Hanene Ay Doğacak / The Future Looks Bright

At first it was thought that this book had been written under a pseudonym. Speculation to this effect even appeared in one newspaper. At the last moment, it occurred to the newspaper’s editor-in-chief that it would be a good idea to inquire with a telephone operator to ask whether or not such a name was actually registered. And so it turned out that Şebnem İşigüzel, which was thought to be an invented name, was in truth a real name. Hanene Ay Doğacak, Şebnem İşigüzel’s first book, was awarded the Yunus Nadi Literary Prize, became a bestseller, and garnered much praise from critics and readers alike.
What was the strength of this book? The fact that its subject matter included incest and necrophilia, and thus shocked its readers? Can a book enchant its readers simply by infringing upon taboos? No, what sustained Hanene Ay Doğacak, a collection of stories that revealed to us aspects of love that we knew nothing about, was something else entirely. Something else that exists in books that we love and that we cannot forget; that something else that seeps into our souls.
Şebnem İşigüzel went on to write other short stories and novels. In the meantime, the curtain of censorship was lifted from over Hanene Ay Doğacak. Thus, in a way, the writer’s first book was reborn.
I can see the sky from where I am lying. There aren’t any stars. It will be overcast tomorrow. But then again, sometimes the mornings after such nights can be bright and sunny. I can smell the soil. I’ve forgotten to close the window. Someone will come now and say, “Has your headache gone?” as though they have to ask. I won’t say anything; they’ll think that I am asleep. Then they’ll close the window and go away.
They are clearing the table. The sound of plates, bowls, knives and forks grind in my ears. Even when no one is watching, the television is on. It reverberates as though everyone in this house is deaf. It doesn’t even disturb granny and make her turn down the volume. My sister turns it down a bit when she tries to get her daughter to sleep. Then the little one cries from where she is lying:
“Turn up the sound; I sleep listening to it.”
For some reason children like to sleep curled up where there is noise and crowds. I used to be like that when I was little. At weddings I liked to sleep on the table. When all the children dashed around to collect bottle tops and straws I would just get sleepy. My mother would fold up her cardigan and put it under my head for a pillow. What was hard for me was to be woken up and made to walk home.
Once I resisted waking up. My mother took me by my shoulders and shook me. And my father gave me a light slap. How old was I then? Six or perhaps five?... My mother, annoyed and fed up, helped me put on my cardigan. Even then she had bags under her eyes. As a matter of fact that was the winter when she’d had to have a kidney removed. The deep lines on her forehead had just started to form then. At that time of night her red lipstick had long since disappeared, and her lips turned a colour nearer white than pink. As to her hair’s fresh waves, they had withered some time ago.
When we went to weddings she wore the dress with the purple collar. Her skirts would crease from being sat on. The dress had mother-of-pearl buttons, in the buttons there were colours that only I could see.
It was as I had thought. Our little girl tells them to turn up the volume of the television. Someone came in; it must be my brother. He writes things on walls with the communists. The other day he pointed out some writing on the school wall. “Death to the fascists.” He had written it.
“What does fascist mean?” I asked.
“Even if I told you, you wouldn’t understand,” he said.
Then he regretted saying that.
“Those who are against us,” he said.
He started telling me things from the books he was reading. I cast a furtive glance at the writing once more.
“You have written it in a hurry,” I said.
“Because the homos might come and corner us…”
“Are fascists homos too?”
“In a manner of speaking.”
My father swears. The paint must not quite have come off my brother’s hands so that he realized that he had written something for the communists. He says rude things, “And you,” he says, “Why can’t you just go to your room, watch television and jerk off there like other bastards?” He humiliates him. My father talks like that, but doesn’t watch television. God knows he doesn’t jerk off either. My granny tries to intervene. And my sister shrieks. In a little while my mother’s kidney pains will set in. She is seized by cramps. She lies down on her back on the hard sofa in the sitting room. If she catches sight of the picture on the wall from her youth, she turns her head. Maybe she will also weep… Are her tears for her never-ending pains or for her unhappy children?
My mother deserved another kind of life:
Her long thin fingers ought to be leafing through a priceless handwritten book. Unable to break away from the bewitching scent of her expensive perfume, the antique dealer should only catch the question the second time she asked, “Which century is this book from?”
On waking she ought to find couplets left on her pillow by her lover. Parting her long lashes, she should read the poem that was written with a fine black ink pen very slowly behind a curtain of mist. She should smile. She should see her smile mirrored on the silver sugar bowl on the breakfast tray that has been brought to her bed. “How happy I am,” should cross her mind. And right thereafter, “When was the last time I was unhappy?”
It should take a little while for her to remember the day when her pearl necklace broke and the pearls scattered…No, breaking the necklace had not made her unhappy, it was only not bothering to bend down to pick up the pearls in the crowd that made her sad.
My mother’s pains must have subsided because the sound of her footsteps can be heard. Then she tells my sister to cover up the child. My sister is on the phone again. This conversation will, like the other ones, go on for a long time and again she will go on about her unhappy marriage. And she’ll not be able help herself saying how sad she is that her brother is a communist. Now while she is talking, her left leg will be swinging. And my mother will be trying to signal with her eyes that it is time to stop talking.
Granny will as usual be cutting her hangnails; what a terrible expression “hangnails” is. When I was little I often had them too.
They have turned off the television. Soon granny will be bored by the silence and ask them to turn on the radio. And when she hears the songs she likes, she will start to hum.
In her pale lilac dress she turns the handle of the His Master’s Voice gramophone. The three daughters of the house and their friends are trying to learn the tango. Her shoes are new. Their colour is like ashes of roses. How delicate they look on the hand woven multicoloured carpet. Her eyebrows have been plucked so thin as almost not to be there. She can now make up her lips lightly. From time to time she closes her eyes, and starts to murmur the lyrics of the tango… her mother, or rather her father, will not let her have her hair cut. But she really wants to have very short hair. Suddenly she discovers her hangnails. She gives up the tango, and goes off to cut her hangnails.
Granny has become very old. She’ll soon begin to talk about the time when she started to learn to dance the tango in her youth.
My mother has caught another cockroach. There is a bakery next door. That is why we are infested with cockroaches. She has thrown the cockroach she caught into the toilet again. And she has flushed it away. My father’s got angry because, “Should so much water be wasted on an insect?” he said. Then I became that insect:
An enormous human hand grasped my body in disgust. I fell into a deep well of water. I knew that I couldn’t get away from here. Was water really this heavy? I rotated thousands of times. This motion will go on till the end of time.
I’ve changed my mind. The rotation goes on. I have to shout. That’s it, someone has entered my room. They ask the obligatory question. The motion goes on, I can’t make a sound. They close the window quietly. I can’t smell the soil any more. One of my arms is hanging down from the bed. They take my arm and reunite it with my body. Mother, I’ve changed my mind. You kiss my cheek and stroke my hair. Maybe I haven’t gone cold yet, but I am not breathing any more, can’t you see? What happened to the bags under your eyes, mother? To the lines on your forehead? Are we going to a wedding again? Oh no, you’ve come from one, the skirt of your dress is creased. Isn’t the dress purple? Or was there also a pistachio green one? Why have you taken the mother-of-pearl buttons off? Your hair’s fresh waves have withered. But there is still red lipstick on your lips.
Mother, I’ve changed my mind I say. Can’t you hear…
My brother enters the room.
He has a paint brush and a bucket of paint.
“My father’s room,” he says laughing – he can’t speak for laughter – “I’ve written things on his wall. I wrote, ‘Death to the fascists, our salvation is near.’ I wrote that in red paint on his wall.”
He is still laughing. His screws up his eyes, and sometimes he doubles up. “Then I got out the knife,” he says. “A fascist like you should be cut up, I said. He was scared. I pressed his fat body against the wall. I shouted to him: open your trousers and jerk off. I put the knife right up to his stomach. He jerked off right in front of me. When I started to laugh he stopped for a moment. I pressed the knife against his belly and he continued.”
He leaves the room laughing. His laughs can still be heard as he slowly climbs the stairs.
This is when granny enters with a coffee cup in her hand. She is wearing a pale lilac dress and has not done up the zipper. She puts the coffee cup containing the coffee grounds that were meant to predict the future, on top of the mirrored wardrobe.
“Where are the scissors,” she asks hurriedly.
She quickly opens and shuts drawers. Finally she finds a pair of scissors. In one cut she cuts her long white hair very short. Then she takes the hairbrush and brushes it carefully.
“How pretty I’ve become,” she says. “All this time, why didn’t they let me have my hair cut? First my father, then my husband, and then my son. Look, how pretty I’ve become. Look how pretty I’ve become.”
Now she dances by herself. The suddenly she puts her hands together and holds them towards me.
“Look, I have cut all my hangnails.”
She remembers the coffee cup that she put on the wardrobe.
“It is you that I am going to look at the fortune for in these coffee grounds,” she says.
Sitting down next to me she starts to look at my fortune:
“The future of your home life looks bright; the bottom of the cup is clean.”
Then she quickly goes over to the window. In the pale light that shines through it she looks into the cup again, and says:
“There isn’t a single coffee ground there.”
She turns her eyes to me in horror:
“You are dead.”
I can see the sky from where I am lying. There aren’t any stars. It will be overcast tomorrow…
Know that this son of mine has been consumed with love for his own blood sister since childhood. As soon as they reached puberty, that loathsome act happened between them. I told him: “Refrain from those low acts of yours!” No one before you has done it and no one after you will do it. Or we shall be living among sovereigns in shame and disgust till we die. And Tartar horsemen will relate our story to the whole world!
                            Thousand and One Nights Tales.
It was very hot. A fear that I might evaporate like a drop of water came over me. Everybody was walking in the shallow shade on the right side of the wide and busy road. The library must have closed for lunch. I had to wait for one hour to get the books on my list and I hadn’t a clue how to make use of the time.
I felt uncomfortable as I suddenly remembered the disagreeable short librarian who had hips as wide as a cow’s and walked like a penguin. She had been rather rude to me since she caught us making love among the books around this time last year.
She must have told her colleagues about it, because every time I come to the library all eyes are on me. And two weeks ago, when I was choosing books from the shelves, I got a strange feeling that I was being watched. When I turned my head I saw the potbellied, balding librarian who had a voice like a cartoon character. He had his back against the shelves, and was watching me with an expression as if he was trying to lift something very heavy. When we came face to face, he quickly moved away. What do you think; was making love to me among thousands of books in his fantasies?
That sticky summer last year when we got caught making love in the library, we had been up to other crazy things. We had made love in a telephone booth, in the museum, in one of the stores’ changing rooms, and in the supermarket, but apart from the library we had not been caught. There were others who had seen us making love, at the least the security personnel who were watching the place via cameras. I suppose they all preferred watching until reaching satisfaction.
All the places where we hade made love passed in front of my eyes like a filmstrip on a background of pale blue light. That pale blue light was now in the bookseller’s window, and made the books look like optical illusions in the sunlight. Fascinated I drew nearer to the shop window and tried to read the book titles in this pale light. Then I became aware that all colours had suddenly disappeared and turned into blacks, whites and greys. At that moment I saw the reflection of the short unpleasant librarian whose hips were as wide as a cow’s appear in the shop window next to me. As you know, I don’t recognize people when I see them outside their usual context. I was surprised that I recognized her this quickly. Apparently she spent her lunch hour window shopping at bookshops.
There was nobody next to her unpleasant image in the window. There was only a scrawny mongrel standing to the right of her.
All right, but where was I? Why did I see everything in black and white? Although I was to the right of the librarian there was no sight of me in the shop window. And when I looked around I couldn’t see the scrawny dog. As I turned about disorientated I saw the dog in the window move like me.
Had I become a mongrel?
The dog whose brown fur had bald patches looked rather forlorn. While I was recovering from this shock, a grey haired man with a slight paunch approached the librarian. He was fifty to fifty-five years old. Apparently the librarian, whom I deemed to be twenty-five, liked ‘mature men’. When they embraced each other they reminded me of us.
“Let’s go,” the man said eagerly.
The woman then pointed to me and said, “That street dog kept looking at the shop window with me.”
The man narrowed his eyes and looked at me:
“It looks like a pet dog that used to be cared for. It must have been abandoned. To me it seems as though it is looking for its old owner. You can tell from its eyes that it has been crying.”
It disturbed me that they looked at me with pity. I thought that I could still talk like a human although I looked like a dog. I wanted to say something. What I heard was a sickly, high pitched dog’s bark. The woman said I wanted help from them. To this the man said, “We have already lost enough time.”
The man kept turning round to look at me as he walked with a hand on the woman’s hip.
They stopped and talked in front of a no parking sign. The man who stroked the woman’s cheek with one hand looked as if he was trying to talk her into something.
Then they called me over to them, the way you call a dog. When I looked into the shop window I saw that I was still a dog. And everything was black and white. For a moment I thought of leaving. The story of the prince that turned into a frog crossed my mind.
Maybe they were the reason I had turned into a dog. Was it part of the game that they acted as if they were completely oblivious? Okay, so what if I went with them? Besides I had started to like this game. Thinking that it would surprise them when I suddenly turned into my old self I joined them.
The man looked at me with bright eyes and muttered, “Well done, good dog.”
Inevitably it annoyed me being called dog.  I couldn’t help barking.
The woman laughed quietly, “It does not seem to like compliments.”
At this the man stroked my head, “You can be our dog now,” he said.
When we got into the taxi, my dirty and patchy fur must have disgusted the woman because she grimaced. To make her more uncomfortable I rubbed my face on her shoulder. When I began to lick her face, she started to scream and struggle. The man said things to me that one says to dogs. And the woman repeated over and over that it was not a good idea to take me along.  
The grey haired man calmed her down by stroking her leg and whispering something in her ear. The driver, who kept watching us in the rear-view mirror, asked whether they were working on domesticating street dogs. And if they were, there were lots of street dogs like me around his house, and he really felt pity for those poor dogs.
The woman and the man didn’t even hear the driver because they said something to each other and laughed, and now and then they kissed surreptitiously. The driver gave up repeating his question and chose to observe this inharmonious but passionate couple in the rear-view mirror.
We were approaching the city’s poorer districts. The houses, faces and gardens started to look neglected. I saw everything in black and white through the eyes of a dog. The eyes of the people standing around on the road in groups – even the dogs – looked despondent. Women frequently blocked our way on the hot asphalt road that was full of scrap. They would sell us cigarettes or anything else that we might want, they said. Fearlessly they walked around between the cars. We got out of the taxi in front of a hotel (‘Tsecni’) with a strange name.
The driver looked after us oddly. 
So it seemed that the earnest librarian compensated for the time spent among thousands of dusty books, rustling pages, and annoying whispers, fucking a man her father’s age at this seedy hotel in one of the city’s poor neighbourhoods. And yet now, as always, she looked so sober in spite of her twenty five years. Dark, long and high necked clothes, tied up hair, unpainted lips, and handbags the style of old women’s … And she was so shy. Remember how she blushed when she caught us making love in the library.
Apparently I had to go to a room with them. Maybe they had fantasies about being watched by a dog when they made love and that was why they had brought me here. Or worse, the man wanting to copulate with me – with a dog – in front of the woman…
First they have to wake up the receptionist who is dozing at his desk because of the heat. The receptionist is happy when he sees them and behaves rather well towards them. Then he smiles, showing his decayed teeth and red gums. Seeing me he had to ask:
“Where did that flea bag come from?”
Rather gravely the man said:
“That? We found it in the street; it is going to stay with me from now on.”
The receptionist smiled showing his decayed teeth and red gums again.
The man and women locked in close embrace kept looking behind them and calling me as they walked along a dim airless corridor swarming with flies.
The woman said, “Clever dog,” pausing between her shrill laughs. The number of the room we went into was 13. It was very dusty, and the sheets looked very dirty. At the corner there was a broken mirror, a chair with faded upholstery and a wardrobe whose doors were broken and the veneer coming off in places. The dirty wall paper made one’s stomach turn. The woman started to undress while the man opened the window. Without paying attention to one another they undressed and carefully hung their clothes in the wardrobe. Then the woman took two wide strips of band from her bag and gave one to the man. They sat on the bed and both of them blindfolded themselves. Then, using their hands, they started to make love like blind people.
The heat had become unbearable. I was standing in the middle of the room watching them. When I looked at the mirror I saw that I was still a dog. Maybe I should be sprawled on the dirty floor licking myself here and there like dogs do. I could be spending the rest of my life as a dog. It might be more fun like that.
The man had the woman in a close embrace. He was kissing her shoulders. Then small movements started between the dirty sheets. The woman called the man, “Daddy.” Happy at hearing this, the man even repeated, “My little girl,” several times. The movements grew faster. I had never considered that they might be father and daughter. I cannot say that I was surprised, but I regretted not having guessed it.
Now I remember everything:
The bedside table’s silver lion handle, the sleepy man with the decaying teeth, the dim and airless corridor, the father and daughter who with their eyes tied made love like mad on the bed in this room number 13. How about the scrawny street dog that kept looking at itself in the mirror. The girl was murmuring things to her father that I had heard before, no, they were the things that I said to you when we made love.
I was watching everything as we made love with our souls in different bodies.
The girl was saying to her father, “I cannot bear to know that you make love to my mother.”
She said this a few times.
Her father answered saying, “Now I am inside you, and that is where I always want to live.”
I woke up with a start. My white bright walls, my desk, my bed with clean sheets. Now I can believe that these things were a dream. It is only six o’clock in the morning. I am afraid to go to sleep again. First I consider phoning you. Then I give up, thinking that you must have left and be on your way here.
I had a lukewarm shower. Then with a bowlful of cherries that I had taken from the fridge, I dropped my wet body on the bed. I thought about the dream that went on for a long time. With great pleasure I spit the cherry stones out towards the middle of the room. I got a pencil and paper and wrote down my dream. I was impatient to tell you about it when we met. Then I underlined certain words with a red ball-point pen. The words I had underlined were the following:
Library, one hour, librarian, pale blue light, book shop’s window, all colours disappeared, dog, forlorn, grey haired man, bark, prince turning into a frog, taxi driver, poor neighbourhood, scrap, “Tsecni”, reception, corridor, 13, broken mirror, tied their eyes carefully, hot, bedside table’s silver handle, I can’t bear to know that you make love to my mother, daddy, my little girl.
Everything was more like being on the outside watching the story of my life rather than a dream.
My father had been living with my mother in another city for a long time. My mother knew about our relationship; to begin with she had opposed it. I was seventeen when she caught us making love in their own bed. At that moment she did not see me as her daughter, but as the other woman, or rather as a stranger.
She even tried to kill us. What great luck it was that the gun was not loaded. I was so scared when she pointed the gun at us! My mother looked frightening. She threw herself against the walls and tore at her hair with both hands. This was a big shock to her, I know. While we got out of bed and tried to get dressed she threw our things out of the window. A lot of mine and my father’s private things were in the middle of the busy street. Before long the neighbours and the police came. My mother had a nervous breakdown.
We kept the real truth from the police and neighbours. I had been sleeping with my father ever since I was sixteen, and had been able to keep it a secret for a year. Before we slept together there was a strong bond of love between us. We loved each other. But we realized that this was not the ordinary kind of love between father and daughter. My mother was a difficult and cantankerous woman. Her life was always dominated by small problems. Her relationship with my father was not going well. When I was a little girl my father cared for me like every father does. Like most children my first love would be from my immediate surroundings. And that was how it turned out. But the only man on my mind was my father.
The year I turned sixteen, we gave a big party. My mother had left in the middle of the party. My father had come after everybody had left. We were surrounded by deflated balloons, confetti, dirty plates and glasses half full of drinks. He had asked how the party went. I had said that everything had been just like my childhood parties. I was unhappy. He gave me my present. It was an elegant ring that would be appropriate for a mature woman. Then we embraced. He started to kiss me. They were not the kind of innocent kisses as we know them. We started to make love on the edge of the sofa. Maybe I admired my father, I loved him, but I had never thought that something like this could happen. My mother might come at any moment. When it was all over we both felt very bad.
I couldn’t look at your face. After that day I kept thinking about whether this was right or wrong. When you came to my room one night, I could not refuse you. I only said that it unsettled me seeing your face when we made love.
“Close your eyes tightly,” he said. It didn’t work. In the end we both blindfolded ourselves and carried on making love like that.
Whenever my father was inside me, or we were lying next to each other, I would panic thinking that the door would open and my mother come in. Everything must finish as soon as possible; my father had to get back to my mother as soon as possible.
The fear that my mother would catch us disturbed me very much. Before long we found a solution to this. The “Tsecni” Hotel was a suitable refuge for us. For a long time we avoided acting in a way that might arose my mother’s suspicions. We even argued cruelly like two lovers. My mother saw these fights as typical battles between father and daughter. It was very funny when she tried to appease and reconcile us.
When my father and I were alone we remembered this and laughed like mad.
In time my father started to seem very different to me, like a stranger. It was as if I had just met him and we were two lovers who had a great age gap.
After she caught us my mother was in hospital for three months because of her nervous break down. She refused to see me. But it was impossible for her to give up my father. Her doctor and my father tried to convince her that our liaison was over. That took a very long time. To begin with we also told my mother’s doctor a lie about our affair having come to an end.
This doctor even tried to treat my father and me. But of course he had to give up in the end. He told us that we saw each other in a very different light, and that our personalities had changed as a result of that. In short we were something beyond father and daughter. I am not sure how true this definition was, because usually we did not have any qualms about calling each other “daddy” or “my girl”. I think that our brief time with the psychologist made our young doctor more confused than we were.
Yes, ours was an illicit relationship. By nature it was perversion.  But in our relationship no force was used and we were very happy.
When my mother got out of hospital, they moved somewhere else together. I started to live alone and not see anyone. I had secret telephone conversations with my father and we went to the usual hotel to make love. For this my father had to drive for ten hours to get here. I don’t know if my mother believed that our relationship was over or if she just seemed to. But my father said that since that day he had not made love to her. Maybe this was a lie. For it disturbed me to know that they made love.
Today my father was going to wait for me at the hotel after a long journey. It was 8 o’clock. I looked at the bookstore’s shop window of my dream. I went out to buy some food. I went to the bank. I sat in the park. As usual I was excited like I was before every meeting. When I went home to eat something, the phone rang. It was my father. He had arrived, and he would be at the hotel in an hour. I took off my underwear and wore my jeans and t-shirt. I gathered my hair at the nape of my neck and rushed out. I hadn’t seen him for two weeks and I missed him very much. Everything was like in the dream. The houses, faces and gardens grew more and more unkempt. The groups of people on the road – even the dogs – had despondent expressions etc etc.
I got out of the taxi in front of the hotel with the name ‘Tsecni’ that in my dream – just like the first time I saw it – seemed strange to me. From the receptionist – who was dozing and whose decayed teeth and gums were visible when he smiled – I got the keys to room number 13. He called after me:
“Your old man hasn’t come yet.”
I went up to the room. I remembered my dream and smiled. How I had stood in the middle of the room like a good dog. Everything; the broken mirror I looked at to see if I was still a dog and the dirty wall paper was like it was before and like in the dream.  
I opened the window wide and got undressed. Hung my things in the wardrobe. Blindfolded myself and lay down on the bed. I did not wait for long. My father came a little later. He embraced me. He quietly undressed and blindfolded himself. When he lay next to me I started to tell him about the dream. He laughed. I said, “Should I go to the librarian with the hips wide as a cow’s and ask her, ‘Have you ever made love to your father?’ ” I said.
My father laughed out loud.
“I hope that she will blush more than the day she caught us making love in the library.”
Then I said that the dog in the dream had affected me quite a lot. I don’t think he heard that, because right then he was wandering around my body with his hands and tongue. He only asked at which point in the dream I woke up. “I was telling you that I could not bear to know that you make love to my mother. I said this a few times. You answered that now you were inside me and that you always wanted to live there. When I heard you say those words I woke up,” I said.
My father laughed:
“Your mother and I do not make love,” he said. His voice had lightened. When he said, “Besides I am inside you now and that is where I always want to live,” it was like a murmur.
It was very hot. A fear that I might evaporate like a drop of water came over me. At this time of the day everybody must be walking in the shallow shade on the right side of the well-known wide street of the city. I haven’t got a clue about how to spend the rest of my time after my father leaves the city.
I remember the day you came very well:
My laboratory tests had just finished, and now it was time to work on the cadaver. On account of having broken my left leg on the floor polished like a mirror at a party given by the director, I could not face going to the hospital every day for cadaver work. Thanks to an old teacher of mine who was fond of me, it was not hard to get the required permission to have a cadaver sent to my laboratory. However the arrival of the cadaver was two days late. And even then they phoned the second day to ask if the gender of the cadaver made any difference to me.
If they had only bothered to get off their backsides and look in the file I had left for them, they would have known that the experiments I was going to make related to the reproductive organs and therefore it was important that the cadaver was ‘female’.
When the doctor on the phone asked with a weak and bored voice whether the gender of the cadaver was important – he had probably been affected with some disorder to his vocal cords during puberty, which made him sound like a little girl – and he started going on and on about students and morgue employees having sex with the cadavers I got angry and said, “If you don’t send the cadaver over shortly I’ll come and kill you. I’ll not just kill you; I’ll use your corpse as a cadaver.”
My assistant was laughing at what I said while making a fair copy of his notes. After lunch the doorbell rang as I was explaining to my assistant the experiments we were to make on the cadaver. I remembered our advert in the newspaper for a secretary. I thought that I would have to interview a whole lot of women. On top of that asking the same questions:
“Where have you worked before?”
“Which school did you go to?”
“Where do you live?”
“How much pay do you want?”
“We work very hard; I hope that you’ll have no difficulty in keeping up with us. Would prolonged working hours be a problem for you?”
We can multiply these questions. We can even change the order of them and ask them. But believe me, the answers will always be the same. Even if they realize that you constantly repeat the same questions they will not give up their shy expressions get annoyed or show that they are fed up. Every now and again, there will be a polite cough due to agitation and a delicate wiping of the perspiration from the upper lip, while care is taken not to smear the lipstick. If, at the answers, you look at their faces with disinterest, you will see the hopelessness and despair in their eyes. It is not hard for you to remember the days when you were out of work and your breath smelled of hunger. In some corner of your mind you say, “I’ll take you,” to the person facing you. Then for half an hour, three hours or one day, you think about the hopelessness and despair of those you have interviewed for the secretarial job. You imagine being in their place instead of being the one they have to face.  You extend the interview, talking about the workload or something like that. But somehow you just cannot form the sentence which starts, “Years ago I too was like you …” And even if you did, the sentence would finish quite differently.
My assistant looked at me with eyes that looked blurred and expressionless behind the thick lenses of his spectacles:
“Do you think it is our new secretary candidate?”
I cannot remember now whether it was I or my assistant, who like me was in love with you, who opened the door, but it was you who arrived.   
When first I saw you…
When first I saw you I wondered about your history. The colour of your hair was like that of my sister’s. It was something in between red and black. How beautiful it must look in the sun. My sister dyed her hair herself at home. But you did not look like the kind of woman who would home-dye her hair. You were not the type to wear the transparent gloves of the kind we surgeons wear on your long fine-skinned fingers and sit in front of the mirror for hours smearing the thick paste of dye on your hair.
You must have been having your hair dyed by an unskilled apprentice – who tried not to spatter the dye on your neck or forehead – in front of a third-class hairdresser’s mirror stuck round the edges with pictures of women cut from coloured magazines. Your real hair colour surely would have been something like the murky brown colour of street puddles. Were you the first to discover that this colour did not go with your skin’s chalky whiteness, or was it the confectioner’s mistress in number 10 from whom you had borrowed a dress? First you must have had your hair dyed blonde in order to attract attention. And when you first looked at the yellow hair in the mirror you didn’t notice your face, did you? You could have covered up the paleness of your skin with false eyelashes, dark coloured lipstick and tinted powder. In any case didn’t the customers that the confectioner’s mistress found and who you slept with from time to time in those days, want a prostitute who seemed to know her business, rather than an innocent girl in bed? Or was that how you wanted to see yourself? Remember the one with the paunch, wide nose and red face, the one who once wanted anal sex with you. You resisted just like you had done the first time you were made to make love.
Did he then tell you, “With this straw coloured hair, false eyelashes and lips painted like butterfly wings you must have let them have it from behind before?”
Maybe that man would have made love to you like he would have done to a little girl if you had whored around with your hair the colour of mud.
After he left you went to the bathroom. You scrubbed your body until it turned red. You remembered your childhood when you used to collect lizards’ discarded skins from the foot of walls. Then you became a lizard wanting to be rid of your thin white skin, which the paunchy, wide nosed and red faced man had kissed and caressed, and yes, even your soul. You knew that you could not do that. But the easiest thing was to get rid of this straw coloured hair and the false eyelashes. Right there and then you gave your head a thorough shave. You made yourself look like a newborn baby like that. Nobody would want to make love to a bald whore!
Your bliss did not last for long. You went around with a black wig for a whole year. One evening, you went into the supermarket where you had worked before becoming a prostitute (in the days when you only slept with your sweetheart who was working at the printers and smelled of ink), with that silly wig on your head. You bought paper tissues, sweets and chocolate. There was a young girl sitting at the cash register where you had been sitting until two years ago. Her hair was a much darker mud colour than yours.
 When it was your turn you asked, “Aren’t there any condoms in this supermarket?”
Just like you, when some man had asked this question one evening and you had become flustered and embarrassed, the cashier girl almost put her head into the cash register out of embarrassment. And then when the person in charge of the cashier girls called over to her, “What’s the lady asking for?” she just did not know what to do. When your eyes met, she looked at you in your silly black wig, with an expression begging you not to tell him out loud what you wanted, not imagining that two years ago you had been sitting at this cash register with mud coloured hair. But you were stubbornly waiting for her to say it. In the end you won.
The young girl with her face turned bright red said, “She’s asking if we have condoms,” without looking at the man.
He shook his head meaning no. You smiled at the cashier girl when you got your change, but she was so angry with you that she didn’t even look at your face. After walking in the crowded street for a while you returned and quickly entered the supermarket. You stood right beside the mortified cashier. This time she was looking at your face, and seemed afraid that you would ask her something that would embarrass her again.
But you stroked her hair and said, “Don’t ever dye your hair blond, or put on false eyelashes, and always remain a cashier.”
Maybe afterwards she thought that you were mad, but you were relieved as you went outside.
Was it at the end of that year that you had dyed your hair that had grown longer, to the present colour and had taken off the silly wig and thrown it away?
Then a man turned up who fell in love with you. And you moved out of that musty smelling flat. And you filled a suitcase with all the clothes you used to have to wear in the street to attract customers. Now you were not much different from other women. Your muddy hair colour started to become visible at the roots. It seems that you were trying to change your hair, which needed colouring, back to its original colour.
When you came I considered how I had not felt anything like this for a long time. I don’t know why, but you saddened me. I fall in love with women who sadden me.
Your story was like many women’s. In fact it could have been very different. But you did not want it to be. When I looked into your eyes I understood how much they had hurt you. There were deep lines in your forehead. And all these horizontal lines were divided by a stronger line going right down the middle between your eyebrows. You had endured depressions, hadn’t you? They were depressions related to the things you had experienced as a prostitute and you had got used to them. But when you were aspiring to marry that man and let your hair grow back to its own colour you suddenly realized that you had changed. You were desperately struggling like the lizards that tried to shed their skins. Remember once when you came across a former customer in the metro, the one with the wide nose, and red face, who had wanted anal sex. He did not recognize you. How could he… Your hair was not straw coloured anymore. And you did not have false eyelashes either. You had looked intently at the man. And he had been puzzled and turned his head away and still looked as though he did not know you. When you went over to him to ask the time, he answered you politely like he would any other woman.
This time you said, “Don’t you recognize me?”
He was taken aback but he really had not recognized you…
Then you had gone on talking while you looked intently into the man’s eyes:
“You remember; the confectioner’s mistress brought you to me. You wanted anal sex… At the time my hair was straw coloured, maybe that’s why you don’t recognize me.”
How surprised the poor man had been. You laughed out loud when he hurried away from you.
Was there a conversation between you and your husband when you got home that started with, “This afternoon at the metro”?
Yes, there was…and your husband got very angry. But you had expected him to laugh and not to be bothered, hadn’t you?
My assistant and I decide to place you in the best corner of the laboratory. In that corner there is a wonderful pale grey light and this light drapes your neck and face. Your hair is slightly damp. As though it had got wet from walking in the rain for a long time and then had slightly dried while you sat in one of the dark cellar cafés drinking coffee.
I don’t like walking in the rain. When I started as a doctor I had a young girlfriend during my first years. She liked getting wet in the rain. She found my wide collared raincoat and tent-like umbrella ridiculous. That is why she walked three paces ahead of me in rainy weather. When she narrowed her eyes and lifted her head to the sky, the raindrops ran from her cheeks to her neck. Later on I left that girl. We lived in the same city for years. She even wrote letters to me. I never answered any of them. I had her telephone number, but I never called her. I did not call her and it was not because I did not like her or hated her, it was for completely different reasons, reasons that I cannot explain. Although the young girl I had left loved me more than all the women I had ever known. When I kissed her on our first meeting – the night she wrote things on the bottle of the wine we had drunk – she had said, “I love you,” and I had asked, “Do you know me?” “I don’t know you,” she had said, but I know, or rather much later I was to find out that: to know does not mean to love.
I should have talked to her. Only then would she have believed that everything was over. But I don’t like talking. I am an introvert. Because I consider myself one of those people who does not break the link between words and action. I don’t know, maybe I should have married that girl. With that kind of love she would have put up with my silence and my brooding; that young girl could have put up with everything. And maybe in the beginning I should have walked in the rain and got wet. When she even wrinkled her nose drinking the white wine, I should not have believed the lies she told as she concealed her virginity in bed later. Maybe I should have forgiven her that cold winter’s night when she came to tell me everything. Dear Miss Revadac, look what you are reminding me of. My assistant and I enjoyed calling you Miss Revadac.
I started (since you joined us) to tell my memoirs to my assistant with whom I have worked for the past two years. Maybe it was also to make him feel better that I mentioned how disturbing it is for me to work on cadavers. How I, at each use of the lancet get the feeling of killing them yet again, how that feeling sometimes is amplified and I seem to hear the cadaver I am working on scream and the face screw up in unbelievable pain …
Now as an experienced surgeon and researcher I cut and make incisions without fear. But they scream and their faces contort in pain every time. Now I ignore their screams and their faces. Just like in my early student days, I still wonder about the histories of most of the cadavers that I cut up every day. However much I open up the gates of my imagination to them, and make up a story for them, the truth will always remain a secret. But it is the job of the morgue staff to find clues to expose the secrets: They know all about the identity of most of the cadavers and about how they were killed. Most of them even have romantic and sexual relations with the dead bodies.
One of them fell desperately in love with a cadaver. Nobody except me and two morgue employees knew this. Every day, the minute he came to the morgue, he opened the metal drawer where his beloved cadaver was and gently caressed the face and hair. Once I caught him talking with his cadaver. Then the other morgue employees said that he was looking for the killer of this woman who had been a murder victim. They said that he had not yet found the murderer, but that he had found out everything about her and had adopted her cat which, when she got murdered, had been left to the neighbour.
Sadly this middle aged morgue employee went to prison before he could find the murderer of the cadaver he had fallen in love with. He went to prison because when he as usual opened the metal drawer he did not find his cadaver there. He wounded three lecturers and interns badly and killed one of them right there and then when he witnessed them cutting her up in the next room. I and my colleagues were in another room at the time, examining another cadaver. We started running the minute we heard screams. Everywhere was covered in blood. The middle aged morgue employee was lying over the cadaver, crying as though he had lost her once more.
As to the other story… I was having an argument with one of the teachers who said that what we were doing with another cadaver was wrong. In the end we decided to go down to the morgue to discuss the wrongdoing over the cadaver. It was late. When we got downstairs it was cold and quiet as usual. But it was not quiet: panting could be heard; when we moved over to where the sound came from, we saw one of the morgue employees moving forwards and backwards over a woman’s cadaver, making love to it. When our teacher shouted in horror, the employee didn’t know what had hit him.
 To our teacher’s question, “How could you?” he gave a brief answer:
“When you pour hot water over them they slacken.”
My assistant was rather interested in these memoirs of mine.
That is it Miss Revadac, that is the kind of profession surgery is. I am not going to ask you why you gave up letting your hair return to its old colour and started to colour it again. And I don’t want to tell your story. Would you say that my assistant has fallen in love with your crooked smile and sad eyes? I bet that he has never had sexual intercourse. I am sure that you were the woman who made love to him in his dreams. I am trying not to show him my love for you. But he shows his feelings very clearly because of the inexperience of his youth. When he sees your face with the shadows drawn by the pale grey light he chokes. You don’t know it but your love gives him pain. It pains him like when he as a child had to listen to the moans his mother made when she was making love with other men in the next room. Once he sat in the chair next to you and took your hand between his own and told you about his unhappy childhood. He thought that I had left.  But I had returned because I had been nervous at leaving you alone with him.
It is wonderful loving you…
The day you came I remember very well, dear Miss Revadac…
My laboratory tests had just finished and now it was time to experiment on the cadaver… On account of having broken my left leg on the floor shining like a mirror at a party given by the director, I could not face going to the hospital every day to work on a cadaver. Thanks to an old teacher of mine who was fond of me, it was not very hard to get the required permission to have a cadaver sent to my laboratory.
It was you who came, Dear Miss Revadac…