Saturday, September 8, 2018

The Privilege of Missing Someone

Out of all the complex array of human emotions, missing someone has to be one of the most complicated, deeply intense ones. We miss someone who for various reasons left our lives: Be it moving to a different city, not being our friend anymore, moving on from this world, or moving away from us internally, even while standing right next to us.

It is such a sweet and bitter ache in my heart when I miss someone. Missing him/her means that I had the privilege of getting to know that person in the first place. The one I miss has left deep impressions on my life, my soul, my days. It is those impressions that I crave, because they are no longer there. Yet, having had the luxury of living with someone who had the ability to leave those impressions leaves a warm feeling in me. Like a soft glow of warm light that is enough for me even when the person is not there. Something is finished, has gone by, moved on, yet what it leaves in me is enough for a sweet nostalgia that does not necessarily give extreme pain, just a light chafing at the heart.

I walk around in the places I once was with that person, with that soft glow still burning inside me like a candle, warming me and burning me from the inside out at the same time. I obsessively retrace the paths I took with that person, like a ritual that is full of melancholy and a sweet sadness.

The candle keeps burning. It might never extinguish. My heart is full of such eternal fires, each one for a different person who touched my life in a different kind of way.

Maybe this is what life is. Burning from the inside out constantly, without reprieve, days on end, until we are consumed by the ultimate darkness.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Dusk walk

I step outside to Dilorenzo Avenue. I put on my headphones. I take one step, then another step, then another. This is the only time in the day that belongs to me, in which my body is my own body, my thoughts are my own thoughts, my breath is my own breath. No little hands on my thighs, legs, arms, head. No complaining voices, no requests from me, no demands. No other voices but that of my own breathing and the music I choose. Brief though it is, it is complete and delicious freedom. It is needed as much as air and water. I breathe the freedom of my solitude in.
I walk in front of empty-looking houses, not a sign of life inside or outside. My steps get quicker, and soon I fall into a nice, comfortable rhythm. It is comforting and grounding to feel my feet on the pavement, to feel my heart beat ever so faster, to get real sunlight in my eyes, to inhale the evening as it approaches.
I look up at the sky and see multiple layers of clouds, almost sagging towards the ground. With the certainty of knowing the sun will rise the next morning, I know it’s going to rain. I look up and breathe in the slightly moist air, and quicken my pace even more, just to see if I can beat the rain to the end of my walk.
Occasionally I run into people who are walking their dogs and runners. They look at me as if I am an alien, just walking with my headphones, and not engaging in either of these activities. It is the unwritten rule of the suburbs that if you are not walking pets or engaging in cardio activities, you are not supposed to be on the pavement. I smile at each and every one of them and continue my walk. I feel like I am doing something illegal, and that feeling of stretching societal boundaries and norms is pretty delectable indeed.
I reach the end point of my loop, then start my return arc via Naper Boulevard. Just as I am passing by the pond, the wind picks up. It is the kind of “before the rain” wind that reminds one that one is alive. It plays with my hair, my clothes, the cable of my headphones. It feels nice to be able to be outside and feel such a wind. The wind is like a promise made by the rain that it is, indeed, following closely behind.
I come back to my house via Arlington Avenue, and look at the windows. No lights, the kids must be in their beds. Just as I step inside, smelling like the evening and the wind and the street, I hear thunder roaring across the sky. I come in to my bedroom and watch as a torrential shower pours suddenly, and thinking that I escaped it by a mere minute, I feel weirdly peaceful and calm. I make some tea, sit by the window, crack it open a bit, and inhale the unique smell of water kissing the earth. I am home.

Esra, August 2018

Monday, May 7, 2018

The last time I saw my grandfather

"Later, walking the corridors down to the street,
I turn and step inside an empty room.
Yesterday someone was here with a gasping face.
Now the bed is made all new,
the machines have been rolled away. The silence
continues, deep and neutral,
as I stand there, loving you."

Mary Oliver, University Hospital in Boston

December 2017.

I have crossed an ocean, many states and countries, the Bosphorus Straits.

I have taken a bus, the subway, a minibus. I am holding my Dad's hand. I am a little girl again.

I have waited patiently for hours to cross to the other side of the city. The traffic is unrelenting. The crowds are weighing on my mind. The noise is unbearable.

I enter a large, ugly hospital, and it's like entering the belly of a beast.

I push a button. The elevator comes. We go up. The doors open. Security doors. The ICU. We change into gowns. I put on gloves.

Me and Dad walk in an aisle. He looks at me apprehensively. I look at him, and I am calmer than I thought I would be.

I enter the room. My grandfather, on the bed. So thin, so frail. His eyes turned towards the ceiling. His mouth open. His face expressionless. How many months have passed, like this.. How many months, trapped in his own body and mind. Being kept alive by the machines around him. What does it mean to live? A breath and a beating heart?

Who knows the limits to human suffering? Desperation? Who can tell?

I look at him, and say "Dede, ben geldim."

Grandpa, I am here.

His head turns ever so slightly towards me. His ice blue eyes are fixed on mine.

They have told me that he has "been gone for months, no signs of consciousness, no interaction with his surroundings, no reactions, nothing."

Yet he looks at me, and in the depths of those blue eyes, I see a faint flicker of recognition. It's so slight it's barely there, and I feel it even before I see it.

My hand, wrapped in a rubber glove, finds and holds his hand. I look into his blue eyes.

"Dede, buradayim, torunun geldi."

Grandfather, I am here. Your granddaughter has come.

I came to hold your hand. I came to tell you, one last time, of how much you are loved. I came to look into your eyes one last time and know it will be the last and where did these tears come from all of a sudden? Grandpa, everything is blurry and all of a sudden I have let go of my tears, my tears that I have carried with me across the ocean, all the way here, to the city I was born, the city in which I was raised, and to your house in which I grew up. Grandpa, I am here. I am here and there are lots of tears, yet there is nothing to be ashamed of; for despite everything life has thrown at me in the past few years, I have managed to make it to here, I am finally here, I am finally holding your hand. Through the plastic of my gloves, I can still feel that you are here yet, and you feel and hear me somehow.

And I am breathing next to you at this moment, holding your hand once more, knowing that it is the last time.

Grandpa, why is time so relentless and so cruel to us?

I look into the electric blue of your eyes one last time. I let go of your hand.

A single sigh from my chest. Marking the time out of time and the space in between.

I love you, grandpa.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Saatler, zaman, insan, ölüm ve yaşam

Dedemi kaybedeli bir buçuk ayı geçti.

Bugünlerde, şimdi ona bomboş gelen bir evin içinde sessizliği dinleyen anneannemi düşünüyorum. Sessizce oturan, boşluğu ve sessizliği bir nefes gibi içine çeken canımın içi kadını. Beni ona bağlayan bütün bağları, altın renkte görünmez ipler gibi, okyanusun dibinden, dağların üstünden ve denizlerin içinden geçtiğini hissederek. Benim yüreğimi anneannemin yüreğine bağlayan sevgi bağlarını en içimde, kalbimin derininde duyarak.

Dedemin hastaneye gittiği günden beri çalışmayan duvar saatini düşünüyorum. Ki huzurlu tik-tak sesleri çocukluğumun arka planıydı.

Bir insanın gidişini düşünüyorum. Varlığımızın, insanlığın en acıklı gerçeğini.

İnsan öyle bir varlık ki, onun bıraktığı boşluğu başka hiç bir şey dolduramıyor.

İnsanın bıraktığı boşluk, vücudunun kapladığı alanın çok ötesinde. Çok daha fazlası. Her insanın gidişi, bir kara delik oluşturuyor evrende. Bir daha asla kapanmayacak bir kara delik.

Ondan mıdır acaba, varlığımızın dokusu gittikçe inceliyor, sevdiklerimiz ayrıldıkça bu dünyadan?

Ondan mıdır, kendimizi gittikçe daha yalnız hissetmemiz büyüdükçe? Büyüdükçe daha çocuklaşmamız, daha kaybolmuş, daha şaşkın, daha kocaman gözlerle bakmamız hayata?

İnsanın kapladığı yerin aslında ne kadar büyük olduğunu, bir kaç ay bizimle kalan Barış'ın ve benim sevgili anneannemiz Mazis Türkiye'ye döndüğü gün derinden hissetmiştim.

Vücudu minicik, yüreği dev, sadece torunlarında değil torunlarının çocuklarında bile emeği olan bu 'küçük ama dev' kadın, meğerse ne çok yer kaplıyormuş, evimizde ben, Barış ve çocuklarımız, tekrar çekirdek ailemiz olmaya geri dönünce anladım.

O Türkiye'ye gittiği gün, Mazis'in her zaman oturduğu koltuktaki yeri, boş bir vadi gibi göründü gözüme. Anladım ki insanın yüreği ne kadar büyükse, kapladığı yer de o kadar büyük olurmuş bu dünyada. Vücudu minicik olsa bile. Ne kadar çok insanın gönlünde yeşermişse sevgisi, onca geniş bir yer kaplarmış bu evrende. Emek ve sevgi, büyütürmüş insanı, devleştirirmiş, hem sevdiklerinin hem de bütün dünyanın gözünde.

O yüzden sızlıyor içim, kendi anneannemi düşündükçe. Dedemin bütün huysuzluklarına rağmen, anneanneme hayatı boyunca pek gün yüzü göstermemesine, içtiği sigaralarla çektirdiklerine, asla şiddet uygulamasa da sözleriyle hem eşini hem çocuklarını üzmesine, sevgi ve şefkat göstermeyi bilmemesine rağmen...

Bütün yaptıklarına RAĞMEN sevdiğimiz ve kaybettiğimizde içimizde derin kara delikler açan herkes için sızlıyor yüreğim.

Düşünüyorum anneannemi bugünlerde. Var olmasa, benim var olmayacağım, azimli, çalışkan kadını.

Çok özlüyorum onu. Elinden tutup, 'torununun seni çok seviyor anneanne, dayan biraz daha.. Bak nefes alıyoruz hala.' demek istiyorum ona.

Elim uzanmıyor. Telefona uzanıyorum. Küçüklüğümden beri ezbere bildiğim telefon numarasını çeviriyorum. Okyanuslar ötesinde bir evde, bir telefon uzun uzun çalıyor.

Hala sesini duyabildiğime şükrediyorum.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Büyüdükçe (Canıma mektup)

Büyüdükçe sana ne kadar çok benzediğimi görüyorum baba.. ruhlarımızın aynı kumaştan dokunmuş olduğunu.

İçimdeki küçük çocuğun, hayata bir çocuk gibi sevinebilmenin senden geldiğini.

Şiir sevgimin, Türk diline, Türkçeye duyduğum aşkın, edebiyat sevgimin kaynağını, ilk başladığı yeri, o pınarı senin gözbebeklerinde gördüğümü.

İkimiz oturmuş çay içerken birden senin sevgili arkadaşın İlhan Şeşen'den 'Sen benim şarkılarımsın' şarkısı çalmaya başladığında, ben yerimden kalkıp 'hadi dansedelim baba' diye elimi uzatırsam, bana asla 'hayır' demeyeceğini.

Yaşım otuz altıya gelmiş olduğu halde elinden tutup sokakta yürüyebileceğimi.

Tıpkı senin gibi benim de dünyevi işlerden bihaber, ne kadar para kazandığımın, ne kadar para harcadığımın farkında bile olmayan, aklı beş yüz karış havada bir iflah olmaz romantik olduğumu.

Sırf ben istedim, hayatta en sevdiğim şey diye Amerika'ya gideceğim günün, yeni yılın ilk sabahı yeni açılmış fırına koşup bana 10 tane çıtır, taze simit alacak olan tek insan olduğunu.

Sabahın köründe mutfağa 'Yeşil pencerenden bir gül at bana / Işıklarla dolsun kalbimin içi' dizelerini haykırarak daldığımda, annem daha afyonu patlamamış bir halde 'sabah sabah kafa ütüledin Esra' diye mırıldanırken senin yüzünde mutlu bir gülümseme ile bana sarılacağını.

Böyle bir baba sevgisi ile büyümüş olduğum için aslında ne kadar, ne kadar şanslı olduğumu.

Senin kızın olarak büyümüş olduğum için. Bana gerçek sevgiyi öğretmiş olan, insan yüreği taşıyan bir babam olduğu için.

Ne kadar muhteşem bir çocukluk yaşamış olduğumu. Ve şu anda hissettiğim kendine güvenin, hayata karşı hissettiğim coşkunun, küçük anlardan aldığım keyif ve mutlulukların hepsinin sağlam temellerinin o çocuklukta atıldığını.

Uzattığımda elimi hep tuttuğun, hiç bırakmadığın için teşekkür ederim, baba.

Çok seviyorum seni.


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Otuz altı

Buraları hala okuyan var mı bilmiyorum..

Ama otuz altı yaşımın ilk günlerini yaşadığım şu günlerde bir kaç satır da olsa düşüncelerimi yazmak istedim..

Ne öğrendim bunca yılda?

Çocuklarım dahil bana ait olan hiç bir şeyin olmadığını şu dünyada.. Bedenimi bile vakti gelince geri vereceğimi, onu bile emanet aldığımı..

Hayatta hiç bir şeyin kontrolümüz dahilinde olmadığını.. Nefesimiz ve düşüncelerimiz hariç. Bir tek kendi tavrımızı kontrol edebiliyoruz. Onun dışında hiç bir şeyi.

Hayatın, biz planlar yaparken yaptığımız planlara kıs kıs gülen küçük bir çocuk gibi bizimle dalga geçtiğini..

Hayatın iyi olmayan kitaplar okumak ve kötü müzik dinlemek için çok kısa olduğunu.. Bir kitabı çok sevmediysem hemen elimden bırakabilmem gerektiğini..

Sözün uçup yazının kaldığını.. Zaman su gibi akıp geçerken bazı şeyleri, düşünceleri, duyguları kaydetmemiz gerektiğini.. Hafızanın müthiş yanıltıcı, tepe taklak gitmekten hoşlanan, bize dil çıkartan, sersem sepelek bir haydut olduğunu :)

Bir gülümsemenin bazen bir insanın bütün gününü aydınlatabildiğini..

Büyümenin, anneni her geçen gün daha fazla anlama süreci olduğunu ve bu anlamanın hiç ama hiç bitmediğini...

İnsanın gözlerinin içi parlayarak yapabileceği bir mesleği bulmuş olmasının ne kadar nadir görülen bir şey ve aslında ne büyük bir şans olduğunu.. Ama hayatta mutlu olmak için bunun esas koşul olmadığını.. Hangi mesleği icra ediyor olursak olalım ona dört elle sarılırsak ve yürekten yaparsak bir şekilde mutlu olabileceğimizi..

Her şeyden önemlisi sevginin sınırı olmadığını.. Sevdikçe yüreğimizin büyüdüğünü. Sevginin sevgiyi doğurduğunu ve herşeyin cevabının o olduğunu.

Ne güzel demiş Yunus'umuz..

'Sevelim, sevilelim..
Dünya kimseye kalmaz'


Sunday, November 26, 2017

How I met Stephen King (or dreams do come true)

Once upon a time, in a country called Turkey, there lived a young girl.. At the beginning of her teens, she had huge, thick, nerdy glasses, and practically no life outside of her school. Like most teens, she hated her body and her life, felt all the various dilemmas of that hormone-induced doom and gloom that is called puberty, and disliked most of her classes at school.

If there was one thing in the world she loved the most, it was reading.

She found solace and great companions in books, and read constantly and voraciously. She read at home, she read at school, she read during recess, she even read secretly under her desk in classes where she felt extremely bored.

Almost every weekend she would go to the second-hand booksellers of Istanbul with her dad. These were magical places, and they felt like home. She especially loved being in 'Akmar Pasajı' in Kadıköy, a cluster of second hand bookstores, music stores selling LPs, cassettes, t-shirts, music band paraphernalia, quirky stores selling rocks and jewelry... With textbooks, fiction and non-fiction books, poetry collections and books in different languages piled on top of each other with sleepy cats snoozing in between them, this was a magical land that brought so much joy to her.

Every time she went, she would bring back home a huge pile of books, both in English and in Turkish. She would read so much in such weird postures, and under such a spectrum of light to near darkness that her parents attributed her increasingly near-sighted eyes to her reading. They forbade her to read fiction unless she was sitting upright at a desk, with a lamp properly lighting the pages.

It was around this time that she came across the books of Stephen King. A school friend let her borrow "Carrie" (Translated to Turkish), and in the pages of the books, she found herself. All of the awkwardness being a teenage girl, feelings of loneliness, isolation, frustration, desperation....everything was reflected in the pages. She immediately fell in love. This was an author who could truly peer into the human soul and could write great stories of what it felt to be human.

When, at the age of 14 and walking towards her school, a speeding car hit her and she ended up in the hospital with severe bleeding and hip bone, Stephen King's novels aided in her recovery through a month of bedrest, and the opening pages of "Misery" describing a car accident felt too real, and too familiar.

Stephen King's writing shaped her understanding of what good fiction writing was: mainly, good character development. All of his characters felt so real, so tangible, so wonderfully familiar that she felt like some of real life friends at her high school paled in comparison.

Years passed, and she improved her English by starting to read Stephen King in English now, with an accelerating speed and gusto. As she read his books in the language they were written, she also improved her English, and got a good grasp of American popular culture without having once been in the New World.

She read Stephen King all throughout middle school, high school and college. She grew into a young woman while reading his books. In a decade, she read through his complete oeuvre. Her friends made fun of her. People said that this was not "real literature". She said it was more real for her than reality itself, sometimes.

All throughout her teenage years, her biggest dream was to meet the mind who created these worlds. The author behind these books. She dreamed of what she would say to him if she met him. She dreamed of shaking his hand and looking into his eyes and thanking him for everything.

To her, this dream felt more distant than stars and galaxies. She was a Turkish girl living in Istanbul. He was a world-famous American author living in Maine. The mere possibility of their worlds ever intersecting at any point in her lifetime felt next to impossible.

And then, somehow, miraculously, unbelievably, the impossible became possible.

The power of reading came through for her. She completed her BA degree in Social and Political Sciences and, in her last year, at the urging of her professors, applied to graduate schools in the U.S.A. She got accepted into the University of Chicago where she completed her M.A. and Ph.D degrees. She ended up getting married, having kids and settling in Chicagoland. She started teaching in a small liberal arts college in a Chicago suburb called Naperville. She finally had built for herself the life she wanted. A lifetime of reading, writing, teaching.

Then in the fall of 2017, at the beginning of her third year of teaching, a miracle happened. Stephen King, along with his son Owen King, decided to go on a book tour. And out of all the cities and the possible destinations in the Midwest and the state of Illinois, they chose Naperville as their destination. Not only Naperville, but the Res/Rec center of the very college in which she was teaching. It felt like an aligning of stars that was almost too good to be true.

She immediately bought tickets. She contacted the people who invited King to speak at the college, and asked them if there would be an opportunity to meet him, but nothing was clear and nothing was promised. She did not dare dream, but she hoped against all hope that she would at least sit close to the stage.

She waited in line with thousands of people who came from other states, some from the other side of these wide and vast United States of America. Everyone had the same bright gleam in their eyes. Everyone had come to see their favorite author live.

And the rest of the evening was like a dream. The stars truly aligned. Somehow, she ended up at the front row to the left of the stage. Somehow, she ended up right across from the stage door. Somehow, she saw a fellow faculty member in front of the stage door. Somehow, the faculty member knew the organizers of the event. Somehow, she invited her backstage.

And then, like every impossible dream becoming a reality, she felt like she was floating in the air.. She entered the backstage, she saw the author who she had dreamt of meeting so many times in her teens. He was eating a small sandwich (even authors are human, after all!). To her, it felt kind of an impingement on his privacy and she did not want to disturb him, but he stood up to greet her!! He shook his hand, and she thanked him for everything he had given the world. She said she grew up in Turkey reading his books. He nodded, smiled, said "Keep reading!" She met his son Owen. They took some photos.

And she rushed back through the backstage doors, beaming, shining with the light of happiness and the lightness of a dream that had become real for her.

That woman was me. As I exited the backstage door, went back to my chair among the thousands of fans who had come to hear their favorite author live, I was beaming with happiness. The air was charged with the electricity of expectancy. As I looked at the rest of the crowd and together we waited for Stephen and Owen to take their seats on stage, I thought about the power of literature.

I thought about the power of writing. The power to bridge worlds. To connect thousands of people with the narration of one story. To bring together complete strangers, from different ethnic, religious, socioeconomic backgrounds, and make them into a community. To make a human into what she is, to pull her out of her world, her comfort zone, and bring her into a culture so different from her own. To make her dream a reality.

I looked at the thousands of fans sitting there with me, and felt the magical connection we all shared,  and sat upright, and leaned back. 

And I smiled.