İmgesu Ünal + Manon Daffyd

Lıterature: İmgesu Ünal – Sedat’ın Simitleri Hayatın Neresinde? / Where do Sedat’s Sımıts Stand ın Lıfe?/ Где в жизни место для симитов Седата?

He was awakened by the sound of prayer yet another day. He must have failed to have a good night’s sleep, he woke up thousands of times. Cursing. Muezzin2 was praising the new day with the highest pitch of his voice. Sedat wasn’t. Like a kid constantly being accused of mischief, he could only think about getting away. To a tree hollow. Or a drain pipe. Inside Turkish coffee grounds . “Is this what life if all about?” 

He didn’t need to dress up clean. It was okay for workers below the poverty line to not dress up clean. He wouldn’t shave. He didn’t have to leave an impression. He wouldn’t look at himself in the mirror. He wouldn’t check whether he was the same person every day. Every day, he has been waking up without a choice. Like living the overtime minutes of a game with an already definite score. Just to avoid giving away another goal, early in the morning, body and soul, without a choice. Like a football player struggling to keep the ball away from his goalposts. Cursing. “Is this what life is all about? 

Because of the bagel basket that he carried on his head, he had forgotten the sky. Maybe he had never wondered. Much like his face in the mirror, the sky was there this morning as well. It was either the same or changed, it was there. The ozone layer was maybe harmed or safe, the solar system was moving or stable, there was life millions of light years away or there wasn’t. All the possibilities that were none of Sedat’s business were there in the morning. Everything that was left from what makes a life worth living were in their place. When the finger points up to the sky, only silly people look at the finger. Sedat always looked at the finger. Because if there wasn’t a UFO in the sky, that finger belonged to a customer who was convinced that he had chosen the best bagel amongst the bunch. “That one! No, that one is burnt. Not that one brother. On the right. Yes, that one. Wrap it up for me. Are you holding it with the same hand you touch the money with… OK, anyway, let me take it. Wrapping it with newspaper? It is ruined now…” So, those who point with fingers are silly, not the ones who look at the finger. Stupid people. Generalisations are stupid too. Or not. They are firmly in their positions 

So what if Sedat had stopped glancing at the beauty of a world which continues spinning around without giving him a chance? So what if he had forgotten all about it? Didn’t they forget? Holding their hot morning coffees. That are not going to be finished anyway. All the work loaded up on their faces. That are not going to be finished anyway. Monthly detox. Self-improvement trend in the best sellers. Sports membership in plazas. Not enough? Cosmetics industry. Not enough… Aesthetic surgeons. Still not enough… “Better” lovers. Pretty bodies, but love is always left unfinished. Didn’t they forget? Is this what life is all about? 

What about those over there? Sedat’s best customers. Their pure faces, young and bright. How effortlessly beautiful and careless they are! On the plateau of an era being dragged down to the bottom, they are complete enough to shaken the essential foundations of capitalism. They have never lost anything that cannot be owned with money or replaced by consumption. The torch of youth in their eyes. Their minds hardworking, active, complex… They never dream about being happy. They want to be like Sedat. They want to give their heart that is ready to burn with its own wood and flame, a reason to start the fire. They secretly admire his struggling and has-been face… They want to understand Sedat even better than himself and curse every morning on behalf of him. Just so they themselves have stories. So that they themselves matter. To be one of those who are the most correct, distressed in this cruel world. Is this really what we call life? Is this it? Without the deprivation of sky. Without carrying any load. They wouldn’t give 5 kuruş2. Sedat doesn’t mind. 

If it is a Monday, a woman named Füsun goes pass on Neyzen Street. Red, blue bags full of groceries in her white hands. Inside them, lots of vegetables, potatoes, onions, peppers. She wouldn’t care to look at his face, Füsun is one of those women. A woman to love. Sometimes he feels too shy to even look at her hands that offer him money. Her husband, on the other hand, is never shy. If Füsun’s hands had belonged to Sedat, he wouldn’t hold them too tight. Her husband puts her arms around her neck. Crude, like as if he is hugging a chipboard. Hairy, heavy, sweaty. Is this what love is all about? 

He doesn’t need to think of these. He doesn’t need to even look at these. They already there. Far from a life to love and be loved, to fight for. They are all firmly in their positions, yet again, this morning. 

He walked the whole neighbourhood and started walking towards the centre. A foggy, filthy morning in Ankara. It was constantly reminding Sedat of his mistake of waking up. Because it has nothing better to offer, endowing his collar with the exhaust smoke. Throwing up on him. Like as if it was Sedat’s fault. Cursing. He stopped in front of the cafe that Yaşar works in. Resigning the simits on the wooden stand, he walked in. Yaşar was a good man. A family guy. He thought of himself as a good father, from what was left of him after his waitressing shift from the morning until the evening and the neighbourhood casino shift until late night. He would come home guilty. Is this what life is all about? He would love his children from the notebooks they had left around, their books’ wrinkled corners. From the traces they had left on the couch where they sit down and leave to go to bed. From the joyous dirt on the dinner dishes… In the morning, he wouldn’t let Sedat leave without buying him a cup of tea. With time, he somehow allowed Sedat to leave his wooden bagel stand outside and even let it stay in front of the heater. The way he did his job was worthy of respect. He was more like a writer whose books didn’t sell than a waiter.After yaşar left, some of the customers in the café wouldn’t forget to send him their regards. This morning he was nowhere to be found. Not seeing Yaşar made the morning’s burden heavier on his shoulders. How heavy the absence of a smile or a greeting weights… The burden gets heavier and heavier. What if he can’t handle it all today? Would anyone care? Is this what life is all about? 

There was no one to offer him a cup of tea. He collected his bagel stand and placed it as his crown again. Without hesitation. Without taking offence. He had given up. Again, there was a crowd waiting in front of the shopping mall. “What are they up to this early in the morning?” Sedat thought to himself. They looked like as if they were spaced out, smoking their cigarettes. Like as if they couldn’t take their mobiles that kept ringing, notifications that kept coming, the breaking news, football highlights, photographs of women with beautiful, full breasts and tall, puffed rich men any longer. Their slim-fit jeans and ankles that are naked every season of the year. Their strange shoes and little socks that are hidden in them and they surely have watches. The weather is cold. The rain just started. Lives overlapping between a shopping mall and a burger restaurant. – Is this what life is all about? – Who knows where their dreams are. 

Sedat didn’t have the strength to go look for a sensible crowd who would buy his simits. He set his eyes on the crowd of chumps who were visibly captivated by latest fashion trends and unreachable dreams. Two actions make people feel starved the most; disappointment and waiting. Because the stomach is desperately in need of other nutrients to quickly digest and get rid of emotions like desire, rage, sorrow and jealousy. Sedat was happy that he managed to help this many in need simultaneously. The domino affect started by the first one of them who approached to his bagel stand triggered the rest and the wooden stand was now in its place. He had already sold nearly the half of his morning harvest but the rain was getting heavier at the same time. While searching for a safe corner or a porch, he slipped and fell on the ground. “What if I can’t handle it all today?” he had asked himself earlier. He had already asked himself that. Why didn’t they hear? Is Sedat’s not regarded as a heart? 

When he gained consciousness, two young men were holding him from his arm. Trying their best not to touch him. Like as if poverty was contagious. They sat Sedat somewhere in front of the shopping mall. His eyes were set on the fallen simits on the floor. What if I cannot sell them? Are they wet already? “Nevermind…” they said to Sedat. They certainly didn’t mind. “Keep seated,” said one of them. He was staring at Sedat with a hidden glance inside his eye hollows that were stuck under his frown. He was judging Sedat because he didn’t know his life’s worth. Because he was worried about simits and not himself. Much like adults who scold and practice protection with violence on a child whose only fault is to attempt to discover his boundaries. He was supposedly showing off how much he cared, his kindness. Sedat started crying. – Not for simits – He started crying. – It is not that simple – He started crying. – Is this what life is all about?- 

I ran to Sedat after seeing him in that mess. His simits were already wet. Drenched in the muddy puddle left by footsteps, in front of shopping mall’s polished entrance. Even though simits were in better shape than Sedat, they were ruined nevertheless. 

Despite the never-ending scolding of the frowning man showing off kindness, Sedat would suddenly rise from where he was seated like he belonged to that famous Bela Tarr movie, much like embracing a whipped horse, he would want to run to his simits. The humming crowd that prevented him every time he rose, deserved a rebellion that was far worse than the state that he was actually in. Intuitively, I put my hand on his knee and said “Okay.” “I know.” Me, really? With dozens of men to take my place. I was frowned upon and I felt it. I felt it to my core. These people were always there anyway. Even if days, what is lived and what is witnessed changes, they will always be there.  

Before standing up, Sedat turned and looked at me. His eyes resembled two yellowish pits filled with water. They looked absent. I stood and picked up two simits and put the money in his pockets. Because I couldn’t find a better solution. Because there wasn’t a real solution for this mess. As if what I just did wasn’t wrong enough, I was making it worse. I thought he would get mad. Like everyone else, I thought he would take his anger out on the first person to help him. The person without manners. I wanted to get away. To a tree hollow. Or a drain pipe. Maybe a sticky bus seat. I got stuck. 

One by one, everyone started picking up Sedat’s simits from the floor, with their undefined faces. Sedat did not say a word. He didn’t stand up. In the end, every single bagel was sold, some of them for only 10 kuruş3, some for more. Just when I realized I should walk away like nothing happened, an elderly man grabbed my arm and pulled me back. Like I was guilty. Like I was the usual suspect. As though I just told a few people on the city square something too real for them to want to hear. – It is not. This is not life. – He leaned towards my ear and whispered, “I think he was faking it.” I replied with the collaborative attitude he was asking for. Squinting my eyes. Whispering. Wanting to cry. 

“Then you will have to feel more shame.” 

Translated with the author’s approval by Özge Sargın  

1 A Turkish pastry resembling a bagel covered with a sesame dressing.
2 a man who calls Muslims to prayer from the tower of a mosque (a Muslim holy building).

Literature +: Graphic Designer from Wales, Manon Daffyd (Illustration – Inspired by İmgesu Ünal)

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