If I were selfish enough, I’d have him marry me right away. I could make my father proud, but what would I get from it? If I married him now and got pregnant at 16, how would I explain to my friends?
Just a month ago I’d seen a marriage where the bride’s thirteen. It had been broadcast as part of a series exploring culture around the country. And the day after the episode was broadcast, I’d been awakened by the sound of a crowd outside the house. I’d got up, my vision still blurry, and had looked at the window to see women marching on the streets, carrying signs that most said: “Shame on you, Murat Doğan!” (Hafsa Doğan Ateş 1, the child bride mentioned earlier, is the daughter of Murat Doğan. The hashtag #savehafsadoğan and #direnhafsa had also made an appearance on the signs.)
I stopped my bike and parked it in front of a block of flats. I passed the entrance and entered a narrow aisle of doors. I glanced through the reddish-brown cherry wood doors, looking for a gold sign with “Arif Tosun” written on it. Not on the first floor. So I took the stairs to the second floor. As I walked my way to the end of the aisle, I spotted a gold sign. It hung on a door. But I put down my rucksack and dragged my way with it to the third floor after seeing the name on the sign.
Hüseyin Kara. Not the one I was looking for.
In the middle of the aisle, as I looked to the right, I saw another gold sign, this time stuck on the door. It had “Arif Tosun” written on it. So I knocked the door.
“Aliye, what are you doing here?”
“It’s a long story, Aunty. Maybe I should tell you about it inside.”
Everything was in place when I came. It felt weird, seeing a living space already tidied up by eight in the morning. I put my backpack on the couch as if this place were home.
“So tell me, what happened?” she asked while washing the dishes.
“My father, again. He wants me to get married.”
“Oh dear me, that’s just…I really can’t even bear to imagine what’ll happen next! Then you must be here to…oh, I see.”
“See what?” I almost jolted from the seat in excitement.
“You’re coming here to hide from him, right?”
I was surprised she hadn’t smashed any plate or glass or anything like that – Father told me she was one of the clumsiest people he’d ever known, apart from my sister.
And even from a considerable distance I could hear her mumble, “Oh dear me, I’ve got a bloody refugee in this wrecked flat…”
“Well, if you won’t welcome me, Aunty, I can stay somewhere else, you know. Maybe I’ll hide in a hotel. Maybe I’ll run away back to my mother’s place in Kars. Maybe…”
“Don’t. You can stay here. Meanwhile, I’ll take care of that heck of a father you have there. Really, Ahmet, you troublemaking cunt…” she went on rambling to herself, her hand almost reaching a rolling pin. If she’d grabbed it, I guessed she would swing it around as if he’d been right in front of her and she would hit him.
It’s no secret that neither my mother and my father were from Istanbul. My father’s the son of a fisherman who hailed from Trabzon. And it had seemed that one of the fisherman’s children, the first one – who I know as Aunty Latife and who happened to be the only daughter he had – inherited both his sailor mouth and toughness (imagine sailing through a storm). And so minutes after I got in, Aunty L already swore at her brother, unleashing even the most shocking cuss word in between while pretending to hit him.
“Alright then, sorry for the bad start, Aliye dear, but don’t worry, you can stay here. As long as you don’t get in trouble with anyone – especially Esra.”
Not getting in trouble with Esra Tosun? Seems ninety percent impossible to me.
One of my greatest fear was living with someone who has two frequently alternating personalities. No, not a mood swing. There’s usually a trigger for the underlying personality which you need to learn, and some of these kinds of people can switch personalities even by a subtle reference of said trigger. Others have subtler, less specific triggers.
Aunty Latife’s trigger was my father.
“He had it easy as fuck,” she once remarked. “Boys don’t get bossed around in the house. Even my three little brothers. And that’s how they learnt that women are just as lowly as slaves.”
- That’s how she had been mentioned on the TV show – she was officially still Hafsa Doğan, but folks doing the show acknowledged the marriage. What a shame. ↩