“But loneliness is as delusive a belief in the pertinence
of the world as is love: in choosing to feel lonely,
as in choosing to love, one carves a space next to oneself to be
filled by others - a friend, a lover, a toy poodle, a violinist on the radio.”
― YIYUN LI, Kinder Than Solitude
Translated from Turkish by: Suğra Öncü
–Loneliness is maddening, he groaned. You may go mad with pleasure. The pleasure of pain!
The night had not yet given way to the morning. The curtains were drawn tightly. Fog was everywhere. The bitter cold was like the Angel of Death.
– Now imagine eternal loneliness. Eternal… Loneliness!
After a moment of hesitation, once again:
– Eternal loneliness! This is how God went mad! We were the children of a lonely, mad God in pain. We were equally in pain. We were lonely. That’s what we said. But were we? Didn’t God blow the spirit of life into his creation?
Screeching owls were heard from the hills. Were they screeching because day light hurt their eyes? Outside, a funeral procession came down the street. A coffin on shoulders passed in front of the coffeehouse.
He slumped into the chair next to me.
– God created us. Then he wanted to be alone. So he got rid of us. He had given up on us. At first it was gratifying. It had a scary grandeur. But then… Then his loneliness turned into pain. Pain, pain, pain….
He stared at my face as if he was searching for the impression his words made. But my face was blank and I was lost for any words. There was anger in his eyes. He was angry at God, and he didn’t try to hide it.
– To relieve the burden of his loneliness God began to pull us one by one to his side. Wars, epidemics, poverty, depravity. We were trapped inside the agony of his spirit. God was going mad. God created. God gave life to his creation and then he took it away. Again and again…. God never had enough. God will never have enough. This will never end. God’s madness… The immortality of mortality… God will pull us all to his side, but God is wrong. It will never be enough.
He had a terrible cough. He was coughing as if his lungs would burst. He was a ragged man in his sixties. A freezing winter had settled over him. His firm pale lips broke into a shattered smile. He was a madman. That’s what they said. But was he, really?
He talked persistently:
– Something you create, is it enough for your loneliness? To what extent?
The funeral procession crossed to the other side of the lake, moving towards the graveyard where cypress trees kept their vigil.
– Is what you have created in your mind and what you have been dreaming of, is it enough for your loneliness? If it were, would you dream again? No! There is no end to dreams. Neither to loneliness…
I heard my heart saying, ‘Love is in it, too.’ He must have heard it:
– It never occurred to me.
– It didn’t? Well, it’s time it did.
From then on, the chair I was sitting in seemed too small to carry the burden inside me. I stood to leave, to follow the funeral procession to the graveyard.
A woman’s shadow falls on the half open window of a yellow house with damp walls, where magnolia incense burns inside. The curtains part. A two-horse carriage passes the deserted houses where wild weeds grow on their soil roofs. On the corner, a sad orange-colored girl plays a harmonica. A young man with a hangover moves his tobacco-stained lips to say hello. At thirty-five, a golden flurry passes in front me. A broken man walks behind me, swearing without pity for beautiful things. Clouds walk in the sky. It starts drizzling. Growing circles of waves move over the surface of the lake. My feet sink into a bed of leaves. The broken man never stops talking.
– Land of the dead! Graveyard of the lonely!
They had already dug a hole. I volunteer to perform a duty. Picking up the shovel lying on the ground, I begin to help the man throw soil on the grave. At first I feel a secret satisfaction. Then my heart feels like bursting through my chest. The man stops; I turn my gaze to where he is looking. Two people are approaching: a young man in a tweed jacket and an old woman on his arm. It's her, Havin. The dead man’s ex-wife.
How life’s weight and hardship has wiped the freshness off her face. It baffles me. Her whole life seems to be reflected in her eyes, shadowed by their long white lashes. I remembered her hair as pitch dark, all about the night. And now? The thin, ghostly strands showing on her drawn cheeks from underneath her scarf… What has God done to her?
She is like the memory of a dream. I visualize things that once could have happened but never did.
– God shouldn’t have let her be this way, says my inner voice. – He would have done me a big favor. Old thug! Come to your senses!
But still, all those years aren’t enough to suppress the beating of my heart. Those years of her life… It would never be enough. The feeling she awakens in me… That feeling, it is so intense!
She is still far away. She gently puts her hands together in front of her… Are they cold? Right now, I would willingly give away five years of my life just to take those hands to my lips and warm them with my breath. There isn't much left to do anyway. That is my only wish from God. If God makes my wish come true, I won't sit up till morning in coffee houses. I won't drink… That is, not that much…. I'll drink less. And gambling? Never again! When it comes to women…. They don’t come to me anymore, they are gone. It’s been quite a while since I left all that behind… That is, I was going to be a good person. I’m not that bad anyway. I mean no harm. I’m good. So why bargain with God? I’m already good, God must know this. I haven’t given to God any reason not to make my wish come true.
She moves nearer. Grabbing the shovel on the ground, I start lifting the soil again. With every move, I feel a burst of energy. I am in ecstasy. A feeling of satisfaction surges inside me! There, it's done!
A yellow butterfly perches on the tip of her shoe. We seem to be only a few words apart. I raise my head. She looks at my face as if she never knew me at all… as if she doesn't recognize me. Her face reflects the spirit of whiteness in this place. I shiver. The hope inside me gradually vanishes before her eyes. An abyss flings us apart. A howl rises and the ground begins to shake. Heaven and earth tremble. I think that I'm shouting, but nobody turns to see. Nobody hears!
I lower my eyes to the ground. The voice behind me has already died away. Because her lips are sealed in silence. I have a sinking feeling as I think of that man suffering under the ground. The man who never admitted being mad, going mad, just like….
I kneel down, my soul covered by his soil.
Don’t we, I say, don’t we ultimately all bear the spirit of God?
Şeyma Koç was born in a district called Yahyalı, Kayseri in 1994. She completed higher education in Akdeniz University, department of Political Science and Public Administration. Her short stories have been published in several magazines, including Varlık, Evrensel Kültür, Dünyanın Öyküsü, Sincan İstasyonu, Güncel Sanat, Kasaba Sanat, Tmolos Edebiyat, Çıngı, Aşkın E Hali and Bireylikler. Her first short story collection Küllerin Şehveti was released in November, 2015. Her stories have translated to Greek, Kurdish, German and English. Apart from literature, she is actively engaged in NGO projects and workshops concerning the education and the rights of women.