The lift came to a halt at the fourth floor. We entered the apartment with 17 on the door. Just as I had thought, there was hardly any furniture inside. The walls of the lounge were plastered with posters and photographs. In the centre of the room was a walnut dining table that looked as if it had been bought in a junk shop. I noticed that it was bolted to the floor just as they are in seedy bars where inevitable fights break out and everything is a weapon. Hundreds of empty booze bottles carpeted the parquet floor from wall to wall. The curtains were drawn and the thick odour of stale tobacco and alcohol added to the impression that the windows hadn’t been opened for a very long time. Blank sheets of paper lay strewn like shrouded corpses across the table top, waiting there for someone to gather them. And there on the table, looking out of place in the glow of three lamps placed side by side sat the most expensive item in the place, the gold-plated fountain pen I remembered from so long ago. After standing stock-still for some time he motioned me to sit down. The metal chair scraping on the parquet made a sound just like that of the swinging-chair we used to sit on together years ago, talking about life.
He sat down opposite me. We hadn’t exchanged a word since the car and that special silence of 4am that lets you listen to no-one but yourself had taken over the apartment. He picked up the vodka bottle at his feet and placed it on the table. He smiled. We both had loads of memories about Absolut. And at that moment I began to think just how long we’d known each other. The things we’d done, the trips we’d made, the rows we’d had, everything…
He moved his left hand to his waist. The hand that had disappeared into his jacket came back with something as shiny as the metal of the chair. With his elbow on the table he slowly turned on me the steel of a 38 calibre short barrelled six shooter; the bringer of agony and fatality that had made Smith & Wesson rich men. I could see the yellow smiles of the bullets in the chamber. To be honest yellow has always reminded me of death. The killer that is diarrhoea, the sickly flush of malaria, the yellow teeth of Azrail the Reaper. These were my thoughts as I sat there calm, and yet faced with a situation by which I should have been stunned. Someone I’d known for over twenty years was pointing a gun at my head and was trying to make sure I wouldn’t die of natural causes.
Not that anything had been able to surprise either of us for years. In this situation that would have turned most people into a fountain of sweat we sat as calm as two old fishermen mending their nets for the thousandth time. I reached over and pulled the vodka bottle towards me. I brought it in front of my chest to where I guessed my heart was beating. His arm had tired and his aim dropped from my head to my chest. I was wondering whether I would hear the sound of the Absolut bottle smashing before I died. But we’d known each other for so long, it’s like we had written the manuals to each other’s mind. He sussed my little game and with that smile that no-one else could ever smile he slowly raised the muzzle of the gun back up to my forehead. With a put-out look on my face I brought the bottle up to my mouth to take a long slug.
I’d once seen a catalogue devoted to different types of Absolut bottles and it made me wonder why we have high unemployment when people still have jobs creating this meaningless crap. Because whether the bottle’s in the shape of a woman or a well the most important bit is still the hole… and for me that was the only bit that mattered anyway.
As the vodka washed into my mouth I peered at his face contorting comically in the bottom of the bottle. He was trying to seek out my pupils and hold my gaze but my black eyes had never fallen for that one. He began to reach his right hand towards the bottle that I’d put back in the middle of the table when he quickly pulled back like someone stung by a sudden bad memory. I was supposed to expect an explanation for this situation; in this last hour before dawn that morning was greedily trying to claw forwards for its own. But I expected nothing. I was at a time of my life when I expected nothing and was curious about nothing.
But even so, just to play along I tipped my head to one side and put on the face of an inquisitive child.
He swallowed and started to speak. His voice was warm, quiet enough not to disturb the night and honest enough not to hurt me.
“Write”, he said, “Write our story. Write the book that will prove that you and I have come to the absolute end of everything.”
Author – Hakan Günday
(c) copyright Doğan Kitap 2003
Translation (c) copyright Caroline Stockford 2013