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from the October 2008 issue

The Hidden Me

Here is the photograph.

It was taken on the day my father came out of the Diyarbakır Prison. A huge convoy of hundreds was already at the Kızıltepe entrance and cut off my father's path. As before he was lifted high up on their shoulders, accompanied by drums and zurnas. We entered Mardin in a great procession. While he was in prison my mother and I came and went daily to and from Diyarbakır. Going along that road every day in the frightful heat of summer was torture.

I am in the midst of his welcomers wearing my short trousers, my bow tie, and my safari hat, and stand out in the crowd like a child-tourist, a foreigner. Evidently all my clothes were from Ankara. In another photograph I hold my father's hand. My father in his white linen suit wears a light hat woven of fine straw. His head is shaved. It is very very hot.

Then we come home. My father's entourage is surrounded by a gang of journalists who overflow into the big salon overlooking the street; cameras flash, questions are asked, they wait for my father to make a speech. Everyone knows that when he was charged with activating the "Mardin-events," he was at home in bed, suffering from severe pain in his kidneys and couldn't even get to his feet. As a matter of fact, I also remember that on that day he was too ill and exhausted to accompany us to Deyrülzefaran where we were going to celebrate a Syrian festival. Afterward soldiers on horseback came and took him away from our home by force. I have never forgotten that. I've never forgotten how the barbarous boots of injustice strode through our home and trampled it and my childhood underfoot!

Months later my father was released. I am overjoyed to be reunited with him and to see the crowd of journalists. I want to stand beside him always, to be by him as cameras flash, to appear with him in photographs. Later of course I am removed from there too. My father's friends and companions are ushered out: we are all sent away, leaving him to face questions and journalists. I retire with the same sense of hurt. In the photograph the glass door by my father's armchair is the door of my room. Beyond the door that opens into the salon there's another door, into my mother's bedroom quarters. I wander in from behind and come through the other door of my room to behind the glass door in the photograph. No, I'm not so shameless as to show myself there. I'm intelligent enough to know that would be crude, and too proud to stoop to such an act. I know it's my father, not I, who is in demand. On the other hand, I can't seem to reconcile myself at all to this defeat, I want to do something to make my existence felt. Finally I tear a sheet of white paper from my school notebook to represent "me," and hang it on the glass door, baffling all the journalists. They photographed it.

In every photograph that empty sheet of white paper appears in the glass door by my father. The Hidden Me.

I am there. Beside my father.

In my gesture of withdrawal as I shield myself behind a sheet of paper, it is surely possible to find a metaphor for my future life.

Perhaps for years I've been writing on that empty white page, in order to be visible . . .

After every finished piece of writing I become an empty white page again; I increase what I have to say about the connections between "me" and the "me's" in the work; I haven't finished with them yet in this book, I've multiplied them for future books and articles, life is very rich, people very surprising; and here I describe the "me" of a life which is not yet closed.

I've been searching for myself on that page for many years. Since that empty sheet of white paper was hung on the glass door, on how many pages have I appeared and disappeared?

By arrangement with Murathan Mungan. Translation copyright 2008 by Ruth Christie. All rights reserved.

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