In the Middle – Turkey: Forgetting (Part 3)

By Seyit Ali Dastan

After returning home, I told my mom that I was not being very helpful with reminding my father of the past. All night we discussed what to do and, in the end, I suggested that we take a trip through Cappadocia, to the shore of the Mediterranean in Turkey, and ending in Antalya. On the trip, we could make stops that might trigger some memories in him.

After some discussion, we decided not to do it. My mother said that foreign tourist prices were charged for the Cappadocian sites. If the three of us entered the Ihlara Valley, a beautiful, historical area in the middle of Anatolia, which we regularly visited in the past, we would need to pay more than the cost of travelling there. Even the sight-seeing area was subject to a charge, she added. I didn’t insist on the trip since I knew that it might also be full of disappointment. We could no longer visit Burdur Lake or many other smaller ones that were bird sanctuaries, as they had completely dried up. The beaches in the Belek district of Antalya, where we went swimming, were allocated to hotels and no longer open to the public. The forests around them had been converted to recreation areas, with many trees being cut down to open up golf courses.

Rather than making visits, I spent a few more days at home with my father. We took walks during the day and spent the evenings talking about the past. We looked at the photo albums from more than ten years ago. The photos from the more recent period were stored on some flash drives and CDs. The CDs were not readable now, and I was not sure where to find the drives. It was enough to return to our childhood photos when my father was much younger. In one of those photos I was reading a book – probably The Old Man and the Sea. Then my father asked:

“Do you still want to be a writer?”

Did I want to be a writer? “I’m not sure,” I replied.

He was right, but I just didn’t want to say “Yes.” Yet I didn’t want to give him an incorrect answer and continued talking about it:

“Do you remember I once asked you how I should start writing a story; I mean the first sentence…”

“Let me show you something…” he said, and started to search through the bookshelf. Soon he found a notebook of mine from many years ago. He pointed to my handwritten words on the first page. It went exactly like this: He was walking down the cobblestone-paved street to our home. But it consisted of only this sentence. The rest of the notebook was completely blank. He continued with sympathetic self-confidence: “Maybe, I didn’t completely lose my memory.” We laughed together. Then my mother intervened:

“Son, never write on political subjects! Never!”

“Don’t worry, mom! I won’t. I won’t write at all. Today, people don’t have the patience to read more than a few sentences.”

On the morning of the day I was leaving Kayseri, while I was in the bedroom, the telephone rang. I heard my father speaking to a person on the phone. After I left the bathroom, he said:

“Wrong number. Somebody asked for ‘Seyfi’,” he said.

“That’s me!” I replied and abruptly took the phone and dialed the person who had called. After the conversation was over, I saw my father gazing at me perplexedly.

“Did I forget my dear son’s name?” he asked.

“No, dad. You didn’t. I had to change my name.”

“Change your name?”

“You may find it a bit confusing, but I had to change it a bit. The government has published my name in the official gazette, claiming that I am linked to terrorism. I can’t set up new business contacts with this name because people search it in google and see me on that list. Believe me, dad, I could not even rent a flat because of it. I emailed Google and asked them not to list my name like that, but it didn’t work. Anyway, this is not an official name change. You can consider it a nickname.”

“All right. But if you are known by such a name, you cannot get your former name back again,” he said rightfully.

“Sorry, dad. This is the only way to survive.”

“I believe you are doing what is best, son. I trust you…”

While I was packing my bags before going to the airport, my father came to my room and handed over the notebook he had shown me the day before. Beforehand, he smelled it deeply and said:

“Maybe there are not many things left worth remembering, but the scents are the exception, and the scent of the notebook is unforgettable. Take it as a gift.”

“Thanks, dad! But cobblestones are no longer used. This story would belong to period fiction, which you may not remember,” I joked.

“Yes, our lives are all asphalt, cement and plastic now.”

In the afternoon, I got on the plane to Istanbul, where my wife and son would meet me at the airport. All the way, I had mixed feelings regarding my father. His condition was not that bad, and he would get well in time. But the damage was severe, and he might not regain the health he enjoyed before. Losing your memory, whether the good or bad parts of it, is losing your life; and I had not been able to bring back any part of his life again.

As the plane descended, we passed over Istanbul, a city ten times the size of Kayseri. On each of my flights over Istanbul, I realized that the buildings were growing and spreading like vigorous plants. I looked at the city from above and tried to recognize famous spots. I saw the iconic building of Haydarpaşa Rail Station, which used to be the end point for trains coming from mainland Asia to Istanbul, but had now been abandoned without a clear fate. On the other side of the Bosporus, Gezi Park, which had been besieged by expanding areas of concrete and asphalt, was barely visible. The park was the stage for long-lasting “occupy” protests a couple of years ago when people opposed the cutting of the trees and the replacement of the park with new buildings. I understood that they were not merely fighting to save the park, the trees or nature, but more to save their memories. And temporarily, the people were triumphant.

At that moment, I suddenly had the feeling that the apocalypse had already happened, not with a bang, but a whimper; and we are now living in a post-apocalyptic world. This is not the world of Mad Max, for sure. The apocalypse has happened in such a tempting way and so slowly that we didn’t even realize what our world has turned out to be.

The plane landed a few minutes later, and I met my wife and son at the Istanbul Ataturk Airport, which would be deserted in a few months as a new airport had been constructed in the north of Istanbul. Walking through the arrival gates, knowing that it would probably be our last time inside, I hugged my son and caught a whiff of the area right under his neck where I perceived his scent most intensely.

In the Middle – An International Transposition (Fiction)

Introduction to In the Middle – An International Transposition, edited by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey

January: Forgetting – Turkey, by Seyit Ali Dastan

February: The Unreal in Real – Armenia, by Armine Asyran

March: Catching Water – Argentina, by Javier Gómez

April: Unwanted – South Africa, by Sarah Leah Pimentel

May: House with a Stucco Ship – Ukraine, by Gennady Bondarenko

June: A Girl Pedaling up the Road of Life – Cuba, by Marilin Guerrero Casas

July: The Last Day – Poland, by Pawel Awdejuk

August: Through my Hands – Venezuela, by Veronica Cordido

September: Amelia’s Euphemism – Spain, by Jonay Quintero Hernández

October: Until Love Do Us Part – Uruguay, by Alejandra Baccino

November: A Journey to the Edge – Lebanon, by Rayan Harake

December: I Used to Smoke – Russia, by Kate Korneeva

Background – Context

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

More work by Seyit Ali Dastan

Uncertain Waters – Short story

Polarization and the Epidemic of Extremity – Short story

Living in the Pendulum between Turkey and Syria – Short story

Emblems and stories on Turkey

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from Turkey and other countries

Credits

Cover photo of Kayseri, Turkey by Attraction Art

Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.