Maya and Early

Yola M. Caecenary

 

 Putting on her jogging shoes, Maya hummed the opening theme of her favourite television series. Drinking a glass of warm water then she flew from her apartment. The warm and tender summer morning greeted her as she started her running. Her wavy brown hair bound together in a ponytail bobbed left and right with every step she took.

Maya enjoyed jogging alone. It wasn’t only because there wasn’t anybody available to accompany her, it was also because she started it much earlier than other people did. In addition, jogging with Barış, her fiancé, wasn’t an option. He would be busy with his cellphone while jogging and wouldn’t do it more than half an hour.

Jogging was also one of Maya’s favourite actions to start a day. Not only as the mood booster, had it also given her the chance to talk and to listen to herself. Going back to nature brought her the sense of balance her daily activities didn’t provide. Moreover, it gave her the opportunity to recognise her surroundings and got in touch with them.

 

Entering a park, Maya noticed a dog stood near a bench. It had light brown golden hair and a long pointed tail with silver hair at the point. The legs and paws were white as well as its neck and one third of its face. It had black muzzle. The dog was not so different from other dogs she used to meet in the street, but it drew her attention non-the-less. Despite not being an akita, its loving eyes, reminded her of Hachiko, a legendary dog from Japan. Who, in the 1920s would be left outside Shibuya Station, while his master taught at the university. One day the professor died during a lecture and the dog remained outside the station for the next nine years faithfully waiting for a master who wasn’t coming back.

They looked at each other as she passed the dog. It was about 200 meters away when Maya realised that she was being followed. Maya stopped and turned around. There she found the dog was following her. As Maya halted her steps, so did the dog. It just stood there, looking at Maya. Maya decided to continue her jog and let the dog to follow her.

Before returning to her apartment, Maya stopped in a café to buy her favourite chicken sandwich. When she went out, she saw the dog was there, sitting on the pavement, waiting for her. Maya approached him. The dog got ready to welcome her and delivered a ‘woof’.

“Merhaba,” greeted Maya stroking the dog’s head. “Why are you following me?” She realised that the dog had no collar. “So, nobody owns you, huh?” Maya stroked the dog and felt the strong bones beneath the hair. It was quite healthy and clean for a street dog.

The dog pushed its head onto Maya and sniffed the paper bag contained the sandwich.

“Oh! Are you hungry? … it’s my favourite, though,” said Maya pretended to hesitate. “Well, okay. Today, it’s yours,” said Maya again and took out the sandwich to give to the dog.

Wagging its tail, the dog excitedly ate the sandwich. Maya smiled.

“Afiyet olsun,” said Maya leaving. Five steps later Maya heard another ‘woof’. She turned around and said, “rica ederim.” They looked at each other for a second before the dog back enjoyed the sandwich and Maya walked back to her apartment.

The next morning, Maya hoped fortune would cross their paths again in the park.  Though there was no need to appeal to luck, they met each other again, at the same park. They followed the same routine. The dog followed Maya. Maya went to the same café and bought the same sandwich, this time she bought two, one for her, one for the one in golden hair that waited for her patiently outside.

As in the Pavlovian conditioning, it needed the bell and food for the dog to learn; a paper bag would enough for it to wag its tail as it saw Maya went out from the café bringing a paper bag.

“Haydi, gel benimle,” said Maya waving her hand. The dog followed her. They went to the park and enjoyed their sandwich there.

The third day, as it could be predicted, Maya and the dog met at the park, and together went to the café to have their favourite sandwich and had it together. However, that morning, Maya brought the dog a little gift. She brought a ‘name’ for the dog. ‘Early’ was embossed on the collar’s pendant that Maya put on its neck. He didn’t show any displeasure. He just stood still, as if it received a medal for some heroic act. When the collar was fastened and the pendant hanging beautifully, Early gently woofed Maya to thank her.

“It suits you, since you come out in quite early morning. We are the early birds, I guess,” said Maya giving one of her hands to Early. Early put his paw in Maya’s palm. Accompanying Maya, Early was more playing around her. Several times, he made the jump movement in front of Maya then running around her. His tail never stopped wagging. That day, Maya and Early became truly friends.

Days and weeks passed. Maya and Early were getting closer. Besides their morning routines, they sometimes met in the afternoon or at the weekend. They took a walk then enjoyed the sunset near the Bosphorus. Or, they had a picnic at the park. Sometimes, Maya’s friends and colleagues would join them.

Maya loved to spoil Early. She would make some special food for Early or bought him some special dog food. She even took Early to a grooming salon. Engin Bey, the manager of their favourite café, would add another slice of chicken into Early’s sandwich and another leaf of lettuce or tomatoes into Maya’s sandwich. When Maya gave the question look, Engin Bey simply said that vegetables are good for Maya’s skin health. Speechlessly Maya proceeded and enjoyed her healthier sandwich meanwhile the lucky Early vigorously ate his, as he knew that there was a little extra gift.

 

“If you like Early this much, why don’t you adopt him? No one owns him and he seems have seen you as his owner,” said Cansu, Maya’s colleague and best friend. They were sitting on grass at Bebek Parkı on Saturday morning. Maya and Early, as usual, had done with their morning routines. Later, Cansu came with a Frisbee and joined them. Three of them played happily until their legs demanded to rest.

“Barış doesn’t like it. He thinks pets are nothing but creatures to be fed and they’re impossible creatures. They do nothing but mess the place up. Their place must be outside the house, with the nature, he says.” Maya explained. Shrugging her shoulders, she continued, “We live in an apartment. We have no our own garden,” added her.

Uf..., what a dry life,” said Cansu abruptly. Maya looked at Cansu. Cansu lifted up her hands in the air, saying, “I’m sorry. I forgot he’s your fiancé,” she smirked. 

Maya smiled. She had known Cansu since they were involved in a project in Ankara. Both of them were two of five architects from İstanbul sent to build a real estate there.

“I still say you have nothing in common…,” said Cansu again.

“People are like that, aren’t they? They complete each other,” said Maya. She was watching Early, which now was adored by two little girls. He just sat proudly when the two girls stroke his hair and adored his collar with his name on it.

“Well, I don’t know, Maya,” said Cansu. “Besides, who am I, asking? I don’t even have anyone to love,” said Cansu again pretended to feel sorry for her life.

Maya couldn’t help smiling. “What about Hanz, the new associate from Germany. You’re handling a project together, right? You always want to meet a person with whom you can practice your German, now you meet one. Also…, his Turkish isn’t bad either,” said Maya teasing her best friend. Cansu laughed.

Early spotted a butterfly. He chased the butterfly that was flying high and low. After getting bored of failing, he returned to Maya and Cansu’s spot.

“Ne oldu?” asked Maya. “Leave the butterfly alone. She also wants to feel the air,” said Maya stroking behind his ears. Early put his head on Maya’s lap. 

“Your parents are going to come for dinner, this evening?” asked Cansu.

“Yes. After being cancelled twice,” said Maya with a bitter little smile.

“So, Barış efendi is going to spare his precious time, this time….”

“Why are you so cynical about him?” asked Maya looking at Cansu.

“Well, I’m sorry Maya. I don’t know why did I react like that. I just know that the two cancellations before were because of that, weren’t they?”

“I’ve reminded him this morning and he said yes.”

“Haydi bakalım, canım. And where is he right now? At work? Why is he there? It’s Saturday, for goodness sake. Doesn’t he ever give himself a day off?”

“He’s a businessman not an employee like us,” answered Maya to all Cansu’s questions. “A businessman never limits himself with workdays,” said Maya repeating one of the famous words of Barış relating to his profession. Both of them laughed.

It was always hard for Maya when it came to say good-bye to Early. Their togetherness and the bound between them never made them to get used with the separation. Maya would give a kiss on Early’s head and that was it. They went back to their own places. After a few steps, they usually turned around and looked at each other, for a few seconds, before Early flew to a spot where Maya couldn’t see him again.

 

“Relax, kızım, he must be on the way right now. You know the traffic at this hour,” said mother. She tried to calm Maya who kept trying to phone Barış. Father sat next to mother quietly. He watched Maya like an eagle looking at its chick.

“He’s half an hour late. And he doesn’t even care enough to let me know what’s going on,” said Maya. She walked back and forth before taking a seat at the table.

“Father, mother, I’m really sorry. I…,” she couldn’t finish her sentence. Maya bowed her head.

Mother took Maya’s hands and put them in her own hands. Stroking them, saying, “Benim güzel kızım, please don’t let this situation takes away your smile. I don’t like seeing you like this.”

Maya looked at her mother and father. Suddenly she felt hot in her eyes. Before any tear drops, she smiled, kissed her mother’s hands, and rose from the chair. “I’ll get the soup, so we can start our dinner.”

“Sana yardım edeyim, yavrum,” said mother was about to stand up.

“It’s okay, mother. Ben hallederim. Sen yorulma kendine,” refused Maya politely. The truth was that she needed a minute to let the anger and the hurt out of her heart through her tears as well as to gather herself up and put her smile back. Maya took a deep breath and prepared the soup.

“Father, you didn’t talk much this evening,” said Maya when giving his father’s coat.

Father received the coat without a word. He just looked straight at Maya who tried to keep her smile. Father reached Maya’s head and made her to look at him, “Bir tanem, doğru söyle, iyi misin?”

Maya smiled. “İyiyim, baba. Merak etme,” she assured his father.

“Listen, I don’t care whether he’s going to be my son in law. I won’t let him to hurt you. No one can hurt my little girl,” said father kissing Maya’s forehead.

Maya smiled. “I’m not a little girl anymore, father.”

“As long as I live, you’ll always be my little girl.”

The bathroom door opened and mother went out.

“Father, don’t worry. I’m fine,” once again Maya assured her father. “Please take care of mother and yourself.”

Maya gave her mother’s coat then hugged and kissed her.

“Thank you for visiting me. Kendinize iyi bakın.”

“We are happy to see you, yavrum,” said mother.

“Please drive safely, father,” said Maya again giving her father a hug.

Father kissed Maya’s forehead once again before walked to the door.

Maya closed the door behind her.

 

Two hours passed. The door opened. Barış entered the room finding Maya sat at the dining table.

“You haven’t slept? Are you waiting for me?” asked Barış putting his briefcase on the table.

“Neredeydin?” asked Maya ignoring Barış’s questions.

“Bana hoş geldin yok mu?”

“Neredeydin, dedim.”

Barış was silent. He just looked at Maya who looked at him back. Maya rose from the chair.

“I called you many, many times, left you hundreds of messages, but you didn’t return any of them. And you didn’t even bother to let me know if you couldn’t make the time for the dinner.”

“Ah… the dinner. I really forgot about it, Maya. I’m sorry.”

“You forgot about it. Şahane!” Maya exclaimed with the unpleasant feeling. “I wasn’t the only one who waited. My parents did too. They are my parents, Barış and, who knows, if God is willing, they’ll become your parents too. And this is how you treat them!” Maya couldn’t hide her disappointment and her anger.

“Maya—”

“I called your office and your secretary said you had gone out since noon. Where were you?”

“Maya, listen. I was out to have lunch when Gül called—”

“Gül?”    

“Yes. My business partner.”

“You address your business partner by just her first name?”

Barış was silent. Maya looked straight at Barış. “What happened after Gül called?”

“We met. We talked about business.”

“For a half day.” Maya emphasized the situation. “Who else was with you?”

Barış didn’t give any answer. “Just the two of you,” Maya concluded.

Maya shook her head and gave a bitter smile to the situation she had.

“After couple of times being cancelled from your side, you finally agreed to have dinner with my parents this evening. Then your business partner called and you had a meeting only with her for a half day without being aware of any of my calls.” Maya tried to recall everything. It was as if he was saying it to Barış but it was more to herself.

“It was an important business meeting,” said Barış assuring Maya as well as defending himself.

“Yes, I’m sure it was. It is possible,” said Maya. The doubt vibes were obvious in her words. “But you…,” Maya didn’t continue her words. She looked at Barış. She looked at his eyes deep and long as if she tried to find something in them. She took a deep breath. “I’m tired, Barış,” she said, walking toward her room.

“I know, Maya. I’m tired too. Let’s just get some rest tonight. We can talk tomorrow, aşkım,” said Barış as he was about to take steps to follow Maya.

“Bana aşkım deme!” said Maya abruptly turning around. She gave a sharp look to Barış who wasn’t ready with it. “I’m tired of you.”

“O ne demek?” asked Barış following Maya.

“I’m done with you,” said Maya taking her suitcase and throwing her clothes and belongings randomly into it.

“Maya, where are you going?” asked Barış confusedly. “Don’t be ridiculous kızım ya.”

“Huh! I’ve been living in a ridiculous life these times. Perhaps I got infected,” said Maya while her hands moving like an octopus’ tentacles from her closet to the bathroom to another random part of the room.

“No! You can’t go anywhere.”

“And who are you to forbid me?”

Maya closed her suitcase.

“Your fiancé. I forbid you as your fiancé.”

Maya stood there. She looked at Barış and at two rings around her finger in turn. Then, while looking at Barış in the eyes, she slipped off the rings from her finger, held them in front of him, and tossed them onto the bed.

“Not anymore!”

Maya took the suitcase and walked toward the door. Barış blocked her way by standing at the door.

“Let me go, Barış. It’s over between us.”

 

Cansu was watching the night news when she heard her phone ringing.

“Alo canım.”

“Cansu, merhaba. I’m sorry if I woke you up.”

“No. I didn’t sleep. Ne oldu?”

“I don’t want to disturb my parents at this hour. But I need a place to stay for tonight. Can I sleepover at your place tonight?”

“Tabii ki.”

Maya told the taxi driver where he should to take her. 

Half an hour later, Maya arrived at Cansu’s place. Maya told her best friend everything happened tonight. Cansu chose for not giving many comments, not like as usual. She just let Maya pouring out her feelings. Sometimes tears slipped out from Maya’s eyes but then quickly she wiped them off. Several times, there were incoming calls and messages from Barış, made her to turn off her phone. Double pints of vanilla ice cream accompanied them until past midnight.

That night Maya was not able to sleep. She was kept tossing and turning. When she was just about to entering the subconscious stage, the ezan heard from the minarets. She decided to get up and made a cup of tea.

Maya kept thinking and thinking. Her mind didn’t let her to rest even a minute. She had just made a huge decision of her life, and that decision demanded other decisions. She took a pencil and a paper and listed all the things popped up in her mind before she lost her mind. Early’s name was on the list she made. Reading her list, she took the tab inside her bag and surfed through the Internet to find a house or a flat rent out in some neighbourhoods. She found several and took her phone to make a call when she realised the time. Maya waited.

Maya was getting ready when Cansu came out of her room.

“Aa… where are you going this early?” asked Cansu when she saw her best friend. Maya was not wearing her jogging suit instead she put on her shirt and jeans and boots.

“I’m going to adopt Early,” said Maya smiling. That was her first smile after the Titanic of her life.

“It’s about time. Welcome back, canım,” said Cansu. She was happy to see her best friend back alive.

“It’s good to be back,” said Maya still smiling. “I’ve made some appointments regarding to some places I want to see this morning. Later, when I’ve found one that suitable for me and Early, I’ll take him there,” said Maya again.

“Hayırlı olsun,” said Cansu.

“I’ve made your favourite breakfast, enjoy it. Ben çıkıyorum,” said Maya grabbing her bag.

“Eline sağlık. Don’t you have your breakfast first?”

“I’ve had mine. Sana afiyet olsun,” said her again giving Cansu cheek to cheek kisses.

“Maya, if there’s anything I can help. Please let me know,” said Cansu walking Maya to the door.

Maya nodded while saying, “Ben hallettim. I’ll let you know again later. Haydi görüşürüz.”

“Görüşürüz canım. İyi şanslar,”

“Sağ ol canım.”

Maya stepped the stairs quarter walking, quarter running. She was flying for the other half, embracing the tabula rasa of her life.

 

With music in her heart, Maya looked for Early at the park. She was impatient to see the sparks in Early’s eyes when she’s showing him the house. Maya called his name a few times. He didn’t show up. Maya waited at the bench. Ten minutes passed but no signs of Early. Indeed Maya was late than usual this morning, so she thought that Early might have waited for her at the café. Therefore, she went to the café but nil she found. Engin Bey, the café manager said that he didn’t see Early this morning.

Maya waited for a while at the café hoping that Early would show up in a minute. Twenty minutes later, Maya returned to the park but still no Early. Maya was confused never thought Early would just disappeared like this. She walked back and forth and her mind started to write scenarios and played them. ‘What if’, ‘perhaps’ and ‘maybe’ took central parts in the plot.

Maybe there was a person who adored Early and kidnapped him. Early was a friendly and adorable dog. When he saw Early wandered around the park with nobody, he persuaded him to go with him, albeit there was a collar around his neck.

No! Early is a smart dog. He wouldn’t just follow a person just because the person is kind or for food. He wouldn’t leave me.

Maya refused to believe that possibility, despite the similarities with her first acquaintance with Early. She threw the thought out from her mind. She forgot that Early was not actually her dog. Only the bound between them spoke more than a certificate paper.

Perhaps there were operation to tag and release program of street dogs and Early was one of the dogs caught.

But Early was vaccinated. I myself got him vaccinated. And he has a collar. Isn’t it enough to prove that the dog has someone who takes care of him?

What if—

Maya stopped her mind from continuing the next words. Suddenly she felt the goose flesh all over her body and she felt cold. She hushed all the voices in her head when she saw a group of students walking to her way. She approached them and asked them about Early. Maya described Early detailed in a hope they’d seen him.

“No. I didn’t see him, abla,” said one of the students.

“There’s a dog sleeping under a bench over there but it was far different from your description,” said the second student pointing to a direction she meant.

 The other student looked unsure and said, “Well, I heard an accident happened around here this morning. That was a hit and run. A car hit a dog.”

Maya felt the cold again.

The student continued, “I don’t know whether the hit dog was the dog you’re looking for or not but I heard it has been taken to a clinic. I just don’t know where.”

 Maya’s feet felt attached to the pavement. She couldn’t move her legs nor say a word. The goose flesh attacked her again. The thought of the ‘what if’ truly happened to Early terrified her.

“Are you okay?” asked the students.

Maya nodded instead of shaking her head. The students left her. Teşekkürler she said weakly and shakily, not sure heard by the students. Maya grabbed her phone and tried to find all the possible veterinary hospitals and clinics in İstanbul. As soon as she found them, she started to dial their numbers starting with the ones closest. Her hands shook that she almost couldn’t control them and had to press them against her lap when she was finally able to move her legs to reach a bench.

Two first clinics she called didn’t have an injury dog named Early. Maya felt a stone growth in her throat that made her hard to breathe. Her breath was short and fast. Her mind stopped thinking. Her heart was numb. Like a robot, she just kept dialling the number she found. When the third call was also negative, Maya started to feel a thorn that tore her heart and left it bleeding.

As soon as the forth clinic announced that Early was with them, Maya tore the air around her and soon found herself sitting restlessly in the waiting room. She didn’t want to lose her hope that she let the reminiscences with Early filled her head and heart.

“Maya Hanım,” the vet called.

“Doktor bey. How is Early? He’s going to survive, isn’t he?” The only answer that she would like to hear was only the word ‘yes’.

Instead, the vet said, “We tried our best.” And she heard the secret meaning buried within those words. “Early is suffering an internal bleeding. He could hold on until now is a miracle. I think he’s waiting for you.”

Maya closed her eyes with a hope when she opens them again this was only a very unpleasant dream.

“May I see him now?” Maya asked.

 “Tabii. Buyurun.”

The vet led the way to the room where Early was. He opened the door slowly and let Maya in. “I’ll leave you alone with him.” Maya nodded. She stepped in slowly. “Maya Hanım,” called the vet again. He turned his voice down a little bit. “There is a power that greater than our power. Perhaps there’s a miracle left.”

Maya smiled. “Sağ olun, doktor bey.” The smile on Maya’s face expressed more gratefulness than her thank word.

Now Maya was alone with Early that lay on a table with bandage on his legs. A blood bag stuck to his vein. His upper part body seen slightly moved up and down.

“Early…,” called Maya.

Early didn’t give any motion. Only his tail hardly moved that barely seen.

Maya froze. Only her lips started to tremble and tears running down.

“Ben geldim,” said Maya walking near Early.

Maya sat on a stool near him. Her eyes tried to catch his eyes that weakly opened. She lifted her hand to stroke Early but it stopped in the air. She was afraid that her touch would hurt Early more. Instead, she put her hand on the table close enough to touch his paw.

“I’m sorry I was late this morning,” said Maya. “I was looking for a house for us. And I found one. It is small but it has a garden where you can play there. And it is close to our favourite café so we can have our sandwich as often as we want.” Maya telling the good news that she hoped to come true while her tears kept running down.

“Look, this is the key of our house,” said Maya taking the key from her jacket and showing it to Early. Early moved his eyes and looking at the key. Early was still motionless. Maya felt the burn in her heart.

“Early…”

Maya lay her head next to Early’s where their eyes were locked to each other.

“Gitme….”