‘once upon a time in a nightclub…’ When my sister got married for the first time, I was in the last year of middle school and she was in the final year of college. My father had sent her to Savaştepe Teacher’s College for the benefit of her education. But just one week before she graduated she married a waiter and came to kiss my father’s hand and receive his permission. My father gave them both a good beating and kicked them out, of course. As a result, however, of my mother’s subtle behind-the-scenes efforts, my father forgave my sister, who meanwhile had been staying for a week with my aunt.
My sister was then able to return home, and when she did, she brought her bridegroom to live with us as well. Neither of them worked and since they had no money to go out and about, they spent all day long at home. It was great fun for me. During their short-lived marriage I enjoyed myself like never before. Hüseyin believed that it went against human nature to work and he had even convinced my mother and sister of this. My father wasn’t buying it though. ‘If he has the balls to marry, then he should be man enough to find a proper job and work. I can’t be looking after a bloke with hands the size of shovels!’, he’d say.
But Hüseyin couldn’t have cared less. All day long he’d chatter on at my mother with his silver tongue, zip about on his moped, play spinning tops with the neigbourhood kids, collect picture discs from crisp packets and eat non-stop. Eventually my father found them both jobs as waiters, got them some furniture and set them up in a house of their own, the costs spread on hire purchase over twenty-four months. That’s how he managed to get them out of his hair. I was so upset when they left. They used to play games with me, make all sorts of funny jokes while we watched TV and make my mum and I laugh such a lot. When they did really naughty things it was even funny to see them get caught.
At least then there were people at home. My big brother was even older than my sister and lived in his own house, doing his own thing. And because my sister had been at boarding school it was great for me to have someone around other than my mother. I was really devastated when they left.
But my sister’s happiness wasn’t to last long. Not more than a month or so later she’d come home to find the house completely empty and Hüseyin gone too. So she turned up again at our doorstep. My brother-in-law, the waiter, according to how my mother told it, had cleaned out the entire place, leaving not even a sock behind. He’d even taken the cooker’s extractor hood, which had been part of the property’s inventory, and had disappeared. My sister was gutted, my mother was beside herself and I was just stunned. As for my father he went ballistic. Then there followed court cases, prosecutors and written proceedings. Nothing. That’s the way it went. It must have started with Hüseyin selling this and that when he needed some money and now it was just a memory that relatives sometimes mentioned, promptly ‘knocking on wood’ to protect themselves from such a fate.
I was at university when I heard that my sister had got married for a second time. My mother rang and told me. I went straight home to Biga on the first bus from Uludağ. That’s when they had buses. That service from Biga is no longer running. My sister had gone to work in a bar in a hotel in Assos with her friend Gülfer, who was a hooker. We’d been told it was a nice hotel bar of course, so that my father wouldn’t go crazy, saying, ‘What kind of place is that for a single woman?’ It was actually a full-on nightclub. And I know where it was. My sister had got married to a guy from the club. But for now they had only been joined together with the blessing of an Imam and were not officially hitched. This was because the man was already married. His son was taking the university admission exams in the coming year and the man wanted to get the results out of the way before getting divorced. So they would have to make do with an Imam’s blessing until then.
My sister got my aunt to break the news to my father over the telephone. ‘Whenever I leave her alone for a minute she goes and gets married!’, was how, years later on a Kurban Bayram morning, my father remembered that day. The day on which the apple of his eye went up in flames of fury. The next thing my father did was to get my uncle, all my grown up cousins and a few close friends from work and pile them into his panel van. Within half an hour they arrived in Assos, raided the club and rescued his princess from the castle dungeon. For a while we couldn’t show our faces in Biga, not even from the other side of a window. We did our best to laugh it off.
Now that there were less comings and goings, things returned to normal. We told ourselves that this latest dear brother-in-law hadn’t really been all that fond of my sister anyway. My sister took her beating and was forced to live with us. Her punishment went on for about three months. My father wouldn’t even let her go out to the corner shop. Then he found a job for her at the Kaşıkçıobalı furniture factory. The ban had been lifted.
In truth, by now my father was tired of having to deal with her. He was getting up there in age and wasn’t the man he used to be. His blood pressure and diabetes were competing with each other and he used to say, ‘Sixty is sh*tty, and your backside has no pity’. Later he was to leave my sister pretty much to her own devices in Biga. She’d go out in the evening and meet up with Gülfer. They’d go for tea or soft drinks at Kaynanalar Park, Bigaspor and Avcılar. My father stopped making a fuss. ‘Biga’s not big enough to swing a cat in; at least we can keep an eye on her here,’ he’d remark to my mother. They then decided to get a house, she and Gülfer, in Hastanebaşı. My father agreed to this, but only after my mother stepped in and pleaded with him too. He had his fill of fighting with my sister. And that’s how my sister left us. I’d get to see her very little after that, at Bayrams, weddings and funerals, when I could make it.
She’d really truly left us this time. And when you factor in the generally unpleasant business of growing up as well, we were never quite as close again.
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