Saranzaya

We were startled at first when we found out he was detaching her from the purple flowers of her mountain and bringing her to our house. He had given the news ten days before his arrival, had told that it would take three days to go to Ulan Bator from the village, whose name I keep forgetting, and many hours from there to take a flight to Istanbul, then another to home. After a brief moment of silence, he had said that he was bringing someone with him, and had asked us to cook nice dishes. Surprised, I had hung up the phone and conveyed our conversation word for word to his mother and brother. Kadir was furious. His mother anxious, I, quiet. We had prepared pastries and dolmas two days prior. Then we fried meat, ready to be served on rice. In fact, we were also ready for this for years, we kept joking about Yahya’s returning home from the countries he visited with a woman one day. What frightened us was that the country in question was Mongolia; as if almost, we all would have been more content if the bride originated in Brazil, or Scandinavia, or Russia even.

We set the table at our house. I was going to give them our bed, Kadir and I would lay at separate couches of the living room. Mother wanted to sleep with us that night, so we were going to bring out the wool bed from the closet for her. Our eyes were fixed on the table and the food on it, roosted on the couch, we were waiting in silence. The doorbell was about to ring, and we knew we were going to get up and hug the one we’ve been missing for nine months, but the girl, we didn’t know how to treat her. We all got up to stand by the door when we heard their footsteps echo in the building, but we waited for the bell. I looked through the peephole and saw him amongst the beard that surrounded his face, magnified behind the lens. He saw me too, I know it. He looked to the pupil of my eyes and tilted his head towards his right shoulder. I moved over when Kadir asked why I wasn’t opening the door already, and watched the mother run to his son’s arms, and then the two brothers embrace each other in slow-motion from the corner. Then she stepped in, with her skirts, her wind, in waves over my doorstep. This time, I didn’t wipe away the wetness Yahya left on my cheek. I looked for the previous hesitation in the mother and son’s second hug, it wasn’t there. The longing had wiped away all fear in a split second. The flurry of the mother when she pulled the girl close to her chest and caressed, the girl to whom she was a foreigner. The smell of mountains with bizarre flora traveled here in her hair.

I heard my name being called, Füreya, Füreya! I finally looked away from her and found Yahya’s face. I was the only one left to hug him. I am the mistress, I should have come forward and kissed him first. I took a step towards him, extended my hand to him for no reason, his fingers intertwined with mine and he pulled me closer to him, his other hand rested on my back. I was embarrassed, I wanted to snuggle up and around his neck and inhale deeply, but instead, I repeated the name Yahya syllabicated out loud, like I was learning to speak for the first time: “Saranzaya.”

The woman filled the living room. With the dashing pink of her kaftan, brocaded, she fixed the sea-green scarf behind her ears, and we watched the fabric rain down on her shoulders. We liked the spreading of the red that started right under her eyes and came down to her chin; the soft glance of her round face and the earrings that hung from her tiny ears. I liked the static electricity that her bare feet created on the carpet the most when she took the kaftan off, and the golden silk in her came out. Crisp.

At the table, we found common words. We played with sentences, took small bites and asked her questions, whelmed her, waited for her when she smiled and answered every one of them. She said temür instead of demir (tr. iron) tağ and dağ (tr. mountain) tengri, aqa, altan, ordu, ulus. Bal, sün, usun.

Yahya got carried away and took out kımız from his bag. He summited up to his Turkish nationality and talked about the three arrows that landed from the sky. I offered Saranzaya rakı. Gulps of it. Mother felt sleepy so we set her bed up and she dozed off. The next morning she was sad about having missed the best part of the story.

Honeyed tones of Yahya’s tales echoed in the room:

“We spent some of our days at Altai Mountains before Khovsgol Lake. I had to figure out a way and mingle with the Dukha, we asked around for a guide, but only a few knew about them and their area. At last, we met a Mongolian girl married to a Dukhan. She asked her husband to help us. We traveled beyond hills on horseback for three days. I had gotten used to sleeping on the horse, my head loose from my neck. The pain in my back … I was exhausted, and dirty when we arrived at Khovsgol, my bones were making odd noises. I entered into Tuktukaqa’s tent and saw my new family, two little boys, a woman, and a man. I was given a bed at a corner, and an answer to every single question. They posed for my camera. I met the others too. I ran with the reindeer after a while, but not without a bit of fear. Taking a piss or a dump in a pit I dug didn’t mess at all with my integrity, but when it came to drinking their hard-earned milk, I was ashamed. I asked them to give me a job. They laughed. They said that the Turk in me wasn’t any good anymore. I insisted. The next week they sent me to a young man named Nomkun, I was all over the place not knowing whether I should watch him or take pictures, trying to do both. But I learned how to milk a reindeer, and how to caress its antlers. I witnessed the meat dry, bread come to life and the milk ferment. I learned how to ask from Tengri, took down the names of flowers. I laid on her lap while Anakh, who advised me to get married, told me about history from her toothless mouth. To be honest, I didn’t want to come back here and leave their side, where people don’t even wash their hands in the river so that it stays clean. One day Nomkun and I went to boar hunting, it was my first time seeing blood burst. As I watched him apologize to the dead animal, another boar attacked him from behind. The knife in my hand was tied, and my feet were buried in the ground, I was just standing there while I should have jumped on it and cut its throat. Not sure if it was from a treetop, or from beyond the hills, something suddenly shone. A knife, a sword, or a machete maybe, blood splashed on me. Nomkun was saved alright, I looked at our savior. She had the moon’s halo on her face, I saw it, despite the forest’s shade, I saw it, she saved Nomkun. He looked at Saranzaya with admiration. How on earth my eyes hadn’t seen this soul that lived ten tents next to me? I carried the boars, and Nomkun leaned on her, we went back to the village and the young man to his rest. I didn’t sleep that night, Anakh knew, she came close to me and said that she knew where my heart was and that I should go and tell her father. The truth is I didn’t have the guts to wed a girl from this arcane village with a population of barely three hundred, yet I went anyway and told Saranzaya as much as I could about how she stole my heart. Silent, she shrunk down and pointed to the tent behind her. Three days later, she was crowned with a headdress made of antlers, branches danced in a hundred colors, lutes frenzied, a wedding so joyous, shamans celebrated. We asked Tengri for mercy and luck. I wanted mother, and you to see her. We’re going back after a couple of months. Her father allowed her to travel with me with the condition that I don’t cut her ties with her tent. And I will be doing shoots over there from now on, I talked with the magazine. They gave me Central Asia. So, yeah, that’s about it.”

So they were going back. It was the only thing that rang in my mind as I tidied up after dinner. They are going back. They are going to cuddle in that tent of theirs, without streets and alleys, concrete, cars, chocolate, movies, traffic, and live there in the mountains without us. She will give birth to children, Saranzaya, every child will bring festivity to the tiny village, their days will be spent laboring, and the sleep will come to them pleasant. They won’t turn in their beds. They will say that it was a fantastic trip visiting us, like a trip to the world’s center. Maybe we’ll go too. Give them a visit. I liked reindeer since I was a kid.

Month’s fate
Their wives are always hungry for pleasure
And their kids for kisses,
They take husbands away from wives’ arms
They take children away from nannies’ breasts.

Saranzaya. It means the fate of the month. I was fancying light for her though. At first, I thought the blood in her cheeks was about to gush out of her eyes. Slanted, eyes covered by their lids, I assumed she wouldn’t see from there how I look at her. In the few hours when I was alone with her after coming home from work, with exhaust and filth in my hair, at the kitchen while the soup boiled, I learned a lot about her God and family. Out of all the clothes that came out of her tiny bag, most of them red, fuschia, and sea green, I liked her color the most. I put lotion on her burnt and tensed skin. She enjoyed it, she said her gowns slid down her body better with lotion. I was glad. But she didn’t let me put makeup on her face, or do her hair with a curling iron. One evening I asked her to let her hair that was tied into a gigantic bun on the back of her neck down. “Oh my God” slipped through my mouth, I had to hold the rest of my reaction in, oceans of hair flowed down to her ankles. Turns out I cooked the meat wrong my whole life, she offered to light a fire in the garden. We did. Neighbors weren’t pleased about it, but anyway, we had that night the tastiest meat ever. Nothing that I offered in nice packaging went down her throat. Some mornings I entered our room where she sleeps with Yahya to get the clothes I forgot to take and the jealousy of seeing them curled up together like two fetuses on our bed became unbearable. I tried snuggling next to Kadir on the couch whenever I thought about them, but we didn’t fit. Sleepy, I always ended up dozing off on the ground. A stiff neck. The hours that just weren’t passing by at the bank, floated when I was with her. Although I never had a talent for that sort of stuff, I was learning her language. I was usually bad at languages, or painting, listening to music and reading books. Online newspapers and daily horoscopes at most. But now I knew how to say karuğu, küçün, sağı. How to use my knives and the names of my bones. At nights, laying tired in front of the tv, I was playing with Saranzaya’s hair. As my hair moved towards her ankles I was conscious of my back muscles elongating. I wanted to touch her under the fabric. One day when everyone was late to come home, I was left speechless when she put one of her hands on my stomach, and the other up in the air, and asked where? I put my hand on the stomach of the woman ten years younger than I was and imitated her. Where? Come on, guess where is it. Tengri hadn’t put it in yet.

Was her color fading away? An odd sense of guilt was spreading in me about not having dragged her out to the streets, which she couldn’t even bear to see after going out a couple of times. What could she do? She was frightened and uncomfortable here but at the same time, she looked at starving eyes. But the fault was mine, I had begun showing her around at the most chaotic neighborhoods. Beşiktaş. Beyoğlu, Şişli. Later on, she had said that she was fine at home until the day of their departure. “Let her stay in,” Yahya had said. “She just doesn’t like it.” But no, I was looked at when she was with me outside.

Her feet were accustomed to the soil. When I was little, we went to the countryside too. We ran around with bare feet, climbed trees and picked peaches and strawberries, under the sun. We would eat what we picked, juices running down our chins. My soles were separated from the soil when I started high school, first in state boarding school, then dorms, rings, campus, bank. The world was turning around on its own, I to the left, you to the right, our loneliness cut into regions by imaginary time zones, while picking a star you are under a clear sky and we cannot get the clouds away. I was inspired. If I could go with her, leave the couch that hurt my back behind, maybe my eggs would spread, fresh mountain air is good for a man, maybe he would want to be in me. I shared my idea with Kadir one night, as we laid on separate couches, as colorful lights of the tv lingered on his face. He turned for a second, “And now this?” he said, “We don’t have anything to do there.”

“Ticket prices, for Ulan Bator,” Yahya said one day. “They have dropped.”

I bought their tickets three months after. Mother cried, Kadir gloomy. I noticed that Saranzaya was standing still, instead of being happy. Was it possible that she actually liked the five months she spent here in this pathetic apartment? I could see all over her that she was longing, why? What else did this petite woman who laid without moving in the morning, not wanting to wake anyone up want other than returning to her land?

On that day’s evening, I came home to find her laying on the ground, faded. She tried to stand up but I told her to stay down. For the first time, the kitchen didn’t smell like strange food, but her color did seem strange. Her hand on her belly, squirming. I darted out to search for the medicine cabinet and came back with pills. She refused to take them, despite my efforts to persuade her. She kept laying there. I offered to call an ambulance or find a doctor. She asked me what they were. I told her I was calling Yahya. “Don’t,” she said, “I know it’ll pass.” She lifted her legs up and pulled them to her stomach. She grabbed the soles of her feet and curled up like a pill bug upside down. She stayed in that position for about an hour. Then she asked me to take her out on the soil. I didn’t know exactly what to do but I wrapped her arms around me and carried her to the garden. I laid her straight on the ground. Watching her chew and swallow the dirt she filled her mouth with was a marvel. I expected a gag at least but she seemed at ease.

Her collar was wide open and one of her nipples was hardened. I craved like she did when I was a child. Days were getting shorter, the sun was long set, a dawn-like time, I laid next to her, undid my shirt and let a breast out of my bra. I placed it on the soil. She reached and held my hand, I saw her smile as she drooled, I, too, smiled at her. She locked her fingers in between mine like she did when she first came. I leaned forward and kissed her. We tasted the same soil.

The rather small garden that surrounded our building with knee-height concrete walls had a humble mulberry tree in it. It would cover the ground with its slippery fruits if we didn’t pick them in time. It wasn’t mulberry season. I dragged Saranzaya under it. No one could have seen us under the walls and behind the branches.
My hands hovered on her belly, and looked at her: “Life,” she said. “Breath.” “Dark,” I said. It was one of our common vocabularies. “Your dark hair.” She shrunk, coiled in even more. Tears filled her eyes. Then looking up, she revealed a portion of her neck.

I shoved my hand in the red fabric, found where she was wet. Sliding in, I discovered her flesh giving way to various shapes. I let a finger in her hole, and another on her wall to take strength. Rolled my skirt up and pushed my groin on hers. I kept imagining myself making her fly on her reindeers. My finger went in deeper. I took her breast in my mouth, tugged it, sucked it, fresh air came out of it, beautiful, as if she was ejaculating from her breast, into my mouth, I sensed the drops on my lips. I pressed harder on the vulva that kept hardening against my touch. Never had I been this devoted to anyone before, not to Kadir, nor the ones before, I pretended I was in a dream, vented on the hips I bent and twisted. Even if she didn’t make any contact with me, I would faint just by rubbing on her fabric. I saw my human body. It was a first, to see myself from the outside. I kind of heard her saying stop, but I couldn’t say exactly in what language she said it. My three fingers went up to five, I bent my wrist, I wasn’t in charge of my mouth. What if someone heard, or saw. At worst we would move. Find another garden with a mulberry tree. Migrating to the land of the Dukha seemed sweet.

Her mouth open, dried at the corners, I pressed mine on hers and tried to feed her the milk she knew, my saliva would be good for her thirst. They say there is a cure in saliva, my licking could heal her. I pushed, the closer I was to her, the further I could go with her. My hand finally found a piece. I was horrified while trembling in pleasure, I took my hand out of her; flesh, juicy, and lovely. I had hit something beyond pleasure. I was covered in blood.

I held the almost frog-like being with bulging eyes in my hand and looked at her. Lips in and around my mouth. I lifted my arm, how I straightened my elbow I don’t know. The life I detached was one that I’ve always wanted myself. But it had fallen to my hand, that was all. When the thin line of her eyes were half-opened, I put what I held on her cheek. She smiled for a second, like when she first came in through my doorstep. She smiled and I wore all the colors. I heard the voices of two siblings behind us but I didn’t understand what they were saying.

“purple fringe”by Arneliese is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Nazli Karabiyikoglu

Nazli Karabiyiko: Author,Enthusiastic traveler, Feminist activist. Mother of four cats and countless animals all over the world. Full-time resident in Georgia, escaped from the oppression in Turkey. Since 2009, she has been actively writing and has won couple of important awards in Turkey, also has 5 published books in Turkish.

One Comment
  1. Jack Remick

    Long but interesting piece here, Julie. Rich in metaphors, touching even a bit on the surreal as they float. Congratulations on finding this piece. It opens the door to another world and shows us, in the US, the price of our temporal provincialism.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *