Authors: Alan Drew
“It’s almost two weeks away.”
Yilmaz Bey shrugged, told Sinan he was sorry again, and walked into the bathroom to wash himself before leaving for the night. That was it; Sinan was supposed to leave now, but he stayed standing in the office until the manager returned. It was a shameful thing to do, and Sinan was embarrassed when Yilmaz Bey plopped himself down in his swivel chair.
“It’s been hard for many people since the quake, I know,” the manager said, pulling his coat from a hanger above his desk. He lifted a wallet from the coat pocket, and pulled a ten-million-lira note from a ribbon of bills.
“Here, Sinan,” the man said. “I wish I could do more.”
Sinan stared at the bill hanging limply from the manager’s palm, the stern face of Atatürk staring back at him.
“Please,” the manager said. “A gift. You’re a good worker, Sinan.”
Shame rose inside Sinan like an unfurling red flag, but he grabbed the bill and folded it into his shirt pocket. He was so disgusted with himself that it wasn’t until later, as he passed through the shining foreign cars of the parking lot and down into the broken streets, that he realized he hadn’t thanked the man. Then before he reached the tent he was angry again, spitting silent obscenities at the manager, cursing him and the money he could give away so easily.
HE NEXT DAY, WHEN HER FATHER WAS AT WORK, HER MOTHER
wouldn’t let her out of her sight. She kept
rem inside the tent washing glasses that were already clean. She made her pull the sleeping bags out of the tent and beat them clean with a stick. She forced her to sweep the tent floor and use a broom to wipe away the spiders’ webs spread like lace in the corners of the tent. And when
rem was done, her mother decided it was not clean enough and made her do it again.
“Stupid girl,” she said, while
rem dragged the sleeping bags out of the tent again.
“Look,” she said to
She held the bag in one hand and took the stick and hit it with amazing violence. “You will not hurt the bag. Hit it,” she said, and gave it back to
“Stupid girl,” her mother said again, standing in the sun watching her. “The rumors better not be true.”
rem slapped the stick against the bag that was already clean.
“Harder,” her mother said.
The bag was heavy and her arm began to hurt, but she slapped the stick against the material as hard as she could, imagining she was hitting her mother.
The next day they did the laundry, hauling all their clothes to the wash bins near the bathrooms. Her mother handed her each article of clothing and made her do the hard work of rubbing them over the ribbed metal washer.
Two women were hanging clothes on a line and they watched Nilüfer and
“See,” her mother said. “See what you’ve caused.”
rem ran one of her father’s shirts over the metal washer and stared back at the women until they looked away.
“It doesn’t matter if the rumors are true,” her mother said. “Once they start they never go away.”
She drowned the shirt in the rinse-water bin, wrung the water out, and dropped it in the dry bucket.
“I didn’t do anything,”
“Didn’t do anything, pah! It doesn’t matter, anyway,” her mother said. “Everyone thinks you have.”
Nilüfer handed her a blouse. It was her mother’s and
rem ground this one extra hard against the metal, so hard she stripped skin from her knuckles.
“That’s why it’s better to stay in the house and say nothing to the men.”
She couldn’t make the fabric rip and her arms were getting tired and there was a whole bucket of clothes left.
“But that’s wrong,
“It doesn’t matter. It’s how the world is.”
“You’re nothing now,” her mother said. “You understand?” Her mother handed her another shirt. “They don’t care. You make fun of all these women. You make fun of me!”
rem said. “I just want to be happy.”
“Happy, happy!” She took
rem by the arm. “You think you cannot be happy like me? You think because I cover my hair and take care of the house that I cannot be happy.”