Sunday, February 03, 2008


I'm sitting in Starbucks, drank a chai latte and ate a banana nut muffin, finished the Kite Runner. I've been here for more than three hours now, so many people came and went.

Reading this book reminded me of some things, made me realize some things. It reminded me of my cousin, my warm heart, my sister, my reference point through our childhoods, our youth. Our families voiced this so many times, showed me to her as an example, her reference point. This made me stronger and stronger, I was the bee getting most of the honey in the comb. But I know they enjoy it when she makes fun of me sometimes, as I became more vain, more self-righteous over time, as I became strong and independent, as I drifted away from them.

The book made me realize (once again) that there's no way to ensure things will stay pure and good. But it also made me realize, that it doesn't mean the end of the world once things are impure and bad. It made me realize there's a way to make things better. Guilt can lead to good, if one tries. We are not Gods, as my friend said, we do our best. We can, if we want to.

I realized one can witness religious fundamentalism and still believe, still be religious when someone dear to him survives.

And it made me think about my father. My father, who witnessed his own dad die of lung cancer when he was young. My father took me to fly a kite to a hill close to our old flat in Izmir. The hill is just there, quite unreal in the middle of the adjacent, concrete apartment buildings. Once you start climbing it, as far as I remember, at least, it gives you quite the feeling of being in a cool, shadowy wood of pine trees. It's balding at the top, and there are more apartment buildings in Hatay. We flew the kite there on a Sunday, I was quite small. Then I remembered myself flying a small newspaper kite out of the window of my room in our sixth-story flat - a kite I had made in our arts and crafts class in elementary school.

(The girl across from me is talking into her laptop, telling the story of a boy who died suddenly without any prior health problems... She has dark eyes lined with black pencil and curly long hair. She doesn't cry or anything, and now she's eating a banana. This boy must have been an acquaintance.)

And then I remembered my dad teaching me how to ride a bike on his really old bike with back wheels on the concrete walkway by the bay. That road, sahilyolu, is built on a landfill, closely-knit apartment buildings lining it. The passers-by told me to look ahead, and my dad pushed the bike. We took it to the repairshop to fix something with it. I learned in the end, and my dad bought me a pink Bisan bike. I rode it more when we moved to the suburb. We still ride bikes in Çeşme with my dad when I go home, and I'm still scared of the traffic, and still ashamed for riding bikes with my dad and not with people my age.

(The girl moved, I think I made her uncomfortable by observing her. She thanked me warmly.)

My dad also made me apply for colleges abroad. I told him I wanted to focus on the entrance exam in Turkey rather than spreading myself thin. He contacted the counselor in our school, made me go to meetings, pick schools from a big thick yellow book. He took me to school on a Sunday to take pictures for my portfolio. (I made one to apply to Cornell Architecture.) He drove me to UPS to mail my applications, we drove through the poorest neighbourhoods, and one of those days it snowed, and it stuck on the ground for the first time in Izmir. He made me take the SAT and later AP exams. Bought me a graphing calculator which I later lost at Georgetown. When we went to DC for the first time, staying in a really depressing Hilton across from a 7-Eleven in Ballston, he told me that he was paying the tuition and I was staying for good. He told me to apply to LSE when I said I was sick of studying, I wanted to work for a while.

My dad made me make my own web-site when I was 13. I remember the day he came home and explained to me and my mom what Internet was.

I talked to my dad the other day, and he said I'm depressing myself, sitting like a pickle and I should come back home immediately. He said I need some direction and if I'm home my mom will cook potato soup and he himself will tell me where to apply. I'll be able to drive sheker sherbet and gain experience before I have to drive in Istanbul. I said OK, and then changed my mind to stay a couple of weeks more.

(The girl met with someone else. I don't feel so offended now.)

I make the Capricorns in my life impatient with my indecisiveness, fear. My friend told me what her dad told her, that you have to be a lion in this life to get what you want. Of course, she added, it's hard if your character is different from a lion's. She said she wants to push me sometimes. She said I should apply to jobs like there's no tomorrow. Another friend told me I can't afford to be not hungry.

I have been sitting like a pickle, sour in my glass jar, for the past month. But I suddenly crossed the border between depression and vacancy to a state more alive, more full of meaning. Yesterday I went to Winchester with two friends, barely made it to the train because I hardly cared. We climbed a big grassy hill and looked at the little city from above. We ate lamb shanks with mash and gravy in a dark pub with a very pretty bartender, filled animals, lots of books, some cut in half and tied to a door as decoration. Medical instruments hung down from the ceiling of the bathroom, words scribbled all over the stall.

We walked in the sunshine, on little streets, we passed through small gates into courtyards, watched the sunlight go through windows in the stone, medieval cathedral, in the little chapel. We lingered in a small garden with a pond and a small fountain, stirring the pond and making a trickling sound in the silence, under the sunshine. We walked on the muddy walkway by the stream, which was branching and merging, the water flowing without making a fuss, clearly and with determination. We ended up in Abbey Gardens, one of my friends had heard from a co-worker that it was a must-see, supposedly full of flower beds. The Winchester youth were hanging out there, smoking, and the garden was a disappointment. "Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, after all," I joked.

"I wrote that in an essay once," my friend said, "And my professor wrote, 'cut that relativistic non-sense!'"

Although I had just said it myself, I agreed wholeheartedly with that professor. Cut the relativistic non-sense. What he meant was, probably, "it's laziness to think that there's no truth, to stop searching for it, to stop trying to understand things, see meaning in things." He thought the search for truth had a point.

For me, it also means: Stop comparing yourself with others. Stop competing, stop determining your value based on the value of others. No, everything is not relative. There's truth, absolute truth, there's value, absolute value, there's beauty, absolute beauty. Everybody has a piece of it, one recognizes it, remembers it once one sees it, hears it. It might be in a piece of music, in a building, in a book, in a person. One sees it and recognizes it.

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