Olivia’s Impasse

Houses of stone spiral into a street, one house carries the plates that read “Olivia St.” and a dead-end sign. Is it truly a dead end? Has anyone ever walked in to see? Someone must have, probably way before I came here though. At a corner of that street, a tiny chocolatier, beautiful Olivia behind the counter, maybe she is the dead end, encaptivating everybody that walks in. In that chocolatier, Olivia tasted all the chocolate and all the praline she could. A black ribbon holding her hair back, she couldn’t possibly have resisted dipping her fingers in French chocolate. Maybe her thin and bony fingers filled the molds of chocolate with poison instead of liqueur – don’t all French women have long and thin fingers – people must have asked her a thousand times if she played the piano, and who knows how she fled the question. Or maybe, I wonder if she poured some of that liqueurs in crystal glasses and bottomed up, behind the closed doors of the shop, in the dark. One, two, three, and four and five.
Someone must have checked the end of the street. For sure.
It’s February something today, the day when I entered Olivia Street. If only I could rub my cheeks against the fur of that cat licking its bum, right over there. I can’t. It must be filthy. I was after all, the proud owner of the “never had lice” title in primary school, in our class of sixty. One cup of coffee, two cups of coffee, I can’t ease my rage in Olivia’s dead-end. It’s like want to distill as much rage as my age, from coffee. I go far enough to admit that I do, no hesitation whatsoever.
Click, clack- on four inch heel I came here, through rather rough neighborhoods, knowing shop owners or lurkers who sit in sidewalks look, without hesitation, without shame, they look, eating with their eyes. What the heck I walked right at the end of the Galata Tower too. I love cobblestones, I do, but what about all that wasted money, either shoes taken off or resistance that ends up in broken heels. Different languages, swirling into my ears as my heel breaks free of the hard shell.
Beneath the tower, I waited for her to lift her skirts up, so I could see her legs. I rubbed my hands on its walls, come on now, lift your skirt up tower! From your legs I could climb to your chest, tower.
The cat, stares at me with green eyes. Not a tabby, surely not a yellow cat. A weird mixture, who knows which of Olivia’s cats lead to this one’s birth. She fed them secretly, behind Monsieur’s back – Olivia never said his name, Monsieur was her boss. Leftover sausage and salami, such a feast they were for the cats! The way they scrambled for food always worried her, the noise could have alerted an upstairs neighbor, who could very well complain to Monsieur. “That girl of yours,” they would say. “She keeps feedin’ em cats! Meowin’ all night every night, we can’t sleep. They won’t leave either you knaw, they think of here as their home.”
What beef these Turkish folks had with cats, Olivia kept thinking. If only cats could get some of that mercy shown for dogs…
When it gets dark the day ends, Olivia would take of her black ribbon and wear her black beret, lean it to right a bit. She would lock the shop and leave.
Two cigarettes for every cup of coffee. My heart pounds faster than normal. I have no pity for any part of me.
Olivia, though, she loved filter coffee. No milk, tiny bit of sugar. She wouldn’t have breakfast in the mornings, drank two cups of coffee instead. The widow that lived two stairs up kept cornering her, asking about how she stayed so slim. Was Olivia shy at such encounters? Would she say that it’s because of her mother’s genes? The one who didn’t shed a single tear when I left the house.
I stand straight before Olivia’s mother. It’s not my place, but I am furious. I grab her arm, tight. Why, I ask her, why didn’t you tell her to stay you pesky woman? Isn’t Olivia your only daughter, your only child? You won’t see her ever again – I shake my finger at her – she will parish in Istanbul, your daughter will be abandoned there. That Ottomanish douche will soon get rid of her. Don’t be that obstinate, just ask her to stay!
She won’t. Damn you, I say and let go of her arm. I hope you die.
Four months after she stepped foot in Istanbul, Olivia stopped painting her lips red. There, at that chocolatier she started working, rented a room in Monsieur’s cousin’s pension. During her fifteen minutes of commute to work in the mornings, she held on tight to the collars of her coat.
I will haunt you, Ottoman piece of shit!
How could you left her, among these people she can’t understand? “A foreigner” isn’t she? She’ll get by, right? Not alike to the women in your country, not chubby, slender even, her skin is so pale, you see her veins moving through her neck. A whole different attitude, charming maybe? It’s that difference that made her so tempting at first, right? And foreigners, they don’t play hard to get, right?
Then you began longing for more flesh, chests ornamented with gold, hands with henna on them. Didn’t you? Layers of fat on bellies, just a pooch huh? Yeah, right… You would kill for some stuffed grape leaves, some lentil soup with lemon and your wife to lay in silence while you mount her, right?
You are despicable. Do you think you are entitled? Because you have a family at home, because you work in foreign affairs… That French girl, who even is she next to Mister Consulate?
It’s February something.
“What are you writing? Is that a journal?
“Excuse me, did I scare you?”
“A poem – I’m writing a poem.”
“Can I get you something to eat? You only had coffee since you sat down, your stomach…”
“No, I’m fine, thank you.”
I don’t keep a diary, you silly man! I always lie to myself… Am I going to put those lies in writing and look at my incubi? All I can do is to be here at this dead-end. I sit and wait for Olivia. Maybe draw an image of her, in the eye of the cat. Daunting, that would be. And daunted, I would switch to wine, ten liras a glass. White wine. So that my tarred insides maybe glow under city lights.
Olivia had finished a book in her ten ambitious years in Istanbul. Upon her death, an antique enthusiast writer who lived in a house with dusty shelves bought it, from the peddler to whom Monsieur sold Olivia’s stuff.
The writer got it translated to Turkish. Then had it published with his name on it, and a fancy posed picture of himself at the back cover. The book literally swiped prizes the year it came out.
The heels are kicking my chest. Click, clack, click! The tower isn’t lifting up her skirts, agitated fingers rush to strangle me. The waiter shoos the cat away.
People always do that. They shoo the cats away, and mostly on the 20th of February…
One more glass, since the tower doesn’t lift up her skirts, since this street doesn’t lead to anywhere.
Oh! There you are! Waiving from ahead of the street. You’re well aware that I’ll complain about being stood up. So you lean in and land a kiss on my neck, whispering: “My dear Olivia…”

From the book Olivia’s Impasse, 2009-2011

Translation: Eylul Deniz Doganay

Illustration: Brice Postma Uzel

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