“May it be easy dear. But watch out, it’s a bit high,” she said, and continued her words whilst ignoring the little balcony between them:
“For God’s sake! I have no idea how they can clean the windows that high. I nearly jump out of my skin even just looking down.”
“I do not know really. I cannot do that, either.”
Arzu, the neighbour living upstairs of Kamuran, also joined this conversation between Kamuran and Gülperi. In addition to being much younger than the other two, Arzu was also a new resident at the apartment – in comparison to them. Yes, she was new, but in a short time she had succeeded in becoming one of them. She was warm-blooded; and they quickly liked her. And for Kamuran and Gülperi, it was the perfect time to pass on what they had gathered (so far) to the younger generation.
If they did not see each other one day, they would certainly meet on the following:
“I’ve cooked olive oiled green beans, come on.”
“Coffee’s ready, I’m waiting.”
“Where have you been dear Kamuran, the tea has turned into ice.”
“Arzu, I think there is a problem with my blood pressure. I cannot move anywhere.”
Days flowing in this manner. Thursday would catch up with Friday, Sunday would do the same for Monday, and Wednesday would be followed by Thursday. When the time came for the summer, they would meet more than ever. All the balconies would be cleaned, tables and chairs would be set, heat pads would take their places on tables and these three women would regularly mention “how those honeysuckles smell so nice.”
But it was winter now. Like the days, snow and rain were chasing each other this time. The balconies were all wet. Tables and chairs rested under tarps. Because that was the situation, Kamuran, after having lit her cigarette, came to the balcony’s sill, gently pushed the curtain to the right and approved with a nod that it was still freezing outside. As a second option, this time she walked towards the window in two steps. She took the cigarette – from her right hand to the left –and slowly opened the window. Gülperi was not there. Then, she tried to look up with a quick eye. Arzu also was not in her usual place. Weird. It was almost the middle of the day and they still had not exchanged a single word with one another. She looked around. Because it was a side street, not so many passersby would usually pay a visit. Her mind was travelling between the windows on her left, and upwards. She could not bear it; she looked up again, but this time with a slight lean. She did not draw back instantly. She waited for a second, but it was in vain. Neither Gülperi nor Arzu were there. However, when one of them opened the window, one of the others (or both of them) would do the same. The sound of the hinge would trigger the other two. In time, this had become a routine that had been performed on impulse. A chatting system that had been unavoidably shaped as the time went by. Something they watched on the news or read in the newspaper, having a quick word with an acquaintance, and as one thing was leading to another, the cold felt on the shoulders, going inside in a flash, fetching a cardigan and having a bit more small talk.
Without awareness, Kamuran had leaned a little too long. She drew back instantly. She had gotten cold. She left the window ajar and went inside. She looked for her cardigan but could not find it. Instead, she put a shawl on her shoulders.
While she was going back to the window, Gülperi opened her eyes. She had fallen asleep in front of the television. Every morning she awoke at 8:30, but on that morning she woke up at 8:00. She had her breakfast and settled on the sofa to watch some TV. Her intention was not to sleep, but that half-hour change had leaked into her eyelids without being noticed. When she opened her eyes, there was a different programme on TV. She squinted and stared at it. She was puzzled. Then, she straightened up slowly. While she was sitting there, the window was open, and the sounds of the hinge perched on tip of her nose. She stood up and looked for her cardigan, but could not find it. Then, the shawl hanging over the edge of the sofa right across from her caught her eye. She gave up looking for the cardigan. She took the shawl and opened the window.
“Where have you been Gülperi? I was about to knock on your door.”
“You are right Kamuran. I woke up at 8:00 today. And after the breakfast, I had fallen asleep while watching TV.”
“8:00? Fancy that.”
“I was surprised, too. For decades it had been so but today it was not” said she and in a minute she looked upwards. “But where is Arzu? Hasn’t she shown her face yet?”
“Yes, she has not shown up.”
Where was she? At the time Kamuran was fetching her cardigan and Gülperi was slumbering, had she just gone off? Or like Gülperi, she had also fallen asleep? Or maybe she went for a walk. But if it was so, she certainly would knock on either’s door.
It had been two years since Arzu moved to Servet Apartments. One week later, with a cake in her hand, she had shown up at Kamuran’s door. As she walked in, Gülperi was taking her first sip of tea, sitting on one of the armchairs in front of the window. There were almost thirty years between them. But Arzu had skillfully added this long period of time into the cake, and had sat on the other armchair across from Gülperi. Then with a good pleasure, they had eaten it by Kamuran’s serving.
“Cake is delicious. Arzu, right?”
“Yes, Gülperi abla.”
Gülperi abla? Kamuran and Gülperi had exchanged a quick glance, and after that Arzu’s membership procedures had been completed. And on the upcoming days, the delicious cake had been followed by delicious pastries, by lovely chats and by beautiful laughs. In this way they spent two years together and saw each other almost every day. Sometimes Arzu listened to music with a volume a little too high, but Kamuran and Gülperi said nothing about that. Arzu never complained about Kamuran’s punctiliousness while helping her with the cleaning; and never busied herself with something else while Gülperi was speaking.
“Where is she? Shall we go and have a look?”
“I’m worried, too. She must have been here a thousand times.”
Yes, she must have been there a thousand times. They always chatted for a while, and then closed the windows at the same time and met at one of their apartments. Yes this must have happened a long time ago: but Arzu was not there. Routine was hindered; the pace of the wheel was slowed. Though the train had already reached at the station, it could not move on; Arzu was not there. Because of her, traffic lights did not change from red to green; keys in the holes could not be turned; birds did not leave the branches upon which they were perching; and dice did not fall onto the backgammon board.
Arzu did not cook much. As Kamuran and Gülperi were living alone, she alternated her dinners with them. They accompanied each other. As Arzu had not known how to cook, Kamuran and Gülperi were teaching and transferring their centuries-old collected experience.
The reason why Arzu was not there – at that moment – was because she was cooking. She wanted to prepare something and invite them to dinner. The thing that slowed down the wheel was that somehow she could not succeed in chopping the onions. What caused the wheel to stop completely was that she had cut her hand. She was grouching with sayings like “What do I know about cooking!” Then, she pressed on the wound with all her power. At that moment she noticed the onions. She repeated “What do I know about cooking” and added “They must be worried.” As she was walking towards the window, the wheel began to reach its ordinary speed. And when she opened it, everything was resuming.
“Arzu where have you been? We got worried.”
“Don’t even go there. I have tried to cook and that is the result,” said she, showing her hand.
“Did we ask you to cook my dear? Actually what do you know about cooking?”
Despite the short delay, they were chatting as usual. While Arzu and Kamuran were talking about the meal that she could not prepare, Gülperi was looking at the apartment across them. “May it be easy dear. But watch out, it is a bit high,” continuing her words by ignoring the little balcony between them:
“For God’s sake! I have no idea how they can clean the windows from that high. I nearly jump out of my skin by even just looking down.”
“I do not know really. I cannot do that, either.”
The routine which had been slowed down by Gülperi’s waking up at 8:00 (not 8:30) and spending that half hour by falling asleep while watching TV was about to stop completely – because of a hand cut resulting from Arzu’s love of cooking, which flared up in a flash and was activated again by her stepping towards the window. Shadowing the cut hand of Arzu, the sentence “Leave me, I’ll jump down!” magnetized in one minute the focus of hundreds of people to that quiet street. While the humming noises arising from there were in total contrast with the silence of Arzu, Kamuran and Gülperi, the hands that were holding on the window ledges were pulled inside in a sudden. Then the same window was closed with a wham. It was followed by three other windows. The crowd scattered.
abla: It is a word of closeness in Turkish.
Ayşem Dur was born in Istanbul, Turkey in 1989. She holds a BA in English language and literature and an MA in English literary studies. So far she has translated three books. Her interests vary from literature, philosophy, cinema, to art. She currently teaches English at Bahcesehir university in Istanbul.