Turkish Morning

art, Leila Mekhdiyeva, story

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Story by Leila Mekhdiyeva

Illustration by Mila Khan

I woke up that morning from the sound of someone’s voice singing. Second later I remembered where I was, and that song wasn’t a song at all. It was Azaan, the Muslim call to prayer. I looked at the time – it was 04:51 AM. I still had not gotten used to it, even though it was my second day in Istanbul. I tried to fade off to sleep, but I couldn’t. I was too fascinated with the sound of the call to prayer that morning. Of course, I didn’t understand a word, it was in Arabic. And as an Englishman, of course, I didn’t speak either Turkish or Arabic, but I still could differentiate them.

Two minutes later I got up from my bed and opened the curtains in my hotel room. The hotel itself was close to the main touristic places in Istanbul – Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as Blue Mosque, and Hagia Sophia museum, which for the centuries of its existence used to be both a church and a mosque, depending on who was in power at that time and whether the city was called Constantinople or Istanbul.

It was the time of the sunrise. The city, which during the day was full of tourists and locals convincing tourists to buy this or that, was now very calm and almost silent. And magnificent Istanbul was lighting up in a new way for me.

But what drew my gaze that morning was the sea, the Bosphorus strait to be clearer. The sea looked calm and friendly. I knew it was waiting for me.

How can I describe and tell what makes the sea so special to me? I simply can’t, as some things simply belong to us. Make us feel complete. Make us feel alive. For me it was the sea. Wherever I was I needed it. Wherever the sea was I had to be there. That was the reason why I came to Istanbul for a week. This city with its rich history, culture and the unique mix between Europe and Middle East, of course, also hypnotized me. But frankly, my special connection with the sea was always greater than any other aspects of traveling somewhere.

I kept staring at the horizon separating the sea and the uprising sun that early morning, the call to prayer already stopped and Istanbul was quiet and calm now. I didn’t want to wait anymore, as I had a plan for every single day of the trip. That day I was going on a boat tour to cross the geographic line between Europe and Asia. Thinking how ironic it was for Londoner to cross the line between two different worlds, on a boat somewhere in the Bosphorus strait.

 

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One Of The Letters I Will Never Send

art, Leila Mekhdiyeva, story

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Story by Leila Mekhdiyeva

Illustration by Mila Khan

I keep running. Keep running away from my pain, from my past, from my love, and from you. You are My Only Daughter. You are the only light I had in my life and I lost you. If I were brave enough I would come to you and ask you for forgiveness. And I know you would forgive me, I know you would.

My pain inside is never silent. It makes me keep going, keep running, keep hiding from anything that might make me want to stay. But I can’t. I simply can’t. I’m empty. I’m too empty to love, too empty to give, too empty to stay. I know you have so many questions and I wish I had a chance to meet you, talk to you, become your best friend, your support, but all I am is a woman who is unable to love.

When I met your father, I was only nineteen. I was going to college and I was broken-hearted. I loved a guy, who, I believed, was my soul mate, my best friend, my lover, my partner, my life. Until one day he betrayed me and left me, and I felt like I was dying. It was as if someone opened up my chest, took my heart with their dirty hands covered in dirt, and threw my precious little heart to the darkest hole full of knives, and each of those knives kept piercing my heart. And after that they put that heart back to my chest with the smile on their face, saying: “I hope you will survive.” But I didn’t.

And that was when I met your father. I believed that someone with such a huge love for me would save me. I believed that his love was enough for both of us. I believed that his kind heart would make me feel alive again. It all happened so fast: the engagement, wedding, our honeymoon, the day I knew I was pregnant, and of course the day I gave a birth to you, my only baby. I thought it would work. I thought I would feel what every woman was supposed to feel, but I didn’t. I knew that being a wife and a mother was not for me. I knew that I wasn’t good enough. Especially when I saw how much love and connection you and your father had. He was so in love with you; you were the center of his Universe. And I knew, I knew, I was not good enough for you two. So I left. I saved some money and left. I didn’t know if I would ever come back, but I knew I could not stay there anymore.

You were seven when I left you, my green-eyed love. You may ask why I waited for so long, and frankly, I can’t say why, because I don’t know. I think, I wanted to believe that it will come with time. And by “it” I mean the enjoyment and fulfillment from being a mother and a wife. But as “it” didn’t come even after all those years, I decided to leave as I couldn’t live like that anymore. I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought someone like me is not good enough to be called a mother. I was an empty woman, I had no love inside and I couldn’t keep hurting those who loved me.

I think, that some women are not meant to be tamed. They will never be good wives and mothers, because they belong to no one, neither their kids nor their husbands. I know that I made a mistake by marrying your father, in the first place. Believing that he would be able to change me was a mistake. And still I went further and thought that maybe motherhood could save me, but it, as you already know, couldn’t. And maybe if I was braver I would have admitted that simple fact earlier, but I kept trying to convince myself that I am good enough to be a wife and a mother. And I know that your father always saw that in me, but he didn’t want to acknowledge that. I guess we both were playing our roles, one because of love and another one because of the fear of being judged.

But I have to be honest, no matter what I write here, it doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t because I will never send it to you. I never will, as I never did with other sixty-three letters. You only got those odd and empty postcards instead, as odd and as empty as me, Your Only Mother. I wish, My Love, I wish I was different, I wish I was something that I couldn’t be, I wish I was full of love as your father, full of light as you. But I am an empty woman with no heart inside.

I cannot let you know who Your Only Mother is. It’s better if you think of me as a mysterious woman who keeps sending you all those postcards from the places she’s in, but you will never find her. You know that, I know that, we both know that.

Still I keep writing all these letters to you, My Love. And if there’s a chance that one day I will be bold enough to send all my letters to you, My Love, then there’s a chance that one day I will be bold enough to meet you, My Love, and tell you my whole story.

 

Love, Your Only Mother

 

Love Is Love

art, Leila Mekhdiyeva, story

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Story by Leila Mekhdiyeva

Illustration by Mila Khan

It was the middle of summer. The sun was shining bright and making the weather too hot to be outside. Two young ladies walked into a bookstore, chatting about all those unimportant things that take so much space in young women’s lives. At least, that’s what one of the girls was thinking at that very moment. Her name was Mary. She was 19 years old, had beautiful brown eyes, long curly ginger hair and a critical mind that would always make her feel miserable. She was trying to understand more than the rest of her friends. She was overthinking every single situation in her head to see things more clear. It is what was making her seem too critical and judgmental in the eyes of Estelle, her friend with whom she came to the bookstore.

Estelle was two years older than Mary; she was turning 21 next month. And it was her birthday party that they were discussing when they walked into the bookstore few minutes earlier. Estelle was a green-eyed blond girl and was an absolute opposite of Mary. It was making their friendship look so weird from the outside, but the reason why these two were together was that they were school friends long before their personalities were fully developed. They met at arts school when Mary was five and Estelle was seven. They both were taking painting classes there, and at that time Mary was so excited to have a friend in the new place, who also seemed funnier than the rest of kids there.

Mary was absolutely in love with painting. She was a shy girl who could express herself fully through her art works – her paintings. She was very talented, passionate about art, a living in her own reality kind of girl. And she was loyal. Too loyal to see that after so many years of friendship, she and Estelle were too different to understand each other. For example, this very moment Mary was thinking about finding Pablo Neruda’s poetry book because that was the reason they had come to the bookstore in the first place. Estelle, on the other hand, was talking about Chris, the guy she fell in love with last month. Estelle was one of those girls who would fall in love every single month, believing that this time it is it – the real love. “I am just a hopeless romantic. What else can I say?” She was always saying.

“Finally!” Mary said with excitement in her voice, when she finally found Pablo Neruda’s poetry book.

“I know, right! I told him that I was always waiting for a guy like him,” said Estelle.

“What? Oh, no, I meant I finally found Pablo Neruda’s book.”

Mary looked at Estelle, at her long blond hair which was shining like the sun, and then her eyes, big green eyes, full of joy and delight. Mary always saw in Estelle that unique beauty that the rest couldn’t see. None of all those guys whom Estelle ever dated knew how lucky they were to have her. Mary’s thoughts were interrupted by Estelle’s voice.

“Haha, Mary, Mary. You never listen to me,” Estelle shook her head and said. “All right, what’s there?”

“It is the collection of his poems. Look, – she opened a random page and started reading the first four lines she saw there, – “…. I am keeping the name of a woman I barely knew locked up: it’s in a box and now and then I pick out the syllables that are rusted and creak like rickety pianos….” Mary read those lines with the special encouragement mixed with passion in her voice. Those lines were very special ones for Mary. She wondered how perfectly well they described what she felt, but could never say out loud.

“You still do that, don’t you?” Estelle looked at her with a smile on her face.

“Do what?” Mary was curious to know if Estelle knew something.

“You ask a certain question in your head, and then you open a random page and read the first sentence you see there. Ah, Mary, you are such a fatalist.”

“It is better than being a hopeless romantic,” she said out loud and immediately regretted that she did.

“Excuse me?”

“Look, I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”

“Hurt my feelings? What do you know about my feelings? You never listen to anything that I am saying.”

“Because I already know everything that you want to say, Estelle! It is always the same story only with different characters every single month. Stop being so stupid, damn it!” Mary was too angry.

“So you think I am stupid? I am stupid because real life interests me more than art world? I am stupid because you are the talented and smart one, is that how you think? Then why the hell do you even spend your precious time with me, miss Perfection?”

“Because I love you.”

And she wasn’t lying.