The Dreaming Machine

A Night in Belgrade, by Şeyma Koç

Courtesy of The Creative Process. Translated from the Turkish by: Begüm Berber with additional translation assistance by Mia Funk. Cover Art: Painting by Mia Funk, "Memory of Water"

“People think dreams aren’t real just because
they aren’t made of matter, of particles. Dreams are real.
But they are made of viewpoints, of images,
of memories and puns and lost hopes.”

I hear the slamming of a door, bolted shut, which belongs to a house with a weather-beaten chimney. On the street tinkles the sour moaning of the windows’ metal bars. Street lamps are shining in a depressive state. A seventy-two-year-old helpless loner walks past me. The bells of Saint Sava Cathedral nearby hit two o’clock. Suddenly, the drunken shadows of those who stagger behind stretch before me. And then appears, three heads following the shadows.

I stop at the corner and bend down to tie up my unlaced shoelaces. At that exact moment, I notice a flower on the brink of blooming, created to be forsaken, right next to the garbage container on the left. I fall suddenly while I quicken to approach the flower that I bowed before to salute, almost kneeling down to the ground. When I look up in haste, without knowing what I have just experienced, I find myself in a glorious depth. The leaves of an undefiled innocence are blooming next to me. My first witnessing was such! I get excited.

Its existence makes me feel that mine is also special. It is like the inciting reflection of the moon above. I wonder if this is the night-blooming cereus. Is that the flower blooming only for a night once a year and withering before the dawn? I name this flower ‘Beray’* as I am not sure of its given name. Beray!

When I attempt to stand up, taking my excitement along, I fall, betrayed again by the laces I have forgotten to tie, now even more tangled than before. Eventually, I manage to stand up. I cross a street that makes me feel like I am crossing it for the second time and notice a spark that I think I didn’t notice at first. Since I hadn’t realized anything then, it might be the first time that I am crossing this street. I cross the street with a puzzled head. I collect the stones of a broken amethyst necklace from the ground. At that moment, a morbid voice, singing, is heard from behind the far phone box. I change my direction, walking towards it. Behind me, there’s the driving force of curiosity, in my palm, the amethyst stones…

That is a woman, in a white dress on which a magnificent misery is falling down. Her eyebrows are raised to her temples and she is looking at me with her green circled eyes**. As soon as she sees me, an uncomfortable silence pervades on her pale lips. Her days-long uncombed brown hair shadows her forehead. I have never seen a woman’s face with such sorrow. She looks like a sorrowful goddess.

I have come to believe that these stones in my palm belong to that woman. ‘Maybe it is not so’ I assume, then… ‘Maybe it is so and I am feeling it unconsciously.’

I approach to her. Stretching out my palm to her, I empty my hand to hers. She stares at the amethyst stones like me. She closes her fingers then her eyes. At that moment I acknowledge that I wasn’t wrong. I assume that she will open her eyes and thank me soon. I gasp ‘No problem’.

‘No problem? ‘Really?… If it is no problem, what is the meaning of thanks? Doesn’t thinking that it bears no sort of importance mean underestimating the thing that is considered as worth thanking to?

For my relief she doesn’t thank me. I feel like saying hallelujah for that. How strange is the human heart!

I sit beside her. She looks indifferent to her situation. I murmur things but she doesn’t answer. I ask questions, I get nothing. She never speaks. I become aware that I have been talking for the past hour. She listens to me without making a comment. Maybe she is not hearing me! There is not a slight sign that proves she is listening to me. That is an unwanted probability. What if she has heard I have been talking nonsense for the past hour… That moment, I want that possibility to be real. I am not sure. I hush. It feels like I have to pass many layers to reach her.

I push all the possibilities that were taking up my mind and start to speak again. That is the only thing that has importance at this moment. I needed it, I had to talk!

She was giving me a calm satisfaction. She was! How great it was! This mystery was both scaring and seducing me. The fear I have of her is yielding into its faith of being shadowed by my curiosity. Curiosity, yes! A naughty one!

‘Where are you in your dreams, I mean in the future?’

She raises her head suddenly as if she was challenging me. I get excited after her first reaction. I feel the familiar force of hope in my heart by all means.

‘Do the dreams always have to be projected to future?’

I am amazed by how she kept quiet all through those past time. What got me excited was an impossible possibility until then, but now I want to hear her again.

‘Excuse me?’

‘Do the dreams only have to be projected to the future?’

‘I know its answer to be yes but has it changed?

‘What if you are wrong?’

‘I am wrong all the time,’ I said. She was smiling. She understood that she was dealing with a fool. She heard all that nonsense. On my trembling hands, I saw the presence of anger, waiting in ambush on a corner of my mind. She started to talk again:

‘The dreams I have, they don’t belong to the future, and they try to mend the past. Sometimes dreams are there to compensate the past.’

She looks at me on finishing her words.

‘Doesn’t it work the same for you?’

‘Is past enough to complete today?’ I asked.

Her answer was quick as always.

‘Is the future enough?’

The past and the future. I can’t quite actualize a definite boundary between those; nevertheless, I saw a passionate soul in front of me then. There was the yearning curiosity. That was adding up a new momentum to my excitement.

‘You know what had happened in the past and it bears no importance; however, the future gives you the cramps, you can’t know what you are going to encounter. You can’t! The appeal of the unknown… Is it?’ she said.

I was amazed that she looked at me and rephrased all the stuff in my head as I would have said but there was something inside me that kept me from saying yes.

‘Should I become old as someone who has a heart filled of regrets?’ I said suddenly with anger.

She didn’t answer but she smiled.

That was unacceptable and I was ready to start a fight for that.

‘I don’t mind the past and it has no importance as you said! I have erased it and shaken it off me.’

‘Someone who has the words of yours could not manage that.’

‘She can! She does! And I did.’

‘So why do you have the need to say it?’

A reason! I needed a reason at that moment, moreover, that need was inherent in me. Unfortunately, nothing that crossed my mind was enough to be a reason. Hence, I choose to be silent. She wasn’t like waiting an answer anyway. She must have known that I had no answers before she asked the question.

I pitied her. She was foundered into the past completely. Moreover, I was the reminder of the past. Now she was silent. Her silence was such that it was forcing me to be the one who breaks it.

‘Give it time,’ I said whispering. ‘Time is the remedy for everything.’

Her smile was extremely sad. She was smiling like a goddess who wants not to be worshiped but to be understood.

‘What about the time of the medication, is it now? As you know, not all medicine can be taken anytime.’

I arrive at my hotel located on one of the side streets of Knez Mihailova Avenue. My room is a floor down from the top. I close the open curtains. I scatter the sequins on the naked table and open a space for the glasses. There only remains a silver hand mirror. She is already on the sofa. I open a bottle of Jelen and pour it into the glasses. After she has her first sip, there appears on her lips a smile of unusual intensity. What is going on in her mind? Her green eyes are stuck on the stones that she was holding with fingers clenched. Those amethyst stones are nearly the symbols of the things she holds inside, those she doesn’t talk about and those she cannot express. She stands up again. She lights up her cigarette by tilting her head down to the flame of the only candle of the seven-armed candelabra which stands on the night table. The bathroom’s door is wide open and the smoke floats towards there. Drops fall from the tap in sequence with the clock hanged on the wall.

I get a sense of déja vu. A dining table lit by a candle standing on a candelabrum decorated with purple beads, burning as if it had been dominating that night. Two drinking glasses clink. Then a hand finds its place under another by sliding towards it. I get excited! I become united with those hands clinging on to each other as well with my hand from the age of four, pushing enthusiastically up in the air then on the hands. At that moment, I catch a disturbed glance that my mom throws at my father. I hear a cry, a shriek! It is my heart which shrieks. Two naked bodies, lying on the bed, committed suicide…

I return to the hotel room again by the time the flame of the melting candle died out in Menora. The first thing that I encounter is her gaze. I set the glass in my hand on the table. My attention drifts to her insistent gaze that is still on me. I look at her again. She becomes the one who turns her gaze down. She takes my glass from the table and washes down the remaining alcohol in it. Then, her hand reaches for the silver mirror that is on the table. I see the bulging veins on my neck from the back of the double faced mirror that she holds up to her face.

Suddenly, she breaks the mirror into pieces, smashing it on to the table. I shudder! She becomes aggressive. She threatens me with a broken piece of glass that she took the hold of. A shiver goes down to my spine! I stumble back. It is as if her steps were born to this day from the past. A mad flare sweeping her eyebrows! Eyes, ambitious to penetrate the space! She approaches… My fear breaks on my feet like a wave. I fall again. The end! She knows that I am cornered and swiftly moves her hand to…

I was in a dream. I return frantically to my bed in the hotel. What is that! She is next to me! She is lying next to me. Her head fell from the pillow and her face was covered in sweat. I feel her touch in my hand, she opens her eyes. She holds my hand and puts it on to her heart. How it is pounding! A heat sweeps my body. I get up and open a window. It is almost dawn.

The stones she left on the table, her pumps on the floor, the sheer tights she stripped off and threw on to the sofa… I look for traces of life among them.

Then, I leave for the bathroom.

‘This is the inevitable ending,’ she says.

‘Is there no way to escape?’

‘If there was a way, would it have an end?’ she asks in a tone that is hardly heard. I call for the force of hope once again.

What would be the ending, if there was one?

Then, there is a knock on the door. It is a young boy from the room service. He comes in cheering ‘Good morning.’ He looks at my legs shamelessly then, he comments on my white dress and how it looked great on me. He grabs the only glass on the table and leaves.

I return back to face the mirror with inpatient steps, to find an answer to my question.

*Beray: The brightest state of the moon.
**green circled eyes: The author defined the dark circles as green insistently.

Şeyma Koç was born in a district called Yahyalı, Kayseri in 1994. She completed higher education in Akdeniz University, department of Political Science and Public Administration. Her short stories have been published in several magazines, including Varlık, Evrensel Kültür, Dünyanın Öyküsü, Sincan İstasyonu, Güncel Sanat, Kasaba Sanat, Tmolos Edebiyat, Çıngı, Aşkın E Hali and Bireylikler. Her first short story collection Küllerin Şehveti was released in November, 2015. Her stories have translated to Greek, Kurdish, German and English. Apart from literature, she is actively engaged in NGO projects and workshops concerning the education and the rights of women.

Şeyma Koç, 1994 yılında Kayseri’nin Yahyalı ilçesinde doğdu. Yükseköğrenimini Akdeniz Üniversitesi’nin Siyaset Bilimi ve Kamu Yönetimi bölümünde tamamladı. Öyküleri; Varlık, Evrensel Kültür, Dünyanın Öyküsü, Sincan İstasyonu, Güncel Sanat, Kasaba Sanat, Tmolos Edebiyat, Çıngı, Aşkın E Hali ve Bireylikler gibi dergilerde yayımlandı. İlk öykü kitabı Küllerin Şehveti ise Kasım 2015’te çıktı. Öykülerinden bazıları Yunanca, Almanca ve İngilizceye çevrilerek, edebiyat dergilerinin yayın listelerine alındı. Bunun yanı sıra. STK’larda kadınların eğitimi ve hakları için atölye çalışmaları ve projelerde aktif görev alıyor.

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