A nice winter day. It was afternoon. Four of us were drinking raki in a large fishing boat, which has its paint and paste faded and dried, and the spaces on the frame broadened due to spending whole summer, maybe the last few summers ashore. Hamza, Mustafa Captain and a man with a strange name… now at the moment I can't recall his name, were my companies. That man was the most loquacious of us. In fact, all he could do was laughing rather than speaking. When I said "now, its my turn to treat you to a bottle of raki," he objected saying, "No, your money is not valid in Uskudar. Furthermore, you are our guest."
Opposite to us were the glittering Besiktas ridges. There was the deep blue İstanbul Strait between us. At the beginning, we were hearing the roar of water, like a waterfall, flowing towards Semsipasa. But after drinking a few glasses of raki we began to hear nothing; only when we glanced at the pebbles along the shore, and the small waves washing them, we were hardly hearing something. Sometimes a steamer was passing offshore and the flooding sea was rocking the rollers ashore. There on the rollers were caiques in various colors, vessels and passenger boats in red, blue and yellow colors.
There was a fish-store just next to our boat. You can ask now, how could it be - a fishing-store adjacent to a boat. Well, but what I call as a fishing-store was a counter made up of four sugar boxes. On the counter there was an oven, a frying pan over the oven, large bonitos in the frying pan, and a bowl of salt, a bottle of olive-oil, early tomatoes and hot peppers and a few plates on the edge of box, that was all.
A man standing in front of the oven was frying fish without ever stopping. Anyone grasping a half loaf of bread was coming here, getting a cane chair, ordering a portion of large bonito to the man in front of the oven and after eating his fill going away, and another man was coming for lunch. Most of the men coming for lunch were boatmen or fishermen. So this movable store was their restaurant.
Owner of the restaurant also had an assistant. A hunchbacked girl, who as I later learned, was the daughter of the fisherman. She was a pleasant girl. She was wearing a rather modern dress, in the style of the Closed Market. She was serving the fried fish to the customers, gathering the plates, and sometimes, I suppose, washing the dishes at a corner. There was no woman around other than her. This young woman, who among so many men, hearing swearwords and indecent conversations, seemed so natural that we all liked her. She was so natural that I even considered her height, hardly exceeding one meter, and her head, sunken between her shoulders, natural. For a moment, I worried if it was due to spirits. Though one could not find out when he is drunk, if there is a relation between his condition and his drunkenness. But I really believed that I liked that hunchbacked girl. Some say that, "Love makes one seem beautiful." Well, I don't know; but working makes one seem beautiful. I found out the correctness of it, in this hunchbacked girl, as a visible reality. I don't know, may be even if she didn't work, she would seem beautiful. I carefully looked at her, she had a languishing look, beautiful eyelash, and wet, transparent lips.
Musa Captain was narrating tales. He filled our glasses with raki and continued. How he listened to balalaika in the Novorossiysk port as they went there with a gas ship, how a woman bit his cheek in Niko Bar in Constantsa, how he offered Turkish tobacco to the fellahs in Casablanca.
The ridges of Besiktas were glittering, and the İstanbul Strait between was deep blue. A small company boat was forwarding sideways due to the current, and behind was seen a car ferry; a taka, a small sailing-boat, was passing behind the car ferry noisily.
A fishing caique drew near to the rollers. A man in the caique called "Skipper" towards us. That fourth man, whom I couldn't recall his name, turned to the caique and replied "Hey!" Then the one in the caique talked, "There are a few red mullets, take them." The fourth, turned to the hunchbacked girl:
- "Ayşe," he said, "go take them from Salih Agha."
So, Ayşe is her name. Ayşe, stepping on the rollers went to the caique. Salih Agha gave her a creel. Ayşe took the creel; she was coming back, but one of the rollers was mossy I suppose, her foot slipped, and she fell into the sea to her knees. She tried hard not to let fall the creel. And succeeded. They asked, "Girl, what happened?" She said, "My foot slipped." She got out of sea. There was blood mixed with sea-water at her leg. Possibly the edge of the roller should scraped. She put the creel aside, went to the sea-side to wash the scraped part. Fish in the creel were still playing. Among the red mullets there were small and medium bluefish. The fourth said:
- "Sir, you could not find these fish anywhere else. You know the Maiden Tower, yeah; when İstanbul fish go beyond it, hold them in the tails. There is no fish other than İstanbul. Anchovy in the Black Sea, gilt-head bream in İzmit, and sardine in Gelibolu, that is all. Fish, fish is in İstanbul. And it is in the İstanbul Strait."
- "There is no help for it, we can't eat meat; and fish is the meat for the poor. Thank God for fish. If there weren't any fish in the country, I swear, even the dogs would kid us. I mean, neither the government, nor the municipality does anything. For God, I don't mind myself. I really pity for the civil servants. Their condition is worse than us. At least I could sell my goods according to my living. When the price of sugar increases, fish as well. When the price of bread increases, fish as well. When the price of coal increases, fish as well. However, they could not do so. They work hard to live on two hundred liras. Whose fault is it?
Those who govern of course! What can I say? May God punish them, nothing else I could say."
All those listening to him was to say "right," I interrupted. I said, "Stop it for God's sake, these are deep subjects to talk about. The government's affairs are nothing to do with us. We are very well managing. Whoever did die of hunger, then we wouldn't." Then as for to change the subject, I asked to Musa Captain:
- "Musa Captain," I said, "that fisherman's daughter, she is beautiful, not so?"
- "Which one?"
- "My dear fellow, that hunchbacked girl I mean."
- "Hah! Yeah, she's so."
Then suddenly he became serious.
- "But we don't look with an evil eye to those women working with us."
- "My dear fellow," I said, sure we don't. Is there anybody looking with an evil eye? My God, what a strange men you are! I only said beautiful; that's all."
- "Hah, then. Yeah she is beautiful."
The word, "evil eye" made me think about it. So, if I liked that hunchbacked girl, if I ever loved her, why should I look her with an evil eye? On the contrary, I had such a good will that I loved her. Indeed, the word, "love" is quite comprehensive. You may love a meal, a color, a woman. Above all, there are so many ways to love a woman. We may be considered to have an evil eye only when if we identify both her and ourselves as animals. But I have never thought of her, Ayşe, like that. Maybe, this approach to the subject is disputable. The best thing is to integrate our humanity in our bestiality; it should be next to our humanity. For instance, we spend hours and hours around a bottle of raki here. We have several needs within these hours. To say, relieving ourselves for instance. Those in need of discharge, go to the wall close by the sea-side, relieve themselves, and then come back here. And the hunchbacked girl is there at the moment. That's the human and bestial sides of these men are well reconciled. And no one of their class does not find it odd. This is their world. They live in their own world. Any maladjustment is caused when living outside one's own world. In our own world, it is impossible for us to urinate near the women; even we can't mention it.
Sun was setting slowly over the opposite ridges. The gleams in the sea were sparkling more and more and they were dazzling. The blue of the sky was warmer now. At the opposite shore, the barges in front of the Hayrettin piers were going away. A company boat comes and a car ferry goes, a freighter goes downwards the İstanbul Strait, and a small sailing-boat goes upwards. Everything I saw was beautiful. Was it due to my being drunk?
I suppose, that poor girl do understood that I like her. She was looking at me frequently. I had so many affairs enough to understand that the meaning of her looks was not similar to other looks. What did she think about me? Sure, she regarded me superior. She possibly thought my living was going on convenient to my outward appearance. Ah, we the petits bourgeois, how phony we are, we are only veneer. We are an entire lie. When we lie directly, we say a minor lie only. But what about those lies that we don't say? Horrible! Maybe she says to herself, "I am hunchbacked, he is not." But who knows, may be I will face an accident in a few days and lose both of my arms, or both of my legs. Moreover, I will not be able to succeed as far as she does. Do you know what occurred to me now? I said to myself, "I wonder, if we got married, would our children be hunchbacked?" I don't know exactly the hereditary transmission rules in physiology. But it may occur. What if so? Ah, I think I really fell in love with Ayşe.
At last, the sun set after the ridges opposite. I wish it didn't; what a nice day it was!
Orhan Veli KANIK