The Paris Review

At the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations

While her father lies on an operating table in Ankara, Aysegul Savas unravels eight thousand years of history.

Museum of Anatolian Civilizations

We arrive at the hospital at seven in the morning. It is still dark, and the air is heavy with exhaust. Patches of muddy snow dot the streets, which branch out without a discernible plan. The taxi ride from the hotel has taken less than five minutes, and yet once we step out of the car, it is impossible to tell which direction we came from in the midst of overpasses and underpasses and the highway warping the hospital.

“Shit-town Ankara,” my brother says.

We take the elevator to the ninth floor and walk down a hallway, deserted except for an old man in pajamas and a woolen vest, who stands holding onto his serum pole, staring out the window. Up ahead on a hill is Atatürk’s pillared mausoleum, rising high above the city.

Our father is still sleeping. We stand uncertainly at the threshold, without turning on the lights. He raises his head sulkily.

“What time is it?”

There is still time before the nurses come to get him for the operation. He could have slept a few minutes longer.

He gets up slowly and sits for a while at the edge of the bed. Then he goes to the bathroom to put on the blue paper robe. We hear the sound of water, his toothbrush scrubbing vigorously.

Back in the room, he checks his phone and turns it off. He cleans his glasses on his robe, then hands them to us for safekeeping.

When the nurses come with a

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