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I tried to keep my eyes permanent

By Mehlika Özge Esirgen

2008

There I was, striving to bear a story written with a left hand, a story that has never been

told, yet continued to be remembered ever...

How come is this obsession of me with eternity, with infinity? Is it since I am one an

eternity, like Torah would approve? Ein Sof. Ein Sof...

Come my beloved

to meet the bride,

Let us welcome Sabbath.

A Sabbath of peace,

Blessed Sabbath.

There was a river flowing restlessly below. I felt more drained than being drained. I was

on a bridge. Did it matter if it was small or wide? I reflected. I was tired, very tired on it.

It was midnight. He must be here in a minute, I thought, it was never that he was after his

time. Rather, he chose to be beyond it I considered, being precise every time.

Then, there he was coming. I leaned my head and caught the smell on me, my dress, and

later my breath. I should have been rose aroma from tip to toe. I wanted it.

‘Good night’ he said.

‘Good night’, I bowed.


It was the most I loved when he bowed in answer to my bowing.

He carefully took off the book from his left pocket of his robe, with his hand invisible to

my eyes since the darkness subjugated all around. The wind was without delay, recent for

a spring night.

‘Would you like to...?’

‘I’d prefer you read, Sir.’

He looked at my little face- he must have considered it little- and gazed. It did not take

long, as they never were. His gazings, they were direct and constant. I never dared to

speak over them. Maybe he did not either, because of a different reason. I wished he had

reasons.

‘Shabbat candles are lit and a blessing is recited no later than eighteen minutes before

sunset. This ritual, performed by the woman of the house, officially marks the beginning

of Shabbat. Two candles are lit, representing the two commandments: zakhor, that is to

remember and shamor, that is to observe.’

He lowered his voice as he always did towards finishing his last words, and raised his

head to gaze at me in his grand grey eyes, which I would never believe were blue. It was

only months later from the day I knew him that I dared to possess the question of what

his color would be. For a while, a while indeed, I stored the question in my heart,

cornered in an unfilled rest where my liberty would cry itself out, yet also has been a

place I owned no evidence of. In the third or fourth week in my knowing him, the color

grey began to echo in my eyes, as an answer, beautifully accompanied by the dark, in

which we met regularly.


He kept his gaze directly into my eyes, I felt it in my iris. I knew that he did not expect

me to utter anything. I had learnt it by then. I tried to keep my eyes permanent in his, only

since the last week I began to sense that was what he asked from me in his unrevealing

eyes. After a few moments he carefully let his arms fall where they looked still, yet

awake besides his sheltered chest. He placed the book in his right pocket as he always

did. I bowed his leaving in a purposeful grace. He slowly turned his back and walked into

a dimmer darkness.

The ceremony was over. I smelled the very odor of the abyss his company left behind,

still wishing that he was walking to his place with my rose scent somewhere in his being.

II.

I used to get up at five in the mornings and took long walks after the nights I saw him.

The soil felt exceptionally silent while I felt myself exhausted in my mind. I knew I was

uncovering. I knew I learnt ‘to remember and observe’, like the women of the houses in

Sabbaths. I was more than curious, I was praying for an exodus that morning. Stepping

on the same grass that recognized the stimulation in my polite pace, I headed my walking

to the house.

‘Good morning, grandma.’

I was earlier than regular. She did not miss; ‘You’re early my dear.’

‘There were people in the garden so I left.’

‘… I distanced myself’ I added, smiling knowingly.


She was one of the few I had in my life that my secluded living did not worry much.

Maybe she has gotten herself accustomed to it. She was a powerful woman, I always had

the idea that G-d had very carefully chosen her for me. She was not my real grandmother;

she took me from an ordinary Jewish orphanage fourteen years ago, when I was still in

my nappies.

‘Have some tea…’ she said in her polite conduct.

‘I will…’ I said while I put the roses I brought, tidying them tenderly in the pasty vase. It

was a vase that I took time to clarify myself to recognize it for my roses. Yet I was getting

much better with it, I began to tolerate my obsession.

I slowly took my cup and sat before Grandma. She was studying me with her old and

competent eyes.

‘I’d wish it was a boy that made you love these roses that much…’ she said, wearing her

beam, which she usually had when we kidded. Unexpectedly, I paused for a moment, I

could not identify if I had an answer to that. Grandma was the only person that could

have known I regularly met with him, and she did not know.

She was surprised to have me interrupted, a nature which I was rarely found in.

I smiled in a tender way. She knew I put that tenderly one when I caught something

inside. And she learnt not to bother me any way in my private zone, when I was there.

I was almost sure that she considered it was only a matter of moment in me, floating

amongst the clouds of my baseless ground, far from any implications that word ‘boy’

could have meant in her question. Grandma was not worried, not at all, yet maybe

somehow curious about my relationship with the kids of my age, especially boys, I’d

sometimes reflect.
‘How was your day with Lisya and Jacob in the club?’ I suddenly asked.

And we began chatting in affection, like we always did in the mornings, near the window

with glittered curtains, which shined even more with the voice of our laughter; our

laughter that did not know if we were young or old, artlessly flowing in conversations.

-- III.

That night I walked a long walk before I met him, mostly weeping. It was not that I

exceptionally appeased myself with Grandma and let my senses flow when I got alone. I

was much more than my senses. I had never thought of him as a man, or even as a

human being before. He was the godly in my eyes. Striving to place a ‘godly’ in my

fifteen year old life, I was auspicious as an auspicious girl, to have found his godly figure

in dark blue robes; Rabbi David, my rabbi. Rabbi came to my life from the corners,

amongst the trees. Rabbi held me up with his hands in the midst of my mist, so that I

could see a clear sky.

Being in love with the Rabbi would be an agony. I was smashed under the weight of this

space where I saw the Rabbi David as some human other than ‘my Rabbi’. My Rabbi was

who knew the entire Torah, he had the words required meditation of my soul, it was he

who was to see on Sabbaths. I thought of my Sabbaths. I thought of him, and then of my

Sabbaths again. If I was in love with him, would I be betraying him, Rabbi, the person I

bowed for the love of Jerusalem, or else would I be betraying the Torah? Where was I

betraying myself?
There I was in the midst of forest again, the forest I took as my soul in my soul. The

forest was getting wet as I was walking with bare feet in my shoes, which were unaware

of my tearful eyes. In the old times, two years ago or so, while walking, I would wonder

if the heavens are left behind me or if they are still beyond. I got faster and faster in my

walking, more than brusque to care about heaven.

Maybe, I thought, maybe they were fair; my friends, and my old friends, and the director

in the orphanage, they were all fair. I was badly odd.

----

IV.

‘Zakhor, that is to remember and shamor, that is to observe…’ , his tender voice echoed

in my mind. His reverent face, only his face, kept walking beside my body in my sweet

imagination.

I caught his silhouette as I got to the synagogue’s entrance. There he was, waiting for my

presence to appear. Actually I was already with his presence by then, in this inner ground

which moved with my own pace, in boundless time and spaces. I saw his blonde head

turning to me in the dim light. He used to seem neither happy nor sad whenever he saw

me. He was to be with no expression that evening too, I thought. I drew near where the

candles were lit. He must have been studying the light, I thought.

‘Remember Edna…’ I told myself, ‘Remember who you are, what your identity is, and

observe…’ There I was practicing his teachings almost against him, I felt. And it felt

grubby. I walked towards him, as simple as a young Jewish girl who walks to a Rabbi. I

was as simple, yet not as committed as she would be. I saw the candles. Whom were they
burning for? What was I to do at the moment with my own candle I identified and kept

inside, after all I felt for Rabbi David? I still did not truly and fully appreciate my love,

that is my love, for the Rabbi. I lingered, in every sense. I studied the surrounding, trying

to feel my faith in that synagogue, my love for the smell in Yom Kippur, my hands on

Torah, or my awe for the ancient Cabbala. I tried to keep my eyes permanent. I realized

that I never placed Rabbi David in that picture of faith and value. I realized I found Rabbi

David most handsome than anything else, myself to be found most attractive than

anything else. I realized I had a fifteen year old body, maybe at last. I let my eyes alone.

I was not the woman of the house, who lit the candles in Sabbath.

I slowly turned my back and walked towards the gate, where I had entered in. I took my

star of David pendant and carefully left it on the shelf, amongst the old, unlit candles.

And I strolled out in a weightless melody, a very weightless melody indeed.