Read Silent House Online

Authors: Orhan Pamuk

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Silent House (9 page)

BOOK: Silent House
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“Look, she didn’t even hear you,” said Faruk. “She’s mesmerized reading about the dying and the dead. She’s still young enough to believe the papers.”

Nilgün looked up and gave me a smile as I went down to the kitchen. I turned the bread over and prepared Madam’s tray. Madam reads the paper to see if anyone she knows has died, not some young agitator ripped to pierces from bullets and bombs, but some old person who’s died in bed. Sometimes she would get annoyed, complaining that ever since Atatürk made everyone take a new name it was chaos, because she couldn’t keep track of the families she knew. Sometimes she would clip the death announcements just to make fun of the infernal, made-up surname—What does that name even mean? My father was the one who’d given us our family name and it was Karatash—Blackstone. It was very clear what it meant. But it was true, a name like theirs, Darvinoğlu, who could understand it? I tapped on the door and went in. Madam was still scouring the closet.

“Leave it there,” she said.

“Eat it right away!” I said. “Don’t let the milk get cold.”

“Okay, okay!” she said. “Now shut the door!”

When I remembered the bread, I ran downstairs. At least it hadn’t burned. I put Nilgün Hanim’s egg and the other breakfasts on the tray and carried it up from the kitchen.

“Sorry it took so long,” I said.

“Isn’t Metin coming to breakfast?” said Faruk Bey.

Running upstairs again, I began to open his shutters, which woke
him in a foul mood. He was still grumbling as I went downstairs to pour out the tea, but by the time I’d brought it out Metin had come down and taken his place.

“Your breakfast will be ready in a moment,” I said.

“What time did you get home last night?” said Faruk Bey.

“I forget!” said Metin, wearing only a bathing suit and a shirt.

“Did you leave gas in the car?” said Faruk Bey.

“Don’t worry, Faruk!” said Metin. “We drove around in some other people’s cars. It’s not as if I’m dying to be seen in an Anadol around here.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” said Nilgün.

“Just read your newspaper!” said Metin. “I’m talking to my brother.”

I went back in to get the tea and more bread to toast.

“Would you like milk as well, Metin Bey?” I said.

“All your friends asked about you,” said Metin. “Used to be you were so close, you couldn’t stand to be away from them, now you look down on them because you’ve read a few books.”

“I don’t look down on them. I just don’t want to see them.”

“You could at least say hello.”

“Would you like milk as well, Metin Bey?” I said.

“Just because you’re political doesn’t mean you can’t be interested in people, too.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” said Nilgün.

“Well,” said Metin, “I have a sister who’s been brainwashed, but I see her every day.”

“That’s just stupid!”

“Did you want milk as well, Metin Bey?”

“Guys, don’t start,” said Faruk Bey.

“No, I don’t want milk,” said Metin.

I rushed to the kitchen and turned over the bread. They brainwashed her! Was that good? There’s no hope for us until they clean out all the filth in their brains, those empty beliefs and lies, Selâhattin
Bey used to say, and that’s why I’ve been writing all these years, Fatma, that’s why. I got myself a glass of milk and drank half. When the bread was toasted I brought it out.

“When Grandmother prays in the cemetery, you do likewise, okay?” Faruk Bey was saying.

“I’ve forgotten the prayers that Auntie taught me,” said Nilgün.

“That didn’t take long,” said Metin.

“Metin, I’ve forgotten them, too,” said Faruk Bey. “Just hold your hands the way she does so she doesn’t get upset, is all I’m saying.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll do it,” said Metin. “I don’t mind things like that.”

“You do it, too, okay, Nilgün?” said Faruk Bey. “Put something on your head as well.”

“Fine,” said Nilgün.

“It won’t destroy your political beliefs?” said Metin.

I left and went upstairs. Madam had finished her breakfast and was back at the closet.

“What?” she said. “What do you want?”

“Do you want a glass of milk?”

“No, I don’t.”

I was picking up her tray when she slammed the closet door and yelled, “And stay out of my closet!”

“I’m nowhere near it, Madam!” I said. “As you can see, I’m just getting the tray.”

“What are they doing downstairs?”

“They’re getting ready.”

“I still haven’t decided …,” she said and seeming suddenly embarrassed began to root around in the closet again.

“Madam!” I said. “If we don’t set off soon we’ll get caught in the heat.”

“Okay, okay. Make sure the door is closed.”

I went downstairs and put on water to heat for washing up the dishes. As I drank the other half of my milk and waited for the water to warm up, I thought about the cemetery, and I felt a bit emotional,
a little strange; I thought about the clothes and the equipment in the laundry room as well. A person feels like crying sometimes, in a cemetery. I went out, Metin Bey wanted tea, which I brought. Faruk Bey, smoking a cigarette, was looking at the garden. The two were silent. I went in and finished washing up. When I went in again Metin Bey had returned from getting dressed, so I went back, took off my apron, checked my jacket and tie, combed my hair, and smiled at myself in the mirror the way I did after the barber combed my hair. I went outside.

“We’re ready,” they said.

Upstairs, Madam had finally gotten dressed, the same terrible black coat, of course, her skirts touching the floor, since Madam was getting a little shorter each year, and the tips of her weird pointy boots stuck out like the identical noses of two curious foxes. She was putting a scarf on her head. She looked embarrassed to see me, and we were silent for a minute.

“Won’t you be too warm in this heat?” I said.

“Is everybody ready?”

“They are.”

She was looking around the room for something and, seeing that the closet was closed, seemed to look for something else, before looking at the closet again.

“Take me down, then.”

She saw me pulling the door open but had to give it a tug with her own hand, too. At the top of the stairs she leaned on me rather than on her cane. We went down very slowly, and when the others had gathered outside, we all worked at getting Madam into the car.

“Did you make sure the doors are closed?” she said.

“Yes, Madam,” I said, but then I went back in and this time slammed them so she could be assured.


Grandmother Offers Her Prayers

y God, suddenly, so strange, when the car started to move, I got so excited, just as I did when as a girl I’d gotten into a horse-drawn carriage, but then I thought of you, all you poor souls in the cemetery, and I thought I would cry, but not yet, Fatma, because looking out the windows as the car passed through the gate into the streets, I saw Recep in the house, was he going to stay there all by himself, I began to wonder, but the car stopped and we waited a little till the dwarf got in on the other side and crawled into the back.

“You shut the doors tight, didn’t you, Recep?”

“Yes, Faruk Bey.”

I sighed and leaned all the way back in my seat.

“Grandmother, you heard, didn’t you, Recep shut the doors tight. So don’t let it be like last year, constantly saying that they were left open …”

I started to think about them and, of course, I remembered they were talking about how you had hung a brass sign on the garden gate, Selâhattin, that said
, these are my hours and I won’t take money from the poor, Fatma, you said, I want to
be in touch with the people, of course we don’t have many patients yet, it’s not a big city, we’re all the way out on the shore after all, really nobody else except a few miserable villagers in those days, now when I lifted my head—My God, look at the apartment buildings, the shops, the crowds, these half-naked people on the beach, don’t look, Fatma, what’s all that noise, all of them falling on top of one another, look, the hell you dreamed of has come to earth, Selâhattin, you won, if this is what you wanted, of course, look at the crowd, maybe this was it.

“Grandmother looks really interested in everything, doesn’t she?”

No, I wasn’t looking at anything, but your shameless grandchildren, Selâhattin.

“Should we go the long way around and give you a little tour, Grandmother?”

They must think your innocent wife is like you, yes, well, what can the poor kids do, brought up as they were, because you made your son just like yourself, Selâhattin, Doğan didn’t have any interest in his children either, Mother, their aunts can take care of them now, I can’t do it; if the aunts take care of them, then this is how they turn out, believing their grandmother is keen to see all the ugliness on the way to the cemetery, well, I’m not even looking, I bend my head down and open my purse, I inhale the smell of old age that rises up, and in the alligator darkness my little dry hand fishes for my handkerchief and I dab my poor dry eyes, because my thoughts are of them, only of them.

“What’s the matter, Grandmother, don’t cry!”

They don’t know how much I love all of you, how I can hardly bear to think that you’re dead on this sunny day; I dab my eyes a little again, poor me, and okay, that’s enough now, Fatma, I should know how to bear up, since I’ve spent my whole life in pain, there, it’s over now, nothing’s the matter, I lift up my head, I’m looking at everything—apartment buildings, walls, plastic signs, posters, shop-windows, colors—but right away I start to hate it, my God, what ugliness: Don’t look anymore, Fatma.

“Grandmother, what did it used to be like around here?”

I’m lost in my own thoughts and sorrows and I don’t hear what you’re saying, so how can I tell you that this used to be one garden after another, what beautiful gardens, where are they now, there was no one around and in those years, before the devil took your grandfather, early in the evenings, he’d say, Fatma, let’s go for a walk, I’m just stewing in here, we never go anywhere, this encyclopedia is exhausting me, I don’t want to be like some Eastern despot saying I don’t have any time, I want to make my wife happy, let’s at least walk a little in the garden, and we can talk, I’ll tell you about what I read today, I think about the necessity of science and how we’re so backward because we lack it, I truly understand now our need for a Renaissance, for a scientific awakening, there’s an awesome job before me that must be done, and so I’m actually grateful to Talat Pasha for exiling me to this lonely corner, where I can read and think about these things, because if it weren’t for this emptiness and all the time in the world, I could never have come to these conclusions, would never have realized the importance of my historic task, Fatma, anyway, all of Rousseau’s thoughts were the visions of a solitary wanderer in the countryside, surrounded by nature, but here the two of us are together.

“Marlboros here, get your Marlboros!”

Lifting my head, I got a fright, he almost stuck his arm inside the car, Careful, little boy, you’ll be crushed, and soon we’d left all the concrete behind, finally, thank God, we were among the gardens, spread out …

“Really hot, isn’t it, Faruk?”

 … on both sides of the road going up the hill, where Selâhattin and I used to walk in those early years and, along the way, one or two miserable villagers would stop us and say hello, because they hadn’t yet grown afraid of him. Doctor, my wife is very sick, would you come, please God, because he hadn’t yet gone raving mad, the poor things, Fatma, I feel sorry for them, I don’t charge them anything, what can I do, but when we needed money they didn’t come anyway,
then it was my rings, my diamonds, did I shut the closet door, I panicked, yes, I did.

“Grandma, are you okay?”

They don’t give a soul a moment’s peace with these ridiculous questions; I dab my eyes with my handkerchief: How can a person be okay when she is going to the graves of her husband and son, all I—

“Look, Grandmother, we’re going by Ismail’s house. There!”

BOOK: Silent House
11.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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