Before I tore my legs off, I saw on my knees and ankles scar tissues in various shapes whitened in time. When did you guys settled in here? The eldest, the one with stitches, talked, “I came around the time when you didn’t have a bike. You were in your summer house, you see, and ran after other girls who had bikes. A bike was the first thing you lacked, and so you bet on your knees in the race between parks. You didn’t have a bike because there were no one around to teach you how to ride, which sucked. So you ran faster, and kissed the ground. If it weren’t for me, your grandmother wouldn’t get you that bike, or ask your neighbor, Ali, the retired cop to help you ride it.”
The one under it to the right blurted out from the shin it sat on, “I’m from the summer house too. You were running again. You might not even remember this, but you were running after that song you adored, the one blasting it out of his stereo, I mean, you wasted that lovely simoom night. Tires lifted up sand, you thought you couldn’t see anymore, and there were newly placed curbs, and… That’s how you got me.”
Way up my knee, three white lines spoke together with a shy note. “We…” they paused and went on. “You’re our maker. It was one of your attempts at dying. We’re not sure if we were meant for you to see how much it would hurt, or to relocate the pain in your heart. With a green snap blade knife, three cuts, one long line, one intermittent short line, and another long one. The cuts weren’t deep, it didn’t hurt a lot, but we felt it all right, down to every cell. We bled, told you to stop. You ached for days, which felt good. So, we stopped whining.”
From the back of my thigh, I heard, “Well, hear this! You were in your early twenties, I believe. One night, you were in Kabataş, and drunk, and alone. You were listening to the sea, bathing with the wind. A stray showed up, gnarring. It scared you, but you reached a hand anyway. For a while it let you pet its head, its neck. You caressed it, felt warmth under your hands. You wanted to lean in and put your arms around it. Only this time, the dog got scared, it darted at your leg resting on grass, you pulled back, but it was far more superior. The minute you turned your back to run, it shoved its teeth through your skin, you shrunk in pain, but it stopped caring about you, and left.”
The dark red scar in the shape of a rectangle stood quiet in its spot, near the achilles of my left ankle. I waited; it didn’t speak. I ran my finger on it awhile, it sighed with a note of longing to be touched. Finally, the sighs turned into words, “I’m the newbie. I’m young. I’m the result of a serious injury, but still others look down on me. You know that you got me while you ran away, from them.” It shivered. I couldn’t look at it. “The forest gets pretty scary at night, especially for intruders. Trees raise all their branches high up and around the area, to protect what’s inside. But those who know the forest, the regulars, one might say, also know that the nights are the purest of times, when the forest welcomes its children, with open arms. You, you thought you knew. It had only been a couple of months since you first approached the area, but you assumed you belonged with it. You fed the night portions to the horses, got your little flashlight, and went out for a walk. Snaps and wutherings didn’t scare you, nor the yowling of animals, howl of owls. You made it to the beech tree. A root that came out from its bottom did scare you, left you stunned. Your mouth went dry. When the root reached your neck, the moon played with shadows, you weren’t being pulled to the trunk, you were completing yourself, on your own, with the tree. But at that moment, you knew the extent of your loneliness. You were the only being with the ability to talk in the forest, and nothing but a particle in the eyes of all forests. You were afraid. You tried to imagine all forests of the universe, remember what you read. You felt true fear for the first time, you who walked the darkest alleys of cities, you who were stuck under ruins and found your way out, you, while you were kept under that tree and waited to be strangled by a branch at any moment. The scariest part was not being able to scream, use the notes granted to humans. You managed to tear yourself apart from the trunk, you ran towards the horses. You didn’t know if it were your ears or the forest that hummed, but you put away your flashlight and listened. Your heart was pounding out of your chest. You ached, your skin on fire. You heard it. They were calling out your name. You thought you were screaming, but your mouth was shut. In a split second you were back at the tree trunk, you shoved your ankle to the tip of that root that held you. It hurt, but that was okay. Because you knew you were okay too.”
My feet were clean, no one had given them any love.
When I tore my pelvis apart from where it was tied to my hips, those big circles came together at my belly button. Right over my stomach, taking my intestines in, and right across my kidneys, my vagina, ovaries, stomach, and groins, all in. My pieces were quiet, and I liked that. Then a faraway, screeching melody struck my ears. The more they stood apart, the more I leaned in closer, it felt easier to drown in their chaos… I sensed that they had something to say before breaking into pieces. That, and I was curious to find out if this ass of mine that I’d been sitting on for years had at least some character, and it seemed it quite eager to tell. I stood on my hands and gave it an ear. It was large, and fat. It spoke softly. Felt hearable. But I wish I hadn’t.
“I hurt you the most,” it said. “It was me. So, hear me before we all rot away. I owe you that. You were stared at because of me. You were always wanted, even when you said the harshest no. It wasn’t a desire that they could delay. They all remembered the nights they ruled over your ass, without your face, just me. I satisfied them. I’m not going to mention my shape, or how good it is, you crushed me the most. But in the meantime, I took pleasure in the idea of pleasure that I was going to provide for others with my curve upwards, like that of a stretching cat. I was part of the reason your back ached, the fanciest beds couldn’t fix it, we spent nights bent in half. When you uttered your last words and turned your back to leave – exactly then – I raised myself higher, I became a symbol of inaccessibility but desired to be held. That was my way of being missed, and remembered. And they did miss me. I know that because I’m the first to hear what they say behind your back. We share a common pain, a common secret. Let me say it out loud, just once. Because when letters don’t become sounds, the memory just doesn’t fit in its place, not at its finest. If it’s said out loud just once, the road to confession is cleared, then you can advance, with ease.That one time, he pulled me and you couldn’t resist, hugged your back. Maybe I was the one keeping you calm at first, but it was the first time that I was being held by someone else, other than you. I thought I was worth an entire novel, I was proud to be pulled like that, it must have made me irresistible to taste, because when his teeth penetrated my right cheek, I, uhm I knew that I had to stay still, out of experience, you know, the incident with the stray. Anyway, this was perceived as obedience and I was pierced into, maybe no new canals were added to the surface of the earth or anything, but I became the tears of nature she sheds when canals are built. I watched your arms while it happened, they were being held captive under his one hand, desperate, pinned down. I had never asked for it. For days after I drained out the mud of the freshly drilled canals. I bled, I burned, but I let the artificial pour out from our skin, and down to soil.”
Its story was both hard to tell and to listen. I turned to the pit involuntarily tied to my flesh, veins, ovaries and womb. This time I was prepared, nothing I didn’t already know could come out of there. I had both imagined and felt this compact and floral system with my own hands, many times in fact. Although, I didn’t particularly relish hearing my ovaries talk, since they always repeated the same old story, sugar coated it in somewhat different ways to tell to the same type of people while I was bored to death, I gave them their shot at being heard, for the sake of all the people who deserved one last chance.
“We were never a problem to you. Never once you were in doubt, about us. We were the ones who sucked all the curse and gloom of the rest of your organs. You never feared the flow of tiny worms flooding towards us, you were sure that we would never let any of them in. And yes, we didn’t. Regardless of their producer, we thought the same for all of them, they all had to be eliminated, and we’re proud that we did exactly that. The weak cries of that hormone you released every month, oh we so ignored it. Instead, we followed the face callings of the pill, which ultimately led to our salvation. No pain, no sore breasts, no bloating, no mood shifts and voila! We succeeded at not creating the embryo you didn’t want. You feared if we did, you would keep it. You feared once you saw it grow limbs and a face, there would be no turning back, so we made sure. We worked hard, there has been hiccups along the way, but we prevailed once we got the taste of rejection. We didn’t let anyone in through the tube. One did get away once, but by that time we were strong. One push and some whimpering, it was out.”
One whole leg and one whole hip were gone. I was left with my hazed cervix, and I adored it, so I slipped my fingers deep into my vagina. I lifted it up, brought it closer to my face. I smiled. All it ever struggled with, the entire history of my troubles. My identification. The way it stood apart from me, the distance between us, might have been the most hilarious thing to see from afar. I looked at it, for a while. Thought of all the men I could think of, by the names Kant, Sade, Pushkin, Aristotle, Descartes, Newton, Longinus, Hegel, Burke, Shelley, King, Prince, Slave, Warrior, Freud and Lacan, Suleiman, Ebussuud and Ibn Khaldun. The Shayk-al-Islams and qadis, sultans, feudal lords and imams, heads of state, deputies, Atatürk, my father and my uncles, my grandfather. It had become my reality, which in itself was epic. It entailed the nucleus that made me who I was. It was the crime I meant to commit; the indicator of the name I was going to be given. It made me cry often, it made me guilty. I regretted most stuff, until something in it told me not to regret anymore, call it common sense, freedom, jealousy, my pain in the ass, hard to control, weakling of an organ. It was my crime, it appeared as a small bump that made me feel better when I pressed my hand on it, it went slippery when I ran my fingers on its lips, it often wondered about being touched by the hands of others, but in the end it stopped wanting to be touched altogether. Something extra, to be shaved off, the plate of the eighth orphan added to the table. What makes me reckless, and oppose castration, a flag of rebellion that waved up high until I ripped it from my body. The first cut of a sword, the one I turned to cry when I couldn’t fit myself anywhere under the burden of the problems it caused; the thing that made me want to stand somewhere public and ask aloud what everyone wanted from it, either without any clothes or a lot. I never wanted it. It was put there. Someone put it there without my knowledge, between parenthesis shaped groins, my legs that I cut, between the cheeks of my butt that burned when I sat on hot sand.
No, no I couldn’t promise it anything. If it spoke, there wasn’t going to be any more of my novel-material wonderful of a life. Giving it the platform to speak would mean hearing from the countless women who lived before me, and I didn’t have that collective courage, because if I did, my body would still be one piece. But again, it spoke.
“I was the crime you meant to commit, because ever since you got caught -must have been the fifth time, you eventually did get caught- I put a sign on your back. Do I need to remind you what happened after?” it asked, with a smug tone. “At the summer house, on the beach. You had your green swimsuit on, someone came up to you. You couldn’t figure out whether it was a man or a woman. Like we always have to figure that out! Right?! Any who, they helped you build that sand castle, and slipped their hand into your wet swimsuit. Maybe it was that exact moment when I became your crime. But you forgot about that. Erased its memory. Not even therapy sessions brought it back up. You dreamed about it once in a while, but it wouldn’t be there anymore when you woke up. It was quite alright for a while, wasn’t it? You never worried about the first times, you never needed to, because you didn’t remember. In fact you think of that other time as your insignificant first, but I’m telling you, it was that time on the beach. Not a man, not a woman, but they had a one-piece speedo on. Black lines over red. And you, you were smooth as a feather, so young and tiny. Maybe not even five, yes you were definitely younger than five. Your grandfather was still alive, he had come right after, taken your hand and took you to swimming. He passed away when you were five. Do the math. DO IT! You can’t get to twenty-one, can you? The sixteen years between seem dark to you. It wasn’t him. I was your crime, so you erased the actual first. Not a man, not a woman. You heard me at some point, you fell, and I was already touched, so you fell harder. The day I bled you didn’t panic, at all. I admired that, truly. Because the ones before you, almost all of them were genuinely afraid, and sought help. From the closest woman, or someone. Anyone. But you, you didn’t say a word to anyone.
It was a summer like no other. You had those tiny shorts on, your front teeth ready to eject. At the Ferris wheel in the park of that camp, you were with that girl, three years older than you. You guys went on and on, but after a couple of rounds you decided to go swimming. So, you went to the room to get changed. You saw a smudge on your cotton panties. You remained calm, left the room in your swimsuit. You stole a pad from the purse of a lady on the beach. You wore it, and met with the girl, but didn’t get in the water. The next day, you couldn’t resist the shimmering sea, and how convenient -remember- your left foot’s toenail was hurting, you put on your swimsuit, without a pad, went up to your girlfriend and asked her to swim. You were worried that a red circle would follow you in the water, so you mentioned her about your toenail, said that it could bleed. So the risk of trying to explain where that blood was coming from was eliminated. Good job you! But water around you didn’t turn red. You kept stealing pads from women, though. All summer long, afraid to even toss out the used ones, but rather packing them into your blue backpack where your cassette collection was, you got through every month. In fact, for a whole year, you managed to hide your period from everyone. I either don’t remember how they eventually found out about it, or don’t want to remember.
The touch; it didn’t leave a mark for you to see, but I carried the print of the finger that slipped through down there, where I produce more of us. In time, I too have forgotten about it, erased it. If you think of your forgotten memories as nonexistent, if you naturally exclude them while you reminisce, they cannot be seen on your skin. Because of that, I didn’t come out until the day you actually wanted to be touched. I was there watching, when you two shared a cigarette and it let out that smoke, it stayed there, didn’t dissipate, in the setting sun’s beams piercing through the room you two shared. Neither of you tried to break it apart. I, I once had a thin layer inside. I thought about that layer, the wall it was, who was it going to be to tear that down, if destiny was involved in all this, and why its presence led to a series of ontological questions. Pondering, I saw a shadow come near it, but it couldn’t get to me. Because your fingers pushed it away. From a great distance, I saw it again. But this time it was your fingers who came straight at me, you had to deal with that wall yourself apparently -it was wrong to invest so much in a simple membrane. I was relieved to have them there, I didn’t cause any pain because I saw the true intention of your fingers coming in to tear my wall down. I was adored, caressed properly and cut in half. I did cry a little, and hid the friction coefficient. I saw you often after that, over me, sometimes behind a penis piercing through me. With joy I flexed, with sorrow I clenched, I saw the sea beyond me, and knew that to be me. I held the tips that came in, sometimes I sent them right back out with a burst, towards the end I had even witnessed you smile. I was struck, shook, I named that shadow, loved it, I got used to its visits. I glimpsed into the ending when it peeked through my cave, it was an ending where the rosebud grew big and pink and the nightingale disappeared into the light. I swam through the seven layers of eternal life, and in the ninth I was stuck. Still, I had to ask about you so I begged, and I saw you there, one with IT.”
Evanescent! That’s what they all said, evanescent.
I’m staring at my body, once whole, its quiet, motionless, rhythmless parts, all separated, as if they didn’t make me up once, as if my bones didn’t unite and carry me, as if the memories stuffed in that skull weren’t mine, but someone else’s. As daring as those people who think of their life as novel material, I do my best to honor the rupture, I’m looking at the half top of my body from afar. As if it’s obligatory for people who write to match at least some of their output to their past. With a purpose somewhere between self-justification and self-gratification in the eyes of others, I’ve prepared myself to speak up with my chin up, and welcome the question was it really you who experienced all this? into my destinations, and then hushed my thoughts, reminisced my father, and stared at me, until the parts I disposed rot.
I grabbed my shoulders and laid myself on the soil, light as a feather. I crawled and turned to my side, my nose touched the earth, I drank it. Once uncovered, the light came up and into my lungs, waters ran to the numb roots of my hair, set them on fire. I turned to my other side, I heard my heart beating, down below, and the first time a muscle letting go the bone it held on to, the rot had begun. Other things were going on at the same time, on and under the soil, the voices were telling me to go to them, but I turned a blind eye and focused on penetrating the soil, through the pit I dug with my upper body. Roots heard me coming and came to get everything left inside me. I watched a thin branch enter through my navel tremble its way in. I hurried to give them my stomach, lungs and intestines. They held them and the rest of me tight, owned my cells, rightfully took what was promised to them centuries ago. I heard it, the song started at my stapes, it had its own drums. My ear bent inwards, sealed itself with its lobe, so I turned to my other ear, wanted it to hear the song. But they didn’t sing for it, they grabbed it by the incus and a vein came through the back of neck to my jawline. The vein sang for my ear. It resembled the way I cried when I was born, or let out of that giant dick we might say, I remembered. The first note was silent, and it glowed in the dark. I searched for my impenetrable womb, found it lying somewhere and threw it to the mouth sucking my intestines. I stood on my elbows and moved afar from my bottom half, then went to a handstand, pushed out the soil accumulated in my nostrils. I took one last breath and dived in, looked at my cropped body from below, the remaining parts of my thighs had thin hairs on them, dancing, and on fire.
I felt no pain, and all there was only one thing left to do; to break my spine apart, so that I could be less than a skeleton with missing pieces. I stretched, got as comfortable as possible and shoved my fingers deep into my heart, until I felt the mud fill under my nails. My body fell on its back and cold dirt kissed my kidneys, I tasted it. I felt another veiny branch enter, sending shivers down my eyelashes, hence I knew; I was being taken over by nature and my new suit was a layer of velvety grass. I dug deeper with my head, I had to be less of a bump on the ground. I assumed that this was my moment of escape, from the body I had, a smear on earth.
I moved my mouth closer to my ears, and let out syllables, I may have come the closest to the first sounds ever pronounced. I heard, through my voice, a musical, louder than a star storm, stronger than a disaster on earth.
Ayınna ni ni ni une kuyu haaaaaay uyu.
I felt the times my nose sizzled, my throat ached and my eyes teared up, then they evaporated. My meek musical stripped me from all concepts of time, and there, or nowhere, I used remaining muscles for the last time and through the two leafy branches out of my mouth, to sing until the last syllable.
Ke ke vay an vay an ba ba ba de de de ku ma ma ma. Na na na.
All of flesh and bones were now theirs. I welcomed all the roots, thin and thick, even those ripped through my watery tear ducts. My last breath had to go through the hard way out. I had to spray it where I wanted, as much as I could want. My lungs had already been covered with nitrogen, but I poked it and gave it the little air present underground. I exhaled, then asked them to take all of me. The moment my morrow touched the root, I began waiting for the darkest hour of the offering. After that, I was let go, my teeth were sprinkled around, soil touched my gums and corners of the earth continued to dilate, but I, was never born again.
This room, is the me room. There’s no poems in here, but a couple verses left from the ancient poets. It’s white. It’s dark, I don’t use candles. Not for light, not for inflicting pain. Because your poems weren’t good enough to make me want to drip hot goo on my wrists. This is the me room. Nothing talks here. If I consider myself the only being here, then I too am silent. But this magnificent, unique story is craving to be told, even the table is anxious to carry the pages of the up and coming novel. And the bed, it’s dying to take my name downstairs to hell and bring me back up with night terrors, the option of a trip to heaven doesn’t interest it, not a bit. Everything in the closet is white. Clothes do smell of something, but what? Back to colorlessness, the sleeves of shirts carry their previous wearers sweat marks, how do they still absorb all the light? Then there are lip stains on collars, how are they there and not there at the same time? This room is me. No one else had been in here. Only the polistai stirred my bones. I walked up and down the room, hit its four walls. Every time I hit a will, I found a crack and went through, then found the next crack and through there I went, to places that resembled me. There, I saw cats killed by humans, freaks who steal bread from the boniest strays, and other people who climb to the necks of giraffes and assume they are tall. I saw the armored vehicles driving past dead children in the dessert, the mother who dipped her daughter’s hand in boiling water. This room is the me room, it has no voice, but tongues hang from its ceiling. Vocal cords gush out of its throat, but it just doesn’t have, the voice. It can, maybe tackle some Esperanto. It’s used to trying and failing to pronounce, letting darkness take control of its throat trembles, but it has ambition. At first, my point was to explain the order of words in my mind, that they weren’t random but had my reasoning behind them, but I figured it out; the room had cracked my skull open and stolen my sentences from my labyrinth, it was the room that stopped me from creating my novel, – and that’s how I know my magnificent story was on a whole new level, so- I didn’t attempt riot. Because it was me. I had my own tree to look down from. A beech tree. If I wished, I could dive under my beech tree and revoke as the spirit of the forest, and haunt them, they would think it was my doing every time a glass was shattered at their house. But I didn’t, staying dead was way too interesting to me.
This room, is the me room. We are now in each other’s cells, we’re mirroring one another, we’re a pair. One morning, I woke up with dried eyes, like always, and rubbed them with my palms, only to open them to see the walls covered with my skin. It wasn’t a surprise, so I wasn’t scared to return to my nightmare either. The next morning, the contents of my dreams were illustrated on the walls, it didn’t make me smile. Another day, I woke up and sat on my bed, the tips of my toes touched the organism made of my hair, which was once the carpet, it didn’t excite me. I am, and this is the room. It has no voice. Throughout my stay there, when we, the room and I, couldn’t stand the thought of trying out words, my mind did the job.
Emori quidem, sed id melius esse quam vivere
All it takes to make music with a wine glass full of water and your wetted finger, is trying hard enough, and well, your finger. Writing novels takes so much more. You have access to pen and paper because you, the reader, were born into this era. I on the other hand, have to turn to my room and my time, where there’s still time for cave walls, old testaments, and moldy volumes of records to be discovered, and even more time to point at the woman as their creator.
From The Confinement (Kadın Kürkünde Rüya, Tr.), a novel by the author
Translation: Eylül Deniz Doğanay
Sculpture: Elisa Arrighi