Eighteen Forty-Five Ferry

Dilek Türel
8 minutes

Every evening, summer and winter, without exception, a woman would come to the Bosphorus Lines Pier to meet the eighteen forty-five ferry. He had already blown his forty years and thrown away his fifty years under the watchful eye of hands. He was a shadowless wanderer in the alleys of his sixties. Her wavy hair dyed baby auburn kissed her narrow, resentful shoulders every time the wind blew; her imprinted dress, which she never took off, blossomed and shed leaves according to the season.

The shops neighboring the pier knew him. They knew him, but they hadn’t had a word with him for years. He wouldn’t let anyone near him. His shyness had a predatory darkness. It was frightening. The garden was surrounded by high stone walls. If you said hello, he wouldn’t take it, if you asked a question, he would never answer. Only the ballad of Monastir came from her lips. Without making eye contact, he would gaze out to sea and hum.

“There is a pool in the middle of the monastery
Dear pool
The girls in this dormitory, they’re all nice.
We play
The girls in this dormitory, they’re all nice.
We play…”

Senior shopkeepers made a habit of glancing at each other and laughing under their mustaches, thinking “here comes our madman”. In time, as one gets used to everything, they got used to her exceptional presence. “He can’t do any harm. Who knows what’s wrong with him, who has been watching his path for years? May God give him sanity.” Every evening, they would take compassion out of their pockets and put it in their shop windows or on their counters.

It was so unceremonious and without fanfare that the weary evening could not even hear it. Contrary to its simplicity, this ritual had an enchanted and divine light. The way she glided off the bus like a swan at the bus stop across the pier, the way she crossed the street with her imaginary wings spread wide, was a sight for sore eyes. There was something different about him. Majestic enough to make the seagulls of Istanbul jealous, as timid as pigeons that have not gotten used to humans, as full of hope and love as swallows that put fortune in the house where they nest.

Every evening he would take his place with the same humility and the same radiance. At the end of the greenery, in front of the plane tree, he would wait. The ferry would come and people would get off. Many loves, resentments, worries, troubles, joys, reunions would spill out with the crowd. He would look carefully at the faces of everyone who got off. As the last person left the pier, he would rise up on his toes and check to see if there were any more. It’s futile. What he expected would not come again. As the ferry anchored at the pier, his face would turn to the sunrise. The darkest, starless night, the darkest and longest night in the world, would be in his eyes. This saint, who made us think that divine beauty had fallen to earth in human form, would suddenly come between the earth and the sun. The shams would be held. The light of his existence would go out. His despair was a reminder of sin beyond measure. An eternal sin that does not belong to this earth.

Waiting is sometimes a waiting whose duration you don’t know. It is to build a dam in front of the flow of water, by shielding the chest in which you bury your heart. It is persistence, resistance. It is surrendering to rebellious beliefs that cannot face the truth. To wait is sometimes to go into labor knowing that you will give birth to a stillborn. A crumb of hope, a grain of possibility, maybe a tiny miracle. It is to put one’s feet in the shallow waters of a safe mediocrity, with one’s eyes fixed on the horizon called the future.

Rumors abounded. He was supposedly waiting for his son, who committed suicide years ago by jumping into the sea from the ferry he had boarded after school. According to another rumor, his wife went on a scouting trip to Rumelia, where their families were forced to leave after the First World War, and never returned or was heard from again. And this madman kept watching his path without giving up. Another story was that she was waiting for her fiancé, who had deceived her in her youth with the promise of marriage, and then made another marriage.

No one knew the truth. Whatever happened, whatever happened was a secret worthy of the name. The woman who came to the pier every evening, dressed in her human faculties, would disappear into the twilight and leave her body after the Bosphorus ferry had unloaded its passengers, anchored and all the doors were closed. No one would come across him until the next day.

The ordinariness of the extraordinary was disrupted when the pier was under renovation for maintenance and repair. That’s when all the strings broke. Seeing that the doors were closed and the ferry she waited for every evening did not dock, she lost the half of her mind she had left. She cried for hours, first silently and then sobbing. People in the neighborhood, shopkeepers, random passers-by just stared. Because we were inhabitants of a world where suffering was a spectator and the fire burned where it fell.

She did not go anywhere, and if she had a home to return to, she did not return there. He crouched under the plane tree in front of the pier. For days, weeks. It’s old, diminished, diluted. It’s faded from good to bad. She became an old woman. No one saw him eating the soup that was put in front of him. He crumbled the bagel he was handed to the birds and ants, but no one witnessed him putting it in his mouth. Officials from the municipality came. Neither threats nor sweet talk worked. He never moved.

Residents and shopkeepers were counting the days. Those with influence had even petitioned the higher authorities to speed up the maintenance work, which was said to be nearing completion. She had to smile, the poor woman had to come back to life. Even waiting, knowing that he would not come, obviously gave hope to this angel of the earth.

Then the renovations were over. The pier welcomed its first passengers with the morning service. But there was no movement in the old woman. The flowers of her dress had withered and dusted to dust, her wavy hair was tired and frustrated from entertaining the falling leaves. His body was like a needle and thread. It was not easy, a whole fall had passed.

He waited again for the ferry of eighteen forty-five. The whole community and the shopkeepers were watching with bated breath what would happen weeks later. First he stood up. She tidied up her dress and cardigan, and put them in order. She combed her hair by groping between her fingers. His excitement was evident on his face as he picked up his dusty shoulder bag and put it on his arm. A small smile appeared on his lips. He was exhausted, but still kept up the effort. As the ferry emptied and passengers flowed from the pier to the street, he scrutinized each of them as carefully as ever.

For the first time in years, something happened. She took her steps towards the incoming crowd. He stopped in front of a young mother and a boy aged five or six and blocked their way. She was looking them both in the eyes as she put her hand in her bag. The young mother was frightened. She immediately took her son in her arms. It was obvious that he likened her to a homeless person or a beggar. He made a move to continue walking but she wouldn’t let him. With trembling hands, she took a worn red toy car out of her bag and handed it to the boy. The little child was without judgment, he was still an angel, he recognized those from his own realm. Despite his mother’s objections and scolding, he took the red toy car without hesitation. He smiled big as a thank you.

The woman stepped aside. The young mother was in a hurry to get away from there as soon as possible. The child turned and waved from his mother’s lap. She raised her hand to wipe her tears from her tired face. Then he walked and mingled with the crowd.

I’ve been a pir, I’ve been nothing. The trustee of your secret has disappeared.

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