❝The noble tree was a plane tree over three centuries old in the heart of the village. It was the symbol of the village for those living away and a map mark for the residents; the noble tree was always mentioned while giving directions or setting up a place to meet. When Cüneyt arrived in the shadow of the tree with the kids, the memories of his seven years that passed in this village the name of which is written in his id card began to evoke. Looking at the faces of the children, he saw his childhood for a moment. He startled. It was like tens of little Cüneyts were showing the way to this nameless adult looking for a trace.❞
Thanks to Övünç Yaşar for the translation.
The climate blew its warm breath inside from the half open window. The skirts of the flitting curtains patted the edges of the double sized bed on which a man wrinkling the sheet in his fist lied. The man lying there with only his boxers on had had pulled his knees to his stomach, clung on a pillow, closed his eyes to even hurt his eyelids and begun to force the sleep that never passed by.
His efforts gaining him nothing but headache, Cüneyt opened his eyes in despair. He got off the bed stretching as if it was the morning, and he just woke up. The streetlights splitting the night as black as pitch helped him looking for his pants. His shirt and tie also waited for him on the ground to be worn.
When he went down the stairs of the building and got into his car which looked like an ant from the window of his room, not a single drop of water had yet touched his face. He thought of the big city from the centre of which he gradually moved away while reaching to maximum speed allowed by the laws in the deserted streets. He remembered setting foot on this soil leaving the bus with a small suitcase when he was just twenty. He had no relatives, no friends. He wandered for weeks looking for a job; he rented his boxy room praying to his landlord and promising that he’ll pay his debt at most one season later.
He would want his grandpa whom he lost the year he was of the age to hand him to an orphanage instead of raising him alone. He could have found shelter under the wings of the state and make himself a life as a civil servant. Noticing that he got lost in his thoughts, Cüneyt directed his attention back to the road. He had never driven irresponsibly, was never involved in a traffic accident; he needed to be more careful especially tonight. He couldn’t die today, not before seeing the end of the road.
When he got to the narrow road of the village settled in the foot of a mountain, a crimson blaze appeared on the east side of the horizon. Parking the car in an empty field, the driver left the car and inhaled the cold fresh air deeply. How stranger the view of the adobe houses lining large and small and the shadow of which extended yonder was to him! When he opened the door of his car and leaned inside, crows as well as kids’ laughter and footsteps blended into the sounds he heard. After taking what he had to take from the glove box, Cüneyt straightened up and turned his back.
The village children had come. The fresh minds waking up with the early lights of the morning and got mixed into the nature had run here with a childish curiosity once they noticed the stranger car. Among the kids, there were those saying, “Welcome Sir, are you looking for someone?” and those inviting him to breakfast asking if he was hungry. After giving short answers with a smile on his face, the adult man turned back to the faded paper he took from the glove box and held in his hand like ashes that would fly away with a slight wind. This piece of paper was torn from a notebook and on one corner of it was written the date of sixty year ago.
On the top of it was written “The Treasure of Raşit and Zarife…” It was clear that the handwriting was of a child. In the centre was a cross sign, a note that read “the noble tree” on the edge, and under it was a sentence that read: “The house of the headman is 12, and the treasure is hidden in 8.”
Cüneyt raised his head and asked, “Who wants to take me to the noble tree?” with an enthusiastic sound.
The noble tree was a plane tree over three centuries old in the heart of the village. It was the symbol of the village for those living away and a map mark for the residents; the noble tree was always mentioned while giving directions or setting up a place to meet. When Cüneyt arrived in the shadow of the tree with the kids, the memories of his seven years that passed in this village the name of which is written in his id card began to evoke. Looking at the faces of the children, he saw his childhood for a moment. He startled. It was like tens of little Cüneyts were showing the way to this nameless adult looking for a trace.
When he leaned his back on the trunk of the plane, the sounds, images and smells in his memory left the dusty folds of his brain and came forth. He had lived in this village until he was seven. Drank from the fountains of this village, played in the lands surrounding this village. The thing he remembered best was his grandpa waking him up in the middle of the night. Walking till top of the hill under the sky surrounded by the stars without without making the dogs bark and letting anyone else hear them, getting to the tricycle the grandpa brought the day before and by this way moving to a distant, small city…
He sighed and turned the back of the paper, the writing here was relatively newer compared to those on the front. After finding this note from his father among the junk, Cüneyt had searched for the house of the then headman and just scrawled his address there. Today, that house was a wreck. Turned his face to this wreck and began to walk counting his steps. The children were chattering with curiosity and following this stranger.
One… Two… Three… Each step was becoming a new page on Cüneyt’s memory book. The day before the night his grandpa and him fled the village, he had climbed the mountain with his dog Karaburun. For a moment, rifle sounds were heard, immediately after that Karaburun had become restless and placed his two feet on the rock facing the village and barked for a long time.
“Thirty-two steps” he said after taking a deep breath. He turned his head to look at the tree he left behind, then took the thirty-two steps again to get back to the tree. Under the strange looks of the children rounding him and of the villagers who woke up and got out of their houses, he knelt and draw a line on the ground from the root of the tree to the old house of the headman.
“Twelve” he murmured.
When he gotten back to the village with Karaburun, he had seen the police soldier arresting someone. The suspect who had been confiscated with handcuffs had a steely gaze which gave Cüneyt creeps even today. “We’ll kill you too” had said the guy. “Our blood won’t be spilt for nothing. The ground took your parents, it’ll take you too.” Without letting him speak more, the police soldier had silenced the man and taken him away with their car”
Cüneyt had learn the existence of something called “blood revenge” amongst the old ladies sighing, old men blazing away loudly, and children who had thought of it all as a game as they couldn’t have grasped the awe fully. Sometimes, a blood revenge starts between two families. It is like football: shooting someone from the other family is a goal and the side that shoots more wins! He had learned from his old uncles in the room where the corpses covered in a white sheet with a knife on their stomach was held that his father had been killed by their blood revengers and the next goal had to be scored by him. And no one had said one single word about the mother killed trying to protect his father. Would there also be a goal for her? He couldn’t ask. Also, Cüneyt was not good in football… The other kids in the village had always beaten him in football. He couldn’t say that either.
His -maternal- grandpa who remained quite all day long his head down had come to his room from the window that night. “My dear,” he said, “Kids don’t play with rifles!” Instead, he had taught him the game of silence. They would walk till the lands, and no one would hear them, no dog would bark.
After the first one, Cüneyt drew eleven more equally spaced lines. He drew a watch with the noble tree in its centre. Thirty-two steps on twelve would take him to the house of the headman, and same number of steps on eight would take him to stuff his father had buried in the ground when he was little.
Raşit was his father’s name and Zarife was his mother’s. Their marriage was of love, rarely seen in villages. In his misty memories, his father would tell him that he had loved his mother since he became an age to be able to milk the cows. They had grown together, playing together, spudding the lands together, breeding the animals together, and going to school together holding hands. They married in the town as soon as they got eighteen and had a fairy tale wedding ceremony the other day in the village.
And this piece of paper from sixty years ago must have been from from his parents’ treasure game. In fact, Cüneyt didn’t know if he would find anything at the spot the map shows. He took this long way with the hope to reach a memory about his late parents.
He set his thirty second step on pieces of rocks piled on one another. He took a deep breath, recited bismillah and began to move the heavy rocks. After removing a few of them, at a point close to the bottom, he noticed a wooden box, covered with sand, and got a dusty colour. Inserting his arm between the rocks, he got surprised that it was so easy.
He opened the box with a little force. Inside the box were portraits of his mother and his father in black aprons. On the back of the portraits, a heart was drawn, and the date was written with a pencil. Cüneyt took a napkin from the pocket of his pants and pressed it to his eyes.
He couldn’t have taken anything with him leaving this village apart from a few pieces of clothing. Naturally, he had no photos of his parents. The traveller was not seeing the face of those who brought him to the world for the first time after forty-three years.