We were walking to the bus stop, as has been our routine every morning for over
a year or so. It was cold and drizzly. The air we breathed was coming out of
our mouths like a big cloud of steam and moving ahead of us creating a light
fog through which we were walking. He walked fast, I was trying to keep up
with him in my high heel boots. "You aren't cold are you?" he asked. "No," I
said. He was wearing a duffel coat and a hat. His moustache shone with
freezing water particles from the humid air and that gave him a look of a
character in a Jack London story. I looked at him. He looked at me. "We like
tough weather, don't we?" he said seeking for a confirmation. "Yes," I said.
"We winter people have steeled faces, we don't feel cold as much as others do!"
It was one of the things we shared: our winter birthdays. He somehow made it
a point of brag. "It makes a difference," he said, "the month you are born in
shapes up who you are. If you are a winter child that hardens you from the very
beginning." "I'm sure it does," I said. He smiled. I smiled back at him. I
put my arm into his. We passed by the newsstand, I glanced at the headlines
of the morning papers. They were still outraged with the assassination of the
eminent journalist. We all were. "Terrible," I said. He knew what I was
talking about. "They don't want this country to progress," he said, "they
can't stand our abundance of resources and potential to develop."
'They' were our internal and external enemies. He would say that all the time.
To him, we were surrounded by 'them', and it was our duty to distinguish them.
In fact, it was one of my duties to fight against them. "Ignorance, too," he
said, "ignorance is what makes these people commit those inhuman crimes."
Terror was rising, journalists, students, politicians, people on the street
fell victims to the bombs placed at public places. Where was this country
going? "Things will get better when everybody does his or her share. Never
despair, there are good people in the world as well, and they are in the
majority but the harmful ones make a lot of noise."
¨We had become closer to one another during my boarding school years,
especially during my junior year. I was already eighteen, and he was taking me
seriously. I felt myself all matured up and much older than I was. I was ready
to finish school and go out to fight with all the injustices of the world. He
would visit me at school on the weekends. We would talk about everything,
politics, history, daily events, and mostly philosophy in the visitors' parlor.
Usually, there would be nobody there, just the two of us. He would bring me
some small treats and food, mostly my favorite snacks. It was a weekly ritual
for me to expect that call from the operator telling me that I had a visitor.
I would run down the stairs from my dormitory room, run through the long and
dark hallways that would make me feel as if I was running away from a ghost in
a haunted house, and then would come to that big Hall with a shiny marble floor
that looked like an entrance to a far-eastern temple. He would stand there
waiting for me, in his suit and tie, always looking his best. I would run into
his arms. I would hold his hand and take him to the parlor if the weather was
not good. When it was sunny we would take a walk to the plateau where the most
enchanting view of the world would lay its dazzling beauty right in front of
us, the Bosphorus, as we looked from Europe to Asia. Then, we would talk as we
walked like Aristotelian peripatetics. He had answers to all my questions.
When we stayed inside, he would do most of the talking, I would listen to him
as if he was one of my professors, lecturing on an important course topic,
about life basically. He had such a clear mind. He would make it sound so
interesting with all the history and humor sprinkled wittily among his words
that I would not know how fast time went by. He would never stay longer than
an hour. "Well, back to your studies, make the best use of your time here,
read, and study and think." Life was full of challenges and we were here on
earth to meet them. "Harder the battle sweeter the victory is," he would say,
"and know thyself. Once you know who you are and what you can do go for it if
it is for a good cause. And do not forget, accumulate as much knowledge as you
can till you are twenty-five, you won't be found credible if you start
preaching others earlier than that."
Those seven years had gone by full of happiness and tears. Many things changed
both in this country and in our lives. Due to the violence on the streets and
at the universities I was not at school any more. I had a well-paying job at
an international company. As for him, he somehow felt sick one night and got
hospitalized. When his health deteriorated he did not take himself seriously,
he thought it was not a big deal of concern. His stay in the hospital gave no
sign of recovery for weeks. Suddenly, one day he opened his eyes and said he
felt great and wanted to check out. So he did. I visited him frequently and
thought about what would happen if I lost him. Nothing was the same any
longer. The only thing that remained to be the same was our morning chats.
Seven years of close companionship, seven years of understanding one another
despite some tiffs and small ups and downs from time to time. That year, the
magic year in my life -- and maybe that was why I was feeling more and more
comfortable and confident next to him lately --I had just turned twenty-five.
We were almost at the bus stop; our destinations were in two different
directions; he would go southbound and I up north. He would take a bus and I
would take a taxi. He wouldn't take a taxi, he'd rather take a bus like most
people did, public life should be shared with the public, and otherwise you
would feel lonely in this world. I waited with him till the bus came; "I can't
imagine how such a decent man is killed that brutally, he was a little over
fifty." I said going back to the assassination of the journalist. "You're
right, he was fifty-one, at the peak of his career, just a year younger than
me. Life is full of unexpected twists and turns," he said, " try to do all you
can while you can, the good things though, the kinds of things that will not
hurt others, and that you won't regret." The bus came, I wished him a
productive day at work, that was part of our ritual too. He joined in the line
of people who were taking the same bus, he looked back at me and I waved at
him, the bus took off, first slowly then moving faster.
I stood there for a second or two before I hailed a cab. I was thinking about
the walk and our talk. I remembered our hour-long conversations back at the
yellow parlor in the Marble Hall. I never said I loved him. He never said he
loved me either. But I knew very well that he loved me and I loved him dearly,
he was my hero and I was his light. The only thing I did not know then was that
this was our last morning together.
The routine of the office went on till after lunch. When the phone rang I was
ready for another one of those calls where I had to say "the computer
print-outs are not ready due to the system failure." But the person on the
other end of the line was giving me directions to a state hospital checking my
name and his, which he said he was reading from his phone book as the person to
call in case of emergency.
I found myself on the street hailing a cab. I was not ready for anything bad,
"Oh, please God please, no bomb attacks, no accidents, please!" I was trying to
keep my hopes high. I rushed through the doors, I found a nurse, I gave her my
name and his, I looked at her deep in the eye and asked, "where's he?" She
looked at me and then lowered her eyes, without saying anything she led me to a
room and opened the door and stood right outside holding it open for me.
There he was, lying on a stretcher, in his plaid shirt, his hand with the watch
on his chest, eyes closed, looking like he was in a deep sleep. He was in a
deep sleep, for he never woke up again. His heart played him a trick and
stopped with no advance warning just as he was getting ready for lunch, he was
found by one of his colleagues at a sleeping position at his desk.
Every February 7th, I light three candles: one for him, one for all those good
people who died before him, and one as my promise to him to keep on his light.
This year the ritual has slightly changed: I'll light a candle for all other
good people who died before him; my daughter will light a candle for the
grandfather she never got to see, and my son (*) will light a candle --the
light he wanted us to carry on.
Yasemin Alptekin Oğuzertem(*) His name is Ishik
7 February 2000 - Ankara
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