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I am Starfish. This is not my real name. Janne calls me this. I like how it sounds so I keep it. I met Janne last week at a talent night in London. She was singing. My friend Levant was playing. Janne is the first English girl I meet. I have been here more than a year. The disco music later was loud. I wanted to tell her my real name, not the name on the papers in the back pocket of my jeans, and did. But Starfish is what she heard. Now I will always be Starfish with Janne.
Last night we e-mailed. Janne will come to London. I am very nervous. She is very beautiful. I want to tell Janne the truth. But I am afraid. Perhaps she will hate me. Her brother, I would not like to meet this man. This is not good. But perhaps it is meant to be. I will ask Burak and Levant, although I know what they will say. Stay away from her. It will be trouble on our heads. But I like this English girl so much. Perhaps I could love her. And, perhaps she could love me? So. She'll come.
One more day until Janne arrives. I said, I will help you find a place to sleep. I said, All will be fine. I said too much. Burak is angry. Burak is Levant's boyfriend, and I am sleeping on his floor. He said, She cannot stay. He said, You need to see a doctor for your head. This wasn't funny. Last night the dreams came with more force. So clear. I sat up on the hard floor and held my feet until the pain seemed to get less. I wanted to tell Janne not to come. But it's late now.
Today I will meet Janne at the station. I am nervous. And other things too. A letter came to my old address. My appeal has failed. They will find me and send me back. God I can't think about that. If only I could tell these men, these angry young Englishmen, what really happened. But the shame is too great. My shame. And these memories like fists. I want only to forget. Oblivion for these thoughts of……………………………………………Falaqa. A word I wish never to be learned. These people know nothing. I won't show them, my pain, my shame, my secret scars.
Wonderful day with Janne. Sometimes I almost see the love shining in her, I mean out of her. She shows me kindness. I don't know why. I am so used to being despised by English people. We come from so different places but there is a bond certainly. I feel like a man who has taken drugs. I feel like I have known her…in another life. I know, I sound like a bad poet. But my heart. I am afraid how I feel. I am afraid how Janne feels. Sometimes I think if it's a game played against me. Love.
Her brother sounds not nice. He works in political party that wants white people in England only. I am afraid he will look for Janne. And find me. Burak and Levant think I have injury in my head. And the other problem. Mr Broadbent will not answer my calls. Mr Broadbent is my solicitor. I don't know what I can do next. I am scared. Like an animal who is hunted. I have not lied to Janne but I cannot tell her everything. I said, It is very bad for me in my country. I said, Please understand me. Please.
I stayed in Janne's room last night. She slept at my side but I did not touch her. At 4am she pushed me to be awake. She said, You were making funny noises. I said, It was nothing. But I was dreaming again. It is like reality to dream about this past. I was hanging……..No. I cannot write this. But it returns all the pain, all the hopelessness. Normally I would cry. But I hide my tears, my fear, from Janne. She held me for the night remaining. Really I have not been held this way since my mother's arms.
Janne wanted to see the tourist sites. We walked and talked all day. I can't remember all the buildings, the famous places. I wanted to show her my London, the backstreets, the restaurants, in zone 3, zone 4, the poor people, the violence, the dirt, the despair. We saw the lights, the big advertisements in light, the limousines, the pretty buildings, the sex clubs. I am exhausted now. The energy of the city has taken my energy. I am on the floor. Janne went to her bedsit. Burak and Levant are laughing in their room. I am afraid to sleep.
The heat in London. It is like Istanbul. I never thought it. Janne wears not many clothes and I know my family would be offended. But in this place it is the common. Janne was very serious today, in the park, in my cousin's restaurant where we ate dinner and stayed so late I must return with Janne to Levant's flat. Burak and Levant were polite to Janne. But I saw Burak's eyes. And still, I have hope. I know all about hope. I lived for long time with nothing more, some bread, water, fear, pain. After these, only hope.
Strange life. Bad and good, all at once. So much is uncertain. All day with Janne. Walking by the river, playing games in the arcades, eating bad food. Touching, kissing, in public. I feel shy. But Janne has certainty. I do want her. But I am afraid of so much. It's not the scars. In a way that I cannot understand, I want to show her the scars. But then I must tell the story. Olmaz. Which means, It can't be. Tonight, when I return, Burak tells me, NASS were here. Looking for you. We said, He's gone. Strange life.
A big occasion for Janne. She smoked Narghile for first time and loved it, laughing. I was very happy man to watch her in my cousin's restaurant. He has given great kindness to me. He did not tell Janne that I work there in the kitchen. He said I was great and famous musician in my hometown. O why did I leave behind my beloved Suz? It belonged to my grandfather, who was also great musician. It used to bring such comfort. But my leaving was so rushed, so unplanned, so desperate. There was no time to think of that.
No matter to Janne. She misses her friends. She wants me to visit her town. Her work colleague, who sounds very sensible girl, has born a child. Janne says she has no choice to go, which is strange to me. It would be good to see some England not London. But would it help me to have another change, to be away from people who let me feel safe? She goes tomorrow. She says she will not see her family. This is also strange to me. I say, Your mother? She says, No. I say, Father? She says, No father.
I write this on paper. I will type it back in London. It is my secret. I am in bathroom of Lisa. She is friend of Janne. Very kind and friendly. I laughed. She said, If I hate you, it is because I met you, not I read something in cheap newspaper. Or something like this. It was joke. The train was hot and full. But Janne talked and the time went fast. So many fields, so much space in England. Why do people think it is small, crowded country? For two hundred miles, it is really very beauiful country.
Rushed writing, brown paper bag. Yes, I met Janne's brother, Billy. He arrived to Lisa's house. When he looked to me, the hatred in his eyes was stronger than the hatred in the eyes of those soldiers who tortured me in Turkey. Billy tried to beat me. I was prepared. But Janne and Lisa held him, shouting words I did not understand. I understood too much of what he said. Animal. Criminal. Pervert. Where You Belong. Murder. Home. Maybe he is not so wrong, or he is more right than he means. It was...like sharkfish around dead meat, nothing clear.
Calm again. Backseat of Lisa's car. She drives us South. Janne was crying but now she is again happy. My English improves. It is wonderful to create new friends. I feel much hopeful now. My heart becomes weak and weak towards Janne. I risk that she feels equal towards me. In the last two nights, no dreams. Which means, no bad dreams. So. We'll take holiday. I follow like a happy dog. Into a place one hour from London. We will relax. Janne says, Starfish, Starfish, me and thee need to have a little heart to heart, set things straight.
In the forest I was scared. Janne wanted to make love. I cried. She said, Tell me. I said, No. Please, Starfish, I want you. Janne I want you also. Don't you fancy me? Yes certainly I am very attracted, you don't understand, this is not the way of my culture, to be in marriage. And so I blamed the culture, not my scars, my shame. I feel, more I feel, I must tell Janne. Even if she must then walk away from me, because no one wants damaged goods, I must tell her. But where I should begin. Where?
I woke up screaming. Janne's face was fear but she was holding tight to me in silence. She only said, Do you want to talk? and then only she listens as I begin to talk and then I cannot find a path or a desination. I weep, I sigh, I think and remember every detail, every guard's face, every kind of pain. But no, even now, I do not tell all. I do not say what happened at the border. I do not say what happened in the last cell, when my shame took me almost to death. Unspeakable shame.
Janne, my love, you will hate me, for I have done things men should not and done against me that should not be imagined. I was good person. I was, how you say, wrong place wrong time. That is how it began. Watching a group of young people with messages against the state standing against police and there was a gunshot then like sharkfish with meat really crazy I was by mistake arrested and in prison for more one week. This was first time. I am innocent they don't believe. And now, thinking about that pain, I can speak not.
But I did speak. And speak. After this first time, my eyes become like new. I start to see my country like new. I study politics, I learn more I did not know, although my family is Kurd, we just had simple life with only rumours of bad things. I didn't believe if I am innocent of crime I can be treated like this. What the young police boys were to do. Who told them to do? I was kept like farm animal. Alone in small room, with no food, no toilet. But this first time was not the worst.
So I am meeting with other people like me, young girls and boys, students, professionals, all together. We think what we can do. We see the TV pictures from England, from America, we can speak about the bad things, we can make change. Now I see we were innocent. You know, we did almost nothing, it was nothing. We made some papers, we put them around the city, we ask questions. After maybe three months, there is a big meeting, outside the government houses. I go. And that is the end of my life and the beginning of my life.
They recognise my face from before. I am arrested. I am with a bag containing papers they don't like, that question the government. Now it is very bad. They know I am Kurd who does not worship Allah (peace be upon him). This is more bad. I thought, prison, a trial. But it was worse than my imagination. Oh Janne, let us sleep now. I cannot say more. And Janne is asleep now. I feel bad by telling to her. She was...too silent? I don't know. Sleep is a friend for her now. For me, sleep is yet a stranger.
She said, It's all past now. And she held me and I said nothing. But I fear it is my future, for every night I know I will live this again. No, we have not made love. We have held all night, we have kissed, and touched. I love to touch Janne's body. She says, No one's ever touched me like this. At first she was impatient. Now she learns. But I still cannot let myself be touched, not there. She laughs at my shyness (I am not shy) but now she laughs less. She sometimes says anger against me.
It is strange, how I make this picture in words everyday (I need this certainty, nothing else is certain), it's like mirror for, how can I say? Janne is this small flying thing (sorry I don't know name) and I'm flower, and then also something opens in this writing. Yes, is it clear, I want to be writer like everyone I guess. But now I don't know if I can write about those things. It's better not to write, better to forget. Tonight Janne says, It's OK you've told me I'll help it's awful think of tomorrow love me please.
Yesterday night we came back to London. We stayed in Janne's room (it is with others in a big house). I am nervous to return to Burak's flat, to the restaurant, to the northeast. I want to not leave the room. It is like madness. I know what poets have said, that love is madness, what is it called, true love. I never believed it. I forget the poem, let them say that true love is fiction who have not felt it for they need to believe that. It can be true. It can arrive like a sudden Antalya storm.
So. Do I write it or not? It gets worse. Janne thought I have said everything. That I was in a room not very bigger than a dog's house. That they hit me and not let me sleep and hang me by my arms and beat me on the bottom of my feet (and this is why Janne says I have funny walk). And then she touched me. I could not stop her. I am like statue. Except I cry. I scream like baby. Then I tell her more. Oh Janne, it is too much terrible shame for a man.
Always without clothes. Hanging. They put wires on my, on these things, and there is electric. There are no words to describe this pain. I cannot speak. They don't want me to speak. It gives them pleasure. Another time, I am pushed to my stomach on the floor that is covered with shit and piss and. It's OK. Talk, she says. You must talk about this. For she knows I have never spoken of this. They take the stick, how is it called, they push it inside me and keep pushing again until there is my blood. And their laughter.
It rained all night. I slept and awake, slept and awake. Janne wanted to be alone, she hasn't come back. I stayed in the room all day, watching TV. I am prepared for the worse. To have strength in my heart even if it becomes broken. I don't know what I will do tomorrow. It doesn't seem to matter anymore. It will still be me, still be the pain. I cannot give away that past I own. Starfish will die, a month after she brought him to life. And she is so fat with life, with this beautiful incredible lifefulness.
She said, I know this might be crazy but it's about time I was a bit crazy in my life. She said, Do think you could love me? I said, Certainly, yes. She said, I believe you, do you know that? I said, yes, it is very unordinary. She laughed and held me. Right then, she said, you won't give me what I want unless we get married? I was silent. She said, Would that change things? Think about it. I was silent. She said, Man I'm saying we should get married. What do you have to say to that?
At first I thought it is joke. I said, Why you want this? She left the room before reply. Why is it that it feels like I have known Janne for so long, and it is truly only weeks? I have heard this said before, and it is not fiction. Time...even this month, this writing, has changed time. Time changes all the time. See, I even make joke in English. I want to be happy. I want to say Yes Yes Yes, to love, to Janne, to life. Is it possible? After so much pain, there is...What is the word?...Comfort?
This crazy mystery life. I think it is maybe balance in the stars. Burak and Levant look happy. Janne changes, between up and down, she is nerves for her family, her brother. She loves him, but he is hatred for many people. I am also nerves, certainly. But there is warmth, a soft chain, holding me against Janne. And this culture, you can buy wedding, so easy. Ah, the future is dark, yes. But Janne has good mind, and talent. I know she will sing for money. I feel darkness rising from me. And here comes Janne, and the light.
It feels like the whole world is against us, but I said yes. And I will tell Janne the last secret, but I cannot now face it — what happened at the border, what thing I have done with these hands that love Janne — now I just lie like in the sun on beach, feeling the warmth from Janne. Last night I slept. Without dreams. Yes, I woke in pain, but it was less, or I imagine it less. One more change: I will play again, I will play together with Levant at Kumlaca. My life will have again the music.
The Tip Jar