There is absolutely no point in asking them not to talk with their mouths full because they never stop talking. Or eating.
I watch (horrified) as bits of dolma shoot rapidly out of my mother’s constantly moving mouth. And hit me in the face at close range. I wipe them off. Then keep my head down in a bid to avoid getting any more of their food in my face.
I am sat at the kitchen table with my mother and two of her cronies. My head is starting to hurt. They only have one volume (high). And it is impossible to switch them off.
But I can switch off the Turkish radio. My mother turns it back on “Rṻṣtṻ likes it”. I point out that Rṻṣtṻ is a canary. She responds with “Yes, he is a canary who likes to listen to Turkish radio”.
It is at moments like this that I can’t decide whether she is a little eccentric or simply certifiable. I opt for eccentric (but only because we share the same genes).
They resume their gossiping “He had a heart attack and died when he realised that the woman he had fallen in love with was his long lost daughter”. I look up and narrowly avoid being hit in the eye by a small (chewed up) piece of lamb. I owe my fast reflexes to years of eating at this table.
“How awful, the poor man. How did that happen?” They respond simultaneously, happily shouting over each other. Then I realise that they are talking about one of their favourite soap operas. I should have known better but they talk about it all so emphatically that it is difficult not to get drawn in.
At least she hasn’t mentioned anything about finding a husband for me in Cyprus. I tune out and continue to eat my food in silence.
Then she slaps my leg to get my attention “I said Ayṣe tells me that you write some very funny things on the web net”. I almost choke on a potato. All three of them are staring silently at me. I try to buy some time “It’s called the internet”.
My mother purses her lips and crosses her arms “So what exactly is it that you write about on the internet?” I mumble something about “life you know, that kind of thing”. Shit. Shit. Shit. “And me? Do you write about me?” I assess how long I have to get to the door before she bends down for her slipper. I think I can make it.
I say “Sometimes” then try to make a run for it. She grabs hold of my arm “It’s ok. I’m not angry with you”. I sit back down reluctantly. She may just be lulling me into a false sense of security. I lean away from her (out of pinching range).
“I hear that your readers like me”. Then she smoothes her hair down “I suppose they’ll be wanting to see a photo of me soon won’t they?” The other two chime in excitedly “Write about us too!”
I’m going to kill Ayṣe. My other sister (Melek) has been reading the blog for months and hasn’t mentioned it to my parents once. Ayṣe has only been reading it for two weeks. And blabbed to them as soon as they got back from Cyprus. I really should have known that she would be the weakest link;
I was fourteen when the Guardian newspaper ran an article on the aspirations of students in deprived inner city schools. I told them I wanted to be a journalist. When they asked me what motivated me, I replied “I look into my mother’s eyes and see myself in thirty year’s time. And I don’t want that”.
I only realised how bad that sounded once it was published. Luckily my mother couldn’t read English. So I had just shown her the page with my photo on it. Then translated the article to her (omitting that particular line). She proudly showed it to everyone that came over. And they all had enough tact not to enlighten her. All except for Ayṣe.
I send her a text, I hope you didn’t tell mum that I wrote about the pigeon blood.
My mother brings out a bowl of loquats as soon as her little sidekicks leave “Eat them quickly. I only brought back enough yeni dunya for you”.
I thank her but tell her I am so full that I can hardly breathe. She retorts “Or did you only like them when you had been smoking hashish?” Fuck. Ayṣe must have told them about that too.
I have a flashback to a stoned sixteen year old me in a grocers in Bermondsey “Hey man, I’m looking for new worlds” I only knew them as ‘yeni dunya’. And the literal translation for that is ‘new world’. So I assumed that’s what they would be called in English.
I got really confused when he responded with “Yes love, aren’t we all but you’re not going to find anything other than fruit and veg here”.
My mother looks very pleased with herself, “Do you think we didn’t know that you did that shit?” I’m stunned into silence. Then my father wipes the smug look off her face “You didn’t know. I did.” Apparently he knows about red-eye. He winks at me “We had hashish in Cyprus too”.
And it wasn’t just red-eye that gave me away. He had watched me one day as I walked into my room carrying a handful of loquats and a glass of water. I had put the loquats carefully on the side. Then threw the glass of water on to the bed.
Then there was the time he saw me put a slice of bread in the fridge and wait for it to toast. He has a little smile playing on his lips “Would you like me to continue?” I am mortified.
My mother slaps me around the head “Eṣek” (donkey). And goes upstairs to pray. Every now and then she plays the part of a devout Muslim; praying five times a day. Then she claims that either her knees or her back hurts. And she stops. We all make bets on how long it’ll last; I tell my father I have a tenner riding on two weeks. He laughs.
Then he says “I only told your mother the story about the yeni dunya’s once Ayṣe said you had written about being stoned.” I ask him why he hadn’t told her at the time. He shakes his head “Can you imagine how she would have reacted? No, it was enough that I knew”.
I make the mistake of asking him what else he knew. A lot as it happens. He used to drop me off every week at my friends house. I would wave him off. And run into her house to get changed. Then go off to meet my boyfriend. I would get back around twenty minutes before he was due to pick me up.
Apparently he would arrive thirty minutes before and wait around the corner so he would always see me running back to her house. I cringe as I remember how I’d sit in the car chattering away about the board game we’d played or the homework we’d done. And he never gave any indication that he didn’t believe my version of events. Or that he knew about the tiny change of clothes in my bag.
My father may not be an educated man but he is a very wise one. I thought I was so smart pulling the wool over his eyes. But my father was much smarter. He tells me that he knows a lot more but he doesn’t think it serves any purpose to talk about it now.
I was a total wild child. And very self-destructive; I feel sick when I think of some of the things he might know. “If you knew so much, then why didn’t you disown me?” I know Turkish men of his generation who have disowned their daughters for a lot less.
He considers this for a moment “Because you would probably have ended up dead if I had let go of you” He has tears in his eyes “And I always knew you’d come good in the end”.
His hand is shaking as he lights a cigarette. He isn’t very good with emotion. And I am my father’s daughter. So I’m not sure what to do. I want to hug him but I know he doesn’t like that. I reach out for his hand “You’re right. Thank you for not letting go baba ”.
Then my mother walks in. And the moment is lost. She sits down next to me “I suppose you are writing as Kitty on the internet. Why don’t you use your real name?” I tell her that I hate people mispronouncing it. And it is impossible to know how Gṻlenay is pronounced unless you are familiar with Turkish (it is pronounced goo-len-eye).
It also doesn’t help that the literal translation of my name in English is Laughing Moon. Although that makes a bit more sense now I know that they had hashish in Cyprus.
My phone beeps with a message. It’s from Ayṣe, I did tell her about the pigeon blood. I told her everything. It’s all very funny!
I apologise to my mother “I’m sorry I wrote about you not being a virgin when you got married”. She shrugs her shoulders “It’s ok. I told the whole family so why shouldn’t you tell the whole world?” tell her that my blog really isn’t that popular.
Then she says “Ayṣe tells me you write really well. Is this what you want to do with your life now? Write?” I tell her it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. And that I only became a lawyer to make them proud. She smiles “In that case, you have my permission to write whatever you like about me.” Then she pulls me in for a big hug and almost suffocates me with her ample bosom.
I smile (despite struggling to breathe) because I know how lucky I am to have parents who love me to death.