Desert of Clouds

For Amine Tiras, a girl in military uniform,

 whom was told by Turkish President

Recep Tayyip Erdogan that she would be honoured

if killed while fighting:

“If she’s martyred, they’ll lay a flag on her.”

 

Sun beams penetrating into my eyes, my chest rising and falling, and the knot in my throat is the accumulated turmoil and it blocks my urge to cry. I’m sitting on my window side seat at the plane, my face feels as the same size with the tiny opening covered by double material.

The city appeared to be lead gray as we took off, but it ended when we reached the altitude above clouds. That sun, isn’t generous at all for those down there, it turns out. All it does is showing off to those who fly up beyond the opaque curtain.

I keep the shades up, in a desert of clouds I fly on rows of seats. My back is number than my tongue. I take of my sandals and rub my blistered soles together. They don’t hurt, I say to myself. There is no pain up here, wouldn’t it be lovely to stay here, above the clouds, forever!

There is no oil here, or melting ice caps. Sad polar bears. There aren’t any Indian women with reeking saris who dig the soil for wells that worth only droplets.

I shout towards the cockpit from my seat:

“To the sun, closer to the sun!”

To a place where at least a day in the year is devoted to dreams!

My voice dies off.

I look around to see who heard my voice. Everyone’s after eating in a hurry, humus smeared on their noses. I’m okay. I unbuckle my belt and lay back. I wish for a fifteen minute nap before we arrive in Adana[1]. I can’t manage, though.

I build shapes in the cloudy sky instead. Houses, gardens, swings and slides… I draw elephants, pencils with broken tips, half-eaten dishes, dogs that catch the sticks I throw, bunk beds, where I sleep on top and my sibling on bottom. I knit applause from the clouds, awards and homages, reports with full A’s, and coffee tables ornamented with lace. Shorts with red stripes, bell skirts and baskets filled with strawberry; I sculpt twirling peg tops.

I stitch my sibling’s big, shiny eyes on the clouds. My throat swells, swells and it erupts, I wish to let myself go down from the emergency exit. To fall as I pull each tense of life down with me…

How do the feet in black boots sound tapping on dug up dirt? I am willing to sacrifice my hands for the good night sleeps I had had. All the ice cream I ate, they turn to blood, I reach up with my arms and blood pours all the way down to my armpits from my wrists. I surrendered already, I wish for the plane to crash. There are about two hundred of us in here, which barely makes up the cost. The worth of caviar that we stuff our faces with. I am feeling ice cold down my knees. If I could hang myself in the toilet with the belt I’ve just unbuckled. If I could tame my rampant heart. If I could explain myself before the clouds, about how I danced all night, just two days ago. If I could tell them about all those that died as I danced, crumbled into pieces and how it is all because of me. Take my dreams, give them theirs back.

I have to be erased, I have to disappear and turn one with the whiteness of the clouds, and in the meantime, I must ask for their dreams, but ask with all seriousness, with my two hands resting on my hips and a frown.

But ask for what exactly, and to whom?

My asking eyes transfer to the clouds. Could you pardon me? Could you, maybe, untangle my body from the red –not white – clouds of another sky?

I, somewhere, was rubbing my wrists together to dissipate perfume on my skin, sniffing the air; he, somewhere else, was sinking deep into the ground. I was the one chasing the cats away, when he fed them… I send my hands out on a hunt to find my pumping nerves, I shove my fingers deep into my skin, I try to die. A crazed happiness finds its way inside me with each second I spend breathless.

“What are you doing?! Are you okay?”

I’m startled, but I grasp the existence of the man next to me, only after his question. I leave my neck to be, unwillingly as that is. I look at him, he obviously can’t read my eyes.

“Are you okay, ma’am, do you want me to call a flight attendant?”

“I … I’m fine.” I say.

“You were strangling yourself!”

“I’m scared of flying, that must be why, I didn’t even notice.”

“Oh… Must be a panic attack. Don’t be scared, we’re only twenty minutes away. We’ll get there safe and sound.”

I finish the water I’ve been given, and put on my sunglasses.

“You’re headed to Adana?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll be moving on to Tarsus[2].”

“…”

“Istanbul… Such a gloom, wasn’t it?”

“Yes… So gray…”

“Traveling for work?”

“No,” I answer, and I don’t explain my purpose of visit. He doesn’t ask.

Clouds surround us so beautifully that we forget about the metal encasing us, and we hold on to the tiny window. We yearn to be outside.

A flight attendant approaches us, and we both notice the insincere smile she put on as she asks us if there’s anything we’d like. He turns to me and clears his throat:

“Their smiles, right?”

“Isn’t it a part of their job?” I ask in return, hoping he wouldn’t reply.

“You’re right.”

I turn to watch the clouds again. Troubled by the few words I had to spend, I wish he would stay silent during the remaining flight time. My chest rises one more time, I stick my nails into my palms and hold my breath.

That cloud that we’ve just passed, it resembled so much to our house at the island. And right next to it, our fern-filled garden where Poyraz[3] always fell riding his bike. The clouds shaped a Poyraz for me, I felt cold inside.

Ahead, I saw the piece of bread that Poyraz dipped in beans. The shoelaces he couldn’t tie… The books he refused and the schools he dropped out, the wool socks that mom and I knitted for him, his laughter at the ferris wheel, the childish joy that gusted out of him when he rode the bumper cars… His rosy baby skin… The times when I pushed spoons full of food in his mouth, here comes the truck! Nom, nom.

If I were to scream out loud right now, my brother’s name per say, clouds would allow it, but people wouldn’t. And if sentence were to be kicked out from the giant white metal tube.

“You seem off again, are you okay?”

“I’m okay, you really shouldn’t worry about me.”

“You look like you’re about to strangle yourself, again.”

“Please, just stop talking! Would you?”

“Okay, but I am worried. Can I call someone, would that be better?”

“No, but… Alright uhm, let’s do this, you just give me your arm.”

I put my head on the stranger shoulder. It smells nice. It turns into Poyraz’s arms, quickly.

I hold the rest of the arm. Feels warm inside me.

Up and down and up and down, waves flow inside me. As we fly in and out of air currents, tears fill the insides of my lids, then they disappear.

I fall asleep on the stranger shoulder.

In reality, I’m following Poyraz. His face is all dark, in a moment when I’m not connected to his mind and I’m myself, I find out that I am on the stock of his rifle. Where are you aiming at Poyraz, though that hole? What or who can you see, you’re not shooting cat paws are you? And those clothes you’re wearing, take them off, they’re too big for your size and they’re green, so not nice. Shake that burning gunpowder smell off of yourself, my brother. Give me your hand. I’ll take it and make you whole. I’ll sing each and every one of your favorite songs, I won’t dance while you watch the stars and count seconds. I won’t let myself to be caught up in the tyranny of life, nor in the pretty eyes of Istanbul. I won’t panic, I won’t mess with the time difference between us, in that I won’t move further to west while you move in east. I won’t eat so that we can reunite faster. I won’t curse after men, even when the pains of child bearing twist my insides… I’ll drift after you, we’ll go wherever you want. I’ll carry those black snakes on my back, no matter how much I have to bend, I won’t say a word.

Poyraz.

My little one.

I’ll kiss your blistered soles, I’ll carry you up to the clouds and show you how there’s no pain up here. You could walk a thousand miles here, but your feet wouldn’t hurt a bit. There’s no oil, no conflict, no simultaneously moved limbs, no gruesome bodies, no invisible kaftans, no arms raised up to the sky. The heat that touches your kneecaps of tingles your cortex. Boiling point zero.

There are no folk songs, no grown nails, no misses, no bullets, no aims, and no focused eyes. You, and me aren’t here.

Tie me up, anywhere, on your belt may it be. Let’s climb up mountains. Then get down from mountains.

Let’s exit the confinement of

Police stations

And their non-plastered

Gray walls!

I was waiting in tears for your arrival, my mother screaming, and I aged a ten years when you came Poyraz. You, your blood and the liquids that kept you alive touched my arms, and I inflated with pride. I went nuts to be the one to protect you. The joy of…

How could we know, that the umbilical cord that fed you through mom, the tiny piece of flesh that we buried on the ground, would flourish in soil? How could we possibly know that you whispered to that soft soil, where you always dug up to find treasures; that you buried your roots there, without us knowing, twenty one exact years ago? I am coming back to Çukurova, look! For you, because of you…

Cotton flowers must be flooding the area by now, right? Watermelons fat, strawberries red and juicy. Grass must be turned to a toasted yellow, and poor streams must be dried. Another crease added around the eyes of those who work the land.

At the time, they built roads that took people to Istanbul, from Adana. We must have been labeled, as something, as we walked on the way to become Istanbulites. Our father’s hat definitely lost the color it once had, our mother’s hair gained split ends. I was still able to braid my own hair, and you hadn’t arrived yet; the sea we stared at was less salty than the Mediterranean, and the house on the island somewhat resembled the one in Adana, so we settled for it, the little Marmara, with the false hopes that the island could become our Adana.

I take your small face in my hands, and eat you up with my eyes. There you are, fading away. You’re rejecting everything you’ve learned so far. You have that commander, he’s bigger than dad, he says DOWN and you lay, he says SHOOT and you pull the trigger.  You won’t come when I tell you to come. You won’t look at me, or mom, as you leave school and take off.

It’s raining here above the clouds. Did you bring the rains?

See? All those things you didn’t want at first are turning on you:

Family, sister, longing, reuniting, love, arms of another…

Scream, Poyraz!

Scream at the top of your lungs, as you drift with the wind. Like when you scream at the games you went to see without a team in mind. Let your eyes struggle to stay open during the night watches, let yourself sing the folk songs you’re not familiar with, keep on writing letters to me and keep on not sending them, ever. Come on, defy those things you refuse. Die, for those you refuse!

The clouds are now a dessert, our house is gone. Sentences that I cannot pronounce are wrenching my throat. Clouds, are asking why I didn’t come to see you for the last year.

I wake up.

“You’ve fallen asleep.”

“Yes, I have.”

“We’re landing in five.”

“Let’s not.”

“What now?”

“Let’s not land. I don’t want to land in Adana.”

“…”

“I don’t want to go.”

“Try to relax.”

“Don’t get me out of this plane.”

“Okay, I’m here, relax. Look at the fields! They’re like carpets…”

“…”

“Have some water.”

“Please don’t let me go.”

We begin landing. We buckle up. Then we hit the ground, Adana. At the exit of the airport, half shy half not, I hug the arm that kept me company during the flight.

“Would you come with me, if you’re free?” I ask.

I am relentless. His answer is vital.

“I’ll take you where you’re going,” he says. We take a cab. “To the B. Cemetery,”

He stays silent. I lay on his shoulder. We arrive to the plateaus after trees flowed on the windows of the car.

Lots of dead, in my mouth. Inside my mouth is filled with the favorite dishes of Poyraz.

Inside my mouth, rear sight, slide and muzzle. The fact that I’m the only one left crushes my chest. I am crumbling under the marbles of mom and dad.

We arrive at the B. Cemetery. I get off the cab leaning on the man.

It truly is time for a hymn now, a sad one too.

We pass units and helmets. Rifles, used otherwise, but not today.

We get to a piece of wood, wrapped in red. There are cameras, each waits for me to cry a river. I squeeze the man’s arm even harder to resist giving them what they came for. He’s taking deep and silent breaths. He’s building up courage, to ask:

“How did you know him?”

Ashes of my cigarette fall to the ground, my glasses begin to pour. My eyes are no longer hidden behind my sunglasses.

The answer to his question is quite short. If I say it, I’ll fall.

I am falling, from the dessert of clouds, to the hell of earth, so that you hit from the head, to the expired souls.

So that, instead of my brother, thick meats saturated with long lives get to be buried.

“He’s my brother.” I say. “My Poyraz.” “My life.”

A man with countless stars stitched to his shoulders approaches and holds my hand. Flashes pop. The more he holds my hand the more I bury myself closer to the man beside me. A family friend supplies a scarf for my head. I stand up straight during the entire burial march.

We make space for Poyraz next to mom and dad. I lift his head and kiss Poyraz. Poyraz is a cloud, all white.

The man leaves my side and joins the men’s group, I can’t stand without him, and so I follow him there. Harsh-sounding Arabic words enter my ears, only one of the things Poyraz refused…

His back touches to the ground, and my head to the clouds…

As his limbs stitched up together to form a whole land in soil, as we all stand up with pride before him, Poyraz keeps on spreading to the air. I, melt in the dessert of clouds. Drip, drip!

I let out that scream everybody was waiting for, it cuts through the air like a sharp sword:

Poyraz!

Did you die, so that others would die? So that I lose what’s left of me? Is it like breathing, six feet under? Are you purified now, did you left behind your blood, your hands, your legs and your head?

I cannot connect my hymn to your laughter. Your shiny blue bike, your sweating teenager moustache, the way you rode down the island slop. All these, don’t add up… Did you rip apart mom’s womb for nothing? Did I read all those stories from books I hid under your pillow to you for nothing?

Slither, Poyraz. Rub your face to the dirt. Bike, girlfriend, friend, beans. Don’t think of anything. It’s better, to be there, to hear the footsteps of ants anyways. To reach and grab the mine, so that children keep their legs…

To dehydrate in desserts of clouds, without touching a real bullet…

My big one, my little one. My baby boy.

You die too.

I am now hanging from the man’s arm, wailing:

“Let’s leave here… Let’s go…”

“I’m headed to Tarsus, if that’s … -“

“To Tarsus…”

He holds on to my fallen body and lays me on the backseat of another cab. As he closes the door I ask him:

“What’s your name?”

“Rüzgar[4].”

 

 

[1] Southern city in Turkey.

[2] Another southern city in Turkey.

[3] Literal translation of “North Wind” and a common name in Turkish.

[4] Literal translation of “Wind” and a common name in Turkish.

 

Translation: Eylul Deniz Doganay

Collage: Wilfried School

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