That night at the table, Nihal and Bülent’s places were left empty. They were so exhausted that they had been allowed to retire directly to their rooms.
‘I’ll wager, sister, that you will sleep as soon as you get up from the table,’ Behlül was saying to Bihter, who was covering her yawns with her napkin. ‘Country outings are like that, one goes in the hopes of being entertained, and returns tired, sore, and not having enjoyed oneself. Especially for you… Women who live always at home, in stuffy rooms, and suddenly come out into the open air, under the sun’s deluge, are like canaries who escape their cage with a bent to freedom, but faint before they ever leave the roof of their house.’
‘Oh, what a sleep, what a sleep!’ Bihter was saying. ‘I think I’ll sleep for a week without getting out of bed.’
No one was touching the food. In Bihter’s mouth, a small lump of cherry jam that had been taken up on the end of her fork was growing, swelling, and becoming a lump too large to swallow. Wiping her lips with her napkin, she said, ‘I’m going to escape, if I may?’
She needed to be alone. She too was feeling something tonight that made it necessary for her to be all alone, to rest by herself in her familiar sanctum.
She climbed to her room. It was dark. She advanced slowly, with light footsteps that seemed to shy away from arousing the slumbering privacy of this peaceful chamber. Opposite her, in the dark, the open window, wavering with a frozen silver light in its white tulle, was spraying her, by tiny blows, with wavelets of the night’s cool breath. As she passed the mirrored wardrobe in the dark, she saw her own shadow, an indistinct white cloud. The bedstead’s canopy was shivering, the lampshade seemed to be looking at her with a determined nod. First of all she wanted to close the window, then, in the dark, in utter darkness, just as she was, to throw herself on the carpet and rest from an unimaginable weariness. She wanted not one particle of this night’s breath to enter here. There, in the garden, was a plum tree — with only the tops of its branches visible — that seemed to be approaching her with its arms outstretched. She felt that she would not be alone with this window before her, with these night winds that brought chills from the fear-laden breath of strange, dream creatures hidden in the secrets of the dark, with this shadow that waved its arms and might at any moment enter the room. Whereas she longed for such a solitude that it should resemble a dreamless sleep. She would not even light her lamp; any small light would awaken the souls of the furniture, then the bed, the sofa, the curtains, all these things that now slept, dead and buried in the dark, would suddenly shake themselves into wakefulness with an air of vitality, they would be resurrected, and among them this mirror that smiled at her, and in particular next to herself in that mirror, next to her own image, she would no longer be alone. Alone!… Alone!… Now she was even afraid of herself. If she saw herself, yes, if this woman who wanted to remain in the dark came face to face with Bihter, a threat would emerge. They would speak words that ought not to be spoken to each other, and then she thought that what she sought from this solitude, this darkness, as if from the negation of all existence; that sleep, that deep, empty, lightless, dreamless sleep, would be erased never to return. And this was what she feared.
She drew near the window. It was a cool, starry night. After the heat of the day that left no strength in one’s nerves, a pleasant breeze was stroking the air with its humid breaths, like a someone mercifully sprinkling drops of a sweet-smelling water over a patient, following a strong fit of fever. Her hand rested on the window-frame a moment before closing it. She drank of this air greedily, like a desert traveller who had chanced upon a cool spring after a long thirst, and felt a great relief.
Was she ill? What was the matter? The grateful consolation of the cold air on her lungs was so contradictory to the weariness that had made her want to sleep downstairs, not five minutes ago, that suddenly she asked herself, ‘yes, what is the matter with me? Am I ill?..’
Now she wanted to lean her head on something cold, to continue to drink this chill air, to be cold, yes, to shiver as if she had been caught naked in a winter rain. Ah! If she could only be that cold! She thought that being cold would cure this fever of her head, her lungs, her whole being, that she had discovered upon the touch of a cool breeze.
There are some ailments in our hearts that once they have entered the body’s fibres, burn, and burn, with a treasonous penetration particular to undiscoverable, secret diseases, with a smokeless, inner fire that gives no hint of its destructiveness. This is such a fire that we do not know its nature, we are ignorant of its existence, while it continues slowly, certain of its duty. Finally, one day, all of a sudden, a mere nothing, a minute’s insight, shows us that in our heart there is a fire. What is it? Where was it born? How was this fire kindled there, falling on the wings of a rogue wind? We do not know.
Bihter was feeling just such a fire as she faced this cool night, and she wanted to be cold, so cold. For instance, if she were now in the sea, in the water… The wind was scattering blow by blow, entering her collar, her shoulders, sliding along her breast and kissing her with cold lips. As the wind thus covered her in kisses, she wanted to open even more, to be kissed even more. She was wearing a starched men’s shirt of thin piqué; she tugged on the string at the neck and threw it aside, then undid the buttons at her neck and chest. She pulled the belt from around her waist and tossed it away with an angry hand. Uncorsetted, in only an undershirt that left her bosom half-bare, she stood facing the wind that freely rubbed its lips, those lips that seemed to bring kisses from the night’s mysterious horizons, pieces of the heavens of those far-off, dark hearts. Yes, if only she were in the sea, in the water, under a dark blue sky, under the yellow eyes that shone here and there, in the dark, in the waves that pulled her whole body into their cool, pleasant lap… She felt the waves that brushed her neck, and her breast with little strokes, that caressed her arms and legs with the silky touch of water, and swam in the cool air of the night. She wanted to undress further, to surrender herself to this air, to its kisses, to give her body in all its nakedness. She unfastened her skirt, slid it off, and stepped out of it. She was pulling off her half-boots, her socks, mauling them all, crumpling them and throwing them aside. Now there remained only, tied at each shoulder with a ribbon, her thin, silk undershirt, it too fluttering with the winds, writhing as if to fly away and leave this young woman’s body bare to the passionate kisses of the night.
‘Bihter! Haven’t you gone to bed yet, my rose?’
She shivered at her husband’s voice. He was next to her. He had come all the way to the window. He saw her in only her undershirt, in the dark, in all the allure of her nakedness; and looked at his wife with eyes that begged not to be driven thence, but detained in the intoxicating air of this fresh body.
‘Please leave me alone. I am so tired, so ill tonight,’ she said.
‘But this is madness!’ said Adnan Bey. ‘Bare naked before the window.’
He was touching her, holding her shoulders to see if she was cold. Then, suddenly feeling the young woman’s body under his hands, he bent down, longing to kiss his wife. She was quivering, afraid of this husband who had come so unexpectedly into her room in the dark. He now seemed a stranger, a man she had never seen, a monster that took advantage of dark nights to rend and kill its prey. She was going to scream. She was flailing under his touch, turning her face away so as to avoid being kissed, wanting to slide out of his arms.
‘No, please let me go,’ she was saying, in a choked voice. ‘I want to be alone tonight.’
Tonight, at this moment, something had rebelled inside her, had wanted not to remain in this man’s arms. Her hairpins had fallen, the thick waves of her long hair were covering her husband — who had locked her wayward lips in a passionate kiss — as if wanting to hide the embrace of this young woman and this old man in a darker night of this dark room.
They both looked at each other wordlessly, one embarrassed by her resistance, the other by his molestation. They seemed to have grown dazed by their struggle.
‘You have hurt me!’ Bihter was saying, in a voice full of reproach. ‘If you knew how tired, how needful of rest I am. Please leave now, yes, please leave.’
He had drawn near once again, and stroking his wife’s hands, asked, ‘you forgive me, don’t you? Tell me,’ — nuzzling into her ear — ‘if you knew, how much I love you! If you loved me as much, if it were possible to be certain of it…’
Bihter was laughing angrily, and wanting to throw him out of the room by pushing him gently. ‘Big baby,’ she was saying, ‘come on, out now. He knows very well he is driving his wife crazy. Then he invents suspicions again… Come on, time for sleep now! Sleep!…’
She was driving him out with caresses and laughter.
‘But the window is open,’ he said suddenly. ‘I’ll close it myself. If you forget, you will surely get ill.’
She did not object. As he was passing through to his room, having closed the window, husband and wife gave each other a quick kiss at the threshold.
‘Tonight, the door is closing,’ said Bihter.
The young woman had made it her habit, every now and then the door was closed, and locked with a turn of the key. She did not hear Adnan Bey’s reply. Now she was alone, after the lowered window, the closed door, completely alone in the darkness. She took a deep breath.
But what was going on tonight? This hard-won kiss, this charity of love that was forcibly seized from her womanhood, this husband, yes, he had chilled her. Now she was cold, but this was not a cold that gave relief, that enveloped her in pleasant waves, but a coldness that brought malady and aches.
The truth that she realised tonight, at this moment, had begun long ago, at the start of her marriage. At the first touch of this man’s kiss, at the lips that smeared her face with passionate kisses to avail themselves of his desire for youth, she had trembled with a bodily revolt, and felt, in a nervous tremor, that this marriage would be full, for her, of moments to make her thus tremble. These were such moments that they won over every resolution of her reason, every determination of her heart, and shook her body with ever-strengthening tremors. She would want to close her eyes when she was in his arms, not to see herself, or him, not to experience these hours of love-making with him. No, that was not what she wanted; quite the reverse, she wanted to give him her heart’s desire, as well as her body’s youth. But there was something that held her back, such a thing that when she was in his arms, it woke in her body the need to escape, to melt away, to be found dead, there, in that moment. She could not overcome it. For a while she tried not to analyse this feeling, not to see the awful truth that lay hidden beneath these tremors. As she left these lovemakings broken, like a flower that appeared to have lost some of its freshness, or no, not like that, more properly, feeling the wretchedness of a dirty flower, she would try to silence her body, her mind, in order not to think. But one corner of her lips, in particular, would always smart with the scratches left from his kisses. Then, after the kisses given amid the fevers of these lovemakings, there would remain something chilling in the loving charity of her own lips.
She would feel the torment of lovemaking here, in this room. The kisses she returned elsewhere meant nothing more to her than the intimacy of friendship. But when she was left alone with him here, and it was necessary for her to look at him, not just as a friend, but as a husband with whom she would read her life’s whole book of love, she was afraid. He was her friend, yes; in her heart there was a deep respect, even an affection for this man. Nevertheless, she could not surrender her whole to him, and become his wife. She loved him in places other than this room. When they wandered around together, when they sat in the little room downstairs, even in his room — yes, in that room just yonder, — there grew in Bihter the desire to snuggle, to be as near him as possible. Now and then she would put her head on his shoulder, or lie on his lap like a child. If her whole married life was spent in this way, she would love him with an affection that was without blemish, without fault, and be glad. But what was asked of her was more, not affection, but love, and while she found herself entirely unreasonable, and unmerciful, she yet could not give him this love. Then, when this love, that was not given, that could not be given, was taken from her by an irresistible right, she would feel as if something was stolen from her body, from her heart. She would want to cry, to lament, to writhe in anguish. So this was what marriage would mean to her, this was what love would be; always, always, love would be taken thus forcibly from her, and she would never be able to give the true love of her soul. No kiss would search out and find her lips to capture her true soul. She would never see anything but these kisses that chilled her, it would always be this way, always, always…
Finally, she had to confess. The struggles she had thought necessary in order not to face this truth for the past year had worn her even more, had crushed her even more. Yes, she had to confess that it would always be this way.
Tonight, after she had turned the key of the communicating door, in the dark, without moving, staring into the shadows that filled this room of love, as if the blackness filled her whole being, without thinking, she spoke this truth with greater clarity than ever before. Until that moment, this truth had the quality of a voice, such that one understood what it was about to say, but would not allow it to speak. Tonight, at this moment, it was finally admitted. Yes, it would always, always be this way. Here was this dark cell of lovemaking… Not a clear horizon, not a shining smile, not a drifting cloud; there would be nothing, nothing, not even a little light, a cold candle; black, a night as black as possible. In this darkness, shivering with a fearful tremor, chilled not by the strokes of the cool, refreshing air, but as if by the clawing touch of black snowflakes that fell from the shadows, she would bury the passionate hunger of her whole youth in an empty, black ravine. Always, always… it would be this way.
And so this marriage, that had been so much desired, that had been so laboriously actualised, this marriage consisted of this dark thing. Now, the things that constituted the merits of this marriage, the jewels that opened a rainbow over the bed of her girlhood, the fabrics, the ornaments, were scattering and dissipating like a handful of dream ashes in the shadows of the room.
She had sat down on the low stool by her bed, and was thinking, her elbows on her knees, and her head in her hands. She counted to herself the bad aspects of this marriage, forming them out of little nothings into a whole that oppressed her. Having once made herself speak that truth, and decided that she was an unfortunate woman, she was trying to find reasons that would give it strength, that would make it look more disastrous.
More than anything she was thinking of this house. This was her house; she was the sole mistress of this huge yalı that she once used to walk past, sensing its flamboyance through the windows. Yes, but she felt a deficiency in her ownership of this place, a deficiency that could never be clearly elucidated but which was always felt and which kept the house from being something that belonged to her. She understood that from the yet unseen corners to the immovable furniture, from the menservants who she suspected of disliking her — even though she had never seen their faces,— to all the inhabitants of the harem, there was an estrangement, even a suggestion of what one might consider a state of enmity. It was as if the spirit of the house fled from her. There was a feeling like that which hindered her from giving her whole self to her husband, that placed between this house and her heart, the coldness of a false kiss.
Little by little, she had confirmed her right of ownership over the house. Now all the keys were in her hand. She directly oversaw the bed linen, the thin cellar , all the things that were preserved in a house; she had jealous ties with these that barred the interference of any other person, but among the keys that hung jangling by a slender chain at her waist, the very key to the spirit of the house was missing.
She was now growing bored of the title of step-mother. Here she had lived for the past year, in a constant state of struggle to be in a loving relationship with Nihal. She loved Nihal, but she was sure that this girl could never completely love her. She knew that when Nihal once examined her feelings and brought forth the knowledge that the attachment she set aside in her heart for her was an attachment created by force, that this woman she loved was nothing more than a step-mother who ought not to be loved, then the building of intimacy that had been built through such diverse labours would crumble, and in its place would open the precipice of a void that could never again be filled. Yes, only a minute’s occurrence would cause something to break between them. The circumstances necessitated that these two hearts were constrained to be enemies to one another. They had not yet become so, perhaps not yet, but one day this was certain to transpire.
For some time, she had been discovering in Nihal a haste to finally end this friendship, a secret desire to escape this state of peace that no doubt strained her, and to find a motive to bring about an open war. She had feared that perhaps today would be the last day of their friendship. From morning till night, Nihal had not said a single word to her of her own accord. In the house, if she lost her sang-froid for one minute, it seemed as if a hellish life would begin the very next day. In order not to leave any opportunity for this, she was consigned to command herself, and to swallow all the sadness of this secret war. Her sacrifices would not be understood, there would not even be anyone around her who could appreciate them, for she would be held responsible for Nihal’s most unfair tantrums, for her unreasonable crying fits, and everyone would purse their lips and look at her with animosity, and Şakire Hanım would once again get headaches.
Now she was seeing Şakire Hanım standing before her with a headscarf squeezing her forehead, the picture of sullen scolding. Then Şayeste, Nesrin, these girls who lived with a hope that they could not confess in the mistressless house, and felt an unending enmity towards the second mistress. Even Cemile, who ran from her as though she were a creature to be feared, was nothing but another enemy. These formed a cold circle around Nihal, with their half-finished sentences, their vindictive glances, their silences, with everything; and after a year of struggling, she could not pass through this circle and gain Nihal completely.
She was only friends with Bülent. There was something that united them, that made them companions: laughter… On this point they had come together, and with him she would always be friends. But this friendship would be a fault in Bülent; the child would not be able to admit to anyone, least of all to his sister, that he loved her, if not as much as a mother, then perhaps more than a step-mother. Then, all at once, behind Bülent, above his laughing, joyful face, another vision appeared: Behlül!
She did not think, did not want to think. Yes, for what was she to think? After Behlül came to mind, another memory was awakened: she saw him behind Peyker, his lips quivering with a fiery kiss as he leaned in, dying to kiss Peyker’s neck with a biting touch. Then she him swinging Firdevs Hanım in the hammock, with his flirtatious looks.
Her thoughts came to a pause. It was as if the current of her ideas was wavering, hesitating whether to follow another course. In order not to stop at this point, and not to follow this new way, she tried to distance this memory with a single word.
‘Rake,’ she said out loud.
Yes, it was nothing but rakishness, in every sense of the word. She was furious. ‘If I have the opportunity I will speak; Peyker is right, this is not to be borne…’ Yes, but Firdevs Hanım?…
Suddenly she recalled something Peyker had said. What was it? She hadn’t married with the intention to betray her husband. As she spoke, what open, what traitorous insinuation was in her eyes. What did she mean? That others, herself, Bihter, had married to betray their husbands, was that it? She would not do so, she would not be like a Firdevs Hanım. This mother!… She was a perpetual blemish in her life. Just today, as she was flirting with Behlül, Bihter had wanted to pounce on her and say, ‘but for shame! You are an old woman, old, old, do you understand?’ Yes, she would never be like Firdevs Hanım, she would swear to it.
As she vowed to herself never to be like her mother, another thought was occurring to her. Ever since they were little, people would say that Peyker looked like her father, and Bihter took after her mother. Considering everyone was united in saying so, it seemed she really was like her mother. She was afraid of this similarity. Something in her heart made her think that this physical resemblance would also make their lives similar, and caused her to tremble.
She ought to be like her father too… like Peyker. A little brunette, slightly wider shoulders with a full figure, short and sparse eyebrows, a complexion more straw-coloured than white. Behold Peyker… Bihter was doubtless more beautiful, but she was wholeheartedly willing to be less beautiful in order to look more like her father. She had a deep attachment to this unknown father, the heart that she could not give her mother, she gave entirely to the memory of this dead man. And she would embellish this memory: she would invent a history for her father out of things she had overheard, details she had put together bit by bit. Then she would make him live through torments at the hands of Firdevs Hanım, gave his married life a tragic air — the persecution of a virtuous husband unaware of everything, — and finally, with an awesome blow, she struck him down in his anguish. How she loved her father!.. She was almost jealous of Peyker for looking like him.
She thought that because Peyker resembled him, she would be happy in life, while she, Bihter, would be unfortunate in this marriage that had come about by mistake. Of course Peyker was happy, she loved her husband, and there was an itty bitty Feridun between them. Here was a quiet family life!… What, what did she have?…
As she asked herself this question, she wrung her hands in the dark, and waited for an answer from the dark room, from the maple suite, from the satin curtains, from all the ostentatious furniture. Love, she wanted to love. That was all she lacked in life; but love was all. To love, yes, all happiness could only be gained through it. A small, sordid, bare room, an iron bedstead, white curtains, two cane chairs, a chamber for loving composed of just these. But to love, my god! She wanted to love, she would be content in a feverish, mad affair. Now in the riches of this splendid room, she felt as though she had been buried alive in a tomb of black marble. She could not breathe, she was suffocating; she wanted to escape this grave, to live, to love.
She sprang up. She wished finally to free herself of this darkness. Quietly, so as not to be heard, she stood on the chair, reached up, and lit the lamp that hung from the ceiling, and that looked like one of those old temple lanterns. At first the lamp did not seem to burn, then with a small crackle, a thin wave of light quivered and slid and spread across the darkness of the room like a yellow smoke. The lamp had dark yellow, green, blue, red glass; this dim light, muted and blackened through these dark colours, made the room look like a cave drowning in a colourful night under the green seas. Beneath this glow, the furniture stood with a quiet calm, except only for the thin, translucent tulles. The greens, blues, yellows, and reds flowed over the shadows, creating and destroying each other. A silent shower was pouring down the furniture, the walls, the mirror that depicted Bihter like a portrait.
Bihter seemed to have emerged from a dark dream into a colourful one. In this room of hers, that was reminiscent of a fairy realm, far away in its vague lights, in the distance, as if deepening layer by later, in the horizon of a green cave, she saw the Bihter that seemed to approach her in the form of a vision, that mirror Bihter. A woman etched only in white on a frosty silver panel, who one might suppose would slip out of her thin silk shirt and fly, and become a cloud. One cannot know with what feeling she wished to see this body that appeared to shiver in its thin shirt, naked, completely naked. She undid the ribbons at her shoulders, and the shirt, sliding, with a slight hesitation across her breast and hips, fell at her feet. She held her long black hair with an impatient gesture of her hands, and twisted it, pulling it up because she did not want it to mar her full nakedness, and pinned it in a disorderly knot. In this fashion, completely naked, she regarded herself.
She gazed a long while at this tableau. She had never seen herself like this; this was something new, like a new body. So this was Bihter. She was afraid to draw near, did not wish to see too clearly; if she looked closer, it would become obvious that the vision was her twin. She wanted to remain distant, and love this beautiful body from afar, in a dream.
Yes, she loved this body. Now there was an attachment, an enchantment in her heart for this body. This body was hers, she was looking at it with a slight smile. In the mirror, this white picture, thin, indistinct, seemed to be separated from its ground by an airy blue line, a fine blue halo that opened around her, and in which she swelled and took on a corporeality. Leaving its panel, it was moving towards Bihter — the other Bihter. There, the two Bihters, in the tremblings of a kiss that burned the lungs, that brought to light all suppressed passions, in an embrace that created and destroyed, appeared as two bodies ready to throw themselves into each other’s arms. Now in the frostiness of this mirror, she looked upon this lovely vision that came from the green horizons of a deep cave, painted with shades of translucent aquamarine, from the point of view of a man who wanted to own her. Descending from her breast that had not yet gained its complete fullness, to the roundness that narrowed with a slight dip of its lines, her gaze wavered. She now felt a nervous fear of further peeling away the pallor that appeared to be covered with shadows from far, white clouds. Following the breadth of her shoulders, nature, afraid that it had thinned and thinned her rather long torso until it finally created a disproportionate narrowness, had there wanted to show a generosity that forgave the abstemious lines that narrowed the work, and having begun by depicting a body confined to remain a young girl, it had embodied in the rest, a woman with all the uncovered treasure of her freshness.
Now Bihter was standing motionless, reluctant to lose this vision that she regarded in the light of another body. If she were to reach out her lips or her arms to caress her, she thought they would both die suddenly, expire in the fever of a wild kiss. But she had a yearning to die, to lay down her life in such a feverish union that shook her to her soul. This need lamented through her whole being with a plaintive moan, and became a searing flame in her flesh. Yes, at this minute, this body felt the girlhood that was seized in a momentary accident, the kisses that were taken, not given, without leaving the lightest trace of joy, the embraces that made her nerves revolt and smart with a deep anguish, yes, all the ugly, sordid love history belonging to her married life; and after these were taken from her, it moaned with its inability to give the kiss of its true soul, the girlhood of its loving soul, its true lips, the lips of its womanhood. She dreamt of such an embrace that it would shake her to the very depths of her being, harrow her, press her; she wanted such a love that it would leave an intoxicating faintness in her soul… Now before this dream, this vision of herself, she checked herself in order not to writhe with her anguish. She had never seen herself like this. She would doubt whether this vision was not something other than herself. She found her beautiful, very beautiful, and this beauty made her long to cry. The voluminous locks of her thick, curly, black hair adorned her wide forehead with such amazing dignity that were this head a little smaller, and this forehead a little narrower, it would have seemed as if her bearing had been lessened, and as if something was missing from her completeness. Her long eyebrows continued, after a small hesitation at her temples, and stopped abruptly, before they had time to thin out. There was such a rising air in the straight line of these brows, that they bestowed a solemn air to the expression of her countenance, and chiefly to her eyes, a suggestion of upward flight, as if lifting this body even further, and making it appear taller. A black flame in those eyes would brew up the joys of a secret smile. One would think that from the depths of those womanly eyes, unnoticed by anyone, a little girl was peeping at you with delight. Out of this secret laughter a happiness bubbled up that constituted a contradiction with the dignified grandeur of her head, and gave her expression a youthfulness that made her appear to be enjoying herself with a deep satisfaction, and with the lively self-possession of a queen whose head had been graced with a sovereign crown when she was still only a child. A chin rounded by the shadow of a single, barely discernible dimple, and the meaty but pale lips that left her small teeth visible in a thin, white dash, completed her look of juvenile happiness. There was a line that started below her right brow and ran all the way to her lips, a thin line, as if made by sleeping on a strand of hair, that at its final point left an itty bitty indentation at the right corner of her lip, ever ready to tremble with mirth. When Bihter was about to laugh, the happiness spilling from her eyes would follow that thin line, and describing a little whirlpool here, at the corner of her mouth, would finally overflow.
Now, standing motionless, looking at herself with an absent gaze, a smile from her eyes was tracing this vague line, that little dent above her lip was like a quivering shadow, one side of her mouth was slightly lifted to reveal the tip of one tooth. She was laughing at herself, at her own beauty, and as she laughed at this beauty, condemned to remain unused, she felt like crying. So after this, yes, this very night, the youthful rebellion of her body, yet unwon after a year’s onslaught, would keep appearing, her sore spirit, desiring to be loved, to be intoxicated in embraces, would thus molest her, brush her, and these beauties would be annihilated, writhing in empty ambitions…
So she judged herself, and her eyes, laughing but wanting to cry, saw this beautiful vision with its beauty needlessly doomed to rot, wilting in hopeless aspirations, and engulfed it with a feeling of profound compassion.
Suddenly, in this semi-dark room, amid the slumbering silence of this house, as the tinted glass of the lamp above her head rained colourful shadows and seemed to enliven the furniture around her with an unfelt breeze, she shivered to find herself so naked, and feared the loneliness. No, this was such an emotion that it was closer to shame than to fear. She was ashamed, as if she had done a great wrong, ashamed that she had sinned unthinkingly against her virtue. She had fallen into the arms of an unknown lover who entered the privacy of her chamber secretly, and her first sin of passion had been committed in an irresistible nervous trembling.
Under the shadows of the billowing curtains, the tulles that hung from the doors, the satins, many eyes looked at her; hands that had manifested in the night’s darkness were opening the blinds to watch this woman’s body after its first sin of passion; this piece of furniture woke with a sudden air of life, the shade of the lamp that appeared to watch with a ponderous nodding of its head, seemed to draw near. She wanted to escape this place.
She was in bed now. She had thrown herself into bed in that state. She had snaked her hands under the pillow, placed her head upon it, and was lying down. Before her, she saw that vision again, a little vaguer, a little further engulfed in shadows, now another body; it was calling this more attractive body with a supplicating smile.
She had never felt anything like this in her girlhood, had not felt the agony of an ardour that made her whole body ache. In fact, all the romantic dreams of her girlhood were comprised of clouds drawn with vague outlines; but marriage, not fulfilling any of them, had awoken aspirations that had remained hidden, had kindled her soul’s need for love without bringing them any resolution. So this was marriage, and her marriage was not one of these.
Oh! How wrong she had been!… She needed love, to love; if she could not love, she would die. But how could she love? To love, was this not now something forbidden, something impossible for her?
Had she married to betray her husband? This question reverberated in her ears with an awesome mockery, and amid a roar that numbed her brain and filled her ears, her vision called her, standing before her always with that inviting smile, distant, indistinct, submerged in shadows, and she wanted to give it her whole being.
Never, no, she would never be traitorous, she could not, and what would she betray? Would this thing that could not be found in marriage, be found in betrayal? She thought of her mother, then of her sister. Her thoughts were becoming confused, her eyes clouding over. Now the lamp shattered against the ceiling and flowed with green, yellow, blue, and red waves; the couches, wardrobes, curtains, and walls swam up and down after the flood. The colours, the shadows, all blending together, flowed in great chaos; far away, under the sun, a black stream continued to drag along its dark waters, a hammock, with a white skirt hanging over it, swung slowly, a ball, drawing strange circles in the air, rose from one side and descended to another, a child ran, lifting its arms, over there, a vague face bent close with an eager kiss on its lips, wanting to push it away, she finds she cannot lift her arm, she thinks she is drawing her head away, but she cannot, that greedy kiss is there, it approaches, and in all the crowd of her dream, finally Bihter, from inside the mirror opposite, that other Bihter, holds out her lips, her arms, pulls this Bihter with an irresistible allure, pulls, pulls, their lips, their arms interlock, and in an embrace that breaks her resolve, and tears her apart, they both tumble, together with the waves of green, yellow, blue, and red flowing from the lamp on the ceiling, the room with all its furniture, Göksu with all its trees, all of it, in one immense catastrophic tempest, into the endless void…
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Notes – The thin cellar (ince kiler) was located in the harem, and was where the drink, snacks, and meze were kept, as opposed to the ‘thick cellar’ (kalın kiler) which was for the usual household staples.
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