Falling in Love
Yola M. Caecenary
Do you remember the feeling of falling in love? That enables you to do things that you usually don’t do? That makes you want to keep your smile all day and you feel that you can conquer the world? That fills your head with music, leads your heart to dance, and to move your legs for no reason? That seems every single thing in your life makes sense. It is the feeling that you don’t want to trade with any other feelings?
I still remember it. I still feel it. It started on one summer bright Saturday morning. It was my day off. I just woke up and Taner and Hakan’s weekend morning program accompanied my toast and a glass of orange juice, while throwing my attention to the cobblestones street through my third-floor kitchen window. There weren’t many things happening on the street. Children’s voices and laughs heard high and low from round the corner. Four-five pedestrians passed by in turns. One or two scooters rode by smoothly. Only one car drove slowly past in a quarter hour. It was nearly a perfect beginning day for me.
Then I heard the sound of a semi-truck engine. At least that’s what I thought I heard. And I was right. A medium-sized moving truck came and parked across my building. I saw the driver and an assistant get out of the truck and open the back. My curiosity awoke. I wondered who was going to move into the building across mine. I know that a unit had been empty for a week.
There was a family with ten-year-old twin girls leaving the third floor. They were the Davrans. Mr Davran was a sous-chef in a fine dining restaurant in Taksim. Mrs Davran was a dentist in a clinic in Bağdad Street. The girls—Güneş and Hilal—went to a private school in Anadolu. Mr Davran started his work later than his wife did, so, the girls went to school together with their mother in the morning. In the afternoon, Güneş and Hilal had to wait for an hour at the clinic to go home together with their mother. They usually did their homework there.
How did I know about this? Well, you can say that the girls and I were partners in crime. In the weekends, like this, they usually played at my flat and we did some artistic creativity. And, of course, three women in a room, created a bunch of stories in the air.
I’m an art teacher at an International school in the morning. In the late afternoon, I teach art to the youth community in the neighbourhood.
Then I heard that Mr Davran transferred into a new branch of the restaurant opened in Kadıköy, which led them to move to the Asian side of İstanbul.
The truck driver and the assistant began unloading. From what I saw, there wasn’t much and I could tell from the things it wasn’t a family moving in. A single bed, a medium-sized chest of draws, a television, a small refrigerator, a desk with a chair. I didn’t complete my list because before I finished naming the items unloaded from the truck, a car parked in front of the truck and I saw him.
He was the reason for the feeling I described to you earlier. I fell in love with a person whom I knew nothing about. I guessed Cupid was strolling around Beyoğlu and when he saw us, he released his two arrows. One of the arrows struck my heart and made me experience love at first sight. I hoped the other arrow didn’t miss.
From this height, I could see him without being noticed. He walked to meet the truck driver. He was tall and athletic. I could imagine the muscles beneath his navy polo shirt. He wore a pair of dark blue jeans and a pair of sneakers. He took off his sunglasses when face to face with the driver. He smiled and his gesture showed him as an open and warm person. His dark hair, thin moustache, and beard along with his body language reminded me of one of the famous Turkish actors.
The truck driver handed him a chart and he put his signature on it then walked back to his car. He took a large suitcase from his trunk and together with the truck driver who held a desk entered the building. The man moved into the unit where the Davrans had been. From the uncovered windows, I could see the man had entered the room. I moved from the window avoided being caught spying on him. About thirty minutes later, the moving truck left, leaving the man with his new place. The unit across mine was not empty anymore and the story began.
Days passed and the only chance I had to meet the man was on weekday mornings, whenever I went out on my bicycle to go to school and he was getting into his car. Once, our eyes met and nodding to each other was the only greeting we extended.
It was another Saturday. I let myself get busy in the kitchen. I invited my friends from Paris who happened to be in İstanbul to have dinner. Mireille and her husband, Julien were in town for only two days, as part as their Turkey and Mediterranean tour. Mireille was my classmate when I took a short cooking class on my summer break during my Art study at the Sorbonne. L’eau by Jeanne Cherhal played in my kitchen accompanied me cooking. I moved my body and legs following the rhythm. When I was stirring my ratatouille, I saw the Yemeksepeti motorcycle stopped in front of the building across. Then I saw him went out and took the food he ordered. I had no chance to let my mind to think of anything since the timer of my oven reminded me of the chicken inside. I continued the cooking.
I was fixing my hair when the doorbell rang. I couldn’t hide my happiness to meet Mireille and Julien again, when I opened the door.
Mireille, Julien, and I had a nostalgic night. Three-course dinner was not the limit of our stories. Laughs and wine filled the room and the night, until the time came for them to go back to their hotel.
Once I closed the door, the silence stepped in. I sipped the last of my wine then started to clean the plates and glasses. I was putting the dirty dishes into the dishwasher when I spotted the light from one of the windows across. Somehow, I saw a silhouette behind the curtain. I wondered what he was doing. I smiled to myself realising what was happening to me. I hoped there would be a reason for us to have a conversation.
That hope came true on Sunday. I just got back from the farmers market when I saw him in front of Mrs Elena’s door, ringing the doorbell and holding Misha, Mrs Elena’s cat. He was a white cat with a little part of his muzzle was black and with a fat belly. The little black mark on his white head made me sometimes tease him and call him Gaspadin Gorbachev.
“Pardon,” I greeted him. "I think Mrs Elena is still at the church." I glanced at Misha and smiled, “Mrs Elena must forget to open her window again. So, he couldn’t get inside.”
“Yes, I saw him meowing in front of the door and I saw the address on his collar,” said him stroking Misha’s neck who seemed to enjoy it.
“Adım Meryem. I live next to Mrs Elena. You can leave Misha with me," I offered him a solution.
“Ah, I’m sorry. I’m Kerem. Memnun oldum, Meryem” He introduced himself, while offering his hand.
“Ben de, memnun oldum.”
I opened the door and invited both Kerem and Misha to enter.
“You may put him over there.” I pointed to a cushion that I’d bought specially for Misha.
“Ooh … it seems Misha has a second home, here,” said Kerem putting down Misha. I smiled at that, putting my groceries on the kitchen table.
“Misha and I have got acquainted. I sometimes take care of Misha when Mrs Elena out of town.” I squatted and poured milk into Misha’s bowl. He drank it as soon as it hit the bowl. I stroked Misha’s hair and rose. “Would you like some tea?”
“Sure,” smiling, he agreed.
I took the çaydanlık and put a couple spoonful of tea into the demlik. He took off his jacket and played with Misha for a moment then he rose. I took the leftover tarte au citron from yesterday then cut two slices. I saw him admiring some of my works and paintings.
“You are an artist,” he said.
I blushed. “I just love arts.”
“Who are they?” he asked holding the photo I put on the shelf.
“My grandparents,” I answered while pouring the tea.
“Your parents’ photo?”
I said nothing. I was had my back to him, putting back the çaydanlık on the stove. Unconsciously, I touched the pendant on my necklace before I turned around.
“Çay hazır,” said I changing the subject. He noticed the switch.
For the next twenty minutes, our conversation was about our work. I found out that he was an architect. I enjoyed talking with him. He was very open and had a good sense of humour. Misha snoozed on his cushion and sometimes moved his body into more and more zany positions. We couldn’t help laughing.
“Mrs Elena once told me that Misha was one of the Hermitage cats that reside underground of Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Cats have occupied the underground since the 18th century. The Russian Empress, Elizabeth Petrovna ordered cats to be placed there in order to control the mice, at that time. Mrs Elena used to work there and Misha was very closed to her. When she moved to Turkey, Misha was given to her.”
“That explains his adventurous instinct,” said Kerem sipping his tea. I nodded. Ten minutes later, he asked permission to leave and teased Misha before leaving. Misha didn’t move at all.
I left a message on Mrs Elena’s door telling her that Misha was with me. She never took her phone when she went to church. She always told me that it would just distract her.
I was preparing dinner when Mrs Elena got back. She apologised a few times albeit I told her it wasn’t a problem at all. Misha swiped his fur onto Mrs Elena’s leg. She held Misha up and held him in her arms. I offered Mrs Elena to stay for dinner. Politely she declined and invited me to cook together with her again someday. I was exciting with her invitation. Cooking Russian culinary was one of my new interests.
I saw the Yemeksepeti motorcycle again. I just set the table and was about to sit when I saw it stopped in front of the building and Kerem came out. I looked at my table. I looked at my kitchen …. I started to have my dinner.
It was Wednesday evening when I found Kerem was knocking and ringing Mrs Elena’s apartment. Misha was with him. I couldn’t figure out where Mrs Elena would be at this hour. I tried to call Mrs Elena and we heard the phone ringing. Then we heard something break. We realised something happened. We called and knocked on the door louder. Kerem said that he would ask the building’s manager to open the door. He handed Misha to me. While Kerem went to call the manager, I kept ringing the bell, knocking, and calling Mrs Elena’s name.
Kerem came with the building’s manager. With his key, we managed to open Mrs Elena’s door. There we found her laying on the floor. Her breathing was short. I put Misha in his cage. Kerem tried to resuscitate her. The building manager called the ambulance. It took only nine minutes for the ambulance to arrive, but time seemed prolonged as if it was approaching a black hole.
“Meryem, Misha sana emanet,” said Mrs Elena a second before the medics brought her to the hospital.
“Merak etme, Elena Teyze,” I said.
Apparently, Mrs Elena had had a light heart attack and was lucky to get help fast enough. The situation also affected Misha. He was restless in his cage. I let him out and held him.
“I know Misha is in good hands, but is there anything I can help?” asked Kerem.
“Thank you so much, Kerem. We’ll be okay,” I assured him, while looking at Misha who was less tense. “Maybe, can you please find his favourite ball and blanket there, near the heater? Mrs Elena told me that those two items are Misha’s favourites.”
Kerem looked for the ball and the blanket in the place I told him. Found them and gave them to me. I put Misha on his cushion but he didn’t want to stay there. He followed me instead.
“Ne istiyorsun? Açın mı?”
Misha meowed, as if he understood me. I smiled and stroked his marked head. I prepared some food for Misha while Kerem tried to get Misha’s attention with the ball. It worked. Misha stopped following me and played with Kerem, gave me time to prepare.
“I’m also going to prepare dinner if you would like to stay,” I said after putting Misha’s food in his plate. “I mean if you are not busy or—”
“I’d like to stay,” Kerem said smiling. I smiled too. Kerem took off his jacket and I could see he started to make himself at home, which relieved me. I didn’t feel that we’re strangers. I was cutting bell peppers on my cutting board when Kerem walked towards me.
“Without recipe?” asked him.
I raised my face and tried to think something to answer.
“It’s just a simple dish,” I answered. “There are some recipes,” said I again pointing to a drawer where I kept all the recipes I had, old recipes and new ones. “But I’m making something that I often cook this time.”
“You cook every day,” said Kerem watching me cutting. His tone was more an affirmation than a question.
"Most of the time, yes," I said, while pouring other spices into a bowl of chicken.
“Most of the time, I depend on Yemeksepeti,” he said, smiling.
I was trying holding my smile and hide the fact that I already knew.
“Is there something I can help?” suddenly he asked.
His offer was something that I couldn’t predict. For a moment, I was silent. It never occurred to me that I’d get an offer of help in my own kitchen.
“Well, if you don’t trust me—”
“No, it’s not that. I just ….” I didn’t finish my sentence and looked around my kitchen. “Well, if you don’t mind to get your hands dirty, you can help me to marinade the chicken,” finally, I said.
“Yes, chef,” he said smiling. “Let me wash my hands,” he said again rolling his sleeves.
I couldn’t help smiling. Cooking together with Kerem was something different experience. For a person who mostly depended on a delivery service, he was quite an expert in the kitchen. He was putting the chicken in the pan when he told me that he used to help his aunt preparing dinner.
“I’m from Konya. After graduating, I came to İstanbul and lived with my aunt. She would never let me go out without tasting the breakfast she made. And, in the evening, she wouldn't let me go to sleep without having dinner. So, as possible as I could, I would go straight home as soon as I finished work and helped her preparing dinner,” explained Kerem while turning over the chicken.
“I learned how to cook with my grandparents, mostly with my grandfather,” I started to tell my story, while peeling some potatoes. I noticed how Kerem began to pay attention to my sentences. “He was a chef on a cruise ship as well as at home. Well, when my grandmother didn’t cook,” I added. “I was raised by my grandparents in Çeşme. They had a big house and my aunts and uncles often came and stayed with their children. My cousins and I loved to see our grandfather whenever he performed in the kitchen. When he cooked, kitchen turned to be a stage and he put us, his grandchildren, as actors. He involved us. He always had stories for every meal he made. There was once ‘The Little Ballerina’ story. My cousins and I swung around the kitchen and pretended to be ballerinas.” I collected the reminiscences of my childhood. I didn’t realise that I let a smile appear until the silence broke my attention. I noticed Kerem looked at me smiling. “I’m sorry. You were telling me your story,” I said.
“No. Please continue yours,” smiling he said.
Putting the potatoes into the oven I continued, “I remembered I swung and swung and accidentally I hit a table and dropped a bowl of flour. I was shocked and was about to cry because I knew my grandmother didn’t like if we made a mess in the kitchen. But grandfather held me, calmed me, and told me it was an accident and there’s nothing to worry. He always had ways to calm his grandchildren.”
I set the table and Kerem helped me by cutting some bread. “From then on, he moved some tables and chairs and made a wider space for us to swing without being afraid of hitting anything. He even taught me how to dance the waltz. To the The Blue Danube—his favourite music by Strauss—he let me step on his feet and made me feel like a princess in the ballroom.”
“You love dancing, I can tell,” Kerem said smiling. I looked at him with a question mark on my face. “Several nights ago I saw you, well, a little sight of you dancing in your kitchen.”
“Apparently your window was not fully covered. I was standing by the window and I saw you.”
“Oh, my goodness, that’s very embarrassing,” I said covering my reddening face.
“Why? I see you really enjoy your life. At that time, I told myself that I wanted to know this girl and hoped that you and I had a chance to talk. Fortunately, the chance came when I found Misha.”
Kerem smiled and I smiled back. A strange feeling yet pleasant sneaked in my heart and I let it.
We sat at the table. Afiyet olsun we said to each other and we enjoyed the dinner we made. We enjoyed the moment. We enjoyed the chance to know each other.
After the meal, we moved to the sofa where I served tea. Misha didn’t want to be left behind. He climbed on the couch and took place in the middle.
“That was a delicious dinner. Ellerine sağlık,” said Kerem.
“Sen de. Ellerine sağlık.” I said while pouring the tea.
We sat on the couch with Misha in the middle, sleeping.
“I was raised in a military way,” Kerem opened the after meal.
I sat quietly. “Do you know the classic movie The Sound of Music?”
I nodded. “There was a scene when Captain von Trapp calling his children with a whistle. My father did that, too.”
I looked at him with a disbelieving look. “I’m telling you the truth. I have four siblings, two girls and two boys. We grew up trained that everything must be done perfectly and on time. The only person my father didn’t call with a whistle was my mother. I don’t think he had guts to do that,” said Kerem taking his çay bardağı. “At that time I thought that my father had forgotten his children’s name. As the time changed so did people. The older he became, softer he acted. I never thought we could be like father and son, now.”
I still sat quietly. Consciously my left hand touched the pendant on my necklace before with the help of the right hand unhooked the chain. I laid the necklace in my palm.
“Once you asked me about my parents’ photo.” I opened the pendant and handed it over to Kerem. “That’s the only photo of them I have, their wedding day. My mother passed away when she gave birth to me. My father … he brought me to my grandparents’ when I was seven months old. He wasn’t brave enough to raise me by himself. I never heard about him. I became my grandparents’ child. As I grew up, I was aware of not having parents. Somehow, my grandfather, grandmother, uncles and aunts, my cousins always had their ways to make me feel complete. I decided to keep their photo when I left İzmir. I went to Paris to continue my studies and I realised I would leave my roots for some time. Photos were only instruments to make me close with them, other than technology. I have no memories with my parents. I don’t even know them, only their photo that I keep close.”
Kerem looked at the photo on the pendant attentively then looked at me. He smiled. A bunch of feelings happened in my heart and his smiled calmed them.
“You’ve inherited your mother’s smile,” he said. I really appreciated that. He could see something that my family had told me throughout my life. “They’re always in your heart, you know that,” said he again while putting back the necklace around my neck.
“Teşekkür ederim,” I said, holding the pendant. Our eyes gazed at each other for some moment. They were trying to tell something. I cut in and said, “Would you like more tea?”
“Let me.” Kerem stopped me and took our glasses.
I paid attention to Misha who slept deeply. His chest moved up and down regularly.
“Do you know something, Meryem Hanım?” said Kerem putting the glasses on the table. There was a serious line on his face. I looked at him waiting for the next sentence. “Having tea is the best way to end dinner. But do you know the best way to end a night?” I shook my head. “A dance.”
Before I was able to build a complete understanding of the situation, Kerem took out his phone and ran his index finger on the screen and the duet of Ed Sheeran and Andrea Bocelli was the next thing I heard.
“Meryem Hanım, may I have a dance with you?” Kerem offered his hand.
The Perfect Symphony led me to accept his offer and ended the night.
As Misha stayed with me, I let my window opened before I left thus Misha could go in and out. I visited Mrs Elena in the afternoon. I brought blini that I made before I came. In the hospital, I met Mrs Elena’s niece, Victoria, who flew in from St. Petersburg.
“Geçmiş olsun, Elena Teyze.”
“Sağ ol, yavrum. How is Misha? I'm sorry, dear, if he put you to any trouble.”
“No. Not at all, Elena Teyze. Misha is just like my own cat. And don’t worry. Misha is fine. Here, I took some photos of him,” said I showing Misha’s photos from my phone.
I could see the happiness and the longing in Mrs Elena’s eyes.
“Who was the young man’s name who helped me?”
“Kerem. He wished you to get well soon, Elena Teyze.”
“Please pass on my gratitude to him. I thank you both. If you were not there ….”
“Elena Teyze, please. The most important is you are safe.” I held her hands. “What does the doctor say? When can you get home?”
“They said that they needed to observe me more and if everything is okay, they’ll release me this Saturday.”
“That’s wonderful,” I couldn’t conceal my gladness.
“Victoria will stay with me… at least for a few months,” said Mrs Elena.
“That’s relieving,” I smiled.
I stayed there until the visiting hours ended.
It was Saturday. Kerem and I had been busy preparing a homecoming for Mrs Elena since the morning. We cleaned her apartment. Kerem even took Misha to be groomed. I made paskha, one of Mrs Elena's favourite dishes. We decorated the apartment with ribbons and decorative papers. I was trying to hang an edge of a ribbon when I slipped my step from the ladder. Kerem, who was near, hurried to catch me.
“Teşekkür ederim …,” said I trying to recover from the shock. I felt the time freeze. The hands of the clock halted. In addition, I was still in Kerem’s hands. We had never been this close beside the dance. Like there was a gigantic magnet around us, its negative and positive poles pulled us toward each other. Words gone, replaced by the breath and the heartbeat that hard to still. As my eyes started to close, a bright white light covered the room.
Do you remember the feeling of being between the reality and its opposite? That makes you realise that you breathe and your heart beats at the moment you move your body. But in the equal time, you see your mind is still catching and gaining memories as much as it could from somewhere that is starting to fade away. You feel your soul is still wandering trying to live in the present and leave behind the moment of what it's called a dream.
I still remember it. I still feel it. That day I moved my limbs. I felt the up and down movement of my chest. I felt the air I inhaled. I saw my hard working mind collect memories from blurry places. I felt my soul was trying to get me to the present. I knew where I was. I was in my bed. I just couldn’t remember what day was it so I grabbed my phone just to check the date and time. It was Saturday and it was 7.00 in the morning. I stretched my body and I heard Mrs Elena’s voice calling Misha. Somehow, I put a smile on my face, a big one. I hoped she wouldn’t forget to open her window before going out today.
I got up from my bed and walked to the kitchen. I turned on the radio and in a second, I heard Taner and Hakan’s voice again with their weekend morning program. I poured some orange juice and walked to the window. I opened the window to get a fresh air and paid attention to the road and the surrounding. I didn’t see a car that I thought I was familiar with parked on the cobblestones street. As I threw my sight to the building across from mine, one of the windows opened and Güneş and Hilal showed their face. I smiled at them.
“Günaydın, Meryem abla,” said them waving their hands along with their cheerful smiles.
“Günaydın, kızlar,” said I waving back.
Cem Belevi’s voice could be heard from the radio with his Günaydın Sevgilim. I finished my orange juice and walked to the bathroom, welcoming the new weekend.
Size ve bana, günaydın ….