REPUBLIC OF TURKEY MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND TOURISM

THE BED - Yaşar KEMAL

THE BED

I remember it as if today.

I was at the third class of the secondary school, and our Durmus Ali was at the second class. Both of us were broke. In the village, he had a widow mother, and I had my widow mother. And they could just barely live on.

Durmus Ali's hope was to attend a free boarding school. He had taken an exam and was hundred percent sure of winning it. As for me I was completely hopeless. Where to go, what to do? The factory where I have been working for the last two years did not employ me this year. It has been forbidden to employ students! Why forbidden, I could not definitely understand. Up to now I had both worked and studied very well.

Penniless… I don't even have a tree hollow to lay my head! I am all alone in the midst of this large city. I don't have anybody to rely on! I'm overcome by an unbearable grief and grudge.

For a while we spent the night with Durmus Ali below the blue gums in front of the station. But then it was impossible. It couldn't go on so. Moreover the watchmen didn't give us any peace. And furthermore I had to attend school. When we went to school, wouldn't somebody steal our beds?

I had a very close friend, Yusuf. He loved me very much. He has heard from somebody that we were spending the night below the blue gums.

One day he timidly said:

"Why don't you lie down over our roof?"

We were rejoiced like crazy. We embraced with Durmus Ali and kissed each other.

Durmus Ali cried out, "Hurrahhhh…" We're in clover… One day's ease is better than nothing at all.

We knew that we could lie on the roof only till the autumn rains. And then… it is in God's hands.

We immediately took our beds from the station to his house. Yusuf's family's house was next to the bazaar consisting of only one room. We spread our beds on the roof.

No fear of watchmen, no fear of anything else. On the roof it is warm as home, home sweet home…

After all trouble, now we had a place to lie down. How lovely our lives!

Right after dinner we were going upstairs to the roof, immediately going to bed and pulling the quilts up to our heads. It was moderately cold at nights but there were enormous and bright stars in the sky. We would always look at the stars. Some nights we found the sky starry. Then we would feel unlimitedly happy. And we were rather hopeful. We used to believe that the days following the difficulties and pains would be excellent. These hopes, these dreams were mine. I would talk about them and Durmus Ali would listen to me and approve them.

I would constantly say:

"Isn't it so, Durmus?"

"Yeah brother," he would say, "mornings come after dark hours."

He had learned this expression from me.

Those nights on the cool roof under the stars; the noise of the roads that used to continue till morning; over hopes, dreams; all went on a full month, till the beginning of November.

Then… and then those troublesome, dark rains, resembling the black clothes, the pitch-black rains of Cukurova began.
When the sky got cloudy a little, we would come together with Durmus Ali at the school, sidle up to each other, and say together:

"My God! My God! Please, don't let it rain…"

But when it began drizzling, our hearts would go through hell. Durmus Ali would immediately rush out of school to home, place the beds under the eaves of the roof, and then came back in a hurry.

In rainy days, we would come home, that is under the eaves, after mid night, when it was deserted and quiet, and go to bed slowly and quietly. I felt ashamed of being seen by people when lying down under the eaves, I felt mortified. As for Durmus… he would never mind it.

Sometimes I couldn't wake up early. And when I woke, I would see that my friend's mother, other neighbors have waked up and walking around in the court. Then I would pull the quilt up to my head, contract, contract, and disappear. When I heard footsteps next to me, I would shrink, and become smaller. When the footsteps were over, I would immediately get out of bed, put on my clothes, and run away; and if I supposed anybody saw me that day when dressing up, then I would feel dizzy till evening, and wouldn't regain consciousness.

I couldn't look at the bed I was sleeping. I couldn't bear it. The bed got dirty with the mud splashed outside the eaves.

A morning when I woke up late again, just as I was putting on my clothes and going away, my eyes met with the eyes of my friend's mother. At a white-haired head, wide open, pitying eyes… Years passed by… I still feel those eyes on me… Even if I live a thousand years, those eyes will continue to look at me the same.

In the morning I said to Durmus Ali at the school:

"I will not go to that house again."

He was confused.

"What for, pal?" he asked. "Where'll you stay?"

"I cannot."

"Go on now, my pal! Where'll you sleep? Why?"

Durmus tried every way or other but couldn't succeed in taking me home. That night, and the following nights I went to the station and slept on the benches.

For a while the rains appeared to come to an end.

One day Durmus Ali came and said:

"Hey pal, I have put the beds on the roof, let's go."

I went.

A few days later, it was just before mid-afternoon that rain began to bucket down; it was falling in torrents. Durmus rushed out, but he couldn't arrive on time, the beds were sopping wet.

I used to know a hotel; I had stayed there a few days. I called hotel… A place for the wretched. Guzelyurt Hotel… hotels were so cheap in the old days… One bed for fifty pennies… However, fifty pennies!…

As we had our own beds, the receptionist consented to our staying for 10 pennies a night in the corridor.

Two room doors are opened to a narrow corridor. We spread out our beds in front of the door. And we squatted down next to the beds. No talking. We leaned our backs against the wall, standing still, and not looking at each other.
It is midnight now. Beds are spread in front of us. We are very sleepy, we are unable to keep our eyes open but we can't sleep in these beds… Our eyes at the beds; we miss… miss a comfortable bed, miss to sleep…

Somewhat dazed, somewhat sleepy…

I heard footsteps downstairs. A long time has passed since midnight. I opened my eyes, and saw two young women at the stairs. They opened the door trying not to step on the beds. One of the women, the thin, tall one came out of the room again. Looked at us in amazement then entered the room. Then she came out again. She was looking for all time. Entered. Finally, she came out again, stayed there; did not speak. Then she said to me:

"Do you have matches?"

I took it out and gave her. Her eyes popped. She lit her cigarette, then offered me one, I didn't take. And she didn't insist.

"Are these your beds?" she asked.

"Yes."

"It's too late, do sleep!…"

At the dim light of the lamb, fortunately, it was not visible that the beds were sopping wet.

I said:

"Well… We don't feel sleepy…"

She turned to Durmus Ali. He was asleep.

I prodded him. He woke up. The woman saw my prodding him.

"You would better sleep."

Durmus Ali said:

"It's we…"

I closed his mouth harshly. The woman got worried.

"Was he to say something?"

"He is tactless…"

It seems that I answered a little angrily; the woman went back to her room. I looked behind her. A slender waist stuck in my mind.

I turned Durmus Ali:

"She was beautiful," I said quietly, "how charming she was!"

The woman's laughter was heard from the room. I resented it.

"Beautiful, but they are shameless women," I said, "or else they shouldn't be in a hotel…"

Then we didn't speak any more. We felt our trouble in our hearts; if our beds were not wet, sure, we would talk about this woman with Durmus Ali, and carried away by dreams about her.

Then we fell asleep.

It was three or four o'clock in the night, I woke up with the creak of the door. I saw the woman, with a nightshirt on her, going downstairs. And a little later, she came and stood facing me… she was immodestly dressed, revealing her breasts. She was naked, almost stark naked. There is anger and sleepiness in her eyes. I again look with wide open eyes. For a while I closed my eyes with anger and did not open for a few seconds. Then I opened, she was staying the same.

I inwardly talked to myself, "why she stands so? These loathsome finks, they would always stare like this. Why in the hell she interferes us if we didn't sleep! What's to her? Punch her on the chin."

 

Durmus was staring at the glasses of salep as well.

I was unaware that I sighed. Durmus sighed too.

The sun did not rise yet but dawn was breaking in slowly. We were stooped and trembling.

Durmus Ali turned to me for a while. As if occurred to him suddenly:

"Pal," he said. "Really, why did we lie down in those wet beds?"

Yaşar KEMAL