A Leap Off the Bosphorus Bridge
An alarm clock goes off. It sounds like the bell summoning the weary crew members of a cargo ship to dinner. But who remembers cargo ships? It’s coming from the next apartment, or perhaps from a dream. From the dream of someone sleeping in the next apartment. A breeze blows in through the open balcony door. The net curtain billows. Whatever season this may be, the cool of the morning gives it a certain freshness. As the bottom of the net curtain flutters towards the bed, the sound of the alarm clock grows louder. Without opening his eyes, Boratin reaches out and tries to turn it off. His hand gropes the bedside table. He stops. He pauses for a moment, then tries again. When he fails to locate the clock, he opens his eyes. Outside, the day is dawning. The objects in the room are hazy, silhouetted. Where is he? It doesn’t look like a hospital room. The blanket, the balcony, and the window are different. No, this isn’t a hospital. I think I’ve come home. The sky is visible from the window. There are medicine bottles at the far end of the bedside table. Although the medicine helps him sleep, it doesn’t soothe his headache. His eyes close again. His hand falls onto the pillow. As the leaves of a tree rustle somewhere close to the balcony, the coolness caresses his bare arms.
Boratin awakes when the sky is bright and the wind has abated. The net curtain is still. Outside there is a murmur that has gradually built up and intensified since it first started out in distant neighborhoods. He looks around him, trying to ascertain whether he has ever woken up here before. The room is spacious. The walls are a plain ivory color, but the maple veneer of the wardrobe opposite him is too light. A darker shade would have looked better. Who chose that wardrobe, was it me? Boratin questions his own taste. When they brought him here last night he had hoped that this unfamiliar house might trigger some memories in the light of day. The balcony door, the wardrobe, and the bedside table remind him of a hotel room where he is staying for the first time. The only familiar objects are the medicine bottles. He perches on the edge of the bed. He winces at the pain in his chest. He pulls up his undershirt and inspects his ribs. He walks over to the mirror to get a better view. One of his right ribs is broken. He touches it. He feels the burning under his skin. He was lucky, that’s what they said. Only one fracture. His body had suffered no other injuries: Memory loss doesn’t count as a bodily injury. He raises his eyes and looks at his face. The face he met a week ago. It’s that new. Hello stranger, he says. He can tell from its lip movements that the face in the mirror is answering him with the same words. Just like last night. When he came home yesterday everything was silent. He wandered through the rooms with careful footsteps, as though exploring a museum, gingerly picking his way around the ornaments and guitars. He took his medication out of the hospital bag. He drank two glasses of water. He examined his face in the mirror. He removed his shirt, trousers, and socks. He lay down, closed his eyes, and waited without moving. He counted his inhalations and exhalations. He hadn’t forgotten how to count. Forty-one, forty-two, forty-three. Then he drifted off.
At the hospital they had told him to stay calm. You’ve lost your memory, don’t be afraid, you’ll get it back eventually, they had said. First they had dealt with his rib, then they had wanted to know what could have happened to this man who was trying hard to create a whole person out of his broken rib and his blank memory. It’s strange, he had said to his doctor, you’re more interested in me than I am. It’s my job, the doctor had replied. Losing your memory may seem very daunting Boratin Bey, but your situation isn’t that bad, considering. At least we know who you are and where you live, thanks to the cards in your wallet. You may not remember, but those details are part of who you are, just like that tattoo on your back that you don’t know where or why you had done. For now you own things that you can’t explain, things that will take shape over time. Whatever your past story may be, perhaps what you wanted was to get away from some aspect of this world. You were bold enough to attempt it, and you even succeeded. You fulfilled your objective in a way you could never have imagined. By taking a leap off the Bosphorus Bridge From now on you’ll map out a
much better path. Tell me Doctor, do you dispense this much hope to all your patients along with their medication? If so I’ll tell you this: My mind, which hasn’t got a single word about myself in it, is bursting with facts about other things. The names of ancient philosophers, the colors of soccer teams, the words of the first astronaut who went to the moon. I can’t find any clues leading to myself in my cache, I can’t even remember my name. You told me that was my name, and I accepted it.
I search for a comforting sign in my reflection, an expression that will point me in the right direction. I place my ear on the face in the mirror, where its mouth was. It’s smooth. Cool. I hear the roar of a wave that got trapped here many eras ago. Dark desires. The dank odor of a cellar. I’m approaching the time I used to live in but have tumbled out of. I am about to try descending into my memory down a different ladder and lighting the blue lantern in the vault of the past, when I am startled by the sound of ringing. Is it coming from inside or outside? It sounds like the alarm on the clock that rang all night. I follow the sound out into the hallway. I walk past a gloomy painting. I spy a black and red telephone at the opposite end of the lounge. I stop and wonder what to do. The telephone falls silent before I can make up my mind. It has an old-fashioned receiver, with keys that you don’t press but dial. It sits in a holder made of decorative wrought gold metal, the kind that old people like.
The telephone starts ringing again. This time with more determination. If I answer, an unfamiliar voice will ask me how I am. It won’t feel the need to introduce itself. It will simply assume I know it. When I remain silent it will repeat its question. After a moment’s hesitation it will start speaking for me. It will talk about things we have to do. It will remind me of some get-together or meal we’re supposed to be attending. It will prattle on about life’s misfortunes. After a brief show of compassion it will start to reproach me in an aggrieved tone. It will enumerate every evil in existence, naming someone who has fallen victim to each one, and then, without giving me a chance to hang up, heap the blame for the victims’ doom on my head. Because I do not speak, it will jump from topic to topic. When the subject moves on to the good turns I have done it, the voice will soften, it will say it is thanks to me that it has been able to enjoy life’s blessings, but that it doesn’t understand how I ended up this way. I will seize the opportunity to intervene. I will say that I don’t understand how I ended up this way either. I will ask it to help me, and if it knows any secrets about me, to let me in on them right away. As I have lost my memory, I have lost the life I have led all these years too, I’m back at zero. I will plead with it for mercy, as though it were a guardian holding my past in the palm of its hand. I will select the most beseeching words. I will tell the voice on the other end of the telephone a story that has stuck in a corner of my mind. The future is as unattainable as the past. I can’t use the stars to guide me. I can feel an avalanche approaching fast, mingling into the sounds of traffic, plunging and tumbling behind towers and skyscrapers. My heart is telling me I have to hurry. I rush to draw the curtains. I pull the curtains tightly so no light will seep in through any crack. The telephone falls silent.