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Sinan startled awake from a dream in which his father scolded him for abandoning their village. "My grandson will never know Yesilli, his home," his father had said in the dream, his black eyes staring holes into Sinan. The house behind his father was on fire and it was very hot and Sinan wanted to tell him this but he couldn't make his mouth work.
The clock next to the bed said 2:45. He kissed Nilüfer on the cheek before getting up in the dark and walking into the front room.
In the glow from the streetlights, he saw Ismail there sleeping. A slight breeze blew through the open window, and the few strands of tinsel still stuck in his son's hair sparkled in the wind. He stood next to the bed and listened to the steady rise and fall of the boy's breath. He thought about closing the window—something about the wind touching his son's sleeping face disturbed him—but it was too hot and he decided to leave it open. As he pulled the remaining strands of tinsel from his son's hair, Ismail stirred and swatted at the annoyance. His hand stuck there next to his ear, a loose fist with the palm open to the sky. There was an air of the sleeping infant in the pose, and it seemed to Sinan that only days before he had held the baby Ismail in his arms, the small, pudgy body, the toothless gums of his mouth, that fresh powdery smell of his skin.
He climbed the staircase to the roof of the apartment building, and his left foot, deformed since birth, and sore from the day's walking in Istanbul, throbbed with each step. It looked like Berker Bey, the owner of the apartment, was going to build another level—there was exposed rebar, bags of cement, and loosely stacked cinder blocks—but Sinan knew that he was really just avoiding paying taxes; the government couldn't assess taxes until construction was finished. Life was full of these little immoralities.
From the rooftop he could see over the American's terrace, past the other apartment rooftops and their cluttered satellite dishes, and out over the Gulf of Izmit towards the forested hillsides across the water. He stood on the edge of the roof, his shins pressing against the raised edge, and was surprised to see the American wife below him, sitting alone on a wicker chair. Her back was to him, her face turned towards the black water. She was still except for the rise and fall of her right hand, which held a lit cigarette.
For some reason he felt sorry for her, this woman he knew nothing about. She seemed the picture of loneliness at that moment—her stillness in the dark, the curve of her thick, motherly back, her bare white legs dully shining in the light of the waterfront. A lot of things were said about the Americans, but if they were so rich, he wondered, why didn't they have their summer home in Yalova with all the other rich people? Gölcük, though by the sea, was a poor town, a working man's town. If they were so rich, why did the wife seem so sad? Maybe he should have been kinder to them at the party. He thought briefly about breaking her silence with a "Good evening," but decided against it and retreated out of sight to sit on a plastic chair on the rooftop.
There he took off his left shoe and rubbed the inflamed stump that should have been a foot. He would have to run the register at the grocery for a few days so he could stay off the foot until the swelling went down.
He often sat on the roof when he couldn't sleep. Since Ocalan had been caught by the government and the civil war in the South seemed over, his father had been visiting him more often in his dreams. His father would have been devastated to hear that the Turks had captured the PKK leader. Without Apo, as Ocalan was called by his father and all separatist-leaning Kurds, the Kurdistan Workers Party was effectively dead, and so was the movement to carve a Kurdistan out of a corner of Turkey. No one else could kill the Turkish paramilitaries the way Apo did; no one else could inspire such fear in the government buildings in Ankara.
Perhaps it was safe to return home to Yesilli, but it was difficult to imagine it so. He touched the shard of bullet hanging from a chain around his neck—it was all he had left of his father, God bless him. He remembered the night his father was killed, the popping of the M-16 rifle shots, the screaming, the men and boys gathered for the new year celebration diving away from the bonfires. His father had sent him home when the paramilitary jeeps arrived, and he was already past Emre Bey's butcher shop when his father's friends and the other men began yelling Long live Kurdistan, or else he might have been killed too.
He felt a sting of guilt about having the Americans in his home. If his father had been here tonight, he wouldn't have stepped into the apartment with them there. "The Americans let the Turks do this to us," he would have said. "And now you feed them, invite them to your son's most important day?" He had dishonored his father's memory, and he would have to suffer the pangs for giving in to his wife's hospitality.
He watched the streak of black water beyond the rooftops, and the city lights strewn around the bay like a necklace. The tea black sky floated above him, punctured with only three stars, just three tiny pinpricks. At night in the village there were more stars than night sky, more worlds out there staring back than there were people in the whole of this city, probably more than there were people in all of the world's cities. He wanted to return to Yesilli, he wanted his children to grow up in the shadow of the mountains, but where would he get the money for the trip? How could he leave the business? How would he make a living there? He wanted to explain this to his father, tell him that it was best to stay here, for his children. There was nothing in the South—no jobs, no schools, no future. But even as he built his argument in his head, his father's angry face appeared, and doubt clouded his logic.
The breeze felt like air blowing off an open fire. He heard the metal droning of cranes at the docks, a place that never stopped moving. You could hear its machinery grinding away at all hours of the day, during prayers, waking before sunrise in the morning—it didn't matter, the sound was always there, like the scrape of gnashing your own teeth together. He could see a party boat floating close to shore, the white lights strung from its bow reflecting against the black water. As it got nearer to shore Sinan heard the thumping of music from loud speakers and watched dozens of people dancing on its flat rooftop. The sound was distant and sad, like the echo of some lost pleasure. But as the boat drew closer to the dock, he heard individual voices, the laughter of women, a DJ announcing a raffle, and the clapping of hands. The deejay played another song, and it was so loud that Sinan got angry because he thought it might disturb his family's sleep.
Then there was another sound, an odd low rumbling like the shuddering of a tank coming down the street. And at first that's what he thought it was, one of the police tanks on patrol, but the rumbling grew louder and it seemed to be rolling across the water towards him, toward the town.
He sat up, looked for a ship leaving the docks, searched the sky for a plane, but the sound wasn't right for anything man-made. Then, in the distance, out of the black water, flashed a brilliant spark of green. The flash was so bright that when he blinked there were little bursts of green blindness in his vision. The rumble had separated itself from the sound of the boat and had become something wholly distinct, a horrible growl. He looked at the party boat, hoping the sound was some new type of music. The shining hull bobbed out there silently, reflecting itself back on the water, but all the dancing people had turned their faces towards the growing sound.
Sinan had an instinct to get back to his family, he tried to run for the stairs, tried to get back to them, but his feet skipped out from beneath him and he found himself face down on the cement rooftop. He rolled onto his back and lifted himself up, but above him the sky shifted, sending the stars falling across the sky, their pinpoints streaking in his vision.
He got to his feet and wrapped a fist around a piece of rebar, and when he did he looked towards the bay where the boat lifted on a wave of water, rose into the air like a toy ship, tipped sideways, listed and spilled its passengers into the surging sea. There was nothing to think about it because it was something unbelievable, something in a terrible dream, and as soon as he did think, "They won't make it", the building directly next to his own dropped from his vision. The crash was so loud that it was like the silence of blood in his ears.
He heard screams, explosions of gas lines rupturing, the bursting of water pipes thrusting up pieces of road, even the sirens of car alarms, but none of these sounds could be isolated; they were simply the cacophonous rush of destruction. Then Sinan's stomach lifted into his throat and he was dropped through the air. For a moment he felt as though he were flying; he looked beneath his feet to find the rooftop falling. It dropped ten feet and tilted sideways as if the whole building was tumbling into the street. Then his body was thrown over the side of the rooftop. He closed his eyes, sure that this was the end, and fell for what seemed like minutes until he slammed into the tiled floor of the terrace beneath. He was rolled to his left, and got wedged against the railings of the terrace, his arms tangled in the wrought iron and his head dangling over the edge.
As he opened his eyes he saw the white circumcision bed come through the open window below, and on that white bed was his son. Ismail lay on his back with his arms thrown behind him like he was doing the backstroke. Their eyes briefly met. Ismail had a questioning look on his face—he didn't seem scared at all—just a question mark in his eyes, as if to say, "Look, what a strange thing to happen, Baba."
In his white circumcision dress, Ismail floated out above the crumbling building, as if on a pillow of air. Sinan reached a hand out towards his son, stretching his fingers as far as he could. Cement blocks tumbled beneath the boy, crashed together, crushed and disintegrated, and the bed, too, spun around in the air. Ismail did a somersault, his tiny feet rolling above his head, his back coming briefly into view, his whole body flipping gracefully through the sky, before it disappeared in the dust and crumble below.