Authors: Alan Drew
Sinan climbed the curving staircase of his apartment building. American music blasted down the stairwell and rattled the metal railing. He hated their apartment. From the outside it looked nice: the cement walls were painted yellow and the stairway to the front door was made of mediocre marble that shined when the apartment manager bothered to polish it. But inside you could hear a man whisper through the plywood doors, the plaster walls were chipped, and on stormy afternoons, when the rain rolled across the bay as though the sea had stood up and formed a wall, the wind slipped through the cracks in the mortar and deposited saltwater and cement dust in the corners of the living room.
In the kitchen, Nilüfer was covered in sweat and a dusting of flour. Little balls of dough stuck to her fingertips.
“Sinan.” She smiled. “
” she said, and purposely pressed her doughy hands to his face.
“Stop that, Nilüfer,” he said, but he let her smear the dough across his cheeks.
She kissed him once on each doughy cheek. Sinan tucked a stray strand of hair beneath her head scarf.
“How long has this been going on?” he asked, motioning with his head toward the music blasting through the ceiling.
She shrugged. “Forty-five minutes?” She looked behind Sinan. “Where’s
“Well, go get him. I need to get him ready.” She squeezed loaves of bread he had brought from the grocery that morning. “This bread is too hard. You need a new bread man,” she said. She walked into the kitchen. “The yogurt is runny. This heat is ruining it all. The
won’t rise, the peppers are like rubber.”
“Nilüfer, it will be fine,” he said. “I’ll go to the store and get more bread. Stop worrying.”
She leaned a fist on a hip and blew air through her teeth. “As though you don’t worry.”
He touched his stomach and made a face.
She waved her hand at him. “See.”
He laughed. “All right, all right.”
He looked around the corner to where his daughter sat watching television and made sure
rem could not see them before touching Nilüfer’s hips and kissing her on the lips—a long kiss, the kind he usually gave her only in their bedroom.
“Quit with that,” she said, but her hands rested on his chest. She slapped him on the shoulder and whispered, “We don’t need any more children.”
“What’s this?” Sinan said. Some sort of pastry sat in a circular tray on the kitchen table. It wasn’t a Turkish dish.
“Pecan pie,” Nilüfer said with an astonished lifting of her eyebrows. “Sarah Han
m brought it down for the party.” She glanced toward the ceiling.
“The American’s wife?” he said. “Pecans?”
An American family occupied the sixth floor, the one directly above them. They spent only the summers here, just sitting around, drinking wine on the terrace, and listening to jazz music, as far as Sinan could tell.
“Her name’s Sarah,” Nilüfer said, glaring at him. “Sarah Roberts, and she’s nice.”
“Maybe, then, she could teach her son some manners.” He pointed to the throbbing ceiling.
“We should have invited them. I feel bad.”
“You should be helping your mother,” Sinan said to his daughter, sticking his head around the corner into the living room.
“Baba, I’ve been working all day.” She didn’t look at him when she spoke. He didn’t know what it was about fifteen-year-old girls, but he had never known a child so rude to her parents.
He glanced at the television. It was an American show dubbed in Turkish, and the actors’ mouths stopped moving before the lines were finished being said. A scantily dressed blond girl killed monsters with a stake.
He watched the show for a minute, enough to determine that it dealt with the devil and sex.
“I don’t want you watching this. It’s not moral.”
“Baba, Buffy kills the vampires, the evil ones. What’s more moral than that?”
He snapped off the television.
“Get yourself ready for tonight,” he said. “It’s your brother’s special night.”
rem ran down the hallway. “
smail,” she said, “always
smail.” She slammed the door to the room she shared with her brother and the music upstairs stopped.
Sinan let out a frustrated breath of air. “How are we raising our children?” he called toward the kitchen.
“You could say hello to her first,” Nilüfer said, popping her head around the corner of the kitchen.
“So she could ignore me and stare at this stupid box?”
“Sinan, it’s only a television show.” He heard the oven door squeak open. “She’s been working hard since this morning. Be nice.”
He switched on the television again and watched for a minute, turning his head to the side to consider it. There was killing and there was kissing, enough for him. He shut it off.
“I’m going to invite them,” Nilüfer said, standing in the hallway now.
“No.” It was bad enough they lived above him, but he didn’t want the Americans inside his house, especially on this day.
“Sinan,” Nilüfer said. “It’s wrong. They’re our neighbors.”
He shook his head, but she was already coming toward him with a smile on her face.