In the Foothills of Spil Mountain
Her feet were stretched over the burnished fence in the back yard of her parents’ farm house in Manisa while her eyes were locked on the pink blossoming azaleas. Her ears were attending to the türkü* her mother was humming along while stirring lentil soup for lunch. Her father was hiding in the garage polishing his beloved car that had broken down one year ago before Serra left home for college. They were fettered to each other, Hamza and his car. Instead of glossing her mirrors and wind screen, his big hands were caressing them. He had given her the name Süreyya, but he always addressed her kızım**.
When she was not yet this full-fledged young woman, Serra used to keep begrudging feelings toward her father’s love for his car. On weekdays, Hamza drove her daughter to school on Süreyya before he forged ahead to work. Manisa was a small city. After dropping Serra at school, it would take only twenty minutes for him to park Süreyya in the parking yard of Directorate General For State Hydraulic Works, take the exhausted elevator, get off on the fifth floor, manage to produce a casual good morning forwarded to no one explicit, settle in his chair, peruse the documents piled up on his desk and look for Cemal, the tea man. If he could not see Cemal around, with the brashness of being the oldest one in the office, he would call out, “Cemal! Where are you yahu***?”
Upon hearing the thunderous voice of Hamza, Cemal would peek his head through the kitchen door. Seeing him, Hamza would start, “People are waiting for tea here. Don’t you see? Where have you been?”
“Coming right away, Hamza Bey****,” Cemal would respond, retreating into the kitchen.
On one of those typical days, Hamza found himself thinking that when he would be a retired man, he would miss the stale air hanging over these whitewash walls, this desk of his and his chair, though this chair was not the same chair he eased the pains of his ruthless back on, and this desk was not the desk on which he leant onto the quaking screen of his computer all these years. This dingy building had withstood two abortive restorations in the years he had drained away into this mundane craze. In this office, gazing at the colossal spectre of the city, Spil Mountain, he frequented to his dreams casting a farm house of eight windows on the front, each of eight splintered to 3 floors, his wife counting bronze colored eggs of chickens at dawn each morning, him dashing to the stable to check if their cow Sarıkız was ready to give birth to her baby calf which Serra would be delighted to hold in her tender arms.
His mind busy on the picture of the baby calf, Hamza found himself struck by the reminiscence of Serra’s diaper days, of how small bones she was made. She could fit in his palms. What a stubborn baby she was, his wife Semiye had told much later after she gave birth to Serra. In those days, it was not a fashionable thing for the father-to-bes to stray to the delivery rooms. When she was out of her mother’s womb, Serra resisted crying—a miracle the whole world was looking forward to. Serra had taken her hands—as tiny as marbles—up to her eyes and lingered in this position for two whole minutes, and then she let out a cry all the walls of Manisa Public Hospital resonated in response.
A spring of joy her tinkling cry became for Semiye and the midwife Hacer. An earnest smile they exchanged, the moment their eyes met. Hacer put her hand on Semiye’s shoulder and caressed it guilelessly. Through her exhaustion, Semiye’s chapped lips did not have the strength to produce a Thank you. Instead, as light as a bird’s feather, she patted the hand hanging on her shoulder. Midwife took Serra in her arms, after washing her and wrapping her in a pink shred of cloth, handed her to the mother. Tears were streaming down Semiye’s bloodless cheeks; she could not hold them and did not feel the need to. In this icy cold hospital room, the baby’s warmth in her arms became one with the warmth of her tears.
* Turkish folk song
** My daughter
*** For God’s sake
**** Mr. Hamza
While all these were happening in the delivery room, outside Hamza was going up and down the corridor—unable to stop. He had refused to drink all those teas and coffees his hospital chaperons Ahmet and Hasan kept bringing all day. Ahmet and Hasan were Hamza’s younger brothers. As he continued his chore on the corridor floor, Hamza recalled how extreme it used to occur to him, all those frantic movements father-to-bes did in the movies. Reckoning this, a smile appeared under his black moustache that a stack of hairs without any point Semiye called. Taking one edge of his moustache and twisting it between his fingers, his other hand resting above his belt in the back, he continued his frantic walk.
His smile lingered on his face as he fancied he was about to be a father—him, 27 years old Hamza, a father—only minutes later. It sounded outlandish, and he could not keep himself from imagining all those festivities he was going to throw in honor of his first child. The delicious meat of the 3 rams he had already ordered from his village Ilgın was going to be served to all his relatives and neighbors. The rams were supposed to arrive before Semiye would conceive their baby, but she was earlier than the doctor had calculated. This meant his plans would need to be postponed a little.
“No need to worry about it,” his voice rang. Ahmet and Hasan raised their heads from where they had been sitting, and Ahmet asked, “What abi*? Did you say something?”
With a pair of distant eyes, Hamza studied his brothers’ faces and asked, “Huh? What?”
This time, Hasan was the one who answered, “Abi, you said something.”
Seeing they were not going to be able extract an answer from Hamza, Hasan added, “Never mind, abi!”
Hamza nodded, and then kept on his tiresome ritual of eroding the corridor tiles.
A few moments later, Hacer the midwife appeared at the door of the delivery room with baby Serra in her arms.
“It’s a girl,” Hacer declared, but Hamza did not hear what she said. Tears piling up in his eyes, he looked at Hacer’s mouth that seemed to contour some words. His vision blurred from the tears, he gazed at this little creature’s pink face in front of him. A first in his life, he did not mind his brothers’ witnessing his tears and let two drops slide down his cheeks. Before they reached his chin, he wiped them off with the back of his hand. Hacer must have decided that this amount of time should be enough for daughter and father to reconcile with each other because with a swift movement she ripped Serra out of the three brothers’ vision. With a hint of fear apparent in his shaking voice, Hamza asked, “Where are you taking her?”
“Nursery,” she answered, “You can watch her through the glass if you like. We’re going to take the mother to her room in a minute, and then you can see them both.”
Having said this, she disappeared in the half lit corridor. Hamza was still looking behind the midwife taking her daughter away when Ahmet and Hasan jumped on Hamza and hugged him fervently. To any eye who would happen to be there at that moment, this scene would seem, rather than a celebration, as an attempt of strangling poor Hamza. Later that day, in the presence of their families, Hamza and Semiye decided on a name for their baby girl. It would be Serra, a combination of the first syllables—ser and ra—of two names, Sernaz and Rahime, the names of the young couple’s mothers.
Serra turned into a wellspring of laughter for the whole İnanoğlu family and stayed that way for 5 years until Ferah, Serra’s younger sister, came. When Ferah was born, Hamza and Semiye went on the same adventure once more; except this time they included the poise of having rehearsed this before. On the day Semiye was pushing Ferah out of her womb, and her voice was echoing in the same hospital corridors once more 5 year later, Serra was left at home with Sernaz Nine*. Only after two days, her parents had returned home. With them, they had brought something in a yellow bassinet. Serra was watching her favorite cartoon Thomas the Train drawing a picture of her father, mother and between them herself holding her parents’ hands. Behind them was a park with a red slide and a swing of brown and blue colors. To see what her mother was holding above her head, she raised her head.
Semiye said, “Serra, sweetheart. Look who’s here! Do you want to say hello to your sister?”
“Sister,” Serra repeated the word. She had heard this word many times in the past few months.
Semiye said, “Yes, honey. This is your sister Ferah. Come on, give her a kiss. See how small she is?”
Serra put the tiniest and the gentlest kiss on her little sister’s cheek.
After the sisters’ first confrontation, only for 8 months, Serra and Ferah stayed in the same house. Ferah was gone. In the ensuing months, Serra pursued Ferah’s whereabouts. Each time when Serra showed up with a new question, Hamza and Semiye asserted that Ferah would be staying with Sernaz Nine in Hamza’s village for a little while longer. Not contended, Serra would accuse her parents for discarding her baby sister.
One evening, when Semiye, having put Serra to bed covered with Barbie sheets, was about to leave her daughter’s room, Serra asked, “Mommy! Do I make you and daddy sad?” With a warm smile on her tired face, Semiye turned and answered, “Why should you, my little pumpkin? Daddy and I are so happy to have you.”
She laid a kiss on Serra’s little nose. Serra did not seem to be convinced and kept on talking, “I told her not to cry, mommy, but each time she did it again. I saw you. When she cried, you and daddy were angry at her. I heard daddy asking, ‘Will we sleep ever again?’ One day, mommy, before Ferah went to grandma, you were in the kitchen, and then you went to Hatice Teyze** to ask for salt. Ferah was crying. I told her to be silent, told her if she wouldn’t be silent, you’d be angry at her and throw her away. She didn’t stop, but when I put my hand on her face, she slept again and I went out to play with Fatma. Then you sent her to grandma. Will you send me to grandma, too, mommy?”
Twenty years later, Serra was sitting in the back yard of her parents’ farm house in Ilgın. She took joy in the breeze winding the lofty kitchen curtain at her feet, and weaving her hair into impalpable measures. She was attending to the türkü her mother was singing in the kitchen. Their voices one, they were singing Dağlar Dağlar***. Her father was hiding in the garage with Süreyya. She thought of getting up and fetching his father to lunch.
*** A Turkish folk song by Barış Manço
About the Author: Ayşe Tekşen currently lives in Ankara, Turkey, where she works as a research assistant at the Department of Foreign Language Education, Middle East Technical University. She has always been an enthusiast of reading works of short fiction, and, recently, she has indulged in writing some herself.