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Nocturnal Journal #5
Fiction & Poetry Newsletter by Ecem Yucel
For many years,
my bus drove past the wall
which had your graffiti on.
a street before,
I’d look at it each time,
even when I’d tell myself
I couldn’t bear to see it anymore.
It gave me this strange sense
of loss, of sadness,
of a constant fight
to go through day and night,
to prolong our existence,
not knowing if life really
had some meaning.
The graffiti you drew
wasn’t a mural of vulgar art
nor something flashy
composed with a bold choice of colors
to catch the eyes of strangers.
No, it was the opposite,
it was simple as it could get:
three fine letters
sprayed out of a single can of
with a star as I’s dot
and an underline, shaped like
No, it wasn’t an audacious remark
that you depicted on the wall
to display your rich imagination,
nor to prove to people
that they underestimate you,
that you, too, have an artistic soul,
that you are a color-bender,
just like the other graffiti artists
whose signatures, on the same wall,
No, yours was a mere statement
of you, revealing to everyone
who’d be there to see it
that you’re in this world too.
Your way of saying:
“Here I am;
a not so complicated, even simple guy,
a so-called bad boy.
I’ve seen craziness,
I’ve been to fights,
I got my head split up
while breaking the arm of the other guy.
I’ve been in love,
still thinking about those two girls
I met during two different periods
of my life.
I desired them, craved them,
even managed to kiss them
to my heart’s content
but couldn’t make them mine.
Life interrupted, you see,
they belonged to their own worlds,
and I was stuck on mine.
And though I slept with lots of girls,
I’m kinda shy
when it comes to real love.
Still, I’m here, you know,
drawing these letters on this wall
to greet them
as the ugliness of the world
This is my way of saying hello,
and I know that even though
you think of me as a sin you committed,
which you’ll never admit out loud,
I loved you.
I still love you.
Still around somewhere,
throwing my life away,
with you being
a part of me.
So, here I am,
asking you, once in a while
spare a glance, a thought for me.
we all want to leave a mark behind,
like a tree’s silhouette
embedded on the sky of dawn,
in the watercolour of this world.”
Today, I got off the bus early,
and walked to that wall,
to touch your graffiti,
only a month after you drove
your car into another wall.
As I started to cry
in the middle of the pavement,
people with sour faces
passed by, avoiding
the girl who cried,
gazing at a newly painted
still yet to dry.
I’m at the veranda of a café, sitting at a table placed behind the protective bars, right next to the Mediterranean Sea. Slowly, I light a cigarette, take a puff, then blow the smoke toward the sea. The smoke burns my eye, confirming my everlasting inability to smoke.
My table is at one end of the tables placed in a single line by the protective bars, and my chair faces the other tables and the sea. There are only two other customers at the café; it’s a weekday, and it’s too late to go to work, but still early for lunch hour. Two tables away, there is a young couple; the girl laughs, leaning toward the boy, and I see her high school uniform through her unzipped jacket. It’s obvious they have skipped school and come here to be alone. A glance here, a touch there, a brush of his lips on her lips… Their excitement triggers a memory I vaguely remember at first. I fix my eyes to the dark blue of the sea next to me and try to catch that fish of a memory, fluttering and slipping through my fingers.
The details flow back, filling my mind vividly and completely. As the whirlpool of emotions rises in me, I greet them with the name of the book I read years ago: Bonjour, Tristesse.
I feel an unbearable longing surfacing. The puff I take from my cigarette is full of melancholy; infiltrating, burning, poisoning my lungs. It’s incredible how one’s memories from many years ago can still choke them up.
How many years have passed since I last saw him? Many. Nine? No, ten. The slightly changed version of the first line of a Beatles song echoes in my mind: He’s not a boy who misses much. This used to be an inside joke. We’d sing this line to each other whenever we neglected each other for a while. It would never be more than two or three days, so the idea of not talking to him for the last ten years makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time.
Life can be weird sometimes. You can live in the same city with someone, but you may never come across him for ten years. You can cut him out of all the pictures you have, yet can’t help hiding the shoebox full of his cut-out heads and shoulders in the darkest corner of your wardrobe. You can delete his phone number, but years later, you may still know it by heart. Just another useless piece of information that got stuck in some part of your mind forever. Useless, because you’ll never extract it from there as you reach for your phone. The last time you hid your caller ID and called the boy you liked just to listen to him saying “Hello? Hello?” and then hung up, was when you were thirteen. Thirty-year-old women who got their shit together wouldn’t call to hear a voice from ten years ago saying, “Hello.”
While putting out my cigarette in a cheap, plastic ashtray on the table, I see movement at the periphery of my vision. The noise the legs of the plastic chair make as they’re dragged across the cement floor is not that loud, yet enough to disturb my thoughts. Someone has just sat at the table right in front of me, and though I don’t look at the newcomer directly, I can see that he’s facing me — which is absurd since it means his back is turned to the bigger part of the sea view. I feel like he’s violating my privacy by sitting like that.
I repress the desire to look at him. If he sees me looking, it may give him the wrong idea. He may smile at me and start a conversation and leave me no choice but to vacate my spot. I’m comfortable here; drowning in my misery and longing while the autumn wind licks my face and my smoking attempts fail me. If I want it enough, I can even spring up to my feet, jump over the protective bars easily, and dive right into the sea. From there, maybe I’d be dragged into the depths of the sea, somehow earn a spot at Poseidon’s dinner table, and never show my face on land again.
The high school girl bursts into loud laughter, and along with her voice, the voice of the boy who tells her about something funny also raises cheerfully. The girl keeps laughing; my eyes are fixed at the sea, I think about the boy who made me laugh like that once. An involuntary smile raising inside me forces the corners of my mouth to bend upwards; come on, you know you want to. I hear the voice of the man next table ordering a cup of black coffee from the sleepy-looking waiter. The waiter walks away, and the man looks at me. I’m not aware that I’ve been watching him until our eyes meet.
He smiles at me. I just look at him. “Hello,” he says.
“Hello,” I say.
We look at each other for a moment in silence. The high school girl laughs again.
“Remember the times I used to make you laugh like that?” he asks me, with a trace of a smile on his face.
“I was just reminiscing actually… But what good would come from remembering those moments, anyway?” I say. My heart feels heavy as a stone.
“They still make you smile,” he says, and the trace on his face becomes a real smile. “I saw you smiling to yourself.”
“They also hurt me like hell,” I say. With trembling hands, I reach for my cigarette pack. He watches me as I pull out a cigarette, and light it. I suck it to calm my nerves. The waiter brings his coffee and goes away in sleepy steps.
“Can I join you?” he asks. I feel like crying; all sorts of emotions are stirring in my chest, in my stomach. I don’t want my voice to crack, so I nod once. He grabs his coffee and settles down on the chair across my table.
“Well… Hello there,” he says, with that lazy smile of his again.
I just look at him.
“Isn’t it funny we meet in this corner of the world after… what, ten years?” he says.
“I have to admit, it’s unbelievable,” I say. “I was just thinking about you… and you happened to sit at the next table? Unbelievable.”
“Life can be weird sometimes,” he says. I look at the sea, trying not to show that I’m amused. He probably wouldn’t believe me if I said I was thinking the same thing a moment ago.
“Did they make you remember?” He gestures toward the table of the young couple.
“Yeah, me too.” He sips his coffee, I suck my cigarette.
“I missed you.”
My heart skips a beat. I look at him for a moment; examine his light brown hair, now with some white hairs in it. His green eyes, now with some wrinkles around their corners. His lips — no, don’t even go there.
I missed you too, I want to say. I tried to reach you. I wrote you a long Facebook message six years ago, saying I missed you, I missed our friendship. That no matter what we said to each other, and how we ended things, you’ve always kept being a part of me. You saw the message; you read it, but you never answered me. You didn’t say I was still a part of you too. You didn’t even say hello.
“You’re thinking of that Facebook message, aren’t you?” he asks, suddenly.
“How well you still know me,” I say, in a mocking voice. He doesn’t reply. I absentmindedly reach for his coffee cup over my empty cup, and take a sip from the strong, dark liquid, like I often did in days long since passed. Old habits die hard after all. As soon as I realize what I’ve done, I put his cup back a little too quickly. He looks amused, but I avoid his gaze to gather my courage.
“You know,” I continue, with a serious, even sad voice this time, “I went out of my way to say all those things to you. And you didn’t reply. You didn’t even say hello. Now you’re sitting in front of me, thanks to some miracle that happened right at this moment in the last decade, saying you missed me. What am I supposed to do with this?”
“Nothing. You’re not supposed to do anything with it.” He looks at the sea. I bite my lip while my eyes also return to the sea.
Two tables away, the chairs are dragged and the high schoolers raise to their feet. The boy takes a step closer and wraps his arm around the girl’s waist, pulling her to himself. She smiles big at him, her face burns with the pink of a fresh rosebud, and a second later, he kisses her deeply.
We both watch the kissing girl and boy, who are oblivious to the world around them. My heart aches as I breathe in the salty scent of the sea. Maybe I can still jump over the bars and make it to Poseidon’s dinner. Maybe I can crawl into the smallest shell I can find at the bottom of the sea and die there. Maybe. Maybe.
He turns to look at me. I don’t look at him. I don’t want to look at him. I want to be a thousand miles away.
“They have it easy, don’t they?” he asks, talking about the young couple.
“No, they don’t,” I say. “If growing older taught me one thing, it’s seeing that we always made things more complicated than they were. We should’ve stuck to the basics. We should’ve just said what we felt, what we thought freely.” I turn my eyes and look into his, in a matter-of-factly manner.
“So, should I have said I loved you ten years ago? Would it have stopped you from getting married to another man?”
This time, I don’t know how many beats my heart skips. His green eyes penetrate mine. I lower my eyes.
“I could ask you the same question,” I say, pointing at the wedding band on his finger.
“Yes,” he says, with a sincere expression on his face.
“If you’d have said you loved me back then, I wouldn’t have married another woman.”
I laugh. He scowls.
“Why are you laughing?”
“Because we’ve been real idiots.”
“Why? Is it because if I said I loved you, you wouldn’t have married that man?”
“No. It’s because you didn’t say you loved me, and I still didn’t marry him.” I show him my ringless hands. “But you refused to return my calls after the day my wedding was supposed to happen. I got mad and stopped calling you. Two months later, I heard you got engaged to your then-girlfriend. I thought you knew I didn’t go through with my wedding, but you chose her anyway. So, I let you go.”
I nervously laugh again because there’s nothing else to do. He just looks at me. Baffled.
Minutes flow around us, yet we are frozen in the moment of my little confession. We linger in silence; and though I start to get a little fidgety, it doesn’t seem like he’s about to stop staring at me in bewilderment.
“Hello there,” I say, waving my hand in front of his eyes to snap him out of it.
Thanks for reading! If you’d like to read more poetry from me, please check out my new poetry book ‘The Anguish of an Oyster’ here.
You can also check my website for more information.