Portraits of a young artist in Istanbul
The square paving stones had been laid in successive arcs across the entire expanse around the steps to Taksim Park when the new Metro station was completed. This broad space, clear of the bus boarding queues, shone white in the warm spring sun.
The stark contrast of the crimson pool set against the rigid repetition of the squares caused her to think again about the graphic impact that a single brilliant color made on a blank background. As she sank to one knee, her artist’s eye searched for a balance between the changing relationship of the background squares and the circular pool.
But, by then the composition had shifted radically. The oval of the pool had been crowded into the top left corner of her field of vision and each stone on the gradual slope below, now bordered in the red, asserted its individuality and sprang from the background.
“A study in red and square, I’d call it,” she said, her head bowing nearer the composition. “If I had time.”
The composition changed even more radically now, the green triangle of her mini-skirt cut diagonally across the bottom of the grid. But her changed point of view was distorting everything. With her eye on the level of the stones, the squares became parallelograms. Very distorted ones, while her left eye was still open–not so much when viewed with only the right.
“When I had time.”
She raised her head for another look, but the left eye wouldn’t open again and the monocular vision only flattened the composition further.
As her dark fashionably short hair sank again into the already sticky pool, “Another time,” she whispered.
“Whore!” he spat, shaking the bloodied Koran before her one good eye.
“In another life, maybe. If I have time.” She smiled at him. And the eye closed.
God, she was so beautiful! But the wanton display of her legs in the black tights! The short skirt. Her hair!
The scripture was so right to point out how they rouse a man. How they inflame him to passion. To sin. To destruction. My own member swells at the memory of her striding across our garden, the wind blowing her hair. Pressing the blouse to her breasts. Images no man should have to confront! He should not have to pray in mosque for strength to fight such evil urges.
But you see–that’s what happens. That’s what causes it all.
If she had only been willing to cover her hair and wear longer skirts, then they would have had nothing to say. Oh, Ashia hanim--but she always has something to say. And Mehmet! The hypocrite!
She could be an artist. She could go to the academy. She could read and argue the heresies with me. I am not an ignorant peasant like my neighbors. She could do all this.
She was so smart.
She told me how she rebuffed the men who would despoil her. She told me how she argued with the other girls about the value of her virginity.
She was so stubborn, so proud.
I was proud of her too.
If she could have been more… careful.
The way they stared at her in the morning when she walked to catch the dolmus! The things they said so my wife would hear!
But it’s taken care of now. I did it there in Taksim Square where all could see and hear. Ashia and Mehmet and all the others–they will have to gossip of something else now.
Her mother will stop crying soon….
Who would have thought that the young girl would have so much blood?
And the way it gushed from the wound. Was such energy a last gesture of rebellion?
It squirted all over my Koran.
Wow. Thank you Gene.
Mr Gene Parola is a retired Professor of cultural history at Indiana University and University of Michigan-Flint; the Ministry of Defense, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Koç University in Istanbul Turkey. As a former Naval Air Intelligence officer and a career researcher, he has trained himself to be a keen observer of his surroundings and has acquired a large cultural and social context into which those observations fit.
He is a freelance writer of Business (See Honolulu Star Bulletin, July 28, 2002) and Technical (Hurricane Handbook, Sail Net News, Spring, 2003) articles. His short stories have been published in Voices from the Universe and in Bamboo Ridge Press, 25th Anniversary Edition. And the Spring 2006 edition.
Mr. Parola speaks frequently to lodges, clubs and service organizations on a variety of topics.
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