“No, thank you,” I said, pushing the dessert in front of me slightly. I didn’t like dessert, they must have known that. Ever since I was a kid, I stayed away from all kinds of desserts. Cakes, puddings, pastries and pies… All kind of desserts, give me the creeps. I couldn’t eat them. If I had accidentally eaten something sweet, I immediately try to cover its tracks with water and rub my tongue on my palate roughly. And sometimes I throw up.
This was my most striking feature, and I was known as such among my friends. So I would expect the people sitting in front of me to know that either.
I told them I was not fine, and walked away from the table. I took out my backpack and stirred it up so I could find my medicine. My problem was the hallucinations, the hallucinations I have been seen since I was a little kid.
Up to a certain age I used to have that delusions with voices and images, but than they turned into echoes that circulated in my brain. Normal persons forget what they heard when they was eleven, at least most of it, right? But I remember everything she said down to the last detail.
“There is a saying that the honey syrup is the world itself,” she once said. “The world meant by these words is not the earth. In these words, people’s ambitions and insatiable desires are explained.”
I was hanging on every word she said.
“Do you know what the way to satisfy desires is?” she asked.
“What is it? Fulfilling them?” replied I, immediately.
“No,” she said before saying those words that were engraved in my heart. “As long as you breathe, desires do not run out. You pursue one desire and fulfill it, then another one follows. The only way to fully satisfy the desires is to die.”
“The opposite way round, don’t desires remain unfinished when we die?” I asked. My little mouth was wide open in surprise.
“When you finish the game, are your moves to collect points unfinished?” she said and laughed. She had a sweet, but very creepy smile.
“We’re making the moves to finish the game anyway!” I said. And then she made her point:
“Desires are similar to this, Hasan. Desires like the moves to end life right. Trying to extinguish every desire like a hermit, or struggling to attend all desires, these are not right. You should separate the wise and the absurd desires, and choose the one that will help you with the path to your goal.”
“So, what’s the goal, Other Girl?” I asked.
“The goal is to die beautifully.” she said. They’re too wisely delusions for an 11-year-old kid, aren’t they?
She had long hair. It was probably brown, but the strange light emanating from it, showed it in a strange dark blue tone. Her eyes were deep blue. Her skin was so white; white and bright that enough to make you to afraid of her, and as you can imagine, it was because of the light. The most I could remember from her was her tender gaze.
I loved her very much. I named her “Other Girl”, because I didn’t know her real name. As usual, she bowed her head and giggled for minutes in a way that only she could hear. She immediately adopted her new name. In the two years we’ve been together, I didn’t ask for her real name, and she didn’t tell me.
While I was preoccupied with the Other Girl’s memories in my mind, I noticed that one of the girls we were sitting at the same table shortly before, was coming to me.
“So you didn’t like the apple pie? We can order something different, if you wish.”
“Let’s call it fear, not distaste…” I said unintentionally. Frankly, I had no intention of spilling my guts to someone I didn’t know! Unfortunately, she interrupted me before I could correct my words: “Oh you do not tell me you’re afraid of pie.”
Of course I wasn’t afraid of pie or other sweet foods.
I was afraid of my ambitions.
Sweet was something beautiful, and I was afraid that if I taste this beauty, I would have to fight for it.
Honey syrup is the world itself. And if you taste the world, you have to fight it.
Life is a struggle Hasan… The other girl’s voice was still in my head.
“I didn’t mean that,” I said, and put a preventive pill in my mouth for the delusions, after swallowing it with a sip of water, I decided to be honest. I frowned and said, “In the past years, I went badly haywire at some point. That’s why I can’t eat dessert. My condition is completely psychological.” I hate other people to know my weaknesses.
“I see,” she said, not the pity look on her face as I expected. She had brown eyes that were close to the slanted but weren’t slanted. Her eyebrows were bow-shaped, that shape gave her an affectionate look to her face. I was recalling her somehow, we must have met somewhere before. Then she realized I was looking her face carefully.
“I am Lale. Lale Nuran.” she said. I extended my hand: “Hasan.”
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Hasan.” she said and stood up. She handed me her card from her bag, told me that I could reach her at any time, and walked away.
“Specialist Dietitian Lale Nuran. Eat healthily!” Specialist dietitian, wow. I thought she was a student, but she wasn’t. She had to be at least five years older than me.
I got up, put the card into my backpack and threw myself out instead of going to the toilet.
The doctor we went for check up had diagnosed me with “sugar sensitivity”. Although I don’t remember exactly what the Other Girl said, it was still in my memory.
“Food intolerance, that is, nutritional sensitivity, is a common condition, but your son’s condition is very specific.” the doctor told my mother. “Generally, a certain food group creates sensitivity for patients. For example, milk and dairy products or various nuts. However, the sensitivity area of Hasan’s digestive system is very wide and covers all glycogen-containing foods.”
“Come again?” said my mother, she probably hadn’t seen biology since high school.
“In other words, Hasan’s body cannot consume any food containing sugar. Unfortunately, this caused his organs, especially his brain, to be unable to feed.”
They attributed it to my brain’s malnutrition. Then I met glucose injections and a new diet list that I had to take every day, sugary foods were forbidden except for fruits, but that’s okay – because of my weird phobia, I couldn’t eat any fruit anyway.
I’ve gotten used to it over the years and all the weird stuff I’ve been going through.
As soon as I got home, I threw my backpack into the corner of my room and laid down on my bed. I closed my eyes, I’d probably fall asleep. That was my way of resting. If there was nothing to do, I would go to my room and sleep. There were days during summer vacations when I spent all of them sleeping except for food and toilet.
And my answer is ready for those who would teach me wisdom by saying “life is not long enough to be wasted, sleep a little, spend the rest of it on useful work”. Come on, there was very little thing I could do in this life!
I could not have fun or do an activity that giving me pleasure. The reason of that is the same as the reason I can’t eating dessert. I am afraid of enjoying and laughing. The jokes make people laugh, but they only make me sweat.
Playing video games was also presented to me as a solution, after all, you would not laugh while playing video games. You put yourself in the game. At first it seemed fine, but then I couldn’t go on that too.
I couldn’t read novels and watch movies, because while I reading and watching them, I used to become wholly absorbed in them. The fictions were becoming reality in my brain. That’s also why I couldn’t play video games. For example, if I was playing a war game, I was scared to death as if I were actually going to war, and I woke up jumping out of bed at night.
Apart from studying, there were just three things to do, the first was meeting basic needs. The second was doing an activity with friends, and the third was to sleep. The latter was limited to playing football on the astro pitch.
“Why don’t you just sit down and talk with a friend?” if you ask… Firstly, the topics we will talk about should not be funny or usele… Okay, that part was made up. Of course I could talk to my friends about many things, but just tell me for God’s sake, who would be a close friend with a disturbed man like me? I was afraid of being labeled, hiding in an imaginary circle that separated me from the rest of the world.
Lale Nuran was a chance that I came across at a time when I was afraid to drown in this circle. I needed guidance and a friend for the right diet. So I started visiting Lale every month.
In the beginning, our conversation did not go beyond the frame of proffesional conversation. We ended the meetings up talking about food, calories, macros in as few words as possible. Then one day she asked me about the source of my “sweet” obsession. When she realized that my face was confused, she said, “I’m sorry. I’m not a psychologist, anyway, I’m a dietician. I wish I could ask you in a way that wouldn’t hurt you. By the way, why didn’t you go to the psychologist?”
“I don’t know,” I said. My head was on the ground because I had a terrible feeling between guilt and fear. “I thought I didn’t deserve it. I thought it was insatiable.”
That moment I realized that my internal distress, which kept me from sweets, also prevented me from seeing a mental health professional. I couldn’t describe it somehow.
“What is the thing you don’t deserve?”
“I mean… I want to get better, and that’s why I can’t get better. Desires are bad, I shouldn’t desire anything. “
“So, are you an ascetic?” she asked. “Do you interested in Buddhism or Sufism? In these beliefs, the aim is to kill the self and restrain the desire.” Years later, someone came up with the right word to describe me. I was an ascetic. The worst part is, I didn’t choose to be like this. I did not struggle with my self of mine by retreating or fasting. The evil of delight, pleasure, and desire seemed to have been ingrained in my genes. If it wasn’t, I would develop a philosophy against my mind and get rid of this situation.
There are three forms of ordinary people: Pleasure, pain, or apathy; which is free from these both. For me, there were only two ways: to remain neutral and to suffer. Only the times when I saw the Other Girl could I come a little closer to happiness.
I had no hope for the future. In this life, how could I be successful in anything? Even this question was pricking my conscience, because I wanted to be successful as well as getting rid of the desire of being successful. I was missing the train. I wasted too much time.
I was looking for a light so I could go back. A direction in which I will not embrace tears when I turn… I wanted stability that would never be broken. I felt like my steps were wasted and my legs were broken. “If I walked to my God, wasn’t he come running to me?” I was asking myself, but the next thing I knew, I wasn’t walking at all, I was going backwards.
My friendship with Lale opened a breach in this vicious circle. Chatting with the dietitian was as relaxing as talking to Other Girl. It wasn’t just me who poured it out. She also shared her sorrows, concerns and problems.
She often spoke of her dead sister. “I wish she were here,” she said. “You would have plunged into a deep conversation. She was very interested in philosophy, you know? She used to make connections between pleasure and pain, the connections even the best intellectuals couldn’t think.
I didn’t ask why she died. Because that would be to make her bleed, and that was the greatest evil that could ever be done to a grieving person. Maybe a disease, maybe an accident, what difference would it make?
It had been two months since we met, and one day, Lale excitedly said, “Hasan, do you want to do me a favor?”
“Could you try to get better? Could you persevere to get better?”
I staid silent and waited for an explanation.
“She…” she said, talking about her sister, “She always wanted to be a psychologist. She wanted to heal people. I’ll give you her photo and diary. Read, look, connect… Get better for her. Could you do this?”
I got the diary, saying I’d try it. In fact, I didn’t believe I could do it. When I got home, I put my backpack aside, laid down on the bed and opened the diary. A photo fell out of it. When I took and looked at it, I got schocked.
She was Other Girl.
I immediately flipped the photo over and put it back in the diary. My brain should be deluding on me again. I rubbed my eyes to see if I was hallucinating, even washed my face and wandered around the house. I texted a classmate because I couldn’t trust my own perception of reality. I made up an excuse and asked him to describe the photo I was gonna send.
My hand was shaking as I turned the picture again. There was no change. Other Girl in the high school uniform, was still there. By forcing myself, I fixed my hand, took a photo of the photo and sent it to my friend.
I was expecting a recipe such as “Long haired, blue eyed”, but he wrote: “She is Gülşan Nuran, right?” Memories flew through my mind. Dietitian Lale Nuran… What she said about her sister… The surname, “Nuran”… How couldn’t I noticed it up till today?
“Gülşan…” I said.
The other girl’s real name was Gülşan Nuran. She was killed on her way home from school when she was fourteen. One year younger than Lale, three years older than me. The incident had a huge impact across the country, and newspapers and televisions talked about this murder until a more important agenda issue emerged. Even the people of my generation, who were still young when the incident happened, knew when they heard “Gülşan Nuran”.
At that time, primary and secondary schools were united under the name of “primary school”. There was a high school near the school where I was in fifth grade. The students of my term were consisting of two groups which as early-riser or afternoon students, but the students of Gülşan’s term were having full-time schooling. I was an afternoon student, in the times I was in class, I used to see them leaving school and going home, they used to seem like marbles pouring out of a bowl.
It was a day when winter turned to spring. A tall, blue-eyed high school girl came through the window. As she walked like the other students, she suddenly fell to the ground. The floor she fell covered in red. Everyone gathered over her, the ambulance came. It was too late when the teacher scolded me to turn around and listen to the lecture. The fear of death had already fallen into my mind.
In the evening, we were having dinner with my parents and watching TV. I saw the face of the dead girl for the first time on the news, I heard her name, Gülşan Nuran… The mug shot showed by the presenter was looking directly into my eyes. I went to the bathroom and started throwing up. I didn’t let anyone to know about my situation. In a few days, I forgot that image or thought I had forgotten it. However, her imagination had never left my eyes, and the traces of her death had never left the deepest corners of my consciousness.
Once, I complained to her about not being able to eat dessert. “But you can change…” she said. “You can get better. You can get rid of anything you dislike. You can make up for your misdeeds and be a good person. What about me? Did you ever think about me? I’m a dead girl, Hasan. I am dead.”
“I’ll be fine,” I said. I went down to the kitchen and opened the fridge. When the orange juice, the first sweet thing I consumed for years touched my tongue, I had the familiar contractions in my stomach, again. That’s why I had to left it. But I touched it my tongue, I took the first step… That was enough.
“In time…” I said.
When I turned around, I met the girl with the blue light. I wasn’t scared at all. She was quiet when she was crying. When a thin stream of mud began to flow from her eyes, my feet trembled. She was dead, and she was in the grave. This truth hit me in the face like the cold wind.
“You were a very good person.” said I. “I wish I could know you while you are alive.”
She didn’t say anything, but she smiled. I could feel it. If I live, if I got rid of this obsession, I would remember this moment even after years, just like I remembered what you said when I was a kid.
My head bowed from exhaustion. After took a breather, I looked up, and she was gone. I took a deep breath. I was alone.
Thanks to Enes Talha Coşgun for the translation.