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Gardens of water : a novel /

Main Author: Drew, Alan, 1970-
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New York : Random House, 2008
Edition: 1st ed.
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Chapter 1 In the rush of bodies to board the ferry leaving Istanbul for Gölcük, Sinan lost his son. Five minutes earlier ÿIsmail had been tugging Sinan in the opposite direction, back toward the city, deep into the labyrinth of arcades and electronics stores of the Sirkeci neighborhood. Sinan suspected it was for the exact purpose of missing the ferry home and delaying the pain of the circumcision ceremony that evening. The boy stomped across the bricks in his white circumcision costume, one hand squeezing Sinan's fingers and the other hoisting his tasseled staff in the air like a pasha leading a parade. Sinan let himself be pulled for a while, but the horn had already sounded, and, even though he, too, wanted to delay the ceremony, they couldn't miss that ferry. When they had reached Re¸sadiye Avenue, Sinan pulled ÿIsmail into the street just as the traffic broke, Sinan's shoulders rocking back and forth in an awkward dance on his bad foot. He finally pushed Ismail through the metal gate to the ferry dock just in time for them to join the throng of men and women leaving work for the day. They ran from the shade of the dock back out into the searing summer sun, Sinan leading Ismail this time through a sea of elbows, shoulders, and damp backs. They climbed the thin plank of wood used as a bridge from dock to boat, the green water beneath them churning with translucent jellyfish, and they entered the smoky cabin, where Ismail dropped his staff. He let go of Sinan's hand, and before Sinan could grab his son's arm, the boy disappeared, swallowed by the wave of bodies. Now Sinan shoved through the crowd to get to the boy, but his foot made it difficult. He pushed against the stomachs of men smoking cigarettes, turning sideways to make himself thinner. " Affedersiniz, " he said to each person he touched, in a voice barely concealing his rising panic. "Excuse me." But the more he struggled forward, the more he was shoved backward by the jostling mob, and soon he was forced all the way to the other side of the ferry, his back leaning against a rusty chain that kept him from tumbling into the Bosporus. "Allah, Allah," he said out loud. A man standing next to him glanced in his direction. "Too many men," the man said. He lit a cigarette, the smoke flying away from his face. "Too many men, not enough city." "My boy's lost," Sinan said. The man turned around. He was taller than Sinan and he was able to see over the heads of the crowd. "Where?" the man said. "At the entrance." The man stood on his toes and yelled across the cabin in a voice so powerful it silenced the crowd. "Erkek çocuk nerede?" That started a chorus of echoes. "Where's the boy?" strangers called, their voices rising above the sound of the engine straining to pull away from the dock. "Where's the boy? Where's the boy?" they yelled into the wind, as the ferry nosed its white hull out into the blue water. "ÿIsmail!" Sinan called, joining his voice to the chorus. The men yelled "ÿIsmail" too, and a pandemonium of concern radiated out through the cabin. Then thirty feet away, rising above the heads of hundreds of people, came his son. At first ÿIsmail seemed to be floating under his own power, a princely ghost taken flight in the sea-whipped wind, but as he drew nearer, Sinan saw the shoulders on which ÿIsmail rested. The man elbowed through the parting crowd, a cigarette burning in his mouth, his large, hairy hands wrapped around the boy's stomach. Ismail's white teeth gleamed against his skin and his black eyes shone in the afternoon light. The staff was clasped in his fist, and for a moment he seemed to be a king raised high above the people of ÿIstanbul. " Te¸sekkür ederim, " Sinan said when the stranger handed him his son. "Bir ¸sey de¢gil." When the ferry docked in their suburb of Gölcük three hours later, Ismail wouldn't let go of the railing. Sinan touched the top of Ismail's head, and reminded him of the gifts he would receive after the ceremony. He tickled ÿIsmail's armpits and tugged on his earlobe, which didn't earn him the usual dimpled smile, much less a loosening of the boy's white-knuckled grip. A few women, shuffling toward the exit, smiled in sympathy. The man who had carried ÿIsmail on his shoulders slid a one-million-lira note into the pocket of the boy's white satin vest. "What's your name?" the man said. "ÿIsmail." "ÿIsmail what?" the man said. "ÿIsmail Ba¸sio¢glu." "That's a fine name. A strong man's name." The man winked at Sinan. "Can't stay a boy forever," he said. Sinan thought the man was scolding him for ÿIsmail's age-nine, at least a year too old for the sünnet- but the man's smile betrayed nothing but generosity. When the deck was cleared of people, Sinan touched his son's hand and felt the boy's fingers stiffen. "We have to go," he said. Behind ÿIsmail, the sun collapsed in red bands along the horizon. Sinan knelt beside ÿIsmail and put his hands on the boy's shoulders. "It will hurt, but that pain will pass and God will know you're willing to endure pain for him. A man has to endure pain, ÿIsmail. But it will pass." Ismail looked at the ground, his long eyelashes pressed against his cheeks. "Baklava soaked in honey afterward? Two, maybe?" Finally, the boy smiled. They had left home that morning, just as sunlight broke above the bay, and took the three ferries the length of the Gulf of ÿIzmit into Istanbul. Sinan hadn't been to ÿIstanbul since they had first arrived in the city from Ye¸silli, their village in the Southeast, seven years ago, but it had been ÿIsmail's special request to be paraded around the city on the day of his circumcision. Sinan hated ÿIstanbul-too many people, too much cement, too little sky-but ÿIsmail was fascinated by it. Even after a full day of stomping around the city that caused Sinan's foot to ache, his son's fascination rubbed off on Sinan. People had been kinder than he had expected. A woman in a pastry shop had offered the boy a slice of chocolate cake laced with pistachio nuts, a bite of which ÿIsmail promptly dropped on the white satin of his pasha's costume, soiling the garment that had cost Sinan a week's earnings. A taxi driver gave them a free ride up to Topkapý Palace, where, like sultans of another age, they gazed out over the shimmering waters of the Bosporus. They marveled at Bo¢gaziçi Bridge, standing like a huge metal suture between the hills of Asia and Europe. They counted the boats crisscrossing the Sea of Marmara- massive tankers that shoved the water aside, lumbering car ferries leaning into the current, driftwood-sized fishing spits-and settled on the number forty-six. As they passed the fish houses in Kumkapý neighborhood, the musicians at one of the tourist restaurants left their table and followed ÿIsmail down the street, blowing their reed flutes to announce his passing. Nilüfer and ÿIrem had stayed home to cook the food for the party tonight. If they had still lived in Ye¸silli, Sinan's aunts and uncles and cousins would have helped, and the whole family would have paraded Ismail through the unpaved streets. Sinan kept the memories of his own sünnet celebration to himself; he didn't want his son to know what he was missing. But the images had flashed in his mind throughout the day-his father hoisting him onto their best horse, his mother walking beside him, one hand resting on his knee, and the horse's belly swaying against her own pregnant bulge. It was one of his last memories of her, and even though her face had been white and she wouldn't smile, he hadn't thought to tell his father to get her home. Three days later, his father would leave Sinan with his aunt while he drove his mother to the good hospital in Diyarbakýr. She was bleeding, his aunt told Sinan. The doctors would make her better and he would have a little sister or brother when they came home. Only his father came back. Now the call to sunset prayer echoed from dozens of speakers, the amplified voices ricocheting off the cement walls of apartment buildings. Sinan was nervous, too, and a knot the size of an apricot had hardened inside his stomach. The walk home took them past the fishmonger's, and Sinan gave ÿIsmail money to buy the fish heads and severed tails for the street cats. Eren Bey, the fish seller, wrapped the remains in paper and handed them to ÿIsmail. "Wait," Eren Bey said, holding up one bloody finger. From a fernlined basket filled with his best palamut, he grabbed the largest fish, wrapped it up with a sprig of oregano, and dropped it into ÿIsmail's hands. "Fish will make you a strong man." He flexed his bicep and slapped the bump of muscle. "All the women in the world will kiss your feet." Eren winked and ÿIsmail smiled. "Please," Sinan said, "he's just a boy." " Efendim, " the fish seller said, his hands held out as if he were mildly insulted, "just a joke." They stopped at the rotting wooden konak where the street cats lived, but the cats were not there. ÿIsmail threw the fish parts through the broken window anyway, a gift for their return. They took maghrib prayer at mosque, and Sinan listened as ÿIsmail stumbled through the Arabic. Afterward, they climbed the hill that led to their apartment, and the bright lights of the amusement park below spun against the darkening sky. Sinan promised, as always, to take ÿIsmail there someday for a ride on the Ferris wheel. By the time they reached their apartment, the knot in Sinan's stomach had grown to the size of a small apple. He massaged the spot with his fingertips and it rolled around inside his stomach. He wondered, briefly, if he could delay the ceremony one more year. But people were already coming, the sünnetci was already scheduled, and he would have to make his son suffer the pain tonight. "Go on and see Ahmet," Sinan said to ÿIsmail. He knew his brother-in-law would spoil the boy, treat him like a child one last time before ÿIsmail had to bear the burden of trying to be a man. "I'll come and get you at the grocery later." 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. " Caným, " 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 ÿIsmail?" "With Ahmet." "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 börek 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 ÿIrem 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 Haným 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. " Baba! " "Get yourself ready for tonight," he said. "It's your brother's special night." Irem ran down the hallway. "ÿIsmail, ÿIsmail, ÿIsmail," she said, "always Ismail." 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. Excerpted from Gardens of Water by Alan Drew All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.