Almonds: The Pavement Runt
Evening. Only four cigarettes left in the squished carton box. I was spiraling inside, trying hard not to lose my balance. I was ashamed of trying that hard. But I couldn't risk falling, not because I wouldn't be able to get up but my knees couldn't possibly stand the pain anymore. Boulevard hid my scars, crowded as always. Letting yourself go in the people's current was easy, I had to lean on people's curves to find the strength to keep walking. Mild breeze made a nice company, I held on to it and began sliding down the road. I think I was dead inside, so I didn't let out a single cry of joy.
He was at the corner of Postacı St 1. On a thick sheet of cardboard, blowing his smoke towards all the things he didn't care for. His hair had stiffed, his nails had transformed into hooves. He had stretched his long legs on the sidewalk, playing with the one shoe hanging on his toes. His bare chest could be seen from the collar of the grayish shirt he wore. I stopped to count the ants wandering on his tan skin, the parrots popping out of his nest of a head. I would walk past him, think just another astray, another fallen. I couldn't. I got stuck there, staring at his face longing for a droplet of water. The beauty of the man pouring cologne in a plastic water bottle, sat on my throat. I couldn't move, I tried to imagine what I would do if he were to jump up and tell me to fuck off, if he attacked me even. I was unarmed, I had left my screams, nails and drunkenness at home.
What was harder than getting slapped in the face a bit wasn't grasping the miserable state he was in, it was digesting his undeniable beauty that I couldn't leave behind.
I took a step forward, despite my inner voice telling me to move on. You can't handle disintegrating, deteriorating anymore. There's nothing different to his face than others. Same desperate look, same burnt eyelashes, even the cigarette burns on his arms have the same diameter. And what do expect to get out of this? Him getting up and reading out poems? Citing Descartes? Do you want him to lay the meaning of life in front of you right on this sleazy sidewalk, or to tell you mind bending stories? How about the promise of an honest and everlasting friendship, or some Middle Eastern dance recital? Or, do you want him to replace the fork you dropped on the floor, to be the ink to your pen and the muzzle to your brain maybe? Oh I know'... You want him to be the muzzle to your brain, and the dot to your sentences.
I stood over the man. My nose was immediately invaded by his ants, the parrots in his hair stabbed me with their beaks. My skin changed its color, matching to all women's in the world. I was neither black, nor white, nor yellow, nor see-through. I was smaller than an olive pit, bigger than a begonia seed. I stood there with my nothing, proud.
Down the street, someone's birthday was being celebrated, neither of our names were pronounced.
I sneaked next to him, and sat on the unoccupied part of the cardboard, tucked one of my legs under. I didn't make a sound, I just sat there, waiting to be kicked out. My earrings were ripping my lobes apart, I took both of them off and threw out on the road. His eyes watched the earrings roll away. In circles, we spread on the concrete, we both gulped, as if there were acid in our stomachs.
I laid my cigarettes in front of him. He took one and lit it with a match I couldn't figure out where he took out from. Three left. It was colder now, my back had arched like a cat who spotted a dog. He covered my shoulders with his arm. I stretched my leg on the cold sidewalk, tiny pebbles got stuck in my skin.
He brought the plastic bottle near my lips, it startled me. I pulled my head back, so he poured some of the cologne on my palms. I wiped my temples with it. He had to have a name. I had to find it, before he told me.
"Ali," I said. He shook his head, telling I failed.
"Ahmet, Mehmet, Arif, Osman, Ercan, Serhan, Kamil," I tried.
"Sait, Davud, Ismael, Ezekiel, Yakub."
The lamps on the Postacı St. weren't lit. As the night fell, the dark became his face and his eyes the light.
"Almond!" I said. He was relieved. Almond.
Bottles wrapped in newspaper, but always the third page. The seconds I spent not answering calls, others talking to voicemail. The hair I found in my meal, the pain tying up my guts. The pesky plant poisoning in its vase, my ice-cream, melting in its cup. My almond. The one my teeth couldn't crack.
I thought about spitting the anger I'd been building up for thirty years, right on your laid back upper body. Smearing that saliva on your desperation. I wanted to sprinkle all of my split ends on this sidewalk, and you would scrape the ones I lost from my insides. Look, the evening with its never-ending ringtones, shiny cars, rolled placemats and high-pitched laughter, in our throats. The evening, in pain, down the street. We clung on it. Why hadn't we let go of it, and moved on to the night? We could be in every pack of napkin, we could be the fallen pennies in corners. Almond's matches without a known source burnt my eyebrows. Two left. Just us two. The news hurt my pride, the suits, the working around the clocks, the ties, the polished shoes. The times when I was left alone in all of the three islands, when I couldn't pay what I ate, the barbed wire encaptivating my father, hurt me pride. If I was a man, I could go and be with him. I couldn't stand living in captivity here with skirts and bras, while I could be with him with a simple assault charge.
If Almond told me to tell, to surrender, if he just looked at me, I would inflate and cover the street, beat it with my upper body. I would stand before the president, the gangs, the parties and the votes too and spit on them. I would slash the devoted mobs with a sword, bend the rails on which the tram flew with my one hand, and ask the senseless crowd what they wanted. I would at least try to understand what they wanted to get out of Almond, by examining their installments, pay slips, clueless faces. I would definitely ask about all the pennies thrown in front of Ahmet, even though he didn't beg for money.
If he just looked'...
Did Almond have to speak to a microphone and echo throughout the city to make people understand that he was actually content with his life?
Almond, who was now laying on my lap under the dark of Postacı Street's lights. The responsibility of asking account for Almond, including Almond in my responsibility'...
If he just looked'...
If he thawed and gave me consent'...
He unbuttoned the top of his shirt. I couldn't bare the scar under his chest, the scar that screamed hell didn't lead to heaven. I looked at Almond with puppy eyes. He drank up from the plastic bottle.
As his head came down with the bottle, he looked at me. I began talking.
I SHUSHED, MY FLESH TOLD THE STORY OF ALMOND'S WRINKLED SKIN. WE RAN, FLED THE SCENE OF POSTACI ST. THE SMOKE OF OUR LAST CIGARETTES BURNT, TEARED OUR EYES. HE CONFESSED, ALMOND. MY RENT IS JUST 250 LIRAS. I CONFESSED. I HAVE NO POWER AT HOME. WE HELD EACH OTHER'S HANDS, AND RAN DOWN SLOPES. WHEN WE STOPPED TO CATCH SOME BREATH, HIS SWEAT AND MY COLOGNE SCENT PREVAILED. WE KEPT ON RUNNING. WE WROTE OUR STORY ON THE NAPKINS WE COLLECTED FROM BREWERIES. HE DRANK SPIRIT, MY FATHER'S VISITATION DAY WAS OVER, I COULDN'T MAKE IT. I HAD CRAMPS IN MY ARMS AND LEGS. WE WALKED, FAR FROM THE BUZZING SOUND OF SHRILL PIPES. THE SEA WAS CALM, WE JUMPED IN, HALIBUTS WERE DESPERATE TO BE LOVED, AND SO WE DID. WE GOT OUT OF THE WATER, WE WERE HALF-FISH. MAYBE OUR MENTALITIES WERE CORRUPT SINCE THE BEGINNING, WE SWAM AGAIN. BUTTERFLY. FROG. WE COULD LIVE FOR A DAY. WE DIDN'T PICK UP THE PHONES, HE CONFESSED.
"I WAS A PICKPOCKET, HIRED TO WORK IN ISTANBUL ALL THE WAY FROM DIYARBAKIR. BUT MISERY IS BETTER THAN STEALING. THAN SNATCHING AND RUNNING. 25O MILLION LIRAS, HE SAID. OF COURSE THAT WAS OLD MONEY. IT DIDN'T CIRCULATE ANYMORE. WE WERE GETTING OLDER. INFLATION WAS BEATING US. AS IF OUR CHARIS WERE BEING PULLED UNDER US, WE WERE AFRAID. OTHER LANGUAGES WERE EATING OURS. 250 MILLION, HE SAID, FROM DIYARKBAKIR, THEY PAID MY MA'. SHE DIDN'T MIND, SHE WAS HUNGRY."
I WAS STARING AT HIM LIKE A CAT DROOLING OVER MEAT. MY BALANCE WAS PERFECT NOW. I WAS COMING DOWN, I WAS A SHRILL PIPE, BUZZING. MY FACE WAS BROKEN INTO PIECES, FOR ALMOND I HAD NO FACE. I COULDN'T SEE MY FATHER, THE FLOOR WAS SHAKING. WINTER IS AROUND THE CORNER, I SAID. DON'T YOU WANT TO BE WHERE IT'S WARM?
GO TO MY FATHER'S, IT'S WARM IN THERE. KEEP AN EYE ON HIM. HIS EYES CROSSED AT FIRST, THEN HE WENT BLIND. GIVE ME YOUR HAND, I SAID TO HIM. I'LL MAKE YOU RUN. THE NIGHT HAD COME. THAT WOMAN'S CLUTCH, SHE'S EXITING THE OPERA HOUSE. IT'S SNAKESKIN. SNATCH IT AND RUN. IT'S YOUR DESTINY. 2
In winters, bars were the warmest. Almond's hired chest got seared on the iron of the ward.
1 A Street at the Istiklal Street, in Beyoglu, Istanbul.
2 In Turkey, some poor persons do burglary, purse snatching or commit that kind of crime to stay in prison for to stay warm in the cold weather, or to eat properly.
is a Turkish author, full-time resident in Georgia, escaped from the oppression in Turkey. She has five published books (Iskele (The Port), Olivya Çıkmazı (Olivia's Impasse), Hayvanların Tarafı (The Animal Side), Gök Derinin Altında (Subdermal Sky) and Kadın Kürkünde Rüya (Dream in Woman's Fur) in Turkish, now working for to be published internationally. Since 2009, she has been actively writing in various magazines and won couple of important awards in Turkey. She is a proud feminist activist.