There’s a gap between the sand and her skin, and it’s growing. The soft layer of the ground takes the shape of her bare heels. Maybe she cannot feel the shells underneath, but she can see how the current can possibly wrap up her body and throw her to the sea. She watches the waves and thinks how each comes up to the same line and goes back, over and over again. No matter the size, they all trickle up on the shore and leave a thin bubbly line, right here. It’s as if they are building the grounds for our perfectly appropriate self-destruction; we will walk and step on these air bubbles, and we will reach the beyond ourselves. Marvelous!
Pain starts to settle in her groin because of the cold waters caressing her feet. And, sand is nothing but torture, isn’t it, it gets in your mouth and your nose, even in your eye, it doesn’t seem fair that she’s expected to describe viridity, here, of all places. She shakes off the dusty wind in her hair, takes a lock of hair to her mouth with her two fingers, and chews the ends. Ends of long, dead tissue. Unless burnt, they can indicate her existence on earth. But would that even be a noteworthy remark, her existence? She asks her soul if it wants to dissolve into a cloud of dust and travel away. The remaining ball of filth would eventually end up in the pit of dreams under this shore or another anyway, right?
The coastal line behind her goes on forever both ways, but she knows that if she were to walk to her left and didn’t stop, she’d reach the lighthouse. It feels like ancient history now, but she remembers the two of them making the trip there. They had gone across the deserted part of the shore, fearlessly jumped over a layer of snakeskin, and followed the songs of birds. The lighthouse had greeted them by the sharp rocks reaching out to the sea like a blade, on which they sat down and admired the beauty it added to the scenery. Did people still come here, or even pass by? For whom did it shed light on and around the water, and was there anyone taking care of it? These were the questions they had come up with to make up mysterious stories about the lighthouse. That was when she first identified freedom, in that moment of thrill, in the shiver that warmed her stomach.
She looks to her left; if she looks harder, she can almost see the lighthouse, she knows it. She blinks, and what she sees in a split second isn’t the lighthouse, it’s a face with the sulking bags under its eyes. She closes her eyes, crosses her legs, and sits down facing the sea.
These images that you can’t shoo away even after spending your days sleeping or trying to picture nice things with your eyes closed are like crab nests. All we want is to live our lives comfortably, without forgetting to dream once in a while and preferably take the weight off our shoulders when we do dream; yet again we are in a constant anxiety, thinking whether or not a claw would strike out from the sand path we’re on. But we keep walking, with a sizzle in the soles of our feet, reminding us of a pain that could maybe be there, and we imagine the sandy shore swarming with red crabs.
Even though she’s returned to the town that gave her the sense of belonging and has been caught up in a more childish act in her cozy family environment, she still hasn’t managed to erase the images. They are captures of brief moments, but they have been circulating in her mind for so long that they become more vivid every day. Most of the time, she chooses to bury them deeper down, even further back, than her first trauma as a child and then an adolescent. Even from there, these images would make her lie down still, with an anchor of sadness pressing on her chest, and she’d have to wait for her aching head to doze off to sleep.
But now, there’s still that growing gap between her skin and the sand – what to do, how to get down?
She draws some shapes and figures on wet sand, filling her fingernails with viscous dirt. She sees two eyes appear before her on the sand – she panics. She’s seen these eyes before. Her mind flashes back to her suffocating self at the back of that black SUV, in the bulletproof vest they made her wear. On that day, she had tied her hair in a low bun and she was wearing a beige shirt that clearly showed the sweat marks under her armpits and camouflage print cargo shorts. All that she gave up, sacrificed, accumulated in a fist-size knot at the tight gap between her chest and the vest. British soldiers, two at the front and one next to her, with the only mission of protecting her on the trip to the oil facility from the airport. Sun penetrating from the tinted windows, turning the two soldiers in the front pink. Beams, refracting on helmets and reflecting on rifles…
They were at a post-war country like any other, recovering. People were estranged and women’s faces were dark. The curse of oil took its toll.
Putting on this vest was obligatory during every ride. She was to follow the soldiers’ instructions the whole time. It was strictly forbidden to get off the vehicle or act on her own in case of an attack or any other dangerous circumstances. Making the vehicle stop, even for urgent needs, wasn’t an option. Violating any of these rules would cost her the job. Oh, but she was quite content with herself when she signed under every article. Deep down, she knew that no Iraqi militant would dare to halt the armed SUV in question, her pen had no trouble skating on the papers.
An abrupt hit on the brakes had snapped her out of the tedium of the trip in the desert. She looked around in her seat, it didn’t feel like an adventure awaited them, there wasn’t anyone running towards them or anything. She sat up straight and saw a man beneath the hill ahead, lying on a pillow of sand. Lying next to him, a frail kid.
The soldier at the passenger seat asked the one driving, “What happened?” As if he’d know what could’ve happened here before their arrival. And he didn’t. “I don’t know,” he said. As this answer revealed nothing, he got out and walked up to the bodies, leaned over them. The kid didn’t move. When poked, his eyes sparkled with the sun refracting on the rifle. The soldier then returned to the vehicle and gave the go-ahead for them to move along.
“What?!” she screamed. Sweat gushed out of her body. “What do you mean? We can’t leave the kid here!”
A sulky face with bags under the eyes. A dark chin, this must have been the first spot touched by the curse. In the split second between hearing “There’s nothing we can do ma’am, we have to go” and the fear erupting from the kid’s arm-sized body, she began hitting the glass separating the front and back seats. Countless hits to the head, saliva coming off her mouth, she didn’t even know that one could scream out of their nose… The black SUV accelerated, and behind it, a masterpiece began being written on the stained shirt of the kid; it would either come to be a heroic tale or a cunning vengeance story.
“The kid!” she screamed.
Nazli Karabıyıkoğlu is a Turkish author, now full-time resident in Georgia, who recently escaped from the political, cultural, and gender oppression in Turkey. She helped create the #MeToo movement within the Turkish publishing industry, from which she was then excommunicated. With an M.A. in Turkish Language and Literature from Bogazici University, Karabıyıkoğlu has five published books in Turkish and has recently completed translations of two new books for international publication. Having won six literary awards in her country, she has been actively writing for magazines since 2009.
Eylul Deniz Doganay was born on May 24th, in 1996, in Istanbul, Turkey. She discovered her interest in the English language at a young age and therefore focused on foreign languages and translation. She is currently continuing her higher education at Bilkent University, where she added French to her working languages and aspires to become an interpreter. She took on her first long-term project when she began translating the works of Nazli Karabiyikoglu in the summer of 2018, as she believes in the particular work and its universal value, and the translator’s mission to convey that value.
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