Burnt nylon. Rusty nails on punks. Corpse of a dog winded around mosses in the middle of waves. Half of his or her face is bone or teeth. A male voice saying a prayer which you don’t understand tinkling from far.
Slogans, slang words on piss smelling wall. Mark of a bloody hand. Another mark of blood right next to it. The same hand? Don’t ask question! You are a child. Get to the shadow! Your nose will bleed under the sun. You are a dark boy on the beach. You are in the east of the Mediterranean. You are in the east of the center. You are in the Middle East.
The days with northeaster are boring. You cannot go swimming because of the waves, and that the sea is not of its usual transparent blue-green but a shaky yellow color.
What are you doing by the seaside, hasn’t your father sent you to the butcher?
“I would buy a kilo of mince. Lean - please”, I tell the village butcher. He is the son of the butcher. The real butcher is his father, he is a more cheerful, easygoing man. His son is a hobo. He is always like he’s just woken up. He seems to be hating everyone. His hands are dirty.
I barely added that “please” because I’m worried that he will think I am a “tanju”. I had seen this guy making fun of a long-haired tourist guy calling them in a feminine way “tanjuuu”. Other than being a male name, I don’t know exactly what tanju is but I can sense it. It must be a dangerous thing since it gives this man the right to make fun by snickering.
“Please” is too much for these men. I would like to be a person who could speak like “Hey, just get me a kilo of mince. Make sure that it is lean!”. Then, I could be one of them but words always come out of my mouth as an apology, I can’t help it. The man who doesn’t care about “please”s throw fat meat pieces into the mincer.
His chest is hairless. My father will get angry. He cautioned me saying, “Tell him that I am the son of sergeant major Emin. Convey my regards, tell that my father wants lean mince” when he sent me to the butcher. The man is blatantly stuffing the mince in the mincer.
My worry is this: I want to buy LEAN mince of one kilo with the money I tightly hold in my hands, not because I am the son of my father.
I didn’t convey my father’s regards. Why can’t anything be bought without someone’s regards? Isn’t having the money enough? I remain silent. The mince is packed.
I pass the money. “Have a nice working day”, I say like whispering and then I go away.
As I walk, I am trying to walk like a tough man, so that I won’t be considered “tanju”.
There will be guests at night and my father will prepare çiğ köfte* for dinner. My father is from Urfa. We had guests frequently in this coastal village or we visit them. He makes a wry face when he opens the package. “This guy, he again gave fat one. Didn’t you tell him that I am the son of sergeant major Emin?”
He knows I didn’t.
“Çiğ köfte cannot be made with this”.
“Take this back”, says my father with an angry tone, “take it back, tell him that my father didn’t like this, it is too fatty, tell him to give lean mince. Are we beggars, we are paying for this”.
He understands that I won’t be able to accomplish his new mission. He looks at my mother who is shelling scallion and parsley that would be enough to feed an army.
Realizing that our children will never become the humans that we want them to be is the harshest truth to be accepted in the world.
Truth is not favored in the Middle East. It is very hard to voice the truth in the middle of the Middle East. It is always hidden with mud, blood, dust and fear. It is like this since the beginning of the world.
“Walk”, my father says with the package in his hand we start walking together. “Buy another lettuce”, my mother calls out to us. We are walking towards the bazaar. My father is walking in front of me, he is not speaking to me. Now he will teach me not to be paid through the nose. He will lecture me about how to fix a mistake, how to exert your authority, how to live without being suppressed in this country, how to be a man. As for me, I don’t care about the mince or butcher, I just want to forget about everything related to this morning.
Then the incident, which prevents me from forgetting that afternoon, occurs. We hear a woman’s scream first. When we turn the corner, we see a man beating a very old villager woman in the middle of the street. The old woman is screaming like a wounded animal, “Save me, he is going to kill me”. “Don’t hit, son, don’t hit”, she is begging.
Her mouth and nose are covered in blood. “Mom, why do you behave like this mom?”, shouts her grown-up boy like he was refraining from neighbors who were by their windows and passing people. Then he packs a punch. As the old woman falls down on the floor and stop talking, my father who was dumbfounded until that moment runs towards that direction. A couple of neighbors run onto the bully with sticks in their hands. The man is running away swearing. The woman’s white-hennaed hair seen from her fallen headscarf. Her bloody face coated with dust. She is groaning on the ground with a thin voice like a child.
My father helps woman being carried inside and informs the community clinic. The rest of them is up to the neighbors. Meanwhile, the package dropped and the mince scattered all over the ground, yet, no one cares about it at that moment. A couple of cat attack on the mince. My father will start swearing soon and put the mince coated with soil: An expensive feast for street dogs and cats. When mince is bought from the butcher again, story of the beaten woman will be the main topic. “Her son is a good-for-nothing, heartless junkie after all”, the father butcher will say. His son is gone by the moment, his father is in the shop by himself now. “He drinks and drinks, and steals his mother’s money…He is involved in gambling too, may god better him…”
“And, this is my son, recognize him well so that when he says lean mince, prepare lean mince next time” my father will say. The butcher will shake his head sorrowfully: “I wasn’t in the shop, pardon me, my son doesn’t know, he must have prepared the mince. Believe me this shop will be abandoned if I leave. I beat him, hit him but couldn’t make him a man. I don’t know who he resembles…”
I will always listen and watch like a stranger, like I am not there. I will never learn to speak like them. I am a child. I am in the east of the Mediterranean. I am in the center of the East. I am in the Middle East.
52 WEEKS 52 MEN
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