With her nylon nightie rolled up to her elbows, Emine was climbing the stairs, resting on every step as she held one hand to her back and clung to the wall with the other. Right in front of the stairs was the consulting room. The midwife, who had a gap between her teeth so wide that a little finger would fit in, said, “Emine, my girl, from now on you are forbidden to use the lift when you go to the consulting room. Keep going up and down those stairs so that your bastard can move down.”
Everybody called the one in her belly, “Bastard”. Emine’s bastard. The bastard belonging to Emine who cannot give birth. Whereas the child – of which she somehow couldn’t be delivered – did have a father who up until five months ago came to the Champs Elysées Nightclub every night. The Champs Elysées Nightclub was in Bursa. Had the man been a well to do from one of Bursa’s villages or did he have an olive oil factory? Well, something like that. He fell in love with Emine, or Banu, as she was called in the club. “Do you want me to set you up in a house in Cekirge?” the man said. “Do,” said Emine. Prolonging the “o” shaking her head slowly and with the occasional burst of laughter she repeated: “Dooo, mister, do.” “Cheers to that then,” the man said, “Come, let’s drink.”
Emine drained her glass at the man’s command.
She had been admitted to the Maternity Ward in Bursa National Hospital four days ago under the name on her birth certificate. Four days ago she had suddenly remembered how she had lived in Mersin as Emine, how as Emine she fell in love with a young man and with that name ran away from Mersin to Bursa. The following was similar to all whores’ stories. Laughing together they told each other their stories in the brothel and the nightclub. Their laughter brought tears to their eyes:
“Let’s run away, let’s marry, is that what he told you, hah hah hah hah.”
“Was it your stepfather who first molested you, hah hah hah hah.”
“Then you ran away from home, hah hah hah hah.”
“He introduced you to the brothel-keeper saying she was his aunt, hah hah hah hah.”
“He took you to the nightclub having said that he would have your maidenhood stitched up and take you home to your family, hah hah hah hah.”
Having come to Bursa from Mersin in the hope of getting married, Emine was sold to the brothel. She worked there for six months. Because she was very young it was mainly the old ones who asked for the number she worked under. At that time she completely forgot that her name was Emine. Naked to the waist, she was a number between one and twelve. Two old-timers had given their last gasp on top of her. Her fame spread under the name of “Life Snatching Emine.” This deceptive fame nailed her, legs spread, to the bed. She beseeched Incontinent Nurcan who was counting the tokens in the token box, “My bones hurt, abla. Tell them once in a while that I am engaged, don’t let in one or two so that I can take a rest.”
Her fame reached as far as the Champs Elysées Nightclub and the owner, Splinter Muhittin, came to see her, “Do you take a man’s life while looking at the ceiling?” he grumbled, but still he made Emine an offer in response to her deceptive fame: “For me to get a whore out of this place is a big job. It’s better if you just run away. Then they’ll not dare take their revenge on me for it.”
The following day a man who came to Emine as a customer, explained to her where they would pick her up after she had run away. And taking advantage of the opportunity, he said, after having attended to his business, “Why, there is nothing to you,” and left.
As she was standing in the doorway of the consulting room, breathless and big with child, Emine remembered her escape from the brothel. She had looked down from the window of the room where she worked. She had not been out of there apart from the six-monthly medical check. When they were taken for their regular gynaecological examination they grinned from ear to ear as they looked around all the way to the hospital.
“Let’s see if you’ll giggle like that when they stick the iron clamp up between your legs,” said Triple Sebahat, a whore for forty years. She was not one of those tough whores who could work for forty years. The secret of her not being able to retire was that she had a breast in between the other two. Never mind Emine, not a single one of those who had known Triple Sebahat for years, nor any of the whores who had worked with her in all the brothels in the country, had ever seen her third breast: “Where is it Sebahat Abla, right between the other two?” the whores asked curiously.
“Right in the middle,” Triple Sebahat would say, with a loud broken laugh.
“Is it as big as your other two tits?”
“I haven’t taken it in my hand to weigh it and I haven’t put it in my mouth to taste it,” Triple Sebahat would start to fool around. “You’ll just have to ask my customers about it.”
After that answer her laughs would ring out, she would get under every squeaking bed, fill the token boxes, and wait at the stair railing, drooling saliva and snot.
Whores have obsessions. All they wanted was to see Triple Sebahat’s third breast. Sometimes they would ask those who came out of Triple Sebahat’s: “Abicim, tell us about that broad’s third tit.”
“Give it us for free and I’ll tell you, I’ll show you the place with my hands,” the greedy customers who were keen on freebees would say.
It was Triple Sebahat who was going to run away too with Emine to work at the Champs Elysées Nightclub. She was in no position to entertain customers. She was only going to appear on stage at some time during the night and show her third breast to those who were interested, and let the ones who put money into the ice bucket held by the waiter, grope it. About this wonderful job Triple Sebahat said with a hollow laugh, “Nothing could be better than that.”
It occurred to Emine to make a parachute out of a sheet before jumping from the third floor window. It was the favourite game of her kid brother who she had brought up. He used to make parachutes and let himself go from the balcony of their flat on the second floor. There was a strong wind outside. The one tree that was at the end of the garden, swayed to and fro. She tied the four ends of the sheets to their ankles and arms. As she did this Triple Sebahat giggled again. Emine closed her mouth with her hand: “Quiet abla, quiet, or they’ll catch us.”
Triple Sebahat pushed away Emine’s hand: “Hey slut, why are we tying the sheets to our arses. Wouldn’t it be better if we just tie a knot in them, and let them hang down?”
That was easier, but Emine had not thought of it. She couldn’t be bothered untying the sheets and tying them together. “Jump, abla,” she said, “come on, jump.”
Triple Sebahat let herself go with the courage of a madman. The wind pushed her right and left like the tree at the end of the garden, but somehow she could not get under the parachute in order to drift slowly. Triple Sebahat laughed her last loud laugh and crashed to the ground. Emine could even hear the thud of her fall on the hard soil. In spite of that she was not afraid to jump. Allah helped her and the sheet that was wet from the semen that had flowed all day, ballooned. It even got stuck for a moment on the second floor window. There, between Sevim’s legs, she saw the torso of Sevim’s last customer of the day. She glided very slowly and came down four or five paces from where Triple Sebahat was lying. That is when her left arm got broken. It never mended and ached every winter.
Triple Sebahat, with blood oozing from her mouth gathered up all her strength and this is what she said to Emine: “I’ve escaped, girl.” Death was an escape for all whores. They would all stand next to Triple Sebahat’s dead body that was lying on the ground, and cry about their own end that would come about in a similar way. Then they would commit their act of treachery and lean over Triple Sebahat to see her third breast. That was what Emine did too. Crying about her own end she gently undid Triple Sebahat’s buttons. Her heart beat, more out of curiosity about what she would find, than for fear of being caught. Triple Sebahat did not have a third breast. Bewildered she searched for the third breast between the other two, and under them. Even on her belly, under her arms, and using all her strength she turned the body on its side and looked on the back. Triple Sebahat did not have a third breast. If that were so, what was she going to show them on the stage in the Champs Elysées? Had she known that she would not make it there? Was this escape impossible?
Holding her broken left arm Emine ran. Ran very fast. Hid her shadow in the darkness. She even saw the bullet that went straight past her shoulder. And jumped into the white Chevrolet that was waiting for her. When Splinter Muhittin, who was counting money in the cellar of the ChampsElysées Nightclub, saw Emine standing in front of him he was amazed: “How did you get away, girl, we were expecting your corpse, not you in the flesh.”
The midwife with the gap between her front teeth, had long since examined Emine. Although she now said: “Get your legs down off the table, girl,” Emine did not hear. Was this the time to remember her escape from the brothel to the Champs Elysées Nightclub? Look, the doctor lady has come, she stood in front of her and asked questions: “How old are you, Emine Hanim?” The midwife, with the front teeth that had a gap wide enough for a little finger to fit in, laughed at the doctor because she had added “Hanim” to Emine’s name. She openly made fun, “Could a whore ever be a Hanim?” Not listening to Emine who said, “I am twenty-three years old,” the doctor started to scold the midwife: “Look here, midwife, it’s none of your business where our patients come from and what their jobs are. If you act like that to my patients when I am around, you’ll have to look for somewhere else to work.”
Because she had started to answer the other questions, Emine did not ponder further about why the midwife laughed at what the doctor had said. She did not understand what was going on. Probably she was sneered at again because she was a prostitute and worked in a nightclub. It was not the doctor’s defending her when the midwife laughed at her being called “Hanim” that made her weep, but because she was hurt by the other five pregnant women in the ward excluding her, not talking to her and eating the bananas, apples, salty and tart stuffed vine leaves that their husbands brought, without sharing them with her. It was just when the doctor said, “When was your last period?” that her sobs could be heard and the tears started streaming down her cheeks. The poor doctor must have thought that she cried because she could not give birth. So she tried to comfort her by saying, “Don’t be upset Emine Hanim, sometimes there can be deviations from the normal birth date by ten days, even up to twenty days. Maybe we will perform a caesarean section.”
Emine got down from the examination table, and walked towards the door. Amazingly, the midwife linked arms with her and escorted her. This made Emine very happy, and smiling she wiped the tears from her eyes. But the minute the door to the consulting room was closed and they were in the corridor, the midwife pushed her away saying, “Whore!”
She moved on, clinging to and leaning against the wall. She saw her tears fall and plash on the dusty steps.
“This is my fate,” she told herself. “Which whore deserves kindness?”
Thinking deeply and crying, she went down the stairs. She met that loathsome caretaker in the corridor. He was busy mopping the floor with water that had gone black as tar. Without taking her eyes off the floor she walked towards the ward where she was staying. But it seemed like the caretaker intended to corner her: “Virtue itself! Haven’t you given birth to that bastard of yours yet? If you would show some charity to this poor man just once, you’ll see how the bastard will be shifted.”
The smell of the caretaker’s breath went right up her nose. The dirty frays of the mop touched her feet and ankles. Emine was disgusted by it. She wanted to wash her feet. So she changed direction and walked to where the toilets and bathrooms were. At the door to the toilet she met two pregnant women who were staying in the same ward as her. They had obviously been washing themselves because they smelled of soap: “Some whore has come to see you, she is waiting downstairs, “ said the frowning one. Then she lashed out at the caretaker who was at the other end of the corridor: “Didn’t they tell you to mop up after the women had retired and were sleeping in their wards? Do I have to walk around in my nightgown in this condition with you about?”
Emine washed her feet and went downstairs.
Her friend Serpil from the Champs Elysées Nightclub was smoking as she gazed appraisingly at the pregnant women’s husbands who were lined up in front of her like pigeons. She had crossed her legs. It was crystal clear that she was a prostitute, even if it had not been for the dress that revealed her breasts. Her imitation earrings said, “I am a whore.” Her high-heeled lamé slippers called, “Come on, let’s work something out” Her eyes whispered, “Don’t you see? I am a traveller of that path. I am not afraid of men; look, I am straining my breasts just so, parading them in front of your eyes.”
“Even though I am pregnant, is it so so obvious that I’m a whore?” Emine thought.
How had it been found out that she worked first at a brothel and then at the Champs Elysées Nightclub? If she had been known as, “Emine who can’t give birth”, wouldn’t the caretakers who tried to feel her up call her Bacim? Wouldn’t they bow their heads as they wished her, “May Allah grant you a quick delivery, sister”?
“Idiot, what stupid things you worry about, “ said Serpil. “This is how virtuous women ruin a person. Look, I have been a whore for fifteen years, my advice to you is not to make other friends beside whores, don’t get involved with virtuous women.” Serpil inhaled her cigarette deeply. When she blew the smoke out it formed a narrow triangle in the air. Then she continued in her own cocky way: “We whores are stupid. Would someone who wasn’t stupid fall like this? Every one is master of his own fate. It is peculiar to us whores that we can read what Allah has written on our foreheads.” At this point she drew a line leaving a faint trace across her forehead with her thumbnail with the chipped varnish. She scolded Emine who was still in tears: “Do you know what kind of shit you are? Then why do you get upset when respectable people despise you?” Serpil once again inhaled deeply from her cigarette and said, “Imbecile”. Then they fell silent.
Serpil started to look around. Suddenly she got up and embraced her friend: “I can’t bear it, slut! You listened to Sengul and decided to have the baby. Would that peasant ever have you? But all whores think that when they have a man’s baby, they will be kept as mistresses, and be taken out of the brothels and nightclubs. Like you I believed it too. My baby was kicked out of me. Whore means, somebody who believes everything, sweetie. Let’s not talk about these things…”
Serpil got up and went back to her place. With the tip of her finger she wiped the dampness from her eyes. She threw the parcel she had next to her over to Emine: “Your peasant sent you these things. Don’t worry; there isn’t a single useful miserable thing there. Underpants, undershirt, nappies and the like for the child. For you he sent a besibiryerde. “I don’t want her to bring me the child, or to see it,” he said. So you are meant to bring up the bastard on those five gold coins.”
Emine put the parcel in her lap. Curious she looked into the opened corner. “The boss sent you a message, too,” Serpil continued: “about you he said, ‘she’d better be thankful that the club is being decorated and all the girls have got leave, or else she would deliver in the toilets. Just because the club is closed does not mean that we are desperate’. I went on two jobs the other night. ‘What I mean to say,’ the boss said, ‘is that I need her, she has got to hurry up, if she is going to deliver that bastard, she should get on with it. Just so as you know it, so that there will be no unpleasantness later’.”
Serpil stubbed out her cigarette and got up. She stubbed it out violently. Emine noticed this. “He will have me look for you as soon as you are delivered,” she said as she left. From where Emine was sitting she leaned over, looking at Serpil as she left. Then she took the bag of fruit that had been cleared of apples and bananas and the parcel that the child’s father had sent. The women in the ward were talking, but when she came in they shut up. She left the fruit on the bedside table. Sat on her bed and opened the parcel. A whole lot of babygro’s, undershirts, hats, and socks came out of it. The packet was full of soft, tiny, beautiful baby clothes. “These are the clothes of our love,” she thought. Then she thought that she really loved the father of the child. That this love was mutual. There were lots of indications of this love. It was the others who ruined everything. If he had not been a good man, he would not have sent these things. He would not have slipped money into the boss’ pocket to have her admitted to hospital. Even with the nightclub being redecorated the boss would never have done all that for her sake.
It was because he was afraid, that he left Emine to herself like this. Emine knew only too well what it meant to be afraid. For this reason alone she could not get angry with the man.
Emine spread out the baby clothes piece by piece on the bed, wondering if they smelled like babies because they were baby clothes. Then she took the suits that she had matched down to the socks and the undershirts to her ward mates, one by one: “My child’s father sent these. I have nowhere for my baby to wear these things. I don’t go on visits. That’s why this is too much. If you’ll have them, accept them for your baby.”
Some of the pregnant women greedily took the ready-made baby clothes. Some of them snapped: “Take the bastards rags and get lost.” Emine put the two sets that were left over in a corner of her suitcase. She had to pee.
As she left the toilet she smelled the foul breath of the caretaker who wouldn’t leave her alone. She could not see him when she turned her head. Then suddenly a hand grabbed her around her throat. A hand that was contaminated by the stench of his breath closed her mouth. Emine was being pulled along with her legs dragging after her on the floor. Even though she tried to step more firmly on the floor, and although her heels touched the floor, she could not offer any resistance. She realized that her body was being pushed into a small dark room that smelled of disinfectant. This was the medicine depot at the end of the corridor. Another caretaker closed her mouth with a wide piece of tape. Then he held her arms. The other one squeezed her breasts. The milk of the baby yet to be born flowed with a terrible pain. She aimed her kicks at the man’s knees and stomach. But he had already pulled his trousers down, and had gone down on his knees on Emine’s naked calves. The baby turned three times.
“Me first, Sitki kardeş,” said the one on top of her, “then you. Both of us as much as we want.”
Emine resisted with all her might. She was kicking and scratching like the Emine who five years ago had followed her love from Mersin to Bursa. But to no effect. “You have paid the penalty for being a whore,” the caretakers said consoling themselves. Emine heard the sound of their zippers. They removed the tape from her mouth, “Now fuck off,” they said, “Go to hell.”
As they took Emine by her arm and flung her out she did not hear their threats that started, “If you complain…” Her blood, the baby’s waters and the men’s filth were flowing from between her legs. She got out of the secluded small corner in front of the medicine depot and walked in the corridor. Very slowly, dragging her feet. She pulled back the thin curtain, which was ballooning in the wind from the window in the corridor. The wind reminded her of the night when she ran away from the brothel to the nightclub, when she saw Triple Sebahat crash to the ground. The baby that she just could not give birth to kept turning. She got up onto the low windowsill easily and squatted down. Just then the door to the ward where she was staying opened. One of the pregnant women, probably the frowning one, appeared at the door: “What are you doing?” she said.
They looked at each other in surprise.
“I am going to jump,” Emine said hoarsely, crying.
“Allah takes what Allah gives. Don’t!” Said the pregnant woman at the door. She said it without taking a single step to fill the space between them.
“I have lived what He wrote. So what if my death is by my own hand. If I for once do not do what He said and wrote.”
Emine was amazed at her ability to talk this long and clearly. Then at the weeds that covered the garden behind the hospital, the soft look of those weeds when the wind made them wave like the sea…
She jumped without hesitation.
If she could have seen the news of her suicide in the local newspaper two days later, she would doubtlessly be happy. The news that seemed to be written based on the doctor’s information, mentioned neither her being a hostess nor that she once was the Life Snatching Emine in the Bursa Brothel. They were about the depression she suffered because she somehow could not give birth to her baby. There was not a hint of the secrets and troubles that felled her to the ground. There was only a story in the news that she would have liked very much, which was made up from the lie about Emine’s Deliverance.