A Play by Selim Tezel

HAYAT

Characters:
Ahmet A man in his mid forties
Semiha A woman in her early forties
Manolya A young girl about 16 years old
Talat Baba A man in his sixties

Location:
Istanbul, Turkey
Scene 1: A teashop in the outskirts of Istanbul overlooking the Bosphorus Strait
Scene 2: Semiha and Manolya's apartment

Photo:Ara Guler "Halicte mavnalar ve kuslar"/"Barges and birds on the Golden Horn"

HAYAT
Scene 1:
(At a simple tea house overlooking the Bosphorus Strait from the European side of Istanbul. A table by a large window...)

Semiha
Ahmet...

Ahmet
Semiha... Dear Semiha...

Semiha
Oooh

(They hug, they behold each other and look at each other in silence for a long time...)

Ahmet
I am so sorry...

Semiha
I thought you were not coming...

Ahmet
Would I? Would I miss seeing my best friend in all of Istanbul?

Semiha
All of Istanbul?

Ahmet
OK in all of...Europe?

Semiha
Europe?

Ahmet
Okey all of the... Northern Hemisphere?

Semiha
I forgot your excellency were in Australia recently...You must have made so new friends there...You have become a man of the world, Prof. Ahmet Velioglu.

Ahmet
Silly... You haven't changed much did you...

Semiha
So what happened? Everything allright...?

Ahmet
Yes, as I was leaving Grace called. Nothing important. Just wanted to ask about something about a letter from her school. And then, of course I underestimated Istanbul traffic. It is getting worse you know, it took me an hour to get here from Aksaray.

Semiha
Grace... How is your lovely daughter? ...and dear Paul?

Ahmet
They are fine. Things are getting better...As close to normal as they can be...

Semiha
How old are they now?

Ahmet
Ten and eight... How is Manolya?

Semiha
Same as always, you know, the teenage years nothing unusual for her age... She will be finishing high school next year you know...

Ahmet
My God! Already? Time surely does fly...

Semiha
Yes... it does...

Ahmet
I would like to see her before I leave...

Semiha
She will be home tonight. If you can be the gentleman that you are and drop me home may be we could go and say her "hi".

Ahmet
I would love that...

Semiha
I am sure she will too. She was asking about you the other day..."Ma, when is Uncle Ahmet coming from America again.."

(Talat Baba enter)

Talat Baba
Selamun Aleykum young friends, what can I get you today...

Ahmet
Aleykum Selam Baba,... (To Semiha) Large pot of Island Tea as usual?

Semiha nods

Ahmet
Large Pot of Island Tea please, and glass tea cups...

Talat Baba
Anything else? We got gozleme (a type of Turkish dough), cheese toast,...

Ahmet
Semiha?

Semiha
I can take a cheese toast...

Ahmet
One cheese toast. That's all thank you...

Talat Baba
Welcome, very welcome...

Ahmet
Baba, where is Uncle Bilal...?

Talat Baba
You knew Bilal Emmi? We lost him last October. He was my wife's brother. Allah be merciful to him. He was a good man. I am covering for the Tea shop until they sell the place...

Ahmet
I am sorry to hear that, Baba.

Talat Baba
Thank you son, what can you do? Kismet was such...

(He leaves)

Ahmet
Uncle Bilal died...I can't believe it...

Semiha
I had heard it but I didn't know they were planning to sell the place...Where are we going to meet?

Ahmet
What?

Semiha
Our annual get together! If they will close this place down, where will we meet when your excellency comes to Istanbul...

Ahmet
Stop it you are being silly again... The man died and all you are thinking is where we will meet...

Semiha
....I am sorry I guess I was being silly...

(They sit silently for a while)

Semiha
Do you realize for the past fifteen years, whenever you came to Istanbul, we met here...

Ahmet
Huh, you are right...(Lost in thought)

Semiha
What are you thinking?

Ahmet
Trying to remember when we first came to this place...

Semiha
My science tutor in high school used to live two streets up. Remember? Madame Ceni...

Ahmet
Oh yes, I remember, One afternoon I picked you from her place and you were so depressed about a test or something...

Semiha
Yep, you brought me here and we talked...

Ahmet
Yes...

Semiha
And you cheered me up...


Ahmet
Huh! You had this horrible, horrible "Sunday Syndrome". You just could not bear the idea that the weekend is almost over and a week of work is ahead...

Semiha
Believe or not I still have it...

Ahmet
Are you serious?

Semiha
Yep, and I could use some cheering up you know...

(They laugh...)

Ahmet
I guess certain things never change...

Semiha
Why should they?

Ahmet
I don't know, when you are young you imagine your life ahead very different, you imagine you will think and feel differently for just about anything...

Semiha
Do you think you changed?

Ahmet
I don't know, I can't really tell. I think I forgot how I used to be...

Semiha
I think I regressed in many ways....

Ahmet
Get away you silly...

Semiha
No I have....

(Talat Baba enter)

Talat Baba
Here we go, young friends, your pot of tea, glass cups and your toast...

Ahmet
Thank you, Baba.

Talat Baba
Anything else just call me...

Ahmet
Certainly, ....

(Talat Baba exits)

Ahmet
(Passing the toast) You want to serve the tea or should I?

Semiha
You do it. My liberated Turkish American male friend. It is nice to be served once in a while...

Ahmet
I sense a tiny dose of sarcasm....

Semiha
I am tired Ahmet, I am tired of everything...

Ahmet
Hey hey slow down what's going on?

Semiha
Ahmet can we talk? I mean like we used to. Not like the "adults" we have become but as we used to... We see each other once a year and I am sick and tired of the ...the masks, the masks we have started to put on....

Ahmet
I have no masks Semiha, you know that...Not with you anyway...

Semiha
I don't know. All I know is that I can't talk to you as I used to...

Ahmet
Try... You know I will listen... What's up? What do you want to talk about...

Semiha
This divorce has been very hard on me Ahmet. Me and Manolya are still recovering...

Ahmet
I bet...

Semiha
I mean, I just can't get over it. I saw him the other day walking on Istiklal Aveneu with that woman. I thought I was going to die, right there. I wanted it to end there so badly. No more. No more pain, no more responsibilities...If it wasn't for Manolya...

Ahmet
Sh, ssh, be easy on your self...

Semiha
I wanted, ...I wanted to ... kill... them both, Ahmet. So badly...Can you believe it...Is this how people become killers? What is happening to me... What am I becoming....

Ahmet
Baby, sh, ssh, sshh.... It is very normal to feel this way...

Semiha
I don't know, may be I shouldn't have... We see each other once a year, we should...

Ahmet
There is no "we should"...

Semiha
Why didn't you respond to my letter?

Ahmet
What letter?

Semiha
The letter I sent you two months ago...

Ahmet
Where did you send it?

Semiha
I don't know, to that Philadelphia address you gave me...

Ahmet
To 75 Elmers Avenue? We moved the office from there. I gave you the new address...

Semiha
May be you did, I don't know...

Ahmet
Post office has a forwarding address I don't know what happened. What did you write?

Semiha
Doesn't matter now.

Ahmet
Of course it does. What did you write?

Semiha
I was going insane Ahmet. I wanted you to help me, guide me out of this, this horrible mess.

Ahmet
I wish you just called...

Semiha
You know me, I can't think on the phone...When I write it helps me put things in order. That is, normally. It probably was one horrible letter. Actually I am glad it never reached you...

Ahmet
I will look into it when I get back...

Semiha
Don't. Let it be. Call it the "Will of Allah"

Ahmet
The "Will of Allah"... ? My, my... You did get yourself down didn't you. The "Will of Allah". You never used to say such things...

Semiha
I am getting old and superstitious....

Ahmet
Oy oy oy...Self pity at its worst...

Semiha
Ahmet, how did you do it?

Ahmet
Do what?

Semiha
When Emma died, how did you deal with it? How did you put yourself together?

Ahmet
Did I? I am not sure I did.

Semiha
Sure you did. Just look at you. You look great. Your life goes on. You go to conferences, travel to places, meet people. You haven't turned into a misanthrope. Like me.

Ahmet
Don't be deceived by appearances.

Semiha
Did you love her...?

Ahmet
Of course I did! What are you...

Semiha
If you loved her, how come you didn't, I don't know...didn't contemplate suicide or something...

Ahmet
How do you know I didn't?

Semiha
Did you?

Ahmet
Is this what's on your mind baby? Have you ...

(Semiha starts crying quietly. Embarrassed by feeling so weak...)

Ahmet
It is normal Semiha. It is very normal the way you are feeling now...

Semiha
God damn it Ahmet. Normal. everything is always so normal for you... I could kill myself tomorrow or someone else and you will say it was "normal"

Ahmet
Neither will you kill yourself or anyone else for that matter...

Semiha
You seem to know me more than I know myself...


Ahmet
For the sake of Manolya if not for anything else, you will come out of this whole thing in one piece. I know you...

Semiha
(Silent for a moment)
You think so?.....
It is nice to hear someone who trusts you,...more than you trust yourself...

Ahmet
I know you Semiha. You have been through worse. Remember when your father died, how hard it was for a while. But you are strong. You have been through worse...

Semiha
I had you by my side then, now I can hardly get you a letter...

Ahmet
Try the phone next time...

Semiha
Stop making fun of me...

(He hugs her...)

Semiha
Oh, Ahmet. I miss you so much... I miss our friendship, our talks, everything about you I miss...

Ahmet
Me too baby, me too. I will do a better job of keeping an eye on you I promise... It is just that life has not been very kind on our side of the world either...

Semiha
Huh...(Becomes thoughtful)

Ahmet
Drink your tea it has become cold I bet... (Empties the glass and puts some more from the pot) Here take this...

Semiha
Look at that ship...(points towards a ship sailing by the strait)

Ahmet
Pretty huh?

(Silence)

Semiha
I wonder where is it going?

Ahmet
Through the Aegean to the big seas... I just remembered the game we used to play...

Semiha
I never stopped playing, you know... We play it Manolya all the time...

Ahmet
Are you serious?

Semiha
Yes. She is better than I think we ever were. Kids have such imagination nowadays. (suddenly becoming cheerful) Listen to this. You will never believe how much she grew. Here we are at a coffee shop in Bebek. I took her after her piano lesson, so we can spend some "quality time" you know. Me and her. "Divorced mom" and her...

Ahmet
Semiha...Please...

Semiha
Ooops no self pity, I forgot. We are sitting, sipping our coffee and watching the ships go by... I choose one of those yachts as usual and she chooses this huge tanker. I tell my story about the yacht, the people in it, where they might be going and what might happen to them when they get there. I don't remember the details but I feel pretty confident that I gave a nice little story. Then she starts and tells this story:
(remembering Manolya as if in a trance)
The name of my ship is "Hayat". (means "Life" in Turkish) It carries multitudes of travellers. They all have their own ideas about where the ship is going and what they will do when they get there.

Only one of the passengers, a gypsy girl, is different. Her name is "Moonlight" she doesn't have anyone. No mother, no father, no one to love her. She is there just for the ride. She has no hopes or ideas about where they are going. She doesn't understand things any more than the others but she is there enjoying the wind on her hair, the sunsets and sunrises in open sea, waves of the ocean, sounds of the seagulls, company of the children on the ship...while everyone else is busily counting days remaining till destination.

The ship never makes it to the promised land. All aboard drown at high seas when a storm hits the ship. Only Moonlight smiles upon the face of the sea, as the sea takes her in.

(Seeing Ahmet in thought)

Semiha
What are you thinking? Should I take her to a shrink? Say something...

Ahmet
No, no I was just thinking,... quite a little story... So sad...

Semiha
God I was worried about this...You think she is depressed?

Ahmet
I think children have a way of seeing through the heart of things that we as we grew older have learned to unsee.

Semiha
Manolya, my baby...

Ahmet
She is a strong and intelligent girl Semiha. You will both come out of these hard days OK. Trust me.

Semiha
Excuse me one minute...

Ahmet
What's up...?

Semiha
I want to call my baby. Make sure she is fine, may be tell that you may drop by tonight...

Ahmet
Want to use my phone? Use this...

Semiha
Sure? Thank you...

(Stands up....Dials number)

Semiha
Honey? How are you? That's good. What are you doing? You are hungry already? There is some soup on the stove, baby. Don't forget to turn it off when you are done...OK love? Huh, huh...
Honey guess who is here with me? Uncle Ahmet. Back from America. No only for a few days visiting family. I told him about your story about the ship. He liked it very much honey. Yes, he did... Sure baby...(To Ahmet) She wants to talk to you...

Ahmet
Manolya! How are you darling... ? For a few days. Can I come? You mean tonight? If you invite me, may be...Sure thing. Tonight when I drop mommy I will come by to say hi. Ok sweetheart, want mom back...?

(Semiha takes the phone)

Semiha
Bye honey, see you in a while... you need what...?.... I will see what I can do I am not sure if anything is open this late around here. Bye baby finish your work so you can sit with us when uncle Ahmet comes...No honey the children are not with him. Bye now...

Ahmet
She sounds like a young woman. It is amazing what one year can do...

Semiha
Huh...(lost in thought again)

Ahmet
You haven't touched your toast.

Semiha
I am not hungry...

Hayat
Scene 2

(Semiha and Ahmet arive at Semiha's apartment. It is a modest apartment, small and indistinguished. Ahmet feels deep sadness as he enters remembering the wealthy Sarikoy mansion Semiha used to live in as a young girl while her father was alive)

Semiha
Please come in...

Ahmet
Huh Thank you... Let me take my shoes off...

Semiha
Don't worry about it, the house is a bit messy anyway...Also I don't think we have slippers for your size...

Ahmet
It's OK
(As is customary Ahmet takes off his shoes and leaves them by the door..)

Semiha
Manolya, sweetheart, we are home, look who is here...

(She goes around the house...calling several times)

Semiha
Manolya, sweetie we are home...

Ahmet
Is everything alright?

Semiha
My baby is gone...

Ahmet
May be visiting a neighbor or a friend...?

Semiha
I don't know, may be...She knew we would be coming. Plus she has this huge geography test on Tuesday she should be studying...

Ahmet
Geography tests, God how much I used to hate them...


Semiha
She left the stove on...

(Ahmet finds a note on the living room table)

Ahmet
She left you a note...Apparently her father called...(passes the note to Semiha)

Semiha
(reading the note becomes somewhat agitated)
I don't like it when he just calls in like that, I don't want him just calling like that whenever he wants...

Ahmet
He is her father Semiha. At least we know where she is...

Semiha
I mean the man calls and she just runs to see him...?

Ahmet
She must have missed him Semiha, try to understand...

Semiha
I,..I...(sits down frustrated) The stove, she left the stove on. The house could have burned down, neighbors and everything,...where is her common sense...?

Ahmet
But it didn't baby...She will be back soon, you will tell her...

Semiha
(nearly in tears) I can hardly get her to clean her room, or to help me with simple things like shopping,...the other day I had all these bags from Migros I had been carrying, I ask her, to help,...lady Manolya doesn't... even bother... and he calls and she flies...(now in tears) It is not fair.....

Ahmet
Sweetie please don't make things worse than they have to be. Also I hate to say this but where is your hospitality you haven't even asked me if I want Turkish coffee or not, or offered me sweets...

Semiha
(coming to herself...somewhat surprised) Huh? God! Shame on me. I see you today, and I ...(surprised at her discovery) I regressed. I haven't had you for so long that, my God I have been bombarding you with stuff...

Ahmet
I will have it with no sugar...

Semiha
What...?

Ahmet
My coffee with no sugar...

Semiha
Oh yes, yes of course...

Ahmet
Thank you...

Semiha
Sure, sure...
(she goes into the kitchen, at one point we hear her say to herself "you left the stove on, you silly little devil...")

(In the following moments we see Ahmet going through the living room, occassionally picking stuff up from the floor, like a sweater or some newspaper and tidying things a bit. Great sadness overcomes him as he picks up a somewhat torn slipper of Semiha. He nearly cries at this sight as he remembers Semiha in her girlhood at the Sarikoy mansion attended by servants. Ahmet had no idea until now the extent of financial hardship Semiha and Manolya could be in...He sits on the coach lost in thought.)

Semiha
Here you go your excellency...

Ahmet
Huh?

Semiha
Your coffee with no sugar...

Ahmet
Oh thank you, smells wonderful...

Semiha
What are you doing with my slipper?

Ahmet
(Just noticing that he still had it, somewhat embarrassed ...) I was, I...just trying to tidy up a bit...

Semiha
It's a mess isn't it...

Ahmet
No not really. Couldn't find the other slipper

Semiha
Must be under the coach don't worry about it. Monday the cleaning lady is coming to help, we will put things right.

Ahmet
You are not drinking anything...?

Semiha
Put myself some tea, must be ready now, excuse me for a second...

(Goes to kitchen and comes right back with a small glass of tea)

Ahmet
(taking a sip) Hmmm, delicious. You can't even imagine how much I miss this coffee back in America...

Semiha
I think I can (lost in thought, comes back and smiles) What else do you miss there? Must be so hard to live so far...

Ahmet
I think I am doing a better job nowadays, it used to be so painful when I first went there as a student...

Semiha
I bet, we never talked about. May be I never asked but... we lost touch Ahmet...

Ahmet
...

Semiha
Ahmet...

Ahmet
Yes?

Semiha
I am going to see a shrink this Wednesday...


Ahmet
... Might be a ...

Semiha
Do you remember I was telling you about feeling ... suicidal and all that at the tea house. I think I am in a serious depression Ahmet. I have been so for quite sometime now. But I have been holding on tight. Responsibilities, Manolya,...I came to a breaking point. I can feel it. My friend Neslihan, did you ever meet her? She knows this shrink in Emirgan, we will go on Wednesday...

(Starts to rain, Semiha runs to close some windows...)

Semiha
I hope my baby is in doors. I wonder if she was smart enough to take an umbrella (seeing the umbrella in the rack) Of course not...My silly pudding... What do you think? Say something...

Ahmet
About the umbrella situation, or...

Semiha
No! About the shrink... You think it is a good idea?

Ahmet
Of course. I think it is very wise. You have gone through a lot Semiha, some help, I am sure will make your life easier...

Semiha
Do you think I am going crazy?

Ahmet
What? Where do you come up with these things?

Semiha
This is no America. You know how people look at you when you go to a shrink...

Ahmet
No one has to know...Besides times have changed, Psychiatrist are well respected in Turkey, I watched on TV a debate between two famous Turkish psy...

Semiha
Remember what dad used to say about crazy people...


Ahmet
...I don't think we have to consult your father's opinions on these matters Semiha. His was another generation, with their own assumptions, understandings. It was another time, another world.

Semiha
Did you ever know why father was so opinionated about crazy people?

Ahmet
No not really, I had my ideas but...

Semiha
You think he was extreme...?

Ahmet
To ...to say the least. Allah rahmet eylesin ("may he rest in peace" in Turkish) I think we should let bygones be bygones Semiha...

Semiha
His sister Hatice, whom I never knew, killed herself in her youth...

Ahmet
God what are you saying...

Semiha
It was a family secret, I learned it only when I was a teenager. Of course we kept it to ourselves...

Ahmet
Lord, I am so sorry...But please don't confuse the matters...

Semiha
You think it runs in the family...?

Ahmet
Semiha come to your senses you silly thing. You went through a divorce, for God's sake. You have to run a family all by yourself. Your daughter is a teenager, I am sure she is no easy candy...You are under enormous stress. Do you understand.... These things happen... Comes with the modern life...

(Sympathy breaks Semiha apart she cries a little Ahmet is there beside her,)

Ahmet
I know you, you silly thing (passing her a napkin to wipe her nose) you are strong stuff. You have gone through so much, you will go through this one too.

Semiha
You think so?

Ahmet
Yes, yes I do.

Semiha
You don't sound so convincing...

Ahmet
It is just that I remembered...

Semiha
Remembered what? Tell me...

Ahmet
(Obviously teasing her to make her smile) Your "Sunday Syndromes". I don't know if....

Semiha
(picks up a coach pillow and hits Ahmet on the head with it) You, you...

(Ahmet hugs her tight. They stay that way for a long time, neither letting go. Then Ahmet kisses her on her tear wet cheek. Outside thunder roars).

Semiha
What was that?

Ahmet
Thunder.

Semiha
Sounded like a bomb.

Ahmet
It was thunder baby.

Semiha
Manolya is still out.

Ahmet
I am sure she will be fine. Probably her father is driving her home now.

Semiha
I sure hope so, least he can do. I missed my baby...

(They sit quietly side by side for a while neither speaking, nor feeling the need to say anything. Something is perfect about the moment)

Semiha
What time is it?

Ahmet
Almost ten.

Semiha
Do you want anything? Can I get some more coffee may be?

Ahmet
No, no. Just stay with me like this a bit longer.

(Surprised and glad to be wanted, becomes thoughtful)

Semiha
You know I just realized I never let you finish when you are about to say something about yourself. I asked you a question about yourself and then without listening I kept talking and talking...

Ahmet
It is OK you have too much on your mind...

Semiha
That means you noticed...

Ahmet
Really forget it...

Semiha
But (taking Ahmet's arm on her shoulder) I do want to hear...

Ahmet
What do you want to hear...?

Semiha
Like the time you were saying when you lost your wife, and ...

Ahmet
Please let's talk about things that will cheer us up...

Semiha
But if I hear, may be I will understand better. You know how it is OK to suffer like this at times. And that one comes out of it, and don't you think...

Ahmet
I am not sure if I can offer you any heroic stories. It was hard Semiha. Harder than anything that can be shared. May be some other time...

Semiha
OK...Whenever you want. I want to hear you tell me something. Share something with me something that will bind us again together. You know like Kankas ("blood sibling" a Turkish custom among children where they pierce their fingers to bleed and merge to become "siblings" with their closest friends ) I promise to keep my mouth shut...

(Semiha rests her head on Ahmet's shoulder. They stay like that for awhile listening to the rain beating the window.....)

Semiha
Yagmur yagiyor, seller akiyor, Arap kizi camdan bakiyor...
(a children's rain song :"it is raining, floods are pouring, Arabian girl is watching from the window")

(Silence...)
Ahmet
Huh...

Semiha
What?

Ahmet
You know what I remembered?

Semiha
What?

Ahmet
Oh God we must have been in elementary school. Your parents had gone out and we were at your house with your nanny what was her name...

Semiha
Madame Rita...

Ahmet
It was late, Madame Rita had retired and I remember it had started raining like this. You were glued to the window, watching every car passing by with their lights if it was mom and dad. You were so worried. Tearful little thing. Hands on the window, asking "when are they going to come back?"


Semiha
Not much has changed, has it...

Ahmet
...

Semiha
Then it was mom and dad, now I am waiting for my baby...

(Ahmet thinks then she was afraid that mom and dad would never come back home and now she fears of losing Manolya. He is full of understanding but doesn't say her a word . Semiha sighs)

Semiha
I guess I am just a big worrier...

Ahmet
But that is not why I remembered this...Do you remember how we sat by the window late that night, singing this song and watching rain drops...

Semiha
There is something about this song that makes me calm...

Ahmet
Huh...

Semiha
Something about the Arabian girl...You ever thought about her...?

Ahmet
What?

Semiha
The Arabian girl in the song...

Ahmet
Never even occurred to me...

Semiha
Something is very soothing about that image. It is raining and pouring and this little Arabian girl is watching the rain by her window.

Ahmet
Who is she?

Semiha
I don't know...I don't think it rains in Arabia...

Ahmet
You think she was brought here...?

Semiha
May be you know like a slave in the old times or a household helper...

Ahmet
And she is watching the rain...

Semiha
By herself,...mesmerized at the sight, at peace, she finds quiet and comfort in the rain...

Ahmet
Even though she has never seen it...

Semiha
It reminds her of something...

Ahmet
...

Semiha
Reminds her that she too was once loved...Reminds her of her mommy's singing may be. Like a humming lulaby...

Ahmet
...(looks at her)

Semiha
Ahmet

Ahmet
...yes, sweetie...

Semiha
I always loved you

Ahmet
...I know baby

(He doesn't say anything else but she knows his love for her and feels whole)


Ahmet
Yagmur yagiyor, seller akiyor, Semiha camdan bakiyor...

Semiha
Silly pudding, I am not an Arabian girl...

Ahmet
How would you know?

Semiha
How would I know? How would you know, you, you...

(He kisses her. Very briefly and lets go. She smiles eyes closed..)

Semiha
I want more...

Ahmet
That's all for today. Let's ...before Manolya walks in and finds us like this like couple of teenagers... I am sure she has already enough on her mind...

Semiha
You are no sport all I wanted was another kiss...

(Ahmet kisses her)

Semiha
On the lips you silly

(Ahmet kisses her, one last passionate kiss)

Semiha
Thank you...

Ahmet
You,...you are very welcome...

Semiha
Silly...love...(hugs him)

Ahmet
Oh oh...I hear the key tur...

Semiha
Must be Manolya, thank God...

(Manolya enters totally wet, agitated and angry. She runs straight to her room.)

Semiha
Manolya, darling...

(Manolya bangs shut her bedroom door)

Semiha
Sweetheart are you OK...?

Manolya
I want to be alone for a while ma,

Semiha
Sweetie please open the door honey, let me in...for a second?

Manolya
(at the top of her voice) I told you to leave me alone...Do you understand....you..(we hear her crying)

Semiha
Darling, uncle Ahmet is here. He came to say hi but couldn't find you. If you could just let me in for a second may be we can avoid further embarresment...

(Ahmet waves to say not to worry. We hear Manolya unlock her door)

Semiha
(to Ahmet) Please excuse me for a second...

Ahmet
Be easy on her, please... Obviously she is in a lot of pain...I am family tell her she doesn't need to be embarrassed for me...

(Semiha disappears to Manolya's room. We hear occasional sobbing and at one point we hear Manolya yell at top of her voice "she was there can you believe it he brought. her....". Ahmet wanders around not really knowing what to do...Tries to tidy the room a bit then gives up sitting on the coach looking at the ceiling. Notices two flies making geometric turns....)

(After sometime Semiha comes out...)

Semiha
She will come out to see you but she is too embarrassed about her behavior. She apologizes...

Ahmet
No need, I am family...I understand. Totally...

Semiha
Manolya darling Uncle Ahmet would like to see you...

(we see Manolya, her beautiful face all red, lovely eyes still somewhat tearful and swollen, come out of her room with hesitant steps. She and mom clumsily tried to dry her hair and put some dry clothes. Still too shy to face Ahmet yet but obviously delighted that he is there)

Ahmet
Manolya baby...

Manolya
(runs and hugs him) Uncle Ahmet...I, I am so sorry I ...

Ahmet
Baby no need to apologize I know how hard it is ...It's OK you don't have to worry about it...

Manolya
Thanks (sniffing her nose) So good to see you...

Ahmet
Let me look at you...My God...How much you grew? I can't believe it...You are a young lady now...

Semiha
A young lady with a dripping nose...(passes her a tissue paper)

Manolya
How is Grace and Paul? We missed you all...

Ahmet
They are fine, we all missed you too...

Manolya
I am so sorry about Aunt Emma...I meant to write but couldn't find the words to say,...(almost starts crying again)

Ahmet
Don't worry love I know, I know... (trying to change the subject) Mommy tells me you will be finishing high school next year....and that you are a very good student

(Manolya smiles somewhat embarrassed to be appreciated)

Semiha
I will make some tea, anyone else wants a drink, Ahmet another coffee? Manolya sweetheart?

Ahmet
A glass of tea actually will be great...

Manolya
Me too mommy, with lemon...

Semiha
OK I will be right back, in the mean time...

(Loud thunder and lights go off -an all too common phenomenon in Turkey)

Semiha
Oh shoot

Manolya
God!

Semiha
Welcome back to Turkey!

(Lights his lighter)

Ahmet
I forgot about this...

Semiha
I got candles here under the drawer. Manolya darling can you get me that....

(Some hustling around with the lighter but soon they all sit quietly in a living room lit by candles...)

Ahmet
I can't believe I am saying this but I missed sitting under candle fire like this...

Manolya
My geography test... How am I going to study for it...

Semiha
May be the teacher will postpone it. Looks most of Istanbul is out tonight...


Manolya
Oh, you don't know her. She didn't want to postpone a test we had last fall, and it was two days after the second quake...

Ahmet
God!

Semiha
That's some geography teacher. In tune with the world... God damn it I wonder how they certify these witches to become teachers...

Ahmet
You always hated geography...

Manolya
You did?

Ahmet
May I? (looks at Semiha for approval, she smiles in hopes that an anecdote may soften the evening...) Your dear mother here was a sworn mortal enemy of the geography department when she was about your age...

Manolya
Ma?

Semiha
History department too you may add now that you have laid all my dirty clothes before my baby here...(starts playing with Manolya's hair. Manolya is happy to get the attention and to hear about mom's stories)

Ahmet
After being caught cheating in a geography exam...

Manolya
What! Cheating? Ma...!!!!

Ahmet
...and being severely disciplined by her teacher Fatma Hanim...and the school...

Manolya
You went to the discipline committee?

Semiha
I was suspended from school for three days...

Manolya
Ma? You were suspended?

Semiha
Yes sir, that witch really took it to heart....

Manolya
What happened? What did grandma and grandpa say?

Semiha
Grandpa almost had a heart attack...

Manolya
No!!!

Semiha
No, but he was very angry. I was grounded for a week...

Manolya
You never told me...

Semiha
I was embarrassed I guess. I didn't want to set a bad example to my very dear daughter. I am mommy now, I have to be more responsible...

Manolya
I would have consoled you, help you get over it....

Semiha
Huh? Look who is saying what? My darling wants to console me...(takes her head with both hands and kisses her on the head, they sit hugging each other) I am over it honey trust me. I never took the whole thing too seriously, I am afraid...May be I should have had. I had almost forgotten it until your silly Uncle here decided to bring it up to embarrass me. (She hits Ahmet with a pillow, Ahmet cleverly avoids being hit . Manolya laughs heartily at the sight)

Ahmet
Stop it you are going to knock a candle and burn down the house...

Semiha
Which reminds me...darling did you know that you left the stove on as went to daddy today...

Manolya
Oh God! The phone rang and I totally forgot...

Semiha
Nothing happened but please be more careful the next time(kisses her)

Manolya
(happy to be kissed as was expecting further chastisement) Promise ma. Won't happen again. (puts her head on mom's lap who caresses her hair) Uncle Ahmet tell us more about mom's mischief....

Semiha
Great, just great. You two found a great way to pass the night...

Manolya
Ma, please...we are always so serious. I mean lately... Uncle Ahmet makes me laugh, please let him tell some more. I promise I won't tell anyone else...

Semiha
Anyone else? If any of this stuff leaves this house, I don't know what will happen to Uncle Ahmet....

Manolya
A promise is a promise...

Semiha
OK...Go ahead Mr. Information. Let's hope that you don't embarrass me too much that I throw away a few of your secrets...

Manolya
You mean Uncle Ahmet also has some secrets like that...My God!

Ahmet
Ma is just bluffing darling,

Semiha
May be and may be not. True, more exemplary a student than myself here but for some reason the memory of someone being caught in the girls dorm after hours comes to me...

Manolya
(almost stands up) Uncle Ahmet (laughs almost rolling over) Uncle Ahmet was caught in a,...in a girls dorm? This is too much....

Semiha
After hours may I add...

Ahmet
(slightly embarrassed) I was tutoring someone...

Semiha
Sure, that beautiful Italian girl visiting from Genoa. She really needed tutoring, didn't she. Poor little thing. Our Uncle had to show her some Turkish hospitality...

(Manolya is having a laughter fit, part of it is due to letting go the sadness of the months gone by)

Ahmet
Truce! Truce!

Semiha
The whole school gossiped about you two for months...

Ahmet
I said truce! How about this, no more personal stories so that our dear Manolya is able to sustain a while longer an image of ourselves as "perfect" responsible role model adults....

Manolya
No, No I like you more like this, real and more human, more like me. I like you more when I hear these things...

Semiha
Really? I am afraid you may think otherwise tomorrow morning...

Manolya
No I won't...I promise...See it goes like this if I know you were naughty once at my age then I can like myself more, I can't explain too well. I am too tired. But I want to learn more...

Semiha
May be we will continue embarrassing ourselves some other time. Sweetie. May be it is time to go to bed for you?

Manolya
And get up early in the morning? God I hate that. You don't think lights will be back tonight?

Semiha
Doesn't look like it. I will get you up, five o'clock as usual? Hopefully lights will be back by then...

Manolya
I hate geography...

Semiha
I know what you mean...


Manolya
And I hate having to get up so early to memorize all these things...

Ahmet
We hear you...

Manolya
(obviously teasing her) Ma, can I also cheat like you...

(Semiha spanks her softly)

Semiha
Don't you dare...(To Ahmet) See what you have done,...

Manolya
Just kidding ma. Good night Uncle Ahmet. So nice to have you...(kisses him and hugs him) Goodnight mommy. My naughty little mommy...(kisses her also, and remains hugging her for quite a while)

Semiha
Bye love,...take one of the candles and don't forget to blow it off when you are in bed...

Ahmet
Good night honey...Dream well...

(Manolya goes to her room, closes her door)

Semiha
I haven't seen her this happy in along time...

Ahmet
I am glad...

Semiha
Thank you...

Ahmet
You mean you are not angry that I brought up all that stuff up...

Semiha
Of course not. That was ingenious...

Ahmet
Huh...

Semiha
And I hope you weren't too upset that I brought up the thing with the Italian beauty...

Ahmet
You devil! How in the world did you...

(Manolya enters with a blanket in her hand)

Semiha
What's up honey? What happened?

Manolya
I became...sad and frightened again. I hate my room... Can I sleep beside you while you talk. I promise you don't have to entertain me or anything. I will just sleep quietly...

Semiha
Sure, sure baby...

Ahmet
May be I should get going you two must have...

Semiha
No! You are not leaving anywhere tonight. All this rain and thunder, lights out. You will end up in a ditch. Istanbul roads are a mess.

Ahmet
I am sure I will be OK

Manolya
Uncle Ahmet please stay. I think mom is trying stay we both need you with us tonight...

Ahmet
Oh!

Semiha
God I guess she is right! I really need you with us tonight.

Ahmet
OK. I will stay.

Manolya
Yippee!


Semiha
Like the old days...

Ahmet
Like the old days...

Manolya
What old days...?

Semiha
Oh, Oh, little curious monkey is back... How about you bring your stuff here and lie beside me and start sleeping. You will be up for geography in a few hours I hate to remind you...

Manolya
OK.
(She curls beside mom obviously very, very happy that she won't have to spend the night alone. Semiha covers her with the blanket, kisses her and gently caresses her hair)

Manolya
Goodnight. I promise I won't eavesdrop. I am soo sleepy...(Imitates yawning and a moment later snoring...Semiha spanks her softly)

Semiha
Goodnight love,...

(Moments later Manolya falls asleep. Ahmet and Semiha talk softly late into the night....)