Betty was my best friend. We were both obsessed with Orhan Pamuk.
I have to confess that this obsession didn’t come to our mind naturally. It was like an inspiration by God or at least from one of his angels. At first it was a simple love. Like loving a pet, or a second cousin. But it changed on the day I noticed the subtle sarcasm on Pamuk’s lips, in a picture taken during the Nobel ceremony.
Before going farther to confuse you – my dear reader – I have to tell you about myself and how everything started in the mind of your humble servant, a man with limited knowledge about the world.
I met Betty for the first time at a church, or in a book club. I can’t be sure.
It was a hot summer day. The week before, I had run over a squirrel with my bike. Since I failed to prove my innocence, the judge condemned me to 1200 hours of community service by joining the book club, run by the city at the local church.
My job was greeting the newcomers.
Betty, a fake redhead, came in to look for a book – any book. She was dressed in black and her blue eyes smiled with a timid spark.
“What’s your crime?” I asked her enthusiastically.
She stared at me like someone who had never seen anyone talking to her in such a warm tone.
“I didn’t mean to ruin the cross,” she said.
I laughed. “We’re alike,” I said, puzzled by her thick voice. “But who’s going to believe us?”
Back then, I was young.
In the following years, we aged and crushed more squirrels, and more crosses. I became an untalented writer, dreaming to write the most intriguing detective story of all times and Betty pretended to be a nun, saving the world like Mother Theresa.
Every Tuesday night we performed at the club per Father Galviano’s request. He was the head of our church. A true compassionate man and the only man of God we knew. He wanted me to read the chapters of my unfinished novel and he asked Betty to meditate with outlaws.
We were happy.
On a cold snowy day, our lives changed forever.
A man left a book with an exotic cover on my desk; My name is Red by Orhan Pamuk. As I read its first line, I felt charitable and pitiful. I read the first page. Then another. Then another. A devastating hope emerged in between those lines, moving from one page to another. Each page had a force of its own, impossible to memorize. Impossible to seize. I longed to remember the exact wordings, the exact sentences. Still its wholesome meaning escaped my illiterate mind.
I hurried to take the book to Betty to share my passion with her. But, I have to confess to you – my dear reader – that we haven’t still reached the last page. No matter how hard we tried, we never grasped his message, written boldly in black on white for those who could see.
“The story’s too complex, too dark,” Betty liked to say.
“I don’t understand these people,” I liked to reply. “Their culture. Their complex first names. Their chaotic priorities.”
“The man has won the Noble Prize, so he should be good,” Betty would say.
“It’s just us,” I would agree.
From that day, Betty and I, we agreed on everything. We kept reading and talking about him, and at the same time we looked for him everywhere we went.
It was a sweet obsession.
On a particular cold day – at the beginning of winter or maybe the end of fall - at 4:35 PM, we found – on YouTube - Orhan Pamuk’s speech at New York. We watched him in awe; he could actually speak English. How speechless we felt.
“He’s living among us,” Betty whispered. “Not so far.”
He was even closer than what we thought.
One day, at the movie theater, as I was watching Eugene Onegin, live from Met on a Saturday matinee, Pamuk took the seat next to me. It was the middle of the opera, right before Onegin broke Tatiana’s heart. He held a giant Coke and a large bucket of popcorn. His shoulder touched mine and he left as soon as the whole goblet of Coke was empty.
It was the first time I saw him.
The second time, he was walking on the Golden Gate Bridge, like someone who wanted to commit suicide. I thought he had gained a few pounds.
One day Betty called me to rush to her grocery store. “He’s here,” she screamed. She was hysterical.
I told her to keep him busy. When I got there, he had already left and Betty was crying sitting by the blind Red Cross’s volunteer. “Did you see him?” Betty asked.
“He’s blind, Betty,” I said.
But the blind man nodded with authority. “It could be him,” he said, and smiled. ”He donated four dollars and fifty four cents.”
“If I don’t touch him, I’ll die,” Betty said.
“What if we send him a letter?” I asked.
“We’re nobodies,” Betty said. “He’ll ignore us.”
Still, we spent the whole night writing him a simple letter; nice, basic, and plain. We told him Betty would die if he ignored us. We begged him to speak in the book club.
“Isn’t Orhan a Muslim?” Betty wondered. “What if he hates churches?”
“Why should he?” I replied, and remembered seeing him so many times, pushing a stroller, playing with a hat, following a pretty girl, or chewing gums. He always looked so ordinary. “He’s a writer. An artist,” I said. “How could he be that Muslim?”
Betty nodded hopefully
We sent the letter and we waited. While waiting days and nights, I saw him at the beach and at my butcher’s. He walked his dog at night, and he drove a blue taxi dressed in a cowboy hat. We waited as we fell asleep and as we awakened.
“What if he doesn’t come?” Betty was worried.
“What if he accepts?” I was worried too.
We couldn’t eat. We couldn’t write. We couldn’t hope or despair.
We waited for three months and 12 days before his letter arrived at Betty’s mailbox.
It was the eve of a new year that never arrived.
I couldn’t open it.
“Open it,” Betty begged me.
“What if he hasn’t accepted?” I said.
“Open the damn letter,” Betty said.
I opened it with pain and sighed in disbelief. The letter was written in Turkish.
Betty sobbed. “We’ll never understand what he meant.” Her voice changing from sadness to panic. Her breaths going from being to nothingness. Her hand turning from pink to still white.
“Betty, we can live without words,” I screamed.
But she didn’t believe me.
I ran outside, stepping in mud and snow. Orhan Pamuk, wearing dark eyeglasses, waited on a bench. He was dressed in the clothes of the blind man.
“Why?” I cried. “Why did you write something we couldn’t understand?”
Orhan Pamuk, the Noble Prize winner, grabbed my hands and his grin – for a second -reminded me of something familiar from my childhood, but it didn’t last. His face changed and he became a foreigner, someone I had never seen before.
I cursed him, running back inside the church. Father Galviano was confessing to Mother Theresa. Father sounded desperate, like a man without conviction.
I waited in the dark and prayed but our Jesus resembled Pamuk, a mortal. He hung silently from the cross, showing any sign of grief. His immortality spread over the ceiling and scattered on every window. His ubiquitousness evaporated in the air and plagued the space. His floating cells floated over my skin, inside my liver, at the center of my spine. His grandeur wasted on me. His words misunderstood.
I knelt down out of my respect for meanings, as a proof of my own irrelevance. I placed my head on the ground and crawled toward the doors of the unseen heaven I could have never reached. Tasting the blood I could have never swallowed. Becoming the emptiness I could have never filled.
“Why Orhan? Why did you leave me?” I shouted.
I, Orhan Pamuk, an ordinary man falling endlessly blind, drowning at the bottom of the outraged waters of the Bosphorus, would have never dared to respond.
|Recently by Azarin Sadegh||Comments||Date|
|Life Across The Sun|
|Jun 11, 2012|
|The Enemies Of Happiness|
|Oct 03, 2011|
|Final Blast At the Hammer|
|Jul 18, 2011|
|نسرین ستوده: زندانی روز||Dec 04|
|Saeed Malekpour: Prisoner of the day||Lawyer says death sentence suspended||Dec 03|
|Majid Tavakoli: Prisoner of the day||Iterview with mother||Dec 02|
|احسان نراقی: جامعه شناس و نویسنده ۱۳۰۵-۱۳۹۱||Dec 02|
|Nasrin Sotoudeh: Prisoner of the day||46 days on hunger strike||Dec 01|
|Nasrin Sotoudeh: Graffiti||In Barcelona||Nov 30|
|گوهر عشقی: مادر ستار بهشتی||Nov 30|
|Abdollah Momeni: Prisoner of the day||Activist denied leave and family visits for 1.5 years||Nov 30|
|محمد کلالی: یکی از حمله کنندگان به سفارت ایران در برلین||Nov 29|
|Habibollah Golparipour: Prisoner of the day||Kurdish Activist on Death Row||Nov 28|