saying, 'Come on Master Hulusi, we're tired of waiting…' And as soon as Hulusi touched the strings there used to be a silence. Nobody makes any noise. As if a fly flies the voice of its wings will issue sound. His fingers used to touch the strings like a kiss. The bow was pulled from one end to the other. So courteously. And gradually his fingers turn into wind. The sound comes from a deeper pitch. It decreases from medium to the lowest pitch. He, the deceased, hadn't kept away from Huseyni . In fact he used to play for himself all the time. He was searching for the melody of his own imaginative world on the strings. When such heavy melodies were played the tambourine was not needed. Then I used to take a rest like the other guests. Everybody used to watch me. I would not wear one more time what I had worn at a wedding ceremony once. My hair used gleam like black coal then. I was beautiful and young then. The men did not see a face of a woman… Their wives used to live and die in carsaf [strict cover]. Hulusi was a wise man. He left me on my own. His love and trust never decreased."

"The songs of those times are no longer played now. Those who listened to heavy melodies are lost. The old songs used to affect one deeply. Especially when the deceased had played… He used to seem like a magician to me when he was playing the violin. That voice, that melody, used to seem as if it was pouring from an invisible source but not coming from the scratching of the bow on the string. It used to flow like water. The night used to begin with Huseyni; and then Ussak and Rast used to come. He used to combine the melodies in a skillful way."

"What days had passed, eh? As the night progressed the men became more and more drunk. They used to become so angry that they could not bear even good words. We did not stop playing. We did not refuse any of the wishes. At these times the generosity of the drunks would increas. They used to give larger tips. They used to get up and put banknotes to the foreheads of those playing. "

"Your grandpa used to drink with Tahsin. But they did not get drunk. However Tahsin was destroyed because of those drinks… He could not recover from tuberculosis. He was not even at his thirty when he died. Maybe the poor man drowned the pain of his heart in alcohol, who knows? He used to write songs on himself. The death of Tahsin burnsin my heart like the pain of a second son… The others used to think that he was our kin, our relative, really. Sometimes he used to cry while he was playing. His voice was so impressive, also. Tears used to flow in narrow lines on his face. The deceased used to make even those with no concern cry, when he was singing and playing. There was something of himself in his songs. His love… "

"Don't look into my heart
Your eyes aren't real,
I don't want you
Turn on the light at my night."

"Tahsin used to love Huseyni like your grandpa. Was that melody more proper to explain our problems, our loves? I don't know… These songs used to be a fire and burn in the gardens of the wedding feasts at night. They used to turn the hearts into a fireplace. Oh, one who hadn't experienced those wedding feasts could not know them. They used to add sorrow to ones sorrow. The trees used to sway above us. Each of the stars came out and gleamed in such a way that you would think that they were feast lights. There were yedidag flower carpets on the floor. The scent of the smuggled raki used to diffuse everywhere. There were kebabs, strained yogurt, honey… "

"Tahsin was not interested in the foods; but he could not help himself drinking the smuggled raki. As I said before as if he was killing his pain… The fact that he could not marry, that he could not be with the girl he loved was more painful than the fact that he had tuberculosis. It was more unbearable. I think he had fallen in love with this girl at one of the wedding feasts. However she was not so beautiful as to have songs made for herself. But it is love; he had fallen in love once. The so-called love is like bread; everybody has eaten a piece of it. Is there anyone who did not taste the bread, the love? But Tahsin's love was not bread, it was poison. It had no solution. He could not get married. What was her name? I've forgotten… But her eyes were very beautiful. They used to shine like a resinous piece of wood. They used to shine like blue bead. Her long black eyelashes used to cloud the gleam of her eyes like a velvet cloth. You could not look into her eyes when she was looking at you. They started to shine magically. Even I as a woman could not be satisfied with looking at her eyes. She was magical. She was not of human origin. She was magical from top to toe. I had realized this at first sight. Maybe that is why Tahsin said: "Your eyes aren't real". The poor man did not touch even her hand! He did not have even her photograph to put in his bosom. She did not even give him a handkerchief to smell. But she used to smile at his face. She never separated her way from his. But she did not say him her final decision. Definitely, she enjoyed being loved. She enjoyed the songs sang for her. That was all. And that was what gave pain to my Tahsin. That was what made him sing and play. I was as if I was his sister; he had nothing that he kept secret, that he did not tell us. He opened his heart and showed his wound. He used to pour out his troubles to us. That was a bad love."

"We knew, but we did not tell him so. We were unwilling to tell. Tahsin was our bosom friend. His love was melancholy. It had no end. Is it possible that one can love another one that much? I would not believe if I hadn't seen. If I were told so, I would call it a lie. Who would drink if he did not?"

"When he died, there was no money, not even five pennies, to the poor man's name! Nobody even attended his funeral. Only his mandolin and himself… We sold his mandolin and bought a shroud whith the money. His folk songs are all forgotten… No one except him could sing his folk songs. There was his love in all his folk songs. It was partly because of this, that he did not make his folk songs known. He used to be jealous of even the song of that cruel girl! No mother would bear such a one that is deprived of heart. He could not even touch her hand. She was ill natured. She had no other beauty than her charm. She was a devil! When Tahsin died; she was said to be married to one of the merchants. I did not see, I was told. I did not have enough courage to see her again…"

"Then, we started to play at wedding feasts with a clarinet player from Harput. Your grandpa did not want to work with another mandolin player after Tahsin. Was it Memos, the name of this man from Harput? He had a shop in the tinmen marketplace. He used to come to wedding feasts at weekends."

"We came to an end with the old wedding feast… We experienced in those days all we ever experienced. The before and after is a lie. It is not worth talking about. That's human, he recalls the good days. The kind and goodness are not forgotten. Now I find out that, the wedding feasts were our life, our breathing in the world…"

My granny's wedding feast tale did not come to an end. She only used to stop telling for a while. She was as if woke up from a long dream, a dream that is full of light pink, deep blue beauties. She used to talk about and interpret the dream she had. My granny's tale was affecting me too. I hadn't seen my grandpa, but I knew him as a tale hero. Especially, I could not forget Tahsin, the mandolin player… He was the voice that was echoing in the depths of my child heart. He was a tale hero that I loved, became friends with, and that I felt pity for. Furthermore Tahsin was a boy of my age. We went out to the countryside to pick up sultan nauruz flowers on a spring day. We had a bath in the water of river with willows. But he went after a childish love, a thing that could impossibly be realized and started to drink and left us. Tahsin got out from the tale. As if he did not die but turned back into reality…

I was eager to continue the tale from where Tahsin had left. I certainly would learn how to play my grandpa's violin. When I learned to play the violin, the days that my granny told about would come back. I thought so.

My granny would be happy again; there would be abundance in our house… we would not beg anymore. But my granny did not let me even touch the violin for the time being. It was in its black box. The violin was a magical stick for me. Everything depended on my playing it. I believed so. I would play the melodies of my grandpa and I would assume great proportions to my granny.

"Don't take what I told you into consideration," said my granny this time. "When you learn to play the violin that doesn't mean you have a craft. Don't be deceived by the bright days I told you about. They are gone. They have become a tale. The ways of earning a living are different today. The world has changed; everything has changed. You can find anyone to listen to the Huseyni folk songs of Tahsin. Those folk songs aren't written today either. And that love which I would not wish on my worst enemy won't be experienced again. Don't be eager to become a musician. I won't let you become a musician as long as I live. Take our situation for example. His mandolin became only the money for Tahsin's shroud. When your grandpa died we hadn't any hope other than your father's earnings. The man from Harput would not earn his living if he did not make tin ware. And me, I'm begging and making our living, you see. Who would hold my hand if you hadn't been there? They used to call me Lady Elmas the tambourine player; but now my name is the blind broad beggar! When I think I find out that we could not even save little money when we were in such abundance… We could make ends meet only. That abundance had no real basis. One awakens after such a long time. But we had no other solution. We were in famine, going thtough difficult days. We had reached those days among those that died of hunger. Being musician was our lifesaver. Not our ancestral craft… Your grandpa's father was an examining magistrate before the war. He used to employ teachers for his son, so that he would learn to play the violin. Later on when he was escaping from the enemy he, the deceased, took his violin along. He did not even think that he would earn his living with it… Be reasonable and take a lesson from my words! Don't forget that Tahsin who spent his short life drinking at others' wedding feasts died before he reached his wedding feast dream."

When we returned from the marketplace the deep blue shadow of the night used to fall upon the quarter. The quarter used to roll into a deep silence as if someone died, as if everything was forgotten with the one who died. It was a fearful and daunting silence. "Depressing time" my granny used to call those times. Was that why I felt depressed then? I felt distressed. In the eve of the night, it seem to me that everybody was as if preparing to escape. All people were in a hurry. As if they were preparing to spend their last night in the world…

The houses of the quarter became old. The plaster of the mud-brick walls was old and shabby; and the walls were covered by moss and wild grass. In the past, Armenians lived in these houses. They emmigrated during the years of the war. The immigrants came and settled in the houses they had left.

My granny and grandpa were among those immigrants. They came here from far away,from Kars. They had lost their kith and kin. They met during that escape, during those days of life or death. My grandpa had taken care of my granny. They got married… My grandpa hadn't a job or a craft. He only knew how to play the violin. He thought of playing at the wedding feasts. Later on, he had started to take my granny along.

Ours was a large house with two floors. Tailor Husam lived upstairs with his family, his wife, his two sons, his daughter in law and his grandchildren. Downstairs was separated with a board fence. We used to enter the house from one of the leaves of the door with two leaves, and bricklayer Suleyman and sister Gulsen from the other.

As soon as she entered the door "May your work be easy, ladies!" my granny used to say. "How much you are occupied with the problem of eating!"

Sister Gulsen used to cook in a hurry in the garden to make the meal ready by the time her husband came, to pump the kerosene burner that was burning with snarls, trying to make it burn with more flames all the time. On the other hand, the wife of father Husam, mother Hacer used to milk her goat when we arrived. In reply to my granny's words:

"Well, we are occupied with the problem of eating and you, are you in God's way? When you were younger, you played from one wedding feast to another; you earned too much money. You did not even play at everybody's wedding feast since they did not give enough money. When you grew old, you took your tambourine again and started to collect taxes from the marketplace."

And my granny used to laugh at mother Hacer's words. She used to laugh but that did not last long; soon resentment used to cloud her face:

"Don't get angry with me my dear!" she used to say complaining. "Don't want to be in my shoes. May God protect you from falling into my situation. It's for sure that the three or five pennies are what they feel like giving. I got through all of their wedding feasts successfully. I made all of them dance before my tambourine. What you call wedding feasts is the mere entertainment of a whole life. And is it much that there is a five-penny tax of the only entertainment of that life? Furthermore, the alms are favorable in God's presence."

Mother Hacer used to say nothing more. Her silence used to mean, "You're right".

My granny used to come in and take off her coat and her glasses. She did not need my help when she was in the house. She had spent nearly fifty years of her life among these four walls. She used to find everything from needle to filament gropingly. But she had to get me or Sister Gulsen to do most of the work.

When sister Gulsen tried to move more quickly in the eve of the night, she used to do nothing right and call me for help.

"Hulusi, come and pump this kerosene burner; you are young and you aren't tired. If your brother Suleyman comes and sees that the meal isn't prepared, he will cut me! I swear that, he makes me lay down and cuts. He is also a kind of crazy, you see, there are said to be seven kinds of lunatics in the world. Mine is the one that doesn't listen to reason, that sympathetic one. I beg to you Hulusi!"

Mother Hacer used to keep milking the goat that was tied to the plum tree. Father Husam used to buy a goat every year; they used to drink its milk whole year and slaughter it in the autumn and roast its meat. Since there was no other place, the goat used to stay under the plum tree, tied to it, day and night. The plum tree had never born fruit. It did not have so many branches, either. Its very small leaves used to turned into white because of the dust every summer. It used to spring into leaf itself and drop its leaves again itself as if it was in an out-of-way place. That tree did not draw my attention, although I spent my all childhood in this garden. I did not touch its branches, its leaves even a day. I did not grow a tree love towards it. But an evening, in the eve of an inauspicious, distressing night, in one of those depressing times when people were very anxious and worried to spend their last night in the world, I saw my mother under the plum tree in the garden… There was the silence of death in the house. Sister Gulsen was not preparing the meal for her husband. I don't know how she realized, but my granny was petrified with astonishment as she stepped into the house. The daughter-in-law of father Husam, maybe for the first time since she had come here, came to the garden with her baby that was in swaddling clothes in the night. And I was worried and astonished as if an inauspicious bird alighted on the branch of the plum tree of which presence and absence meant no difference to me, and as if that bird had brought bad news from an unknown country…

I understood everything later: That woman who was invited to come in neither by Mother Hacer nor Sister Gulsen was my mother! She had come home while we were begging outside. She was accompanied by a man; the man left my mother and went to find a hotel.

She stood up when she saw my granny but my mother's eyes were on me. Her tears started to flow continuously as if they had been lying in ambush. She took a step towards us. She had a scarf on her head, a bag in her hand, and a blue nice dress on her. Her tears were running down like silver wires. Even if I realized that it might be my mother, the feeling of the inauspicious bird bringing bad news from an unknown country drew me nearer to my granny.

"Why did you come, owl?" roared my granny. "How did you dare come here? Thank God that I'm blind. Otherwise I would take your eyes out with my two fingers. You fainthearted! Ungrateful! Fair weather friend! Neither Hulusi, nor me, the only one lacked is your inauspicious foot, that's all! You left and settled in the Pasha's mansion, is that so? You were disloyal to the deceased and your head reached the sky, is that so? "

My granny could not say more. She collapsed down and started to cry. First slowly and then as if howling she cried. The other, my mother was also crying. She could not make her eyes move away from me. I was looking at my mother as if I was looking at the plum tree with dusty leaves that had never born fruit… I was looking free from every kind of feeling. I felt neither pity, love, disgust, nor fear. I was empty towards my mother like dried squash.

Sister Gulsen held my granny at her arm and made her stand up from the ground. The neighbors who heard the crying voice came into the garden. The crying of my mother turned into moan. Everybody was standing in the light of the moon as if being judged in the presence of God.

Father Husam told everyone what he had talked about with my mother before we came. My mother got married in Adana. Her husband was a civil servant. My mother was the second wife of the man. He had children from his first marriage. My mother had come to take me along. Her husband would come in a few hours and take us to the hotel and tomorrow to Adana… Everything was up to my granny and if she would let me go…

As if it was my turn to cry!

After everything had been understood my mother crossed the distance between us and held me in her arms. She kissed me, smelled at me and put my head on her bosom.

I had never seen my granny so desperate, left sitting high and dry, so daunted and miserable.

"It's Hulusi who should decide to stay or go… " settled my granny quickly and finally. "Here is the mother, here is her son. And you all here my neighbors… I have begged and made our living for so many years, I did not keep the boy hungry. You all know. It was my mother responsibility as well. He was the son of my deceased son. I could not leave him at the door of a mosque. I could not throw him away, I could not sell him. I lost my eyes after my son… I can abandon a boy as well. How many years more will I live? Hulusi can be of no use for me even if he becomes a pasha, a sultan. I may live for three years more, or I may not. In any case I will spend these three years begging. Here is the mother, here is her son… but I have a request from Hulusi, a wish spoken before you that he should not forget the efforts of that blind woman… For the rest, he'll make his own decision…

As I said it was my turn to cry.

For a long time nobody said anything. The neighbors were crying then. Father Husam took me from the arms of my mother. I was weeping loudly. I escaped from father Husam too, and ran towards my granny.

"Grannyyy! " I cried. I could not utter any other word…

I was not crying but sobbing this time. My granny was concealing the storms bursting inside her with the mask of her blind eyes and calm face again. Her voice was so calm so soft… How fast did she become so calm!

"Don't cry," she said. "Stop now. Look, am I crying? Yet you're a man my son! "

Then everybody left. Father Husam took all of us upstairs. He made her daughter-in-law open the guest room, and ordered her to make tea. I could not look at my mother's face then. But my unfeelingness was replaced by pity slowly. On the other hand I was relaxed.

Since my granny was not willing to talk to my mother, father Husam was talking on her behalf.

"What's done is done…" said Father Husam. "The blood should be cleaned with water. The boy is still your son, my daughter. But he wants to stay with his granny. Nobody can reject this. You may visit your son whenever you wish. Nobody can interfere. Since your mother heart is heavy with pain, then take over the expenditures of the boy… Send money for his clothes sometimes. Don't forget that, this is also a responsibility of a mother… That woman is not so healthy. She begs for herself but takes the burden of the boy on her shoulders… "

My mother sat on the threshold all the time. She did not even take a sip of the tea that was put in front of her. While listening to Father Husam, she did not look at anybody's face.

The next day, my granny took out my grandpa's violin and gave it to me. Sister Gulsen's husband bricklayer Suleyman employed me as an apprentice with a weekly wage of ten liras.

Regarding the plum tree in the garden, it was always in my mind.

Necati GÖNGÖR