REPUBLIC OF TURKEY MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND TOURISM

THE CINEMA WITH ICE CREAM - Oktay AKBAL

THE CINEMA WITH ICE CREAM

I know that my story will seem like a tale to today's people. But I lived in this tale. The adventures of the days of peace that are not so far at all has got lost among the foggy, complicated memories; it is as if the child with white trousers did not absentmindedly hang around the street where the cinemas are in a line facing each other under the warmth, heaviness, and the low-spiritedness of summer noons and he did not experience the excitement of a bandit film as looking at its pictures!

In my tale, there are no princes, fairies, Arabs whose upper lip reaches to the sky, wealthy palaces, flying carpets, heroes who kill dragons with a sword cut, and dreadful witches on broomsticks. I won't take the ones listening to my tale to the furthest horizons of fancy and beyond the foggy distances. Only, I will tell a real adventure that now seems unrealized and inexperienced even to its hero and that has lost in the carelessness of the years before the war.

In the moments that I gave up my hope for the people in front of the bakery in the dark nights in the long years of the war, their generosity and kindness and that I felt that my love for living was growing less, I sometimes consoled myself with the memory of the large cinema with a big balcony that had traces of old days and left a mark on the colorful world of my childhood.

This cinema was an old friend of my childhood. Its roof was seen from the windows of the second floor of our house. Especially during holidays, once a week I used to get to its glass door decorated with pictures passing the dusty road with old-fashioned houses around that links our house to the street. The people on the pictures that changed every week were my best friends. I used to accompany the seamen fighting in a cabin full of danger, get my horse over the precipices and drive the car going at the maximum speed myself. Entering the cinema, I used to settle on the single seat at the back and want to stay alone with my dreams and thoughts. Waiting for minutes, the film used to start and finish after so many fights and gunshots.

How terribly hot that summer months were! The people were walking around with their jackets in their arms and white handkerchiefs in their hands and rushing to the water shops and sherbet sellers. The street with the cinema was becoming solitary gradually, and the visitors were getting less in number. But the children of the other quarter, a few maids of the quarter fond of cinema, naughty adopted children, a few vagabond and I were going like before. The films having thirty sections were displayed for only twenty or thirty people filling the hall as usual. Watching films in an empty cinema was not so pleasing at all. The blows by the fist of Buck Jones were delivered in vain. Tarzan was killing the lions uselessly. Even in the most exciting scenes not a word was heard. In this way cinema lost its taste gradually. Watching films in a very big hall alone started to frighten me. And this was the reason for me not to go the big cinema for a few weeks.

One day I rushed to the cinema after a long separation. While entering the hall after buying my ticket, I stopped for a while. An ice cream seller put a chair inside the door and lined up the cones and the cups on the table in front of him. When he saw me, asking:" With vanilla or strawberry?" he got a cone and filled it with two spoons of ice cream, and thrusted into my hands. In confusion I was absorbed in watching the ice cream seller that I liked with his white apron and cheerful remarks. He was offering a cone of ice cream and saying comic things. The cinema was also solitary that day. Everybody was busy with licking their ice cream except a couple very close to each other at a corner. On the faces of all I saw the marks of happiness that had no reason. It was as if everything changed suddenly in the similar flow of that hot summer days. The cinema with ice cream put me in a tranquil frame of mind and made my fancies broad.

Henceforth, every week I was waiting impatiently for the film change. Every Wednesday, once I grasped the cone of ice cream with vanilla and strawberry from the hands of the fatherly man delivering joy and happiness to the people in front of the door, I used to take my seat at the hall and become lost in the flow of events on the screen and the happiness of my friends. At that time nobody was aware of the cinema with ice cream. It was hot, the sun was burning, and the people were in the carefree state of the tranquil days. Nobody felt this unique happiness except us the children of the quarter, a few vagabond, a few lazy adopted children, the giddy maid, and the students of the military school and their flirts. And most of them did not know that they lived in a tale, and they were unaware of that they would turn into tale heroes after years. At that time I did not recognize that this new feeling of happiness came from the ice cream of the fatherly man in front of the door. But in these embarrassing and long summer days, due to a reason that could not be recognized I felt that joy full of so many fancies suddenly filled inside of me.

But whatever they did, it did not work. On the contrary, the weather got hotter and hotter. Nobody passed through the cinema street and visited the quarter of love and bandit films. Still ice cream was sold, and we the children, the footloose, the vagabond, and the maids filled up the cinema. Even a few more people joined us, and the cinema that attracted the customers most along the street was our cinema with ice cream. It was seen that there were twenty or thirty people in the huge hall, and we understood that there were people in the dim of a few boxes as the fatherly ice cream seller was carrying the ice cream cups on his tray to that side. The owner of the cinema was pleased with this crowd, and from time to time he was going out and showing off to the other cinema owners, and blowing the smoke of his cigarette to that side.

However, this situation did not last long. The small cinema at the opposite discovered a more brilliant method. One day while walking along the street, I saw the people crowded around in front of the small cinema. A hawker selling sherbet was sitting beside his copper pitch and pouring sour cherry syrup into the glasses on the table, and he was shouting with his cracked voice as:" Who comes drinks, who comes drinks… Wonderful, taste it. Ice-cold, ice." Really the syrup looked so excellent in the glasses that a few of the spectators could not wait and bought upper balcony tickets and tossed down the syrup in one swing. Of course I also could not help entering that small cinema on that day and drinking the ice-cold syrup.

Thus the competition that started accelerated day by day. The ice cream started to be more plentiful, and the sherbet started to be more delicious. They were shouting, and trying to beguile the customers. We the children of the quarter, the unemployed, the vagabond, the adopted, and the maids were utterly bewildered. It was going so exciting. But as I said nobody was aware of this adventure. Everybody was in different states. They could not see this source of happiness under their very noise, before their very eyes. Only we the vagabond of the quarter lived in this exciting and unique world. Every day we used to rush to the street, and go to see the new discoveries and to hear the new witty remarks of the ice cream seller and the sherbet seller. Both were cheerful men. They used to walk around in the streets, play backgammon at a café, have a friendly chat before noon, and in the afternoon rush to their work.

How did these men like the people of the ancient tales disappear suddenly? I could not understand this somehow. The end of this unique adventure vanished among the hurry of those days. The schools were opened, and the real life drew back us from this world of poetry. It was as if with the first raindrops the ice cream seller and the sherbet seller went distant towards the unknown places being dragged by the flood. The people who did not know that a unique tale was experienced and was over started to fill the cinema. No one could know and live through this unique story that took place before the very eyes of everyone at the center of the town.

I think that only we the children of the quarter and the vagabond and the maids wearing unpleasing make-up and the adopted girls with plump breasts will remember this story. But none of them will know that the things they experienced in the tale world are not different from the princesses having very beautiful eyes, flying carpets, and the secret treasures of the ancient tales in the eyes of a child of those years wearing white trousers.

Oktay AKBAL