Yearning to Be a Tree

The first sounds were coming from the street below; they had closely followed the sun’s rays, awakening the solid table on the balcony. Made of quality wood, her feet were beautifully carved. She was still draped in last night’s tablecloth. Sighing, she sensed how soft the orange fabric was, enhancing her own warm beauty.

The restaurant wasn’t open yet; only when the sunlight began falling from above and the shadows started to caress her wood, would it be time for her cloth to be changed; then she would wait for new people to be seated to enjoy her company. She was a proud table, knowing how well-crafted, elegant, and beautiful she was. The movement on the street below was increasing; people heading for work, tourists clicking photos here and there. The smell of simit—the tourists call it the ‘Turkish bagel’—taking to the air, competing with the chestnuts being toasted for later sale. She knew you could buy simit, roasted chestnuts, candy floss, sandwiches and more at the red mini-market barrows all around the city—a few days ago she had a welcomed a couple for dinner and they had talked of them.

While she waited, those memories of last night returned, warming her wood. Yesterday was a Thursday—approaching the weekend, the restaurant becomes crowded, with queues in front of the door, loud voices, and laughter. She loved the spontaneous sound of people laughing.

Last night, when the young couple were seated either side of her, the orange cloth was clean, fresh and perfumed by the bath it had had two days before. Candles and flowers added a romantic touch. She remembered the moon high in the sky, the stars blinking—she was in a privileged part of the street where the lamps did not competed with the stars and moonlight; there was the smell of fresh food being cooked in the kitchen, and of the woman’s perfume. It was a fresh cologne, a mellow memory of the summer that had now given way to autumn.

The woman’s name was Hülya. She wasn’t tall, but was strong, fit, and with curly dark hair, bright brown eyes, and a skin like cream. She had been wearing a black woollen coat—removed when she was seated—her dress had long sleeves, a ‘V’ neckline, and was the colour of the rose in the crystal vase on the table.

The man, whom she called Askim or Sekerim, had black hair, dark eyes emanating a sharp and cold light; together with the two days’ worth of stubble they made him look almost dangerous. His caramel coat, concealed a black turtleneck sweater of soft wool over black trousers.

Their eyes were on each other all time. It was as if neither wanted to forget the other’s face; keeping that moment recorded forever in their minds… hands touching each other, laughter following each word. Ordering a bottle of red wine, they toasted to life, to love, and to how happy they were. The conversation moved to their favourite books, to movies, to music…She’d never had a man like him, open to talk about everything, listening to her as if she were an expert in each topic of which they spoke. Both were delighted and surprised by how much they shared in common.

The level of wine in the bottle dropped, Hulya asked the man to order food. Meat, she wanted something exotic to eat. The man ordered meze, fish, cheese, fruit, and a bottle of raki. Hulya said that maybe she should have something less alcoholic, but he insisted the fish wouldn’t be the same without raki. She laughed, and agreed…

The food scented the air around the table. She was glad to be a part, even for a couple of hours, of the couple’s life. Feeling the love between them, the happiness flowing from one to the other…it gave her the sensation of being alive! Waves of warmth, outpourings of passion, words of trust and lust, kisses stolen while no one was looking—or, at least, when they didn’t think there was!

The arrival of coffee marked the end of dinner. Plans were being made to continue the night in another place. Dance? Have something sweet in one the many bakeries offering delicious pastries? Hulya chose simply to walk beneath the moonlight, observing the autumn wind fluttering the trees’ leaves, undressing them piece by piece; observing the elegance of the people walking on İstiklal Caddesi (Independence Avenue). The man laughed, and agreed. They would walk like tourists in the midst of the other people, eating roasted chestnuts, drinking çay, and talking about the future, and about the past.

The table observed their last kiss there. The moon creating a memorable scene, the music (that had begun subtly) was the perfect soundtrack. Love really was a positive and contagious sentiment. They stood up. She could see his longing gaze and almost feel the desire flowing through both their bodies. She knew that the night would be long for them. The table dreamed that she was in the room where they would surrender to each other; she wanted to participate in that moment of intense love. She could not, unfortunately. She was attached to the balcony at the small restaurant in the most beautiful city in the world. Well, at least she had that privilege in life—sipping the beauties of the city. Yes, she was lucky.

She fell asleep in silence when they removed her evening clothes and dressed her in her daytime ones. She closed her mind to the noises of reality, allowing the dream to fill the space. She dreamed of the couple and all the gestures and words they had exchanged. She couldn’t forget the moon covering everything with her bright silvered light…and how she had awoken anxiously, to the cries of gulls and the yellow light of the sun.

She looked around and saw people coming and going below. Looked inside, it was too early for lunch. Ardently, she wished the couple from last night would come back. She was curious about them; they seemed so free, unique, stripped of possessions, but with a need to possess. Oh well, she would probably not see them again, there were so many places to explore; it wasn’t common for people to return.

So, now it was time to watch and wait an hour or two, and then she would be cherished again. That was her pleasure, invisible but necessary. Silent, but conscious. She, the orange-clothed table, on the balcony of a restaurant on a busy street in Istanbul… the one where she could still feel the fresh breeze of the life she once had when she was a tree in a fresh, green forest. Where she learned about love, life, humans, and goodbyes.

Tagged with: