Her hands and knees were trembling, holding on to the sides of chairs as she could barely walk. She faced towards the table next to the window, leaned on her hands towards the table as she smoothed the tablecloth and took a deep breath. Then, she slowly sat on the chair next to the table. She turned her face out to window and sat there like that with both her hands holding her knees for a while. As her fingers were moving involuntarily, she bent her head, looked down at her fingers and eventually broke the silence that covered up and hidden all the differences and imperfection that Ahmet himself also wanted to refuge in, upon the presence of which words had no force: “When will Rimah come, son?” she asked.
With his eyes staring at the motives on the carpet, Ahmet said “She will be here, must be on the plane right now. It should land in about an hour.” He continued staring on the figures on the carpet. “I missed her so much, I want her next to me now,” she said, with her trembling hands leaning over the table.
The heat of the noon was gone as the room was getting chilly now. Ahmet slowly picked his Mother up from next to window and sat her on the sofa standing in the middle of the room, thinking she might have caught a cold next to window. Having sat on the sofa, she waited to catch her breath for a while and then said “Well then, son, let’s also visit your grandfather’s grave tomorrow with Rimah, alright? Even the flowers on his grave must have started to dry out by now, poor thing.”
“Alright, of course mom,” said Ahmet and headed towards the kitchen. Nowadays, he was saying ok to whatever her mom would say as her memory was losing its strength and she could barely remember what she said today on tomorrow. Both had no appetite for days now. The kitchen was soulless. That’s because it lost its soul – that is its woman. Ahmet set to prepare the meal, while at the same time thinking of his grandfather and the flowers on his grave. Would they have really gone dry? I still reckon that day; when I gave you the news about my granddaddy’s death at the construction in Libya. Without shedding any tears you went to your room, came back with a deck of money and cautioned me unflappably to bring his body to his own soil where he was born and raised. Then you went in your room and didn’t come out for a while. I have never seen my grandfather, just heard from you how an affable man he was. You always used to tell me that when he would have died one day, he wanted to be buried next to his fellow mason colleague, who also happened to be his bosom friend. Did he used to love his friends that much? You once told me that he was a kind of man that would do anything for his friends. My grandmother used to be mad about this side of him, being all too grateful and soft, that’s what you used to say. How painful it should be for a man like him having to run from his home to another country in order to be able to work. How are the times we are living in now, that a loving man like him was caused to flee his country being threatened to death. His guilt was to denounce his neighbour preparing for a suicide bomb attack. Police was able to prevent the attack in the last minute, but could not manage to conceal his identity. Then the terrorist organisation went after him. The rest is history…”
He put the food on the fireplace. He sneaked at his mother leaning his head slightly towards the kitchen door; she was sitting on the couch watching TV. He checked the time as there was little left for Rimah’s plane to land. He was with his mother for days, never leaving her alone. Following the start of her losing consciousness, doctors said that somebody had to be with her absolutely at all times. Since that moment Ahmet never left her. Seeing her losing her consciousness; seeing her in this helpless and powerless state after all the sacrifices she did for him. During a single week her eyes got hollow and her face thinner. He wanted Rimah to be next to him, having asked her to come over to Turkey interrupting her research in Egypt on water sources. As soon as she knew about what’s happened, Rimah said she would come with the first plane after having sort her things out. Now she was coming, and Ahmet was wishing to console himself, to relieve his pain in Rimah’s warmth, clinging on his dark skin heated by North African sun.
Ahmet set the table and turned the heat down. Everything was ready now. But he was a bit tired. He sat on the table and looked at chairs with empty eyes; it’s been a long time since he put three chairs for the table. It reminded him of the first day he introduced Rimah to his mother. “…she was shy, sitting across me. She wanted to speak but my mom knew neither English nor Arabic. Rimah, you couldn’t speak, but my mom was talking to you. She never felt strange. She kept saying ‘Here, dear, eat from this as well,’ all the time complimenting and smiling at you. Her eyes were shining with joy, her cheeks all red. I’d never seen her like this and me and you, we both were amazed with her. I was at the same time translating, but she seemed like she didn’t need that. She loved you so much”.
Rimah was about to land. He washed his face, went to the living room and hugged her mother tight. He stayed like this for a while. Kissed her, smelled her. Then he got her dressed. They were now ready to hit the road. They were going to pick Rimah from the airport and come back home. It wasn’t far from their place. Ahmet helped her perch into the car seat. The poor woman had a huge smile on her face; “Where are we going, son? To see your uncle?” She’d already forgotten all about the airport and Rimah. Ahmet didn’t say a thing and started the car.
When they arrived at the airport, they found out that, as usual, Rimah’s plane was delayed. They had to wait for an hour. Ahmet went back to the car and started waiting with her mother. She was curious about nothing, only staring out the window.
Ahmet was blindly staring at the little foliage flower, thinking of his grandfather. “There were two workers from the municipality. They never spoke. As they shouldered the coffin, my mom poked me hard to have me shoulder it as well. At that moment, I was shocked at what I saw. Tens of beggar women were sitting on pavements, with kids holding water bins running after visitors coming to cemetery to pour water on their graves to earn money. Their clothes were all covered in mud from carrying water in the dust. When this guy in front of me gave one kid a cucumber, as he did not have any money, all the other kids had besieged him; for a tiny little cucumber. I was so ashamed of myself. We then strolled inside the cemetery. What a horrible crowd it was. In a huge cemetery with graves lying nose to tail, we were searching for the tiny piece of land reserved for my grandfather. We were searching for the piece of land prepared for the body of a man who had to flee his country. No gravestone was like another; one was dating back to hundred years while others a few years. It was almost the history of the region that was lying down there in that cemetery that resembled the Armageddon of the east. I asked about the anonymous gravestones to the officer who accompanied us. They were belonging to refugees from Northern Iraq. Following the Iraq-Iran war, when Saddam totally flouted human dignity by taking revenge against the Kurds in Northern Iraq and ruthlessly attacked them with chemical weapons, some of them crossed the border and took refuge in Turkey. Empty marbles with no names, no dates… Their nameless and dateless gravestones were a small picture of the pains suffered in the region. Refugees… They were the leading victims of the war. I could never really understand the pain of being a refugee, the melancholy of leaving home, country and loved ones behind and the never ending yearning of them – but even being just a witness was painful enough. After having seen all those nameless gravestones, I remember having thanked God for having my grandfather’s stone here with his name on it. As I was thinking all these, my mom never spoke. She was as if she had no power to even wipe her tears. You could tell that she was in a lot of pain. When I saw her tears, mines used to start dripping on my cheek. Hardly enough, we finally managed to locate the piece of land prepared for him. Officers took out the innocent body inside that white cerement, slowly landing him down inside the previously dug grave. I glanced at my mom at that instant, her lips were trembling. Her cheek, almost all her face was wet with tears. Not just her lips, her whole body, her heart was shaking like her lips.”
Thinking that Rimah must have landed, Ahmet got out of the car as he told his mom he’ll be back. Her seat belt was fastened and door was closed. There was nothing to worry about as he was going to pick up Rimah and get back in five minutes. He arrived at the arrival gate. Just like he did for years, he was waiting at the gate of the international arrivals. But he was more impatient than ever this time. There was no one other then Rimah to share his sadness in this situation. Yet, as she was getting late, he was starting to worry about leaving her mom in the car. A little while later, he started thinking whether he should go back and wait for Rimah to call. But she must be just about here. Now he was looking with more attention at those entering from the gate, anticipating for her to arrive. His concern was growing as he was now starting to think that he made a mistake leaving her mom alone in the car, and just at that instant Rimah appeared at the door. She smiled innocently when she saw Ahmet, yet it still had a small dose of sorrow. She came to Ahmet with quick steps. After a brief moment of embrace putting off the hugging for later, Ahmet grabbed her baggage and started marching through the exit door. She asked why he was rushing. He shortly explained that her mom was waiting in the car, and that he was worried as her consciousness might not have been fully in place. She got worried too. Fortunately, the car was parked very near. Ahmet relaxed when he saw the car and her mother in the front seat looking out the window. Rimah was approaching the front seat as he quickly put the baggage in the boot. Just as he was going next to them while hugging each other, suddenly his mother turned to Ahmet saying, “Son, who is this girl?”