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Actually, I had no desire to share my collection with others, nor did anyone know I was hoarding things-I was ashamed of what I was doing. After having taken all those matchboxes, and Füsun’s cigarette butts, and the saltshakers, the coffee cups, the hairpins, and the barrettes-things not difficult to pick up, because people rarely notice them missing-I began to set my sights on things like ashtrays, cups, and slippers, gradually beginning to replace them with new ones.

“You know that doggie on top of the television, the one we were talking about the other day? Well, it ended up at my house. Our Fatma Hanım was just putting it away when she dropped it on the floor and broke it. I’ve brought this to replace it. Aunt Nesibe, I was in the Spice Bazaar, buying birdseed and rapeseed, and I saw it in one of the shops there…”

“Oh, what lovely black ears it has,” Aunt Nesibe would say. “He’s a real street dog… Come here, old black ears! Now sit. The poor creature brings us peace!”

She took the dog from my hand and placed it on the television set. Sometimes the dogs set there brought us peace by their mere presence, much as the clock ticking on the wall did. Some looked threatening, others ugly and utterly charmless, but even these dogs made us feel as if we were sitting in a place guarded by dogs, and perhaps to feel thus protected was what brought us peace, as the neighborhood echoed with the militants’ gunfire and the outside world seemed more surreal with every passing day. The black-eared dog was the most charming of the scores of dogs that came to rest on the Keskins’ television during those eight years.

On September 12, 1980, there was another military coup. By instinct I’d woken up before everyone else that morning; seeing that Teşvikiye Avenue and the streets leading off it were all empty, I knew at once what had happened: In those days, coups came every ten years. From time to time army trucks came down the avenue, filled with soldiers singing martial songs. I turned on the television at once, and after watching the images of flags and military parades and listening to the generals who had seized power, I went out onto the balcony. I liked seeing Teşvikiye Avenue so empty, and the city so silenced, so the rustling leaves of the chestnut trees in the mosque courtyard soothed me. Exactly five years earlier I had stood on this balcony with Sibel after our end-of-summer party, at exactly this hour in the morning, and admired the same view.

“Oh good, I’m so glad. The country was on the brink of disaster,” said my mother as she watched the frontier folk singer with the handlebar mustache sing of war and heroism. “But why have they put this ugly brute on television? Bekri won’t be able to make it in today, so Fatma, you’ll have to cook. What do you have for us in your refrigerator?”

The curfew lasted all day. From time to time we’d see an army truck hurtling down the avenue; from this we knew that politicians, journalists, and many others were being picked up from their houses and taken into custody, and we were thankful that we never had involved ourselves in politics. The newspapers had all produced special editions, welcoming the coup, and all day long I sat with my mother, reading them and watching the generals announce the coup, a recording played many times over, interspersed with old images of Atatürk. From time to time I went to stand by the window and admire the beauty of the empty streets. I was curious to know how things were with Füsun-how everyone was feeling at the house in Çukurcuma. There were rumors of house searches in certain neighborhoods, as had been done during the 1971 coup.

“From now on we’ll be able to go out into the streets in peace,” my mother said.

With the imposition of the ten o’clock curfew, the military coup cast a long shadow over my evening meals at the Keskins’. During the evening news broadcast on the country’s only television channel, the generals not only railed against politicians and dissident intellectuals but lectured the entire nation about the bad habits that had led them astray.

But it wasn’t just politicians and dissident intellectuals-they were also jailing common swindlers, brothel keepers, tombala men who sold black market cigarettes, and anyone who’d violated a traffic ordinance, written a slogan on a wall, or been involved in a porn film. A large number of people linked with terrorism were summarily executed as examples to others. Whenever word of one of these events reached the Keskin table, everyone would fall silent. At such times I would feel closer to Füsun: part of the family. They no longer seized young, longhaired “hippie types” from the streets to shave off their beards, as in the previous coup, but they did immediately fire a slew of university lecturers. The Pelür Bar was emptied out with other such places. In the wake of the coup, I resolved that I, too, would put my life in order: I would drink less, mitigate the disgrace my love had caused, and, if nothing else, tame my urge to collect things.

Less than two months later I found myself alone in the kitchen with Aunt Nesibe just before supper. I’d started coming to the house earlier, so that I could see more of Füsun.

“My dearest Kemal, you know that street dog with the black ears that you bought us-the one on the television? Well, it’s gone missing… Your eyes grow accustomed to things, so the moment they’re gone, you notice. Whatever happened has happened; it doesn’t matter to me-maybe the poor beast decided it was time to get up and go,” she said. She let out a sweet little laugh, but when she saw the harsh expression on my face, she became serious. “What shall we do?” she asked. “Tarık Bey keeps asking what happened to the dog.”

“Let me take care of this,” I said.

That evening I was too upset to speak. But in spite of my silence-or because of it-I was also unable to stand up and leave, a paralysis that intensified as it got close to the curfew hour. I think that Aunt Nesibe and Füsun were both aware of my predicament. Aunt Nesibe was obliged to say, “Oh please don’t be late!” several times. Only at five past ten was I able to leave the house.

No one stopped us on the way back, and after we were home safe I spent a long time thinking about the meaning of these dogs, and why I kept bringing them to the Keskins’ only to remove them later; in fact, despite Aunt Nesibe’s insistence that she’d noticed the disappearance immediately, it had taken them an astonishing eleven months to see that the dog was gone; it seemed to me that it had happened now only because of the coup, and the prevailing sentiment that we should all put our houses in order. Almost certainly, most of those dogs sitting on lace doilies atop the television were holdovers from the days when dogs sat on radios. As people listened to the radio, their heads would naturally turn toward it, and then their eyes would seek out something for distraction, something that offered solace. After radios gave way to televisions as the altars for family meals, the dogs were transferred to the tops of television sets, but now, with all eyes glued to the screen, no one noticed these little creatures anymore. I could take them away whenever I pleased.

Two days after that evening, I brought two china dogs to the Keskins.

“I was walking through Beyoğlu today when I saw these in the Japanese Market,” I said. “It’s almost as if they were designed to sit on our television.”

“Oh, what a lovely pair they make,” said Aunt Nesibe. “But why did you go to such trouble, Kemal Bey?”

“I was sorry about the one with the black ears going missing,” I said. “Actually, I used to worry that he was lonely, sitting up there on the television. When I saw how happy these two were together, I said to myself that it would be nice to have a frisky pair of dogs up there on the television.”



2011 - 2018