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Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The Towel on the Terrace: A story-poem

Born April 21, 1955, Murathan Mungan is a Turkish author, playwright and poet who is openly gay. His most notable work was the poetry book Yaz Gecer (Summer Passes).

I provide a loose translation of one of his works (his best in my opinion) from that book below, because it provides lessons for all of us - irrelevant of sexual preference - about love.

I have adapted it through no other reason than to make its message universal; it is no slight to any group or minority.

The Towel On The Terrace
An adaptation by Ali Yildirim

We shared the same terrace, our doors were side by side at the motel where we were staying. We would bump into each other in the mornings or the evenings, shared shower, shared kitchen, a shy hello. Our laundry dried side by side on the same terrace, it gave me goose pimples; accompanied by a few novice, tongue-tied words, sipping some white wine we'd watch the sunset on the same terrace, and this would give me goose-pimples too. With the dying force of the sunlight, on the same terrace side by side our shadows would merge into one another.

We would smile at each other without meaning to when our glances would strike upon the other, we were on the beach and reading the same book when we first met.

Too early for the season, the beach was almost empty, but summer had begun early.

The flutter of row boats in front of the motel, the hesitant energy of the flowers, the colour of places shadowed by sunset have remained in my memory. We were both alone and were trying not to bother one another in that far away and unknown little boating village.

Yet, such stuff like sharing a sunset are from what relationships are made. Even without touching our flesh was dazzled by the existence of the other, the sensation of skin was enough to feel the pull. The call of longing was ready for all the traps it had set itself.

That evening we were on the terrace again. The sun had set long ago. Our wet clothes were hung out to dry, songs played in the distance carried across with the smells of thyme. For some reason you were staring at me differently than before. And then whispering you said to me:

"I want to touch you."

Summer had begun for me.

"Touch me then," I said.

You fell silent. For a long time we stared at each other. In the depths of your eyes I could easily see your inner battles. And without saying another word, you quietly stood up and went to your room, closing the door against me. For hours I remained there, in the dark and on the terrace.

When I woke up the next morning, the door to your room was open, I saw that you had taken your stuff and left. Only a towel that you'd left behind on the terrace was shuddering in the breeze. I never saw you again, no other summer, no where.

Thirteen years has passed to the day, I thought. Does some recollection of that momentary urge you felt those thirteen years ago still remain deep within you? As I wrote this poem, I realised suddenly that I couldn't remember your name, but the colour of the shuddering towel on the terrace was still there in my mind's eye.

I asked myself, newly separated from a recent love, in these deep and burning days, why you should suddenly invade my memory? Later it came to me: Many loves are born from the one, and cannot ever be divided from each other.

Murathan Mungan (from Summer Passes)

Loosely translated by Ali Yildirim. Alternatively read a more faithful translation here or read the original Turkish version here.

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