July 2004 [Issue No. 3]
Wednesday▪► A'Dora Phillips
Sophia always saw him on this day, Wednesday, his day off, his day away from his now daily grind of dishing drinks at the English sailing club on the tip of the peninsula, overlooking the still blue waters of the Turkish Mediterranean. She would walk the stone path down to the beach early in the afternoon to wait for him there, to wait to hear the familiar purr of his motorcycle, to see again the drape of his flaxen hair hung heavy with salt. And when she glimpsed him, her heart would contract, as though she were young again, not the woman of thirty that she had become, once married, now divorced, at sea within herself. He would nod over to her, but they would not sit next to one another, not immediately, he preferring to lie in the center of the beach, asleep under the full strength of the mid-afternoon sun, she preferring to shelter herself under a ledge of cool rock.
After bathing in the sun for a little while, he would swim down to her shady spot of the beach and get out of the sea, ask if he could borrow her towel and, standing over her as he dried off, would smile and ask how her week had been. She would not tell him that she had been lonely, waiting for the minutes, hours, and days to pass so that Wednesday would come around again and she would see him. He was tall and broad shouldered, arresting-looking with his full lips, translucent blue eyes, and hair the color of wheat that did not darken when it was wet.
Their comments would be very solicitous at first, as though they hardly knew one another, their voices soft, even his, which was scarred from too much tobacco and alcohol. He would sit down beside her and she would look out at the sea, very conscious of his physical presence. One of them would then ask a more personal question, make some observation about the landscape, or tell a funny story about something that had happened during the week, thus planting a seed of conversation that would continue to bloom for the rest of the day on into the night. After parting with three kisses – right cheek, left cheek, right cheek – and her return to the room she had taken at the pension, she would think back on their time together. And it would seem to her as if they had been in a garden together, quietly tending flowers. There, she felt she had to be careful – or "mindful," as she would correct herself. For the garden was Japanese in spirit, and nothing, not even the carefully balanced shadows, could be disturbed without destroying the whole.
She was worried that she had disturbed the shadows, for it was an hour past when they usually met and she was the only one on the long beach, the only one in front of the beautiful sea, the only one stretched out under the sun, the only foreign woman living in the village, the only one waiting. In the hour she had been there, a few scattered people had come to take a dip in the sea, returning almost immediately to one of the tea houses or to the shade of a plane tree to shelter themselves from the sun.
She thought back on her last conversation with him. Wanting to draw his attention to the change in weather, time passing, she had said, "The water is a little cool today."
"Yes, the weather is different," he said.
"Have you noticed that the light has also changed?"
"Only one day this week," he said. "It was hot. The water was stagnant, and no one came for at least an hour to ask for a drink."
"Yes, but… there is something different in the air," she said.
"It will get bloody hot again. You’ll see."
"It’s not the heat. It is the quality of the light," she said.
"Winter is coming," she continued. "It will be hard to spend another winter living alone on the peninsula, the only foreign woman here, no tourists…"
"Yes, I know. The men," he said, "will bother you." After another long silence in the conversation, he said, "Some of the people I work with at the club are moving on to branches in Egypt and Israel that stay open year round."
Had he been telling her that he planned to leave? Had he left? Would he have gone without telling her?
The speakers at the mosque crackled, the birds flew up into the air, and they scattered into the sky as the midday prayer was called. So lonely, the birds seemed to beat out with their wings and far-off calls, as did the distance between her and the horizon, the emptiness of the beach, and the stillness of the air.
She got up, walked across the hot stones, and dove into the water to cool off. She could not bear to look up and down the beach again to see if he was coming and closed her eyes, trying to breathe deeply and calmly. She should not have talked to him last week about time passing and her fear of being alone on the peninsula in the winter. Her face had probably registered alarm when he mentioned that people where he worked were moving on to Egypt and Israel. She should have been more careful.
Returning to lie down on her towel again, she said to herself, as she had the last time she dove in: "The next time I go into the water will be the last. If he hasn't come by then, I will go." In all the time she’d spent alone this past year, she’d grown accustomed to talking to herself. "I told you something like this was going to happen, but you wouldn't listen to me."
"They must know that he hasn't come to visit me today as he usually does. Perhaps they knew this was going to happen all week. It seemed to me this morning when I had breakfast at the pension that Mustafa looked at me more intently than usual when he brought my egg and tea. You know that sympathetic look that Mehmet reserves for the young man who came back crazy from fighting Kurds in the east? I looked up and caught him looking at me that way. And everyone watched me when I walked down to the beach this morning."
"They always watch you, are always wondering what you are doing here, assume you have stayed so long because of Walter."
"But today it seemed that I was being watched more than usual. As if they knew he was not going to come."
She felt something close to her, a warm nose nuzzling her arm, a tongue, bristly fur. She opened her eyes and, shielding them with her hand, saw the dog that had followed her back to the village nearly a year before, one day when she had been out walking on the hills.
"Go away," she said, feeling him big and hot and dirty beside her.
He sat down next to her, refusing to budge when she pushed at him.
She looked up and noticed the first white cloud since April, which made her think of America. Made her remember those great plains that she would be returning to after all. Those vast and empty places where it was now moving towards morning. She would be going back to the place in the middle of the country where she’d lived her whole life, but for one year in New York and this lonely year here. She was almost out of money and would have to begin teaching again, as if nothing had ever happened. For a moment she felt she was already there, having stopped at a crossing on the prairie, seeing no train coming, just the last bit of night vanishing as morning came, and she felt utterly desolate. She had been abandoned.
As she lay there unable to move, unable to imagine what to do, it seemed to her that she had known from the first time she met him that this was going to happen. Not just that she would be abandoned, but that as she waited in vain for him to come the prayer would be called, the birds would beat their way up into the air, and the sun would be such a wash of radiance that she would only be able to hear the waves washing in.
Coming in and going out, the sea seemed to have a voice. She thought that if she tried, she would hear what it was saying, and then the word relentless accompanied the water as it washed out in a pebbly sound of stones; the word pitiless returned with the surf from the depths of the sea. Relentless. Pitiless. Over and over again. Just those two words and the monotonous swarm of insects in the dry fields. She said to herself, "No, the sea does not have a voice. The sea does not speak, nor do trees, flowers, bees, and animals." Thus turning from the voices of things that had kept her company for thirty years.
She got up, took one last dip in the sea, dried herself slowly, and walked back to the pension to take a shower. Usually there were people on the patio, men playing backgammon, women tatting, but no one was out today. She looked around for Cansel, the proprietor's wife. Still weak from a snakebite she’d suffered a few years before, Cansel was often resting in the shade of a plane tree, but neither she nor her twenty-year-old son Mustafa, who ran the place, were anywhere to be seen. Sophia took a tepid Coke out of the refrigerator in the restaurant and went out to the patio. Hearing footsteps, she turned around to see that Mustafa had come up behind her. A tall young man with green eyes, dark hair, and wide shoulders, he spoke English well, and she asked him why it was so quiet today.
"What do you mean?" he responded with his usual sardonic, somewhat mocking look. He’d helped to run his parent’s restaurant and pension in this seaside village from the time he was a child, and although he was still young, she sensed he took the sort of distant, amused interest in human dramas, emotions, and foibles more commonly found among the old and wise.
"There's no one around today," she said. "I thought maybe there was a holiday. Usually the men are playing backgammon. The women are together under the tree."
Mustafa looked as though he wanted to laugh. He said, "Who else, usually?"
She shook her head, and he sat down at the table with her. Feeling uncomfortable with the silence, she asked again, "Really, where is everyone?"
"Everyone?" he asked. "Who is everyone?"
She finished her Coke and tried to pay, but Mustafa brushed her money away, a flash of sympathy coming into his face. Why would he be sorry for her? Did he know she waited for Walter on the beach every Wednesday, had waited in vain for him today? Did he know where Walter was?
"Where you go now?" he asked.
"For a walk," she said.
"No flowers," he said, referring to the days she spent painting them. "Too much sun."
"Yes, it's hot," she said. "But there are always flowers. You'd be surprised."
"The meltem will be starting any day," he said.
"Yes, I've heard."
"Is too hot to walk today," he said.
"It's okay," she said. "It's always hot these days. I like the sun."
"Your face gets very red."
"Yes, I know," she said, smiling, thanking him for the Coke, and walking away.
She walked around the spit on the red clay road over to the next bay. He rarely ever frequented the beach she was heading towards, felt it was too touristed, but maybe he’d had some reason to go there today. And even if he was not there, she would be more likely to run into someone she knew and could speak English with, like the Dutch couple she’d gotten to know who sailed along the Turquoise Coast and periodically docked in Hayat Buku, or the British painters who resided on the peninsula in the summer, or Farukh, the handsome young Turkish man who took tourists on excursions. It would assuage her anxiety to sit and talk to people she could understand, people she could mention Walter to – nonchalantly, of course – to see if they’d heard anything about him, without a crafty, knowing look coming into their faces.
Hearing a motorcycle, she stopped walking, her heart beating so fast with anticipation she felt she had swallowed a bird, but it was only the young man who went around and around the villages all day and half the night, not Walter. When he passed her, she began walking again, the dog from the beach bounding up behind her. Happy for company, she did not shoo it away this time and even reached down to pet its silky head on a few occasions along the way. When she got to Hayat Buku, she walked past the tea shop, glancing at tables, went into the little store and bought a bag of chips, walked past both of the restaurants surveying customers, then took off her sandals and walked along the edge of the sea back up to the teashop, looking out at the water for his head of sun-bleached hair. Even this more touristy bay, with its sandy beach, was fairly deserted today. There were a few scattered tourists, none of whom she recognized, and a group of four teenage girls from the village.
She sat down at one of the tables spilling out onto the beach and the dog, sighing, curled up at her feet. The seats under the big old mulberry and plane trees were taken up by groups of Turkish men playing backgammon and women tatting doilies. She greeted everyone, nodding and smiling, recognizing faces but still not knowing names, then sat facing the sea. Maybe because it was so hot she again had a feeling of déjà vu – not that she was living something presaged that she hardly remembered, but that she was remembering something she had hardly lived. To ground herself, she listened to the chips being slapped down in the backgammon games behind her, the men's exclamations, the murmur of the women as their needles clacked together, the little teaspoons clacking in the pear-shaped glasses of tea, the buzz of the refrigerated display case. But all of these sounds were, in the end, eclipsed by the waves coming in and going out: Relentless. Pitiless.
She wished she could get those two words out of her head, and tried to concentrate on the Turkish conversations around her. Although essentially incomprehensible to her, she was able to recognize words here and there. The American. The American painter.
The woman whose husband ran the teashop brought her a slender glass of tea. She was almost due to have a child, and, despite the heat, was luminous. Her thick red hair was loose, slightly damp, curly near her temples, her blue eyes calm, face flushed. She smiled sweetly and began speaking in Turkish, not just the few words that Sophia was sure of understanding, but a long and passionate passage, during which she gestured toward the sea, her delicate wrists showing out from under the white shirt she was wearing. Sophia caught only a few words –çok güzel… meltem… ekmek… Akdeniz… çok deli… ay… taş… Beautiful, wind, bread, sea, very crazy, moon, stone. What did these words have to do with one another?
The woman gestured at the sea, shook her head back and forth, her voice having become a little rough. Beautiful, wind, crazy, tomorrow… The conversations at the other tables melted into the background. Sophia’s head began to ache, and she wanted to be left alone. She heard the woman say "Walter." Or had she said, "water?" They sometimes called him Water, in any case, and sometimes Walker, unable to differentiate between the sounds. The conversations at the other tables fell silent, the backgammon chips stopped falling, and the insects swarmed.
After mentioning Walter, the woman who had brought the tea fell silent for a moment, then started talking again. Her voice flowed on and on like a river. It seemed miraculous that she could put so many words together in such a fluent way. Wind… maybe… where… tomorrow… yesterday… Her eyes on the horizon as she spoke, she looked at Sophia when she was finished, sighed and shrugged, not a melancholy sigh but one of respite and preparation. Her hand had come to rest on her belly, the way Sophia had seen American women rest their hands on their bellies. It seemed to her that there was something profound in this gesture made by all pregnant women, as though human patterns spiraled like sunflowers, unbidden from an eternal center. Yet the solace she found in the gesture vanished as she tried to comprehend why it would be okay that they were all the same, really, and it instead struck her as a terrible thing that this woman's gesture was the same as every other’s, nothing more than the visible manifestation of an invisible and unrelenting pattern, another faceless reaction to an otherwise unknown action, another meaningless drama in the anonymous ocean of consciousness.
She was sorry that she had not learned the language better. For all she knew, the woman could have been telling her that Walter had had an accident. Feeling she should say something, she inquired about the meltem. The woman looked confused, and Sophia, feeling awkward, took her wallet out to pay but the woman would not accept her money. As with Mustafa, it was the first time her payment had been refused here.
Sandals dangling from her hand, she walked out to the end of the dock to see if she recognized any of the boaters, hoping there might be someone from the Sunsail Club of whom she could inquire after Walter. "Oh, you've come over from that English sailing club? I have a friend who works there. Maybe you know him. The Dutch man. A bartender..."
She stopped at Ogun's Place, a restaurant down the beach from the teashop, and sat under the bright canopy with which they had replaced the mulberry trees. Walter did not like Ogun, a voracious young capitalist, or his family, and would have disapproved of her taking a seat at their establishment had he known, but she felt less visible in the nearly deserted shadows here than she had at the teashop. Other than her, there was only one other person there, a young British girl, seven or eight years old, Sophia would have guessed, with two dolls, a box of fresh crayons, and a notebook full of paper. Sophia smiled over at the girl, whom she recognized as the neglected child of a British woman who had come the month before as a tourist and taken up with Ogun’s eldest brother.
The girl did not smile back, but after looking intently at Sophia told her she was bored.
"Would you like to write a story?" Sophia asked.
"That sounds okay," the girl said.
"Let's both make a story using these words," she said, taking two pieces of paper out of the notebook, one for herself and one for the girl: wind… moon… maybe… tomorrow… stone… very crazy… bread… water... "You can put some people in the story if you want."
"Who?" the girl asked.
"Whoever you like," she said. "I think I'm going to put Walter in mine." It was the first time she'd spoken his name to another person all day.
"Mr. Walter," said the girl. "I know him." Then she looked at the list and said, "I'm glad I can use other words because I can't make a story out of just these ones. I couldn't make a complete sentence, for one thing. A sentence has to have a subject, verb, and object, and all these words are… things."
"Yes, nouns, not actions," said Sophia. "You do have to add other words, you’re right. You can use whatever ones you like."
"How about Mrs. Ogun and her goat? Because you know what?" the girl whispered. "She washes it in the sea every morning. My mom says that's crazy. That's one of the words, right?"
The girl began writing, and Sophia watched her labor to make the letters with a pencil, remembering the first stories she herself had written, "Sammy the Snake," "Ronny the Rhinoceros" … By the time this girl would be Sophia’s age now – in twenty years or so – Sophia would be nearly fifty. Where would she be then? Who? How was it she had traveled from writing those stories, completely untouched by the world of men, to this one, her whole being consumed in love for someone else? How could she get back?
The girl sighed, put down her pencil, and asked if she could relay her story, going on to read with a little smile and a serious tone. "It was hot. There was a sea. There was a crazy goat. There was crazy Mrs. Ogun. There was crazy Walter. Mrs. Ogun thought the goat needed a bath. She asked Walter to help. He looked like a prince. He took off his sunglasses. He dragged the goat to the water. The goat swam away. Walter threw a stone, but it kept going. It went far, far away…"
"I know it’s not very good, but I was getting tired and that was all I could think of for now. What's your story?" the child wanted to know.
"Oh nothing," said Sophia.
"Come on, I want to hear it," said the girl.
"I’ve been thinking about it," said Sophia. "But didn’t come up with anything good enough to write."
"Just tell a story then," the girl said. "That’s a lot easier than writing one down."
"That’s a good idea," said Sophia, realizing it would be unkind to let the girl down. "Once upon a time, there was a woman who yearned with all her heart and soul for one thing and one thing only – to find her prince in love."
"Sounds like my mother," the girl said.
"She was sure she would know him when she saw him and traveled all over the world searching for him. She went to cities in the United States, Europe, and even the Middle East. She lived in amazing places and saw astonishing things but never forgot that she was in search of her prince and would not, could not, be happy until she found him. As she got older and the years passed, she went farther and farther from home, sometimes needing to journey through places that were dark and scared her. One day she came to a beautiful, enchanted spot on the edge of the sea. Thirsty and hungry, she went into a restaurant and there he was – sitting at a table in front of her eating an apple. He was tall and broad shouldered with blue eyes and blonde hair. She felt like she’d seen him a million times before in her dreams and told him that she thought they were meant to be together. He said that before they married, he had to test her, just to be sure, and they arranged to meet every Wednesday for a year. If she said and did the right things each week, he would love her forever. But if she made a mistake, he would disappear…"
Sophie trailed off and the girl asked what happened next.
"Like you, I’m not sure."
"Well, I would like to know," the girl said.
"I'll think about it today," Sophia said. "But now I've got to go."
She motioned to Ogun, who had brought a cup of coffee and a Coke to her and the girl but had otherwise paid them no attention. She watched, relieved, when he came over to take her money. But as he reached out for the bills, his sister, who was watching from the doorway, said something sharp to him in Turkish. Ogun seemed to hesitate, but withdrew his hand.
"It's okay," he said. "Free today. No problem." He gave his wide, hungry, wolf-like grin that had something terribly desperate in it and looked up into the sky.
Her eyes following, she said, "It's the first time I've seen clouds all summer."
"Tomorrow's another day," he said. "Another day, another dollar, right?"
"Yes," she said. "That's one way of looking at it. Another day, another dollar. You would make a good American."
There was but one beach left, the most ragged of them all, on the other side of yet another spit. The water there was almost completely still and therefore tepid, its single restaurant frequented by almost no one. And yet, it was that beach that Walter had once said he preferred to all the others, for it seemed the most authentic to him, the only place he could go to be alone.
Walking towards it, she felt the heaviness of the air as she tried to press against it. How oppressive and hot it was, the sun burning like a stone in the center of every imagined meridian of her body. The dog, still with her, was also hot and suffering, sometimes stopping to pant heavily and whine. At the top of the spit she rested for a minute, looking at the expanse of dry earth, sand, and sea in front of her, moving her eyes around that weedy place that lacked any landmarks, searching for him. The beach was entirely deserted. The water was as still as always, a little gray, similar in appearance to a bay in the Atlantic on a windless day. Seagulls were circling, their cries outraged.
If he were over there, he could only be at the lonely restaurant in the distance, and she started walking again, the dog following, panting, at her heels, the birds turning in circles above her. They were working hard, flapping their strong wings, since there was not even a hint of a breeze to carry them. She didn't like the gulls. They seemed malicious to her, actively cruel. Very crazy, one seemed to cry out. Stone, another called. Water, the largest one screamed… Far far away… Relentless... Pitiless… Only a handful of words. They could be arranged in any combination. Far far away, they shrieked in unison. He is far far away.
A handful of men, their faces unfamiliar to her, were playing backgammon at the restaurant and looked up when she walked in, their eyes shuttling back and forth between her and the dog. The proprietor's wife, a homely, thickset young woman with a round face and lazy left eye, was sitting alone in the back corner with her baby, evidently waiting for someone or for something to happen. She stood up, seeking out the eyes of her husband. He nodded at her, apparently giving her the go-ahead to welcome Sophia, for as he looked back down at the game, the woman said "Hoş geldiniz," welcome, and the men dropped their gazes.
"Hoş bulduk," Sophia responded.
The proprietor’s wife held her child with authority, a woman proud of her accomplishment, but looked rather wistful when she glanced at Sophia, as though recalling having once wished for and expected something more. To put the woman at ease, Sophia gestured to the child and said he was beautiful, immediately uncertain as to whether or not she should have, since the woman drew him closer and frowned. They were nervous about the evil eye here on the peninsula, especially when it came to their children.
It had been one o'clock when she set out for Hayat Buku at the height of day, and now doves were making their gentle late afternoon sounds. She asked the woman what time it was, catching the number four.
Four o'clock! She didn't know if she was more anxious because time had passed or because there were still several hours of light remaining, empty hours she would have to fill before she could go to bed and try to sleep. Time moved so slowly, yet life was relentless. Sophia followed the woman’s eyes when she turned to look over at the table of men, there to see the husband’s eyes fixed on his wife with a cold, imperious stare. Interpreting his look as a demand of some kind, she got up, her hands beginning to flutter as though she wished to use them to do something for him, her hands alighting on the plate of almonds she had brought to Sophia. But he turned away from her again, and after a moment’s hesitation she sat back down.
Sophia saw how it was between them. He did not love her. It was almost too much to have watched, too much to have seen - the vulnerable, yearning look on that woman’s face. She sensed it was a look that she herself must give to men she wished to please and also sensed that the woman blamed herself for being unable to curry the favor of her husband: she was not pretty, her left eye drifted, and she must know that if bearing him a son had not won him over, nothing would.
The doves cooed. The men slapped down the backgammon chips. The sea went out and came in. Relentless. Pitiless. The meltem had not come and neither had he. Far away. Far, far away, she heard the child say in her sing-song voice. Far away, far away, she heard the gulls shriek. Your choice, your choice, the doves declared.
The woman had gone and come back, and was asking Sophia if she wanted another glass of tea, sitting down at the table with her. After glancing over at her husband, who was now fully re-immersed in his game, she leaned over and said something in a low voice to Sophia, most definitely mentioning Walter’s name. As she spoke of him, her look of yearning turned to one of pleasure, and Sophia, recalling her first impression of the woman, wondered if she also waited for Walter to visit on Wednesdays. Maybe he stopped at the restaurant to talk to this woman for a little while before visiting Sophia. Her husband had so clearly dismissed her from his gallery of affection that he would never have imagined that the Dutch man might come by to see her.
The only reason that Sophia could imagine Walter visiting this woman was that she was lonely and grateful for his attention. Given that she, too, was lonely, waited for him, and was grateful, could it be that his interest was not in this woman, or any woman, but in loneliness in and for itself?
Leaning forward as the woman did, speaking in a low voice too, she asked if Walter sometimes visited.
"Yes," the woman said. "But not today. Maybe…" She went on in Turkish for a little while, but Sophia was unable to follow the words, and a few minutes after the woman stopped speaking, she asked how much she owed. The woman said, "Nothing today," and Sophia got up and left.
She was considering walking up to his house in the village at the top of the mountain. Was considering going into the house he had lived in until his money ran out and he had started working at the Sunsail Club. Although he was sleeping in the dormitories at the Club now, he would return to his little stone hut in the village at the end of the season, and so, unless he had left the peninsula, his belongings would still be there. If he had left the peninsula, however, they would not be, for while she might leave without taking anything with her, he never would. His possessions were far too dear to him to leave behind, and if he had gone to Egypt or Israel, he would at the very least have taken his musical instruments and the Swiss watch from 1864 with the rubies inside of it.
If she were to go into his house, she would be seen. She would have to go past the tea house, the women at the well, and all his neighbors, disturbing dogs and chickens along the way. She stood at the foot of the mountain on the road she would be climbing, looking up, the dog at her feet. Then she took her first step forward towards his house.
She remembered that he had been upset when they paved the road, had said that it meant they were going to develop the peninsula, ruin it like so many other places in the world. He said that members of the Turkish mafia were coming regularly from Istanbul and buying up land – not because they admired it for its beauty, as the two of them did, but because they could then build big hotels and a disco and attract tourists to the peninsula. He said when they paved the road, "Now we have to find some place else to go," and for days afterwards she had lingered on his use of the pronoun "we." Did he mean they would go together?
Although it was almost five o'clock and the sun was nearer the horizon, it was still extraordinarily bright and hot. She felt worse for the dog than for herself and stooped beside him to pet his floppy ears and silky head. "It will be fine," she said. "We'll get there soon. Maybe the meltem will start blowing along the way. Won't that be nice – to be walking on this peaceful road when the meltem starts, to be up above the sea looking down in the valley on the first day the wind begins after such a still summer and see all the trees in the valley begin to dance?" The dog cheered up after she’d caressed him and trotted beside her when she began to walk again. "One foot in front of the other. Just put one foot in front of the other," she said. "You must find out if he's gone. It's the only way. You must."
At first the fields were devoid of any signs of human life. No one was out working because, for the most part, things grew well and needed little attention except when it was time to plant or to harvest. Had she not been on the peninsula for months already, were she not interested in plants and thus knew that the earth was teeming with life, she would have made the same mistake that so many tourists did, and, looking at the fields, think them merely desiccated earth and stone. The lavender had burned away and the land appeared desolate and uncultivated. The almond trees looked scraggly but she knew that the local farmers were expecting one of their finest harvests in years. Olives were glistening inside the silver leaves of tortured looking trees. It was true that the earth was too hot and dry for vegetables this time of the year. The only thing she’d been able to get at dinner for a few weeks now were tiny eggplants fried in olive oil, which Mustafa would bring to her saying, "Enough?" with that sardonic expression as though he were amused, seeing her growing thinner and knowing she was not being nourished. The figs, grapes and melons were past their prime and the pomegranates would not be ready until September. "I probably won't be here when the pomegranates ripen," she said, and it seemed to her that she had always known she would be gone by then, perhaps because she’d heard people talking about a woman who had come to the peninsula before her, fallen in love with him, and left in tears.
Now that she was alone, away from the eyes of the curious, away from the language she did not understand, she wished that someone was near, wished for someone, anyone, to witness the last hours of the drama she’d tried to keep to herself. She wished for the solace of sympathetic company, though what was for her a singularly life-changing event would for others remain simply the well-trodden path of an eternal fate, one that had been and would continue to be discussed dispassionately over doily-making and tea. She wished that people were near her talking so that she could lift stones from rivers of conversation, words she understood and could add to the ones she’d already found that day -- relentless and pitiless, far, far away. Were there but a few more words, perhaps she could arrange them in a satisfying and comprehensible sequence.
An old man walking with a cane emerged from the fields with a tethered cow. He waited ahead for her and they began walking together on the road. The dog, which had been tiring, gained energy from the two new creatures that joined them. Slowly now, Sophia walked with the old man, the cow, and the prancing dog. She recognized him but did not know his name. He lived in the village they were approaching, where she’d lived for a few months when she first arrived – in an old stone house, abandoned, from which she’d moved down to the pension when a man came and pounded on her door in the middle of the night. They walked in silence mostly, the old man asking only where she was going, at which she merely gestured with her hand toward the top of the mountain, smiling, looking down, looking ahead, looking around at the dry fields, sometimes saying to the dog, "What? Are you tired? Don't worry. We'll be there soon."
At the village, he veered off towards his house and she stopped at the spring for water. Women were congregating with buckets and cows and now that she was in the midst of people, she wished for the isolation of the fields, alone with her drama, for she could tell from the way they watched her that they were sorry for her, and pity made her feel ashamed. She cupped water in her hands and let the dog drink from them, then drank herself from the communal cup while the women watched, wanting, she could see, to ask her things, but shyer than the ones on the beach, for they met foreigners less often here. One asked where she was going and again she gestured with her hand to the top of the mountain; and the women looked at her and laughed, looked at one another and laughed, and then they shrugged and said something about "the American," not unkindly, she thought, and told her not to go too far into the hills alone.
Shadows were lengthening and there was a warmish tint to the light, but it had not gotten any cooler. The fields were very quiet, birds circling down to settle in the trees. The foliage and landscape began to change, fruit and olive trees growing sparse as pine trees appeared, small shrubby ones at first that got bigger as she climbed. The low gold glow of the sun glancing through branches, the scent of pine, and the shelter of the trees along the road made her feel, as always, that she had passed out of one world and into another. From sun into shade. From air into earth.
In the shade, as the dog breathed more normally beside her, she felt the deep earth beneath her and the springs of water within it that nourished the invisible roots of plants, gave life-sap to the fingers of the trees. She knew that life would go on and on… She was not happy now, but would be happy again. It seemed okay, even for the best, all that had happened. Walter was an alcoholic and had come here, she knew, to leave life behind. If she stayed with him, she too would leave life behind, and she did not want to do that. But, even as she tried to rationalize and accept that he had not come to see her and she must go, she also hoped that she would find him there waiting when she got to the village. That he would be on the road, anticipating her, as on the first time she’d met him there. A tourist then, she’d been walking down the mountain towards the sea. When she got to the village where he lived and saw him, a fair-haired man who most likely spoke English, she’d asked if there was a hotel or pension where she might stay, a place where she might eat. Perhaps she’d asked as an invitation, for she thought him beautiful the moment she saw him, felt she’d finally found what she’d been driven out into the world to discover.
He’d taken her to the bay on the back of his motorcycle, telling her as they ate their first dinner together under the tiny clusters of grapes that it was his birthday and all day he’d been waiting. "Waiting for what?" she asked, and he smiled. She thought she understood what he was saying, that he’d sensed her approach and had been waiting for her. How could it be, with such a fateful first encounter, that it was all to end on a random Wednesday in the middle of August as they waited for the meltem to break the heat?
She came out of the world of trees into the clearing of his village. She glanced over at the little area where people left their vehicles. His motorcycle, with its torn seat, was not there. Her eyes went next to the teashop where the men were sitting. They saw her coming and watched, not unkindly it seemed, but curious: she knew they were wondering why she’d walked up to the village. She greeted the men as she walked past the teashop, the women when she came to the well, her steps faltering as she felt their curious eyes upon her. She reached down to touch the dog's head, wanting to say something to it, but it had not followed her. She went back to see if she could find him, for it was impossible to forge ahead without him, and he was asleep in the shade under the balcony of the tea garden. She hadn't the heart to wake him.
One of the older men, Walter’s neighbor, leaned over and asked her to join them for a cup of tea. His son had sold his truck in the spring to buy him heart surgery in an Ankara hospital, and the man was luminous with newfound life, joyful, the way she’d seen people after their children were born. She shook her head, saying nothing, and continued walking upwards out of the village, unable after all to go to his house – there where the answer lay as to whether or not he was still anywhere nearby.
Not far away, in a grove of pine trees, was a spring to which she’d gone many times in the past. She went to it now. A little tin cup hung from a nail in the trunk of a nearby tree. When she went to dip it into the basin and to drink, she discovered that the surface of the water was coated with bees, which also clung to the spout from which the spring gushed. The ominous electrical sound of their presence filled the grove and filled her ears. She was afraid. She could not drink amidst the bees. They would sting her.
Without a moment's hesitation and without thought, she put the communal cup inside her bag and went back out to walk down the mountain, her head down the whole way, shy, ashamed, and humble as dusk threw its soft net over the fields.
She was back on the beach where she’d been late that morning, waiting. The German couple who’d been staying in the pension since the beginning of August was also on the beach, unaware of her. She’d talked to them one day at breakfast. The woman had had breast cancer and they’d come for a long vacation. They were very tender with one another, deep inside the universe of having wrested life free of death, at least for now. She watched them standing side by side, silhouetted against the horizon. They looked like two beings at the beginning of time, giving thanks to the setting sun. The PA system began to crackle, birds flew up into the air, the call for prayer began, and the red ball of the sun slipped into the sea. The call faded away from the village, and she heard it more and more dimly from the west as it traveled inch-by-inch with the setting sun. The German couple turned and walked back up towards the pension, vanishing on the other side of the cypress trees.
She realized, painfully, that Walter had from the beginning been but a memory. In the sense that she’d been drawn to him out of some deep familiarity, perhaps of knowing that she would not be disappointed in her expectation of being abandoned. She’d thought she was living a life, but all this time she’d been like a child singing to herself in the darkness, pretending that the little candle she held was the sun. No wonder she could make nothing of the words she’d heard that morning: there was no garden of meaning within herself. Nothing had ever taken root inside of her.
The memories, what were they? Walking nowhere in particular in the night with no thought of Walter, for she’d not known him then, aimlessly gathering repetitions of what she’d always known and seen and saying, "Look, there is the truth of life, just as I said." Wandering in a city when she was young, searching for something that she was unable to name and finding John, whom she married because he tried to give her what she could not find within, divorcing him because he betrayed her. (But how, she now thought, could he not have, given that she’d betrayed herself and there was nothing, in effect, to be true to?) Wandering in the fields, searching for certain kinds of flowers, thinking she was finally free of giving her heart away. His eyes so blue, like the blue flowers in the field whose name she’d been trying to recall at the precise moment when she looked up and saw him watching her. His voice, saying, "Today is my birthday, and I was waiting." And all the words she’d heard that day: Bitik? Finished?Far, far away. Stone. Yavaş... All the words, Turkish and English, washing in and out with the roll of the surf, all the words, the hard stone of them, wearing down her heart.
If they saw her crying, they would tell her not to cry. Why did people say, "Do not cry," when they should either be silent or say, "It's okay. I've cried before too. Sometimes there is no other way. Let all that you remember dissolve."
It was finally and completely dark. She squeezed handfuls of stones in her fists. There would no more calls for prayer until dawn. It was strange, she thought, that the call for prayer ceased, yet the surf continued throughout the night, back and forth, making a sound Walter had said he did not like and could not abide, a "monotony" that had driven him to live up near the top of the mountain, where the surf was inaudible. It spoke to her of some truth that the sound of the infinitely cold sea should be continuous while the call for prayer, meant to contain the crushing infinitude of time, ceased when the sun went down. Why allow the protective envelope of incantation to dissolve into the night, and the whole blind meaning of darkness to rush over one? Why was one abandoned when most afraid?
The ceaseless sea came in and went out and it said to her, without any expression whatsoever, pitiless, relentless. The sea that was so cold, so deep and so wholly impenetrable, the sea unable to support human life, said as clearly as if it had a voice and said no more: pitiless; relentless.
One had a choice. One could hold to all that one remembered or one could forget. One could suffer or set the suffering free. One could pay homage to what had passed or leave that task to another, thereby entering into the flow of life and death oneself. Out of loyalty to all that had been, she’d chosen not to forget, but now she realized that to hold the torch of memory was to never face the sun. To hold in witness the past was to be a stone. Yet what she had to let go of! Not only her memory of Walter and of John, but her memory of herself, a child who had suffered and for whom she’d been the only witness.
The fishermen had gone out on to their boats, and she heard their soft voices, men's voices, one, then another, speaking in the stillness of the night, but of course she did not understand what they were saying. She heard the faint sound of music coming from the pension – the Turkish pop song that had been a big hit all summer, a sad-voiced male crooning "çok iyi, çok iyi," over and over again. "Beautiful, beautiful," which also meant "good" and "well" and "okay" and "yes" … all affirmative things, though from his tone of voice you would have thought the words had something to do with loss. She heard branches, leaves, dry grass, rustling. She heard the owls. They had gathered in the cypress trees that lined the beach, whistling tonelessly, saving their feathery talk for later. She heard a motorcycle.
"’Once, I was a child,’" she recited. "’When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.’"
She heard footsteps, someone walking relatively rapidly along the road. She turned her eyes to the break in the cypress trees that he would cut through if it were him and he were coming to the beach to find her. Maybe he would think she’d been there since morning, waiting for him. Whoever was coming began to whistle. As far as she knew, Walter wasn't a whistler – though maybe he was when he built things, like the fence around his garden. She remembered he whistled once to call Necat, the beekeeper who was his friend. Necat was a whistler, but he’d been away all summer. He’d taken his bees to the mountains of Anatolia where it was cool and the flowers bloomed all summer long. Maybe when Walter walked alone at night he whistled. Maybe he looked up at the moon and contemplated its waxing or its waning and thought of her and wished he would run into her. Maybe he mused on something they’d talked about, one of the things she’d shared of herself with him, as she mused on things he’d shared with her.
She realized that he’d told her, really, very few things about himself. There was little she would be able to tell anybody about him, should they one day ask. It would be as though he’d vanished. She knew that his father had pushed a knife into his own heart and that Walter had gone and stayed in his father's house afterwards. He’d seen specks of blood on the floor and thought he’d heard his father's ghost returning, but it had only been a cow bellowing in the middle of the night. She knew that he’d once taken his mother on an endurance-building climb up a mountain in Portugal to encourage her confidence and self reliance, but had to descend for help when she became paralyzed with fear partway up. She knew that he’d fallen through the ice playing ice hockey on a winter night. His friend had abandoned him there and he thought he was going to die. He’d loved music from early childhood and when he’d asked his parents for a guitar, they’d given him five strings and told him to make his own. He’d been educated as a lawyer but had worked as a clerk at a hotel in the center of Amsterdam, where he lived on the outskirts of the city. One of his neighbors was a young Mormon woman from Salt Lake City who tried to convert him and instead fell in love with him; he hadn't, he said, known what to do.
She did not recognize him until he was standing in front of her. "Necat," she said. "You're back. Isn't it too hot here for the bees still? There aren't any flowers."
He stood above her, very shy. Quietly he said, "The meltem." He held his hand up and so did she. Air flowed around it: the meltem had finally begun to blow.
"Well, I am glad you've come back. You will have to say goodbye to me now."
He asked her in careful English why she was going to go.
Because his English was not good, he did not know that the sea only had two words, and if she told him what they were he would not understand because he was himself, as far as she knew, a very cheerful person. She could only talk that way and be understood by Walter. Why Walter? she thought. Why not Necat?
She was thrown back to her first love, at nineteen, all those years before. She was sitting in the car next to David. It was dark outside and Faure's Requiem was playing, and he said he was sorry but there was something he had to tell her. They had been driving up and down the hills of Pennsylvania, the dark shapes beneath the dark shape of the sky, when he told her he loved someone else.
"You eat tonight?" Necat asked.
She shook her head no.
He suggested they go up to his house in the village to eat something, and, for just one moment when she looked up at him, she felt she saw everything. His blue eyes that he was so proud of because most Turks had brown eyes, his blue eyes half-drowned in shyness, that serious look on his face that had come up from the depths, his awkwardness in not knowing whether he should extend his hand to help her up since that would mean touching her for the first time, his not believing that her threat to leave was serious, his not knowing until now that if she did go he would feel bereft... She realized that he loved her.
Because she saw that he was awkward and did not know if he should reach out to her, she stretched her arm up towards him. He took hold of it, pulled her up, and they walked along the beach to his motorcycle. It was nice to have him near, and she followed him though she knew it would be an event of great importance to him, were she to get on the back of his motorcycle and go with him to the village. Go with him to the house he had built for a wife.
The motor was loud, the hot wind blew in her face, and she almost forgot – until she realized she had almost forgotten them – the words the sea was speaking down below and upon the rest of the whole dark earth. The moon had come out, its pregnant gibbousness shining down on the groves of almonds and olives that she’d walked past earlier, the valley otherwise filled with the ink of darkness.
He parked where Walter normally did, and indicated with a tilt of his head that she should get off first. Men were still out at the tea garden, but allowed them to pass without insisting that they stop to have something to drink, and she wondered for the first time if everyone had been talking to her today about Necat's impending return.
At his house, he motioned to her to sit down at the table on the terrace out front and came back a few minutes later with a bottle of raki and a pitcher of water, set them on the table, went off and returned with two glasses. She pointed down toward the sea and, lying, told him he’d built a beautiful place. He was pleased, she could see, but didn’t say anything, only smiled and left again.
She’d eaten nothing since early in the day and knew she shouldn’t drink, especially not raki, which would make her head spin, but she wanted to get drunk and to cry.
Necat appeared again with a small pot of water and bag of dried bread, inordinately pleased when she asked if he had a radio. The reception was not good, but she listened, half-soothed, to the familiar crackle as he traveled back and forth between the house and terrace, preparing their table. When he was finished, an array of food was spread out before them: chunks of dried bread that one dipped in water to eat; olives, almonds, a slab of white cheese, saucers of honey and oil, boiled eggs. His mother would have made the bread and perhaps the cheese, but the rest of the food had come from his land, his chickens, and his bees, and he had, she could not help thinking, put it before her to show what he could offer. She took a piece of the bread, re-hydrated it, and dipped it in olive oil. It was delicious. He poured a little raki into the bottom of her glass, the strong anise-scented liquor clearing its way to her head before she’d even taken a sip. She added water, and it became cloudy.
As at ease with him as she would have been with her own brother, she gazed out at the sea as she sipped her drink. She knew he would speak to her when he was ready, and he did. He said he also liked to listen to the radio sometimes – when he was a little bit too much lonely – at night, usually. Despite his simple English, he communicated very clearly and said that up in the mountains of Anatolia he had been a little bit too much lonely. He rode his motorcycle to the tea garden every evening when he was done with the bees, arriving there cold, for in the mountains it was much cooler than here. He would drink one or two glasses of raki, then go back to his room at the pension, but would find it hard to sleep.
She closed her eyes, struck as she was by the keen sense of loneliness his words evoked in her. It was not just his description of the evenings he spent alone in the mountains, but the inflection of his voice, and the house here, empty of his spirit, built as it had been in concession to what he thought a modern bride would like. Linoleum, factory-made carpets, and other mass produced materials replaced the local stones and bricks of which houses had traditionally been built.
He liked that she drank raki with him and put more in her glass when she finished it, pointing to the food. She took another piece of bread, moistened it with water, then spooned a little honey over it. He did the same. She picked up a single almond and ate it. He began to speak to her again, and, again, she closed her eyes. The spirit of recitation was in his voice, she thought, as if he were telling her something that he had said to himself many times, memorizing his history so that he need no longer remember it. He told her that when he was eighteen he had to go into the army, as men in Turkey were expected to do. It was the first time he’d left the peninsula and when he came to a traffic light he had not stopped, not knowing what it was. They sent him east to fight the Kurds. He and the other soldiers had to hide in the stones. Nighttime, there'd been people firing all around, and he had crouched in the rock, not knowing what to do. They had told him to shoot, and he had.
She understood the larger shape of what he was telling her had happened, his loss of innocence. He'd gone to the east, crouched in the rocks, shot into the night, killed things, perhaps, returned, and built a house in which he was himself alienated, all in order to marry. In every iota of his being, she sensed this longing to marry, but to marry someone who would be a companion to him. And, yet, at thirty-three, he was still alone. The closest he had come to taking a wife, he said, was a few years before, when his family had begun to arrange a marriage for him with a young woman from Izmir. She was only seventeen, and when he went to meet her, he found that she was very beautiful: green eyes, black hair, light skin, slender. But sitting in the parlor with her, her mother, and sisters, he became incredibly tired and wanted to go to sleep. He asked a few questions, began to feel warm, and started to think that he was being tricked. He asked where her father was, and the women said, "Oh, the men are coming," pouring him another glass of raki. And, finally, the men did come, her father and brothers, but they were "dark looking," he said.
She opened her eyes. "What do you mean, 'dark?'"
"Dark," he said. "She was too much beautiful."
She did not understand, perhaps because he did not himself or because he could not quite bring himself to explain what he meant. Incest? She looked at him. He was looking at her but his eyes were far away. "The father, the uncles, the brothers… dark. Their faces very dark. And I started to feel not free." He moved his whole body to indicate how strongly he’d needed to get away.
She heard the leaves in the mulberry trees. The meltem was growing stronger yet she could still feel it – the heat weighing down on her. He’d told her some of what had sunk into the well of his being and did not seem to mind that she studied his face in return, not saying anything. He lit a cigarette, inhaling deeply and watching the smoke dissipate in the wind. She could hear the wind blowing in the trees and the hum of an electric pump and people talking to one another, perhaps men in the teashop, and she heard a television and she looked over at the radio, remembering that earlier it had been on. When had he turned it off? She wondered what she could do so that he would not feel bereft, as though he’d given her something, and she’d offered nothing in return.
She did not feel moved to touch him, could not reach out without her hand on his being misunderstood. She could, however, talk to him – even if he did not understand fully what she was saying. She began telling him about the dialogue she had read in Plato that winter about love, Timaeous. "In the dialogue," she said, "it says there are many different gods and that each of us has been born of one of them. So it's not just that there is one god, and all of us come from that one god. There are ten, twenty, thirty – I don't know how many, but a lot. And here on earth, we come to recognize and love those born of the same god as we are." She did not try to simplify or to speak slowly because she knew he understood as much as he could or would, regardless of how quickly she spoke or how complex her diction.
"I remember the day I met you. Earlier, I’d been walking in the fields looking for flowers. It was April – over a year and a half ago, already. I walked from town along the goat paths and I really could not believe how beautiful everything was. My father had died, and I’d inherited enough money to leave my job as a teacher for a while. I’d put all of my stuff in storage back in the States and started traveling, in the back of my mind searching for a place as though I had been called to do so. That day in April, I thought I’d finally come to the place I was searching for, and looked up to see Walter standing in the road. I felt as though I’d known him before and asked if he knew of a place where I could stay. He went down to the bay with me, and we ended up having dinner that night, then walked the next day on paths in the mountains.
"At the end of the second day, he brought me up to the village to see his house, and we stopped at the teashop along the way. I don't know if you remember our meeting that afternoon. You looked different then, and I must have too. Your hair was long, held back by a red bandana, and you had a beard. You seemed so innocent when I first met you.
"Walter and I went up to his house after we had tea. He’d just moved into it and whitewashed the walls. He got out his clarinet and played something for me and at some point, as I sat in the room that he only has an antique carpet in, I fell in love with him."
"Walter?" Necat said after a minute. "You love Walter?"
She winced at how shocked he was.
"Yes," she said.
"But Walter too much crazy," he said.
In a dreamy voice, she found herself saying, "When I was in his house, he showed me some of the things he’d bought from the antique dealer in town. He took out the wedding belts. I had never seen a wedding belt before and said, 'I wonder why they are so heavy.' He said, 'I have a feeling we'll find out.' We. I thought that he meant he and I together, that he was implying… that we would marry."
"Another woman came and she also wanted to marry him. She go away and come back, go and come. When she left the last time, she cried and cried."
Sophia said she could easily imagine dying. Life didn't seem worth living. It was pitiless and relentless. It was pitiless in that it was relentless and relentless in that it was pitiless…
"You want to die because of Walter?" he asked. "Walter too much crazy. Walter too much drink too much crazy."
"Because of everything," she said. And, having sought a witness from her earliest life, in the hot dark windy night she told him of the desert she felt she'd been born into and lived in until she’d met Walter. How dark it had been, everything half lit. He’d seemed so bright to her, so luminous. When she would turn and see him, it was as if he were shining, and her hands would begin to shake. She told Necat about not knowing what to do with herself on Sunday afternoons in New York when she moved there after college. She’d expected to find a community but had instead been lonely, wandering around, everything closed on Sunday afternoons. She would go to theaters and watch one film after another until it was dark and then she would go out and walk on the streets, trying to tire herself so she could go home and sleep.
She told him that she never felt anxious when she was walking but often did when everything was quiet and still. Even here, she did not feel afraid when she went out walking on the roads and goat paths, though people expressed concern about her being on them all by herself. But she felt afraid when, if she fell asleep in the afternoon, she woke up after dark. That had happened one afternoon when she was still in college and had gone to Philadelphia with a friend. She fell asleep on a sofa in the living room while her friend was out on the terrace talking to the man they were staying with. When she woke up it was dark, the apartment was empty, and she was so afraid! She’d gone out for a walk and asked the way to Walnut Street, that being the only street she knew in Philadelphia by name. She walked up and down, going into the shops; then, afraid to return to the apartment lest it still be empty, had taken a bus to her grandmother's house several hours away in another state.
She told him that when her father died, she felt she ought to grieve for him, but she could not, for he had not been kind. He had once even threatened to kill her.
"Yes. He told me he was going to kill me. But even so it was hard not to pity him in the end. He was so sick and so afraid of dying."
"He wanted to kill you?"
"I was about eight years old. My little sister had just been born. Sometimes when my mother put her in her crib, she would start to cry. It made me sad to listen to her, and so I would creep into the room very quietly, go up to her crib, and rock her very gently back and forth by the shoulders. She always stopped crying when I did that and would go to sleep. One day, I felt someone watching me and looked over. My father was standing inside the door with a very angry look on his face. He said, 'If you hurt her, I will kill you.' I don't understand why he thought I would hurt her."
It fell quiet and Sophia realized that Necat knew things about her that no one else did, things that Walter would never know. She realized that Walter, in fact, knew even less about her than she did about him. He did not even know about things that had happened since she’d come to the peninsula. At the beginning of the summer, for instance, she’d gone on a sailing trip along the southern coast of Turkey after he left the village to work at the Sunsail Club. He was vague as to whether he would ever get over to the village to see her and did not invite her to come and visit him. So when a Dutch couple with an empty cabin on their sailboat suggested she join them on their excursion, she went along. Much to her surprise, she enjoyed the trip even though she was even then suffering over him. They anchored in quiet undeveloped harbors, and the boat would rock her into deep, dream-filled sleep. One night when they were having dinner in a restaurant, an Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong album was playing - songs about love, love lost, but with something happy in them, something of having woken up to the blessing of a new day. Walter would never know about the night she sat on the side of the road as Necat fixed his motorcycle and she had turned when she felt something brushing against the back of her neck, turned to see the wild eyes of a fox meeting hers. He would not know about any of the things she’d wanted to tell him but were already disappearing from her memory.
The surface tension of the day broke, and, finally, she began to cry. It was over. Finished. Stone, bird, far, far away… The hardness of life. The terror of love. He swam far out into the sea with a stone in his hand. Once I was a child… She cried and cried.
She cried for herself as she was now and had been; for Cansel, who was dying from the bite of a viper; for Cansel's husband and sons, who would miss her; for the lonely child to whom she had talked that morning and the child's desperate mother, whom she had seen one day with a black eye; for Semra, Ogun's sister, who looked lost when she gazed at the sea in the afternoon; for Ogun, who understood nothing of the phrases he’d culled from America but had given so much of himself to say them; for the lonely wife with the lazy eye and the hardness of the man she had married; for Taner, the melancholy student of economics who was staying in the pension; for the young man who had gone to fight the Kurds and come back crazy; for Walter, who could not free himself and was going to die; for Necat, who could not marry though he lived on; for the village girls who loved Necat but had not won his heart; for her father, who had been so pitiful, and her mother, who was in pain; for the man whose son had died on a motorcycle and sat at the tea shop, looking nowhere, his son's German Shepherd sitting faithfully by his side.
It was obvious that Necat was surprised by the violence with which she cried, perhaps even a bit embarrassed. She was keening, really, keening as she remembered a group of middle-aged women doing in the street one day when they went out to mourn the loss of a teenaged son. Necat stayed beside her but turned his head side to side, as if to see if anyone was watching. The village houses were close to one another, doors hung open on this summer night, lights were on, people still up. He touched the top of her head very lightly and said a few words in Turkish, then withdrew his hand, inching closer. He murmured some additional words of Turkish, said in English, "I don’t know," took hold of her hand and led her into his house, led her to his couch. She lay down, closed her eyes, left off crying, and remained still for a few moments. Squatting beside her, he asked in Turkish if she would like a cup of tea. She shook her head no and opened her eyes to find him looking at her – he, Necat, a perfectly handsome man, with denim-blue eyes, a man of sincerity, a man whose emotions showed on his face. Yet he remained simply Necat, the beekeeper, another face passing across the lens of her fate.
"I’m sorry," she said, not knowing why she apologized.
"Your eyes very blue when you cry," he said. "Very beautiful."
She said nothing in return and he sat back on his haunches, lighting a cigarette. After taking several long drags, he spoke again, saying, "The other girl cried too. Lily."
"Lily," Sophia said.
"She was a little bit. Yes, a little bit pretty," he said.
"Lily? Are you sure it was Lily, not Lucy?" she asked, for Walter had mentioned a woman named Lucy to her, she thought.
"Lily. She love Walter. She come to me, crying and crying. She do not understand him. He say one thing, he say another. He too much crazy. I don’t know, too much drink. Too much make women cry."
Necat placed his hand on her head again. The dog she had left sleeping in the shade of the tea garden much earlier in the evening had found its way to where they were in the front room of his house. It walked through the open door, hesitant, wagging its tail, and stood staring drowsily at the two of them.
She closed her eyes and Necat got up to turn on the radio, but as soon as his back was turned, she began to cry again. For the first time since they’d met, he said her name out loud.
"Sophia, Sophia," he said. "I am here."
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