Atatürk Airport – Istanbul…
Wednesday, 25 March 2009
A misty day.
Early morning bustle at the airport…
Passengers hurrying through security to check-in to get their boarding passes.
Repeated announcements, loaded luggages, a flurry of activity all around.
It’s almost nine o’clock.
Planes in queue, ready for departure, along the northern runway.
All ears fixed on the tower, waiting for permission to take off.
First in the queue are two Airbus 321s
TK 1825, bound for Paris.
TK 1671, bound for Cologne.
Smiling stewardesses patrolling the aisles.
Clinks of the belt buckles, clunks of the overhead lids.
The rising roar of the engines.
Some passengers with faces buried in books or magazines...
Others with faces pale and tensed up.
Some with their eyes closed. Either in sleep or in prayer.
Row after row of people.
Some self-satisfied, some wishing to be someone else.
Wheels whirring, wing flaps opening.
Two steel birds flying off one after the other.
TK 1825… TK 1671…
Istanbul to Cologne, Istanbul to Paris, or is it the other way around?
Whither leads the real journey?
Mustafa Hoca… (Hoca : Teacher / Instructor)
As the wheels touched the ground, he was jerked awake.
For a moment he couldn’t remember where he was. Then slowly he stretched himself out. He felt content. Yes, three hours of sleep had done him good. It was a great thing to sleep on a long flight. And his numb leg stopped complaining then.
During his childhood at the orphanage he had grown used to watching from a distance his friends playing ball. Just like he was now used to people avoiding his eyes as he limped along the street on his crutches.
If only these long journeys could be avoided!
For as long as he could remember, he had always disliked travelling, or rather he didn’t like any changes in the simple way of life he had chosen for himself. He was fated to be alone. His spirit as well as his body had been harmed enough. When he was alone he was able to reconcile himself to what had happened, salve his wounds with the ointment he prepared with such care, and soothe the pain which engulfed him.
Today he was in good spirits. Smiling, he opened his eyes and took a look around…
Once again, he had found himself in one of those strange dreams. For the physically challenged, the life of the imagination is sweet but there is a time and a season for everything.
Too much is too much.
He shut his eyes and waited. Then, a little while later, he peered cautiously through half-shut eyelids. Again the same scene! The plane was the same but the seating was different. There was no one sitting next to him. Plenty of space for his knees as well. Once more, the well-built, athletic body. The inevitable return of the handsome stranger. Chapter one hundred and twenty odd. This time he decided to go on with the game a little longer. What could be the harm in enjoying himself a bit?
What’s more it was Business Class he was sitting in.
The stewardess was smiling coyly at him from afar while the occupant of the seat on the right of the aisle rummaged idly in his handbag. The seat by him was empty, too.
He was about to turn to look at the passengers sitting in the back seats but decided not to. That’s enough entertainment, he told himself, and holding his legs tight, he started to rub them as he had done in bed many
times. The tried and tested way is always best. The easiest way to wake up from these curious dreams. Slowly he closed his eyes.
Now he could return to his own life.
One, two, three, four…
The stewardess was still looking at him. This was how his dreams had sometimes continued after he had woken up. Wayward dreams. The chapters he had read about on repetitive dreams flashed in front of his eyes like a short film. He wondered what the image of a smiling stewardess symbolized. Was this a trick of his heart which took wing whenever he saw his young assistant? Remembering her, he smiled again. In any case, wasn’t it to her he was indebted for the smile pills he took three days a week after meals? To her outspoken silence, shy smile, warm eyes…
“Kâmil Bey (Bey is used as a title of respect in Turkey), shall I bring your jacket?”
He tried to think. Somehow he couldn’t make up his mind. His experience of such oft-repeated
scenes, even together with the mind-set developed after years of these dreams, was not enough. Moreover, this time there was the stewardess speaking to him.
The best I can do is to carry on to the end, he thought.
“Excuse me, what was it you said?”
“We’ve landed at Cologne, sir. We’re approaching the gate-ramp. Would you like your jacket now?”
“Cologne, you said? Well now! How can that be?”
He could see the bewilderment in the woman’s eyes as she smiled at him. Evidently they really had landed at Cologne. Suddenly his mind was in a whirl. He tried to think of something to say. He couldn’t…
“Well, if that’s the case, please bring my jacket,” he said, hearing his own voice echoing in his ears. A little deeper, a little harsher in tone and more commanding. It was as if someone had plucked out the persuasive note from his voice and replaced it with the tone of a man accustomed to getting his own way.
“Goodness me,” he murmured.
I didn’t know I had other selves in me, he thought.
Suddenly he remembered.
Hadn’t the stewardess called him Kâmil? Where on earth had that name sprung from?
Actually he was rather pleased. After so many years, he had at last learned the name of that mysterious stranger who came to him in his dreams: Kâmil. And, of course, he must have a surname, too, he thought .
This time things had turned out differently. The scenario pleased him. Let’s see how this dream will end, he said to himself. When the stewardess returned with a dark-blue jacket obviously made by an excellent tailor, he looked at his legs again. There they were, sound as a bell. He felt his white shirt and stroked his silk tie. His gold cuff links were downright smart. He tried to remember when he had last worn a tie. Perhaps when he had been a witness at the wedding of an old schoolfriend. March 1989, at the Gençlik Park Registrar’s Office in Ankara. In other words twenty years ago.
Feeling kind of lost, he took the jacket and put it on. It wasn’t a bad fit. Suddenly he noticed that the most important things were missing. Where were his crutches? He looked around in confusion, then turned to the stewardess. He was about to open his mouth when he stopped himself. After all his legs didn’t look that weak.
It wouldn’t hurt to try them, he thought. Supporting himself with his hands, he tried to get up from his seat and stand upright. Yes, that’s it.
Just a little more effort...
There he was, on his feet.
Just like in his dreams. If he could only walk, that would be it. He took a step forward. With no need for self-prompting he had automatically taken a step forward.
One step more...
Throwing aside this pleasant surprise, he tried to think what to do next. From the rear of the plane came the sound of people moving. Soon the middle hatch would be opened and everyone would rush towards the exit.
He made a sudden decision. First he must get things under control. In any case, there would be time to think later. Nervously he opened the overhead locker. His mind cleared and he took a deep breath. His briefcase was there. He felt his confidence return.
Mustafa and his briefcase. His briefcase and himself.
Whenever one of the two was missing, the world was incomplete.
Taking hold of the handle, he lowered the bag on to his lap. He felt a little more relieved. Entrusting himself to his legs, he walked towards the exit. He smiled at the stewardess. Just as he was about to leave the plane, he heard behind him that coquettish voice running towards him.
“Kâmil Bey, you’re so preoccupied today! Aren’t you taking your suitcase?”
Did Mustafa ever go around with a cabin-sized suitcase? How could he carry a suitcase along with a genetically weak leg and a pair of metal crutches? Hesitantly he turned to go back. As it was, he didn’t have his crutches.
Feeling kind of lost, he took the jacket and put it o
“You’re right, I do seem quite preoccupied. Would you give it to me, please?”
The stewardess opened a special compartment and held out a black leather suitcase to him. This time she did not smile so charmingly. She had caught the air of seriousness which surrounded them. These men are so fickle, she said to herself. One time they flirt like fury, get out of breath running after you, and another they pass by you with their noses in the air.
“Have a good day, sir.” It’s best to keep one’s distance, she thought. Then they can’t mess you around.
In one hand his personal briefcase, in the other a black leather wheelie-case, Mustafa walked away in a daze.
His dream had never before been so long or so detailed. He decided on one last action. Following the arrows, he went into the men’s lavatory. He looked in the mirror. A strange man looked back at him, athletic of build with hands like his own. His hair was well-trimmed. He had neither a beard nor glasses like himself. He smiled. The other smiled back.
Mustafa’s hair was chestnut whereas the man in the mirror’s looked darker. His eyes were darker too and his expression sterner. In fact, merciless. The lines of his face had been sculpted long ago and reflected very faithfully the depths of his spirit. Too late to change him, should anyone want to.
High time for all this to be over and done with, he thought. He put his suitcase down. He turned on the tap and filled his cupped palm with water. When the cold water struck his face, he felt refreshed.
Again…and again…and again…
Unable to stop, he kept filling his cupped hands and splashing the water on his face. He’d completely lost control of himself. His clothes got all soaked as he splashed himself like a madman, gazing into the mirror as he did so.
All in vain...
A moment later he became conscious of the curious glances of passers-by. Oh no, he said to himself. I haven’t gone mad, gentlemen. I should’t tell you and you should’t listen. If I did tell you, it would sound like a fairy tale. You wouldn’t believe me.
It’s a game we’re playing. Just a game!
Desperately, he looked for the last time into the mirror.
Obviously nothing had changed, except he was soaking wet now. The hell he cared about the expensive clothes he was wearing! Let their owner worry about that.
Finally he decided he must calm down. He went out and lost himself in the crowd. He always felt good in crowds. Especially in such bustling places, everybody minds their own business. They always have something to do. Nobody takes notice of him. Nobody looks at his crooked leg.
They don’t pity him, they don’t belittle him.
He is free.
He is liberated…
Ahead of him he saw some seats. He didn’t want to sit next to anyone. He needed to be completely alone, in deep silence. It was high time to collect his thoughts, long past it in fact.
The dream had definitely gone on way too long.
This was actually impossible. Could it be he was undergoing some sort of a trauma? Delirium?
He tried to fathom it out.
As usual, he had taken a taxi to the airport. He remembered very clearly checking in his black suitcase when he got his boarding pass from the desk.
“Yes, Paris. Single. I reserved my seat on the internet.”
Smiling, the girl at the desk had interrupted him.
“Your passport, please,.”
Of course, he thought…
You sign free trade agreements to become a member of the EU. Then, year after year, you try to get your point across to a sour-faced order-warden at the consulate to get a visa for a two-day conference. A folderful of documents, papers from your employer, plane tickets, title deeds, this, that--you name it! Once they had even asked for a copy of his credit card. As if it wasn’t possible to access the Schengen visa details entered into the computer so many times before! After all this torture, you cannot board the plane without showing the visa either.
This must be what they call being civilized!
What crosses the minds of those storks flying so freely across so many borders, he wondered.
Murmuring a slight protest, he had held out his passport to the girl at the desk. The girl looked first at him, then at the passport and, after examining the dates of the visa for a long time, smiled somewhat apologetically. Under such circumstances he was usually allowed a privilege even though he never asked for it.
Why isn’t the same courtesy shown to everyone?
As for pity, he wouldn’t expect extra sympathy from anyone.
If you call it guilt, what fault was it of theirs?
It was just that God had decided to punish someone. The lot had fallen to Mustafa. There is always someone who wins the lottery! But in this world, sometimes you can lose as you win. In order to access the records expounding the ultimate
ultimate verdict, you have to get a visa for the other world; at least, for that journey the one way ticket is free.
He remembered getting a boarding pass. He even remembered the number. To make life easier, he always reserved a seat in the first row behind Business Class.
He had once or twice tried to reserve one of the wider seats near the emergency exit. After hearing the stewardess explain, each time with a kind but firm expression, the fiction that these seats must be kept for ‘more suitable people’, he had given up.
How did the story go? ‘The people sitting near that exit had to be able to help others in an emergency.’
What wouldn’t they say…
Of course, everyone, other than himself, was waiting impatiently to help other passengers should there be an emergency. As if the stewardesses had no idea of what passengers would do in a state of a panic.
Now he always sat in the same seat and watched the same scene before each flight. After the take-off, the attractive stewardess looking after the front section would gradually
make her appearance in the doorway and smile condescendingly at the passengers sitting in economy class, before slowly pulling the curtain across.
The meaning is obvious.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we don’t want you to pass this curtain. Don’t covet the drinks we offer in this section. If you really want them, you plunk down the money.
Then I’ll smile at you, too.
He had that much money, of course. He was a successful academician, a university lecturer for so many years, with three books published and translated into several languages. He had no one to look after, save himself. There never had been anyone. But he wasn’t prepared to pay so much difference for a three hour flight. When he went to America, it was those who invited him who paid for the ticket and saved him from this burden. Only then would he join the consumers of pre-flight orange juice or champagne.
The plane had taken off. The stewardess had announced that the flight to Paris would take threehours thirty-five minutes, and they would be flying at an altitude of thirty thousand feet.
Up to then everything had been normal.
Then he had fallen asleep.
Now here he was at Cologne airport.
With an absolutely sound body. A black leather suitcase and his black leather briefcase, an inseparable part of his existence. Apart from that, everything else was suspect. He remembered the day he had bought the briefcase from his dear friend Roberto Sermonito’s leather shop overlooking the Trevi Fountain near the Piazza di Spagna in Rome. Mustafa was only forty then. It was the year he was teaching at Rome University and a mutual friend from Greece had introduced Roberto to him. Roberto was cheerful, ambitious, hard-working and canny. Having realized years before that the rich Americans who came to Italy were prepared to pay double the price for anything they bought in Piazza di Spagna, Sermonitowas fiercely protective of his trademark.
He had once produced one hundred black leather briefcases for a special collection. He sold them at three thousand dollars each. On account of their friendship, he had let Mustafa have one of them for one thousand five hundred dollars.
This briefcase was his only luxury. Everyone who saw it would take another look. No other briefcase had as many special compartments. There was a separate place for everything: passport, wallet, credit cards, pens, folders.
Affectionately, he put his hand on the case.
He lifted the lid. Suddenly he felt his heart contract. This time they had gone too far. The briefcase was definitely his own, but not the contents!
“God damn it,” he swore.
Suddenly he saw it: The case was his own but there was no longer a special back-strap on it.
Once again he had drunk too much.
In fact, he hadn’t intended to, but he couldn’t complain about making a night of it with his Cossack partners to celebrate the last investment they had planned together.
They had rolled the barrel out.
The Cossacks were definitely the first, then came the Russians. He’d surely profited a lot from the intense conversations over long meals and bottles of vodka consumed with them.
That was what western businessmen did not understand. They did business simply to make money: the profits were to be spent at other times, in other places and with other people. That’s why they were confused when they lost contracts there, scratching their heads over the conditions of tender and the prices they quoted.
Even then, they still didn’t understand.
Well done, my son. Just go on as you please.
The man was Russian, a Cossack. If you can’t spend time and make friends with him, why should he care about a you? You come from another world, gringo.
Not to be trusted.
That’s the way it goes.
It was three in the morning when they arrived home. “Kâmil Bey, I have to pick you up at seven o’clock this morning,” Orhan reminded him. “Your plane to Cologne takes off at nine. Zeynep Hanım sent me your ticket, passport, and your itinerary. She’ll give you a wake-up call at six-thirty. Is there anything else I can do?”
“ That’s all, Orhan, don’t be late.”
Then he had walked with firm steps through the garden of his villa and gone into his private quarters. On nights when he had to get up early, he preferred to sleep in his room on his own floor. His wife, Selin, had long ago become used to this. In any case, she knew very well how far she could go. This was, in fact, the first condition of their living together.
At six-thirty in the morning, with her usual attention to detail, his secretary Zeynep woke him herself and told him she had sent Orhan the file his assistant had prepared. She reminded him that his return ticket for two days later had been reserved, that the day after his return he had a meeting with the Minister of Energy and that the file also contained details of his other appointments.
Did he have any further requests?
“No, thanks Zeynep.”
He didn’t forget to add in a lighter tone,
“Come, you’ve got two days without me, live it up a little.”
He knew very well that even when he was away the team worked like mad, but then his father had always said, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” He didn’t really like this oppressive style of management but that’s what he had learned from his father.
They had started on the road towards the airport. Sitting in the back seat, he suddenly remembered something.
“Orhan, let’s just call Zeynep Hanım a minute .”
Zeynep was quite used to being woken by her boss at seven in the morning.
“ Yes, Kâmil Bey. What can I do for you?”
“Tell me, have you taken all the necessary precautions?”
“Kâmil Bey, everything is in order. I put the phone you use exclusively abroad in your briefcase. All the calls to your local cell phone will be routed to the office as soon as you board the plane. When necessary, we’ll find out what the call is about and if it’s an emergency, we’ll send you a short e-mail. We’ve taken steps to see that no one disturbs you before you return to Istanbul.”
“Okay then, goodbye.”
His father’s second commandment was this:
‘Put your line of defence as far away as possible, and widen the intervening space into a buffer zone. That’s the only way to move about freely Even the closest family members won’t cross this line. The more you are involved in other people’s personal problems, the more your business will suffer. Don’t forget, if you don’t manage others, they will start to manage you.’
His father had always taught his son, to whom he would one day entrust his empire, by giving him such shortcuts to the rules. Kâmil was his only son, his everything. He had lost his wife many years ago. Now his business was his whole life.
He asked himself why he was thinking about his father so much. He had recognized long ago that he could never be as harsh, as authoritarian, as merciless as his father. Up until five years ago they had shared the same floor at the office. Suddenly, a great storm had broken out. Darkness had fallen on them like a skyful of clouds. One day he noticed that his father had not come to the office. When his secretary told him that the big boss would not be coming to the office ever again, he had simply collapsed on to a chair.
How could he have known that his father had such a short time to live? No one had told him anything or warned him in any way. During the following three months, they saw each other only twice. It was as if his father had forgotten all about his son and everything else. No one knew what he was doing, where he went or whom he saw. Someone said he had become interested in psychology and was auditing a course at the university. Who could believe that?
When Kâmil paid a last visit to the hospital, he saw that his father had thrown in the towel. He was on the point of death. Was it possible not to recognize the regret in his eyes which had already lost their light?
His body was wasting away. His soul, writhing with the pain of sins committed, had already had a taste of death. He was perhaps suffering the remorse of having preferred to be Mr. Hyde throughout his life, and then just toward the end, awarding a breath of life to Dr. Jekyll, recognizing too late, much too late, his dual personality, just as death’s hot breath was about to touch his soul.
A very deep, totally dark feeling of remorse…
As he was boarding the plane, he was determined to put these thoughts behind him. He wanted to conclude the deal to turn over the management of his hotels to those Germans as soon as possible. Apart from his secretary and his assistant, no one knew about this meeting. Going through his mind was another of the rules he had inherited: not to inform the team until everything was ready. His father had never liked anyone to interfere in his decisions. He was the boss. Was he going to ask permission to do as he wanted?
Come, you’re getting tangled up in the past again. Stop thinking about what your father told you, he murmured to himself. Three hours of sleep last night was not enough for him, anyway. Leaning back, he buried himself deep in his Business Class seat.
He woke as the wheels of the airplane were bouncing along the tarmac. For a moment he couldn‘t think where he was. Then, slowly, it all came back to him. He relaxed. Three hours of sleep had done him good. It was good to sleep on a long plane journey.
Suddenly he realized his legs had gone to sleep. But the seat was quite comfortable... He reminded himself that for some time he had neglected to do any sports. Slowly he opened his eyes, wondering what the stewardess was doing. He remembered the night she had visited him in his London hotel suite. It hadn’t been at all bad.
She was pretty, and provocative, too...
When he became fully awake, he saw a big barrier in front of him. He was squashed into his seat. Someone was sitting next to him. What is this nonsense, he asked himself. No, it couldn’t be said he had slept well last night, but it wasn’t that bad either. He looked around in irritation. What a crowd, what a commotion! Obviously the stewardess wasn’t around. He felt the pain in his legs again. Involuntarily he put his hand down to feel his right leg. Then suddenly he jumped in his seat .
His leg muscles!
Why were his leg muscles so weak? He almost went crazy. His clothes had changed, too. He was wearing cheap Dockers pants and rubber soled trainers. If someone was playing tricks on him, he was ready to bash their heads in.
“Is anyone there?” he shouted. Was it him shouting? It sounded like someone else.
What was happening ?
Oh my God...
A few people had turned to look at him before averting their eyes in sympathy. Suddenly, a thought came to his mind. He began to press the bell furiously. Once, twice, three times. To press three times meant an emergency. Well, what could be more urgent, he thought. He went on pressing furiously.
Then the stewardess, looking a little surprised, appeared at his side.
“Yes, sir. You called me?”
“Yes, of course I called you. Who sat me here, first tell me that. And just look at the state I’m in? Is this a joke? ”
The stewardess was confused too.
“It was me who sat you here, sir. In fact, you thanked me for accompanying you, don’t you remember? If you like, I can ask for a wheelchair to help you when you disembark. It would be easier for you. Your name is Mustafa Bey, isn’t it?”
Kâmil behaved as though he hadn’t heard what she was saying.
“Listen to me. I’ve had enough of this nonsense. Call the manager, at once. That’s all.”
The stewardess noticed at once the anger in the passenger’s eyes. She had no intention of getting herself into a pointless muddle. After so many years of being at everyone’s beck and call, when there were only two months left before her promotion to business class, it would do her no good to cross swords with an addle-brained lunatic.
“Very well, sir, I’ll call the chief steward immediately. Excuse me, please.”
As the stewardess walked hastily away, Kâmil examined his legs once more. The seat number could be changed, but what about these legs? His anger gave way to puzzlement which in turn gave way to a wave of fear. If one didn’t count the day his father had given up work and disappeared, he couldn’t remember ever having felt so helpless. The man sitting beside him was stirring restlessly, making him nervous.
If only he could get out of here, he’d get even with them. But up until that time it would be best to deal with this mess without causing trouble, he decided.
He must be having a bad dream.
Or else something similar.
‘Excessive anger leads to trouble’,his father used to say. ‘Keep your claws sheathed till the chips are down. It will be more difficult later if you don’t finish off the job once and for all. Control your emotions, wait, and strike when they least expect it. Otherwise it’ll be they who finish you off.’
During the years when they had first begun to work together, when he was still green, he would sometimes, ask:
“ Okay, father, I understand, but what if we end up screwing innocent people or those who mean well? Is that always the way things are done? Is there no middle way?”
“Look here, son,” his father had said. ‘In business there is no mercy. Either you put and end to them or they finish you off. What if people do mean well! Give up that nonsense of ethics and honesty. They don’t call them good. They’re just weak. You don’t pity the weak. Why be sorry for them?Let those impotent creatures suffer if they will. Was it you who gave them birth, man!’
What would my father do now if he were in my shoes, he wondered again. Then he raged at himself. For heaven’s sake, it’s been five years, are you still trying to settle up with him?
Just at that moment, the curtain dividing the sections opened.
It was a new stewardess who had come.
“Yes, sir. How can I be of help?”
Kâmil began to realize that the dilemma he found himself in was more complicated than it seemed. He tried to be calm.
“Look, miss, I bought a businessclass ticket for the flight to Cologne. I boarded the plane and sat down. When I woke up, I found myself here. Now let’s see if you can explain what happened.”
This flight attendant, too, was bewildered. She replied anxiously:
“We’re really sorry. There seems to have been a terrible mistake. We’ll look into it immediately. But I’m sorry to say I have another piece of bad news for you. We actually flew to Paris. We are now at Charles De Gaulle airport. I hope you didn’t board the wrong flight. If you like, we’ll let the other passengers disembark first. I’ll call someone to help you.”
This time he could find nothing to say. He had to pull himself together and find a way of getting out of this fix. Slowly he nodded.
“ Okay, let’s do what you say. Let the passengers leave first and I’ll wait here for you and the stewardess who said she seated me here. I won’t leave until this problem’s been solved. You understand?”
The experienced stewardess had already realized what a hard nut she was up against. She would wait for him to calm down and also try to find out what had happened.
“Absolutely, sir. Please excuse us for a few minutes. Let’s get through this hassle first. Meanwhile, would you have your ticket ready? We’ll look at it together.”
Trying to look unruffled, the chief stewardess passed through the front section into the cockpit. She had no intention of paying the price for this pack of nonsense on her own. She outlined the problem to the chief pilot. Together they began to examine the passenger list. The name of the passenger supposed to be occupying seat 12A was listed as Mustafa Yılmaz. The ticket had been bought over the internet. Everything seemed to be in place.
While he tried to calm himself down, Kâmil was also making a mental effort to shed some light on this comedy of errors. It was obvious that this business was more complicated, more uncanny, more alarming than simply boarding the wrong flight, or waking up in the wrong seat.
His hand strayed slowly to his face. Once more he jumped in his seat. He had a beard!
Hey there, I’ve never grown a beard in my life!
Was it a dream he was having? Or a nightmare?
Or was he the random victim of a series of mysterious and incomprehensible events? Wasn’t it Orhan who had brought him to the airport just five hours ago? Wasn’t he himself but someone else when the ground stewardess taking care of the tickets had given him his boarding pass and said “Have a good flight, Kâmil Bey”? How could he possibly forget the smile of the stewardess who had handed him his orange juice as he sat in his seat?
Or was it Gregor Samsa sitting in that seat?
The Gregor Samsa in Kafka’s Metamorphosis who one evening had stretched out on his bed as a man and woken up in the morning as a huge cockroach desperately struggling on the floor…
When Gregor first awoke, even before taking more than a cursory look at that disgusting body, hadn’t he despaired of how he would go to work in that state? And later, when he looked at those huge hairy legs, hadn’t he tried to ignore the change he’d gone through?
At least I still have a body which resembles a human’s, thought Kâmil, and so I can go to work.
If only he could understand what had happened…
He began to look around him. He was wearing a sports jacket. He rummaged through the pockets. There was neither a ticket nor a wallet there. I must have a bag of some kind, he thought. Just then his hand met a piece of crumpled paper. He squinted at the number written on the boarding pass.
“God damn it!” he cursed.
He decided to stand up and see if there was a briefcase overhead. But he couldn’t get up. It was as if his legs didn’t belong to him. He couldn’t make them do what he wanted. Filled with indescribable despair, he sank back in his seat like a heavy stone.
That was life. The seat he had been complaining about a little while earlier had saved him from falling down.
He sat for a long time, not knowing what to do, counting every beat of his heart.
His hands were wet with perspiration.
Then he realized that the plane was empty from one end to the other.
Silence now replaced the crowd of noisy passengers looking around anxiously as if wondering whether they had left something behind. The passengers who were trying to give an impression of politeness while at the same time shouldering the next person out of their way in order to get ten inches ahead...
He used to be the last to get on the plane and the first to get off. He never bothered about what was happening behind him. In fact, he had had no reason ever to be interested in the common herd.
Just look at how things have turned out, he said to himself.
This time I was the first to get on the plane and I’ll be the last to be taken off.
A little later, a team consisting of the stewardesses in front and the pilot behind appeared at his side. He tried to read their eyes. They’ve become really professional, he told himself. They were all looking at him with a mask of blank politeness.
The pilot spoke first.
“Mustafa Bey, please be assured that we are ready to be of every assistance to you. According to our records, you have a valid ticket. Miss Melek showed you to your seat. As you were the first to come on board, she very clearly remembers examining your boarding pass. You say you should be on the plane for Cologne. There seems to have been something of a mix-up. I wonder, would it be all right if we took a look at your ticket and your identity card?”
Kâmil finally realized that he had to behave more calmly. It would obviously not help matters to pick a quarrel with the pilot of the plane he found himself on in a foreign country.
“Look, Chief Pilot, we are certainly faced with an odd situation. I don’t want to say anything more now. But my ticket and other papers should be in the locker above. I couldn’t reach them myself.”
The chief pilot replied in the same courteous manner.
“Yes, Mustafa Bey, here is a bag which I think must belong to you. Let me help you.”
Kâmil was fed up of being called Mustafa. Just as he was about to blow up, he saw the briefcase. Suddenly he felt more relieved. At last something was going right.
“Yes,” he exclaimed. “That’s my briefcase.”
As soon as it was placed on the seat beside him, he charged at the lid of the briefcase.
But the moment he opened the case a red light flickered on and off in his mind. His lips trembled, his jaw dropped.
Yes, the briefcase was his but the contents weren’t…
End of Part I