May 24, 2021
I love concept albums, albums in which a singular story is told throughout the tracks. Some are silly, some are deep, but all of them are fascinating. Write the story that comes to you out of this lyric from Eagles’ Desperado album:
“The towns lay out across the dusty plains like graveyards filled with tombstones waiting for the names.”
She handed him a big mug of hot tea, then lied down and started sipping her own. The alarm clock next on the night stand indicated 2:06 and the window, that he had opened in a frenzy hoping to get some fresh air, showed a clear sky, pitch black, except for a couple of lights coming from the other buildings. He was sitting on the edge of the bed, facing the window, the mug in his hands, not moving a muscle.
After a couple of seconds, he rested the mug next to the alarm clock and turned around. His face was still pale, confused, his eyes lost somewhere else, half a world away.
“I think it’s better if I go back to my place,” he finally said.
Angie sat straight up, “At two in the morning? C’mon, just stay.”
He didn’t say anything, he never had. After having known him for close to two years, she was well aware that there were dark corners in his mind to which she would never be invited, and she had learned to accept it as part of their friendship. That night, there had been a call. It had woken her up, but not him. He was already awake, she could tell because he picked up right away, and started speaking in a language she couldn’t understand.
“I just—” he started. “I just want to be alone, if that’s okay.”
“Yeah, sure,” she said. “At least let me call you an Uber. You shouldn’t be driving at this time, and distraught as you are.”
She grabbed her phone, knowing that letting him go like that was probably not the right thing to do. But, what else could she do? In the beginning, when they’d met at the Museum where they both worked, she craved the intimacy of knowing things about him. He was very secretive, though, and all she could gather was that he was from Şırnak, a town in south-east Turkey and that he had graduated from an MFA program in NYU.
Even if with time they had grown closer, it had been with the silent agreement that his life had started the moment he had landed in JFK, and most of the things he shared were from his times in the city. Occasionally, he would share with her anecdotes from college. It was like that that she had learned that he had attended a prestigious Fine Arts school in Istanbul, nothing more. Whatever had happened before that, was a mystery to her.
“Remember that one time you asked me something about my hometown and I got really, really mad?”
Yeah, how to forget? That was at the beginning of their friendship, when they were still working at the same wing of the Museum and they had to see each other all the time. She had decided to google his hometown and had found out that in 1992 it had been nearly destroyed by the Turkish government. It was intriguing to her because that was around the time that he was born and she was curious about what it would be like to be born in the middle of a war zone. Her question to him was simple. Had he ever heard any stories or did he know anything surrounding his birth, the conditions, maybe, or how things had turned out for him at the time?
“I overreacted,” he said after a brief silence, probably understanding that she wouldn’t say a word. “Look, I want to apologize for that time, I was really bad to you. I don’t know how you still talk to me afterwards.”
Because she could feel the pain in his words—but she would never tell him that. And yes, that day tears had started rolling down her cheeks as she looked at him in the eye and he continued yelling at her how that was none of her concern, how she had to stop being so fucking nosey and mind her own fucking business. But she wasn’t crying because he had hurt her in any way. It was because she could see in his eyes how much he was hurting, and she knew that she had unearthed something he had fought way too hard to keep buried and presented it to him as some sort of evidence—like a puppy who unknowingly digs up something meant to stay buried. That was the reason why she had talked to him afterwards, and why she had continued to care about him because in his eyes she could see the same pain she had seen in the eyes of Papi all through her childhood. Papi, who had hidden in a closet while soldiers raped his mother and made his dad watch, accusing them of helping the FARC guerrillas. Papi, who had never really talked about it, other than when he would get drunk and beat up Mami as he shouted that he didn’t know what else to do to shut down the cries for help of his mother playing in his head.
“It’s okay,” Angie said, putting her phone away. “I’m serious when I say you can stay. The guest room is empty if you’d feel more comfortable.”
He didn’t say anything. Instead, he hugged her and she started getting a damp feeling on her shoulder—he was crying. She had never seen a man cry, ever. In her house, it was a sign of weakness, so neither Papi nor her brothers had ever let anybody see them cry. She wasn't even sure they had ever cried at all. For some reason, she had always assumed that it’d be the same for Şerzan. War is this thing that dries up peoples’ feelings to help them survive.
“They're evacuating my hometown,” he finally said, after gasping for air. “The Turkish military is coming again.”
And just like that he crumbled—the flood gates opened. All that he had concealed for so long was overflowing. Angie remained silent because she knew better than to probe for answers. He was finally starting to trust her and maybe, just maybe and with the right amount of patience, that would be the time that she’d learn what she wanted to know about his past.