Son haftalar tatlı bir telaş içinde geçti. İstanbul’a gelen yoga hocalarımı ağırlamakla meşguldüm. Öğrencisi olduğum Shadow Yoga okulunun kurucusu Zhander Remete ile okulun en kıdemli öğretmeni ve müdürü Emma Balnaves her yıl gerçekleştirdikleri Avrupa turuna İstanbul’da başladılar. Yıllardır hayalini kurduğum bir şeydi bu benim. Öğretilerinin ışığında eğittiğim öğrencilerim ile ustalarımı buluşturmak yani. İnsanın böyle büyük bir hayali gerçekleşince stres katsayısı artıyor. Ben de hocaları gezdirip, beslediğimiz geçen hafta boyunca pek çok defa zihnimi stresin çalkantılı sularından, anın zenginliğine davet etmek durumunda kaldım. Çünkü Boğaz manzarasına karşı kahve de içiyor olsanız, trafikte sıkışmış da ustalarla geçen her an, öğrencinin bilgisini pekiştirip, ruhunu beslemeye yarayan sözler ve/veya suskunluklarla dolu. Ben de hocalar için mükemmel ortamı yaratmanın sorumluluğunu taşıyan kendimi mümkün olduğunca arka koltuğa oturtup, o andaki dersi izlemeye verdim dikkatimi.
Haftanın her anı tam konsantrasyon öğrencilik ederek geçti diyebilirim. Emma Hoca’nın Cihangir Yoga’da verdiği üç günlük muazzam kursta da bu öğrenme, zenginleşme, beslenme süreci zirve yaptı.
Haftalar, belki de aylardır hayalini kurduğum gün bugün.
Bir gün adaya gitsem…Ah yoga, yazı, yürüyüş ve yunanca ile dolu yalnız bir gün yaşasam…Deyip deyip duruyordum. Her sabah ve çoğu akşam ders verdiğim için bu hayalimi gerçekleştirecek bir zaman da bir türlü bulamıyordum. Nihayet Emma hocayı yolcu ettiğim günün ertesinde ne olursa olsun ada gününü yaratmaya karar verdim. Son on günü pek bir sosyal geçirdiğim için tek başıma kalmaya susamıştım. Geceden çantamı hazırladım, spor ayakkabıları dolaptan çıkardım. Bir Türkçe, bir İngilizce roman, bilgisayar, yoga kıyafeti, yunanca kitabı, yağmurluk, psikoloji dersinde yapacağım bir sunum için üzerinde çalıştığım aile ağacı notlarım, hepsini topladım. Sanırsınız ki yedi gün yedi gece kalacağım adada.
Sabah perdeleri ve gözlerimi açmadan hazırlandım, bir taksi çağırdım. Sokağa adım atar atmaz soğuk rüzgar ve yağmur çarptı yüzüme. Çantamdaki ada ekipmanı hayal kırıklığı ile yer değiştirdiler. Gün aymamıştı daha. Dersten sonra karar veririm, dedim. Ama olur mu yani? Günlerdir bal bahar ortalık, şimdi bu kıştan kalma gün de neyin nesi?
Kendi yogamı yaptım. Güneş doğdu. Öğrenciler geldi. Ders yapmadık. Hepimiz yorgunduk. Emma’nın workshopunda öğrendiklerimizi konuştuk. Önceki gün camlarını sonuna kadar açtığımız halde terlediğimiz stüdyoda bu sefer üşüdük. “Gitmeyeceğim herhalde” dedim kendi kendime. Zaten çok yorgunum. Adada yapmayı düşündüğüm her şeyi evde yaparım. Çantamın içinde romanlarım, defterim üzüntü ile içlerini çektiler. Eve gidince hep bir şeylerin beni alıkoyacağını biliyorlar.
Dersten sonra sokağa çıktık. Hava iyice sertleşmiş. Düşünmeden Çağlayan’ın arabasına bindim, beni Kabataş vapur iskelesine götürmesini rica ettim. On dakika sonra, bir grup Japon turist ile birlikte Adalar vapurunda sıcacık bir simidi çayıma bandırıyordum. Hava, deniz, yer, gök hepsi griye kesmiş, güzelim şehrin renklerinin tamamı çalınmış. Kınalı, Burgaz, Heybeli, derken saat onda vapur bizim Ada’ya yanaşırken bana yine bir tembellik hasıl oldu. Aman, şimdi bu havada eve git, evi önce havalandır, sonra ısıt. Bır bır bır. İki satır yazacaksın diye. Bak vapur ne güzeldi. Hadi hiç inmeden dönelim. Şu gri, haşin adanın seni bağrına basacak hali var mı?
Ay ciddiyim böyle diyor şeytan.
Kalk kır bacağını değil mi? Japonlar kalkmış, merdivenlere yürüyorlar. Ben camdan bakıp çocukluktan kalma bir alışkanlıkla bizim evin yerini kestirmeye çalışıyorum. Bizim ev vapurdan gözükmez. İskele verildi. Japonlar şemsiyelerini açtılar. Yok artık. Şeytan gevrek gevrek kulağıma fısıldıyor. Varılan yer değil zaten yolculukmuş önemli olan. Şimdi bir çay daha içerek gerisin geri dönecekmişiz, Heybeli, Burgaz, Kınalı, Kadıköy, Kabataş.
Ne diyorsun ya! Bunca yolu gerisin geri dönmeye mi geldim ben? Hadi be kardeşim!
Yerimden fırladım, iskeleler geri çekilirken ben vapurdan atladım. Şeytan kırık bacağı ile peşimden gelemedi, vapurda kaldı, dönüp el salladım. Çay içip Kabataş’a tek başına dönsün.
Çarşıya doğru yürüdüm. Her şeye rağmen geldim ya, içimde bir özgürlük duygusu. Şimdi eve giderim, kaloriferleri yakarım, bir çay yaparım, güzel bir müzik koyarım. Okurum, yazarım, yoga yaparım, atlarım bisiklete bir tur dönerim. Yağmur durursa Aya Yorgi’de bir mum yakarım.
Görevimi başarıyla tamamladım. Başarının tatlı tatmini ile yoga dağarcığıma yeni katılan bilgilerin pırpır eden heyecanını doya doya yaşayabilirim şimdi.
They did not have swimming suits, so we brought an extra pair with us. They always wore our clothes anyway. They were so small compared to me and Esin, so when our clothes did not fit us anymore our moms gave them to Ruya and Mina. Every time they received a heap of t-shirts, shorts, skirts and shoes they knew the proper thank you words and how to show respect to the elderly. Behind their polite silence around the adults I could see how they were exhilarated to own the clothing that was once mine and Esin’s. I always felt like a heroine, a rock star when I was around them. They admired me and loved me so much! Maybe a little too much sometimes!
When it was time to change our clothes they got shy so we resigned to different corners of the garden to change. On their skinny bodies our swimming suits looked too large. The top part of the bikini was absolutely unnecessary. I was a bit concerned about the bottom part as well. What if it floated away once they were in the water? Their legs reminded me the branches of the sour-cherry tree Nene planted the year Esin and I were born. Until the moment I saw them in bikinis, I had not noticed how big their heads were compared to their bodies. Their black eyes looked larger than ever due to the excitement and fear they were feeling.
“Malnourishment” was Nene’s explanation for their size. “These girls can’t grow because they don’t eat proper food. They should eat with us more often”.
But they never did. At the end of the long mornings when we played in our garden when one of the adults called our names (and theirs too) from the upstairs window for lunch, they remembered that they needed to go back home and help mom to prepare lunch. They ate ice cream with us though. In the afternoon when we heard the bells of the ice cream car from the end of our street, mom gave me extra money so that I could treat the girls as well. They could not say no to ice cream. Or maybe they knew that their participation was necessary for me, for their dear heroine, to enjoy her own ice cream. They were right in a way. I could not and would not eat any if they were to stare at me with their big black eyes and empty hands.
They indeed knew so much!
We walked downhill in Old Lady’s garden towards the beach in one line. They followed me silently. Even the 3-year old brother was quiet. In my backpack I was carrying all the plastic swimming devices that I had sneaked out of my parent’s room earlier that day. My father was taking a nap when I tiptoed into the room. Life jackets, a pair of flippers, sleevelets and swimming suits for the 4 of us. I had carefully placed them in my backpack and quietly closed the door. Dad murmured something in his sleep.
When we arrived to the beach I let Mina lead the way. She knew where the hole in the barbed wire was. We followed her into the sea, which reached to the level of our thighs right away. Mina was right. The hole was there but it was too small for me and Esin to pass through. Plus, the wire separating the private beach of the “Club” from Old Lady’s property was rusty.
I watched the girls and their baby brother passing through it with no difficulty. I took a few steps further. The water has reached to the level of my groins and my short were getting wet. I looked at the other side of the barbed wire. Girls were waiting for me to do the move. They were probably expecting me to help Esin to pass through too because I always helped her. Plus this time she had this patch covering her right eye which made her look even more helpless than usual.
She had an eye operation ten days prior and she was not supposed to put her head in water. It was not like she was not supposed to go into the water at all or anything. I tried to reason with my mom and my aunt many times during the previous week. She could have kept her head above the water. We could still go to the beach right? It was ridiculous that we stayed at home the whole day because Esin had to avoid seawater.
How about we still go to the beach but she does not swim? “C’mon,” I begged them, “we always go to the beach. It is too hot to stay at home. And so BORING!!” They did not even listen to me. I cried and yelled at them for being mean and unreasonable. My mom stormed in to the room, grabbed me by my shoulders and hissed into my ear that it would be very, very bad for me at the end if I continued to act like a spoiled brat.
That is how my perfect plan began.
We did not need the adults to go swimming. That was my first point as I later explained to Esin. As long as she kept her head above the water, she was fine. We were not babies anymore. We always spent our time between breakfast and lunch on the street or at Old Lady’s garden anyway, so none of the adults would be concerned about our whereabouts. I thought about each and every possible way that we could be caught and blocked it strategically.
“Plus” I said and stopped to increase the power of my words,
“We will be swimming not just anywhere. Not in the public beach where our moms take us all the time. No. No.”
I watched the anxiety on her one eye slowly being replaced by curiosity and excitement. Just like the clouds in the sky.
“We will swimming at the… Club beach!”
This last one had the bomb effect that I was expecting. She jumped up to her feet! Swimming at the Club beach? Was I serious?
“Yes”, I said, “Now sit down and listen to me carefully!”
The plan -my plan- was perfect if the gardener’s daughters had not insisted on dragging their spoiled little brother along with them. If he had not come with us, their mother Jamila would not have freaked out and run to our house at lunchtime. I have no memory of Jamila ever coming to our house before. Her husband worked occasionally in our garden, when our own gardener was sick or away or there was too much work for him to handle on his own. Her daughters Ruya and Mina often came to play with us but Jamila herself never showed up at our place. She stayed at home taking care of the young son, Murad, the brat who spoiled my perfect plan. He was the third child of the family, who finally arrived after the two girls; the long awaited; the most precious; the one who would carry on the lineage: The boy!
“We have to take him with us” said the girls when we showed up at Old Lady’s house. “Mom is cleaning Old Lady’s house and we are supposed to baby-sit him. This is the only way.”
I knew right away that there was no other way. Still I wanted to give them a headache.
“Then you are not coming with us. We can’t go with a baby along. He can’t swim anyway.”
I saw Mina’s eyes growing bigger and darker with disappointment. Ruya, the calmer and more sensible one of the two, who turned out to be a genius and was later accepted to some Ivy League school’s genetic engineering department with full scholarship, glimpsed at the fancy swimming devices we had brought along and gulped.
But we needed them for the plan to work. I knew it and so did they. Still they kept their mouths shut. They lived on Old Lady’s property, which went all the way down to the beach. We needed the beach access. In fact access to the beach was key to my plan. We needed them badly. I hated it.
Old Lady was a famous painter who lived all alone in a huge mansion with her mean black dog. She had never married, had no kids. She was not as old as Nene but much older than my mom and my aunt. She wasn’t pretty like them but there was a different kind of allure in the way she held her lean body. She had a sharp chin, tight lips and light brown straight hair, cut very short, a hairstyle I had never seen in other women. I not only found her haircut bizarre but was also amazed by the tight pants, tiny vests and the hats she wore.
Even though she was a friend of grandma’s and visited us a few times during the summer, she rarely talked to us kids and when she spoke to Nene, her tone was so low that I never knew what she sounded like. She never laughed and when she smiled she looked so uncomfortable, as if her lips were forced to do an extraordinary exercise.
We never saw any visitors at her place. Nene had mentioned a sister of hers whom she –Old Lady- hadn’t talked to for more than a decade. When I inquired about this Nene gently scolded me for snooping into the conversations of the grown ups. However I knew that it would not take very much to convince her to give me some more details. Our grandma loved telling stories.
The two sisters, both very talented artists, had loved each other very much once upon a time and were inseparable. After finishing university –where they had met my grandparents- they went to Paris for more studies and started their painting careers. They were very charming and made many friends, both men and women. At this point Nene would always lower her voice before going on with her story of “a little too bohemian choices” of the two sisters. And sometimes she’d pause to focus all her energy into kneading the raw minced meat mixed with bread, onion and parsley. Her hands would be deep into the bowl all the way down to her forearms or she would be busy cooking other delectable dishes.
But “why, why, why?” I insisted this one time. “Why are they not talking to each other anymore?” “Oh well” said Nene as she dried the sweat on her forehead with a cotton cloth she always carried in her apron pocket. She was preparing meatballs, kofte, with parsley and the kitchen was getting hot. I was sitting on the marble kitchen counter with my legs dangling and was sneaking small pieces of raw meat into my mouth.
“Upon their return, the young one –Old Lady- got more famous than the other and the older one got jealous so they had a big fight and they stopped talking. And you should stop eating the raw meat. Worms will grow in your tummy.”
“Oh come on Nene”! Not even an 8 year old would believe in a story like this. Of course there was some jealousy and some romance and some men, even maybe some women…I knew from prior eavesdropping sessions that there was a fiancé in the picture. Not Old Lady’s but her sister’s fiancé who might have fallen in love with the younger sister. But then there were rumors that the older sister liked women more than men. So why was she engaged in the first place? And the French fiancé if he was so much in love with our Old Lady, why didn’t he marry her?
I had all these questions in my head, but when we reached this point in the story, no matter how much I begged or tried to trick her into further details, Nene’s only comment was, “Don’t come on your Nene. Grandmas are not to be comeoned.”
Instead of satisfying my curiosity with further details, she used the opportunity to give me advice and switch her story telling tone –which I loved- into her advice tone –which I found boring. Giving advice was her other favorite thing to do.
“Do you see how lonely she is up there? An old woman all alone in a huge house? No children, no grandchildren, no husband…If you don’t settle with a decent man when you are still young and pretty that’s what happens to a woman. A little too much fun and a lifetime of loneliness. No man wants a woman who had too much fun in her past. You will remember that, will you not my dear smart girl? ”
Ruya and Mina’s father took care of Old Lady’s infinite gardens. In return, Old Lady provided them with housing and food. It was Old Lady who later discovered Ruya’s genius and paid for her schooling until the day she was admitted to college.
Their house was more or less a hut hidden somewhere in Old Lady’s gigantic property. They all slept in one single room that lacked fresh air desperately and smelled of dirty socks all the time. Parents and the boy slept on the only bed and the girls slept on the floor on some pads. The room was packed with rolled mattresses, blankets, and a couple of wooden chests that contained the whole family’s clothes. There was no room to walk in it, so they went in there only for sleeping.
Their old style kitchen was big though, and a big wood stove stood in the middle. I often daydreamed of the evenings in that kitchen during winter. Huddled together by the stove, girls doing their homework on the kitchen table, Jamila cooking dinner and saving the best piece for Murad or maybe for her husband. I wondered what it would feel like to be in that kitchen with them on winter evenings when darkness falls so early, and what it would look like when they would turn the lights on. It must have felt so different compared to the long summer days.
Summer was the only time we saw each other. During the long afternoons we spent lying around in their front porch and reading books, I often asked them to tell me about the island in the winter. Was it so empty when all the summer people were gone back to town? Were there many children in their school? How did it look when it snowed? Would they ever go to our garden to play with the swings? No, they said the swings were taken down in winter, so their wood would not swell when it rained.
Even though I read more books than they did, they knew so much more than I did. When a new children’s book arrived at the only bookstore on the island, I was the first one to know. The second person was Ruya who patiently waited for her turn to read it. I knew she wanted to keep the books to read again and again in the winter, but they didn’t have space in their house, so she returned them to me usually the day after she borrowed them. The sight of her reading always reminded me of a hungry tiger gulping down his prey.
Yet they did not think winter on the island was at all interesting. They thought they could come up with nothing to impress me. How could they? I must have been having a fantastic time in the City, going to a private school and seeing movies, buying toys, making friends, going to their birthday parties…No? “Sure, it is fun” I used to mumble, distracted. In truth their questions always touched that sour spot of loneliness of the winter nights. A winter spent all alone in my bedroom with the faint sound of TV coming from the living room and the never-ending “discussions” of my parents. “We are not fighting sweetness, we are only discussing” my mom would say when I asked them to please stop fighting. There was never enough homework to keep me busy until the evening and television programs were boring even for the grown-ups. No, the girls would have never believed me if I told them I’d rather spend the entire winter in their kitchen by the stove.
But it was summer then. The winter was so far away that it was hard to believe that it would eventually come and we would have to decide what coat to put on before leaving home.