The Stunned, The Confused and Those that Weren’t

Fatma Belkıs
About More

1. Dream


By the sea. The sun is brighter than ever. There is a structure there that looks odd. It looks like a summer palace. She waits in the palace garden, looking out at the sea, leaning against the fences that stand on the shore. The fences continue from the shore; they curve ahead to the left and surround the palace garden. Behind the fences, curving inward toward the land, is a small, self-proclaimed beach. In the center of the 15-square-meter beach, there is an image of a red deer on a rock, larger than two people, one on the other's shoulder. No one knows the meaning of this image. When the person she has been waiting for comes, she will pull him through there by the hand, she will ask what it means, and then they will swim together and so on and so forth. 

The sun was very bright and the awaited person had not yet arrived. She continued to wait. She continued to wait without pulling her arms from the fences, but with her eyes closed. 

Finally, when the expected person arrived, a conversation took place between them: 


- I'm late. Sorry. 

- It's okay. Did you fall asleep?

- No. I woke up early this morning. I cut my nails. 

- I woke up early too. I cut my eyelashes.


2. The First Context

She rubbed her eyes. She did that again and again in that short time between waking up physically and waking up mentally. 

Like those times since childhood, like a bitter almond in the bowl she finds, the memory of last night came back. She woke up. She had walked this way in anticipation when she had come here with the person sleeping beside her. "I didn't come here with any expectations," she said deep inside. "You didn't promise me anything." "I didn't promise you anything." She said that to herself as well. But she had lied. With every step of her way here, she'd gone out of her way to deny her expectations. "Maybe there won't be any sex. No sex, anyway. I'm not here to have sex."

There was no awkward silence as they walked together. They talked nonstop. 


- Where in the world would you most like to go? 

- Algeria. 

"We're not having sex tonight; we're talking about Algeria."

- Look, there's a pub over there. We couldn't go the other night. It's already closed today. We should go there one day. They make a great cocktail with whiskey and pickle juice. 

"But then maybe we'll have sex."

- I hear the dams are completely drained this year. They say the summer will be dry, too. 

"Who knows how awesome it will be when we have sex."


After all, they arrived at the apartment safe and sound. Then they talked about the things that could be vaguely remembered. After a few futile attempts, which might even seem funny from the outside, they fell asleep. In the end, they didn't have sex.


3. Ignoring Phase


She kept rubbing her eyes. She wasn't going to let a deep sexual frustration haunt her. She sat up on the bed. The one next to her could still be asleep. She kicked him as if she had done it by accident. 


- Oh, sorry. Did I wake you? 

- Good morning. Have you been up long? 

- No, I haven't. 


She got up. She walked down the dim hallway to the bathroom. She stepped her bare feet on the old wooden floor. Why was she wearing those old pajamas? She hadn't fantasized for a moment last night that she was going to the bathroom in these pajamas that didn't fit her. But she had fantasized the moment she rolled naked on that wooden floor. This had not happened and she was now disappointed. She felt guilty about her disappointment. She felt guilty about her expectations. She felt stupid for expecting something that hadn't happened. Yesterday she had been excited and thrilled, but now she was annoyed. She turned back to the room, shuffling along the dim hallway. 

She wanted to feel better when she went back to bed. "We haven't had sex and we're not going to have sex." If she could accept that, she wouldn't dwell on it, "We haven't had sex, it hasn't happened, he hasn't slept with me, he's had sex countless times, so I know he can, maybe he would have sex if there was someone else instead of me." 


- Do you want to eat potatoes? 

- Now? 

- Yeah, fries. 

- Why not. 

- All right.

4. Introduction to the Confrontation 


She picked up her mobile while he ordered fries. She googled, "How do you deal with sexual frustration?" Google recommended having a conversation. She didn't want to talk. She wanted something simpler. Like a medicine or a shower or a yoga pose. Talking about it seemed more boring than experiencing it. 

She sat up on the bed. She changed her sitting position several times. She couldn't get comfortable anyway. Should she have gone outside? Should she have gone into the kitchen and made herself some tea? Should she have poured gasoline on it and set the bed on fire? 


- Are you all right? 

- I'm fine, it's nothing. 

- You're a bit restless. I was wondering if there was anything that was making you uncomfortable. 

- Yes, there is something that makes me uncomfortable.

5. Returning to the Dream


This was not the first time she had come here. She had been here many times before, or had met here with various people. They had set out from the palace and walked along the seashore, or they had gone swimming, or they had eaten sandwiches in the palace garden. But something was different than those times. She had never, ever come here and waited for anyone. Now she was waiting. It didn't annoy or please her. She had no feeling about waiting. 

Was this the Beylerbeyi Palace? It couldn't be, there was no bamboo. If it was a tourist place, why was she alone? If it was a private property, what was she doing here? Luckily there were no tourists, because they called the Bosphorus a river. Soon the person she was waiting for will come and they will go to the beach together. There is a picture on the rock on the beach. Until now, no one she asked had any idea what this picture meant. But he will know. He will say, "This is here for this reason," and then they will go swimming and splash each other with water, and so on and so forth. 

The person she was waiting for arrived. He made up some absurd excuse for being late. She got frustrated, spoke up sarcastically, but he didn't notice. They went to the beach. She showed the picture. The person she was waiting for said, "That is not a deer, that is a horse. How did you come up with the deer?" She went and dipped her feet in the water. The person she was waiting for did not follow her steps and did not even dip a toe in the water.

6. Preparation


She didn't feel like talking any further. She laid back on the bed; pulled the covers over her. Restlessly, she moved from side to side. Then she wanted to get up, but while she was moving, she had locked herself under the covers. Awkwardly, she tried to free herself. The bedspread, the room, the bed, the window, the whole neighbourhood, and the whole world began to pounce on her. She kicked at the bedspread, trying to throw it off. She looked breathlessly at the ceiling. 


- Do you want to talk now? 


I don't want to, but we are the beings cursed to talk. We have to think about what happened, what didn't happen, and we have to think broadly and talk a lot. If she got up now and left the house without saying a word, if she went to the airport and bought a one-way ticket on the first flight to Algeria, and if she left the possibility of going there and not coming back simply by her own sweet will, and if she built a new life there... People would certainly think and talk about it. Because man is a creature cursed to talk. She would have tried to persuade herself not to go to Algeria, and instead she would have stayed here to talk now. That way she could make other people of the burden of talking about her. Though, let's be a little reasonable, even she wouldn't believe it. 

So, what should she say? Should she really say what was on her mind? "I am upset that our intercourse was unsatisfactory. In fact, I'm uncomfortable since I have to sit down and think about whether or not it really falls into the category of intercourse. When it's unavoidable to talk about it; even when we're not talking to each other but to ourselves or to people with and without physical presence; I don't understand how you whistle like nothing happened and open the door to get the terrible fast food fries from the delivery guy, and the things I don't understand make me furious." 

He entered the room with two plates in his hands. He placed the plates on the bed; sat down with his legs crossed. He put the potatoes on one plate and ketchup on the other. He smiled and pointed to the potatoes. He began to eat, his mouth slurping. 


- So what? The potatoes arrived too. Would you like to tell me now? 


She wouldn't be able to tell these. He would talk more than her to defend himself. He'd be talking to himself. He would think he was right, he was always right, and in the end no one in the world could have sex with peace of mind.


7. The Second Context

- I have given my three years to this work. 


She thought that would be enough. One sentence opens a door. Without having to say anything else, moments and memories from her and everyone's past, uncounted and unfinished, would flood into the room. Perhaps everyone in the room, indeed everyone who has existed, would understand each other. 

He took potatoes from a plate on the bed and dipped them in ketchup on the other plate and ate them. There was a look on his face as if he expected her to continue. 


- I spent three years just working for this. I put off everything in my life. I dedicated myself to this. Expecting something to come out in the end...


The door that sentence could open was locked. There was no key. It seemed that she had some items in her hands that did not fit into the lock and were therefore useless. A pear, a pair of headphones, an old tape, a torn shirt, a green bowl with a cracked edge. She couldn't open the door with any of them. 

She continued to eat potatoes. She had a smile on her face. She couldn't understand why she was smiling. It was a tragic situation. She had worked for three whole years to complete this work. She supposed that when it was over, life would change in a completely different way, apart from the usual changes it went through. All the knots she had not been able to untie in her life would be loosened; everything she wished for and aspired to would appear before her eyes; the sun would come out from behind the clouds... The things she wishes for but cannot confess to anyone will happen, she thought. It did not take long for her to realize that this was a groundless even childish expectation, but consciousness did not always turn into absolute awareness.

She looked at the person taking another potato chip from the plate and chewing it with a smile on his face. She could try talking a little more. She was talking to herself anyway. 


- As an artist, no, as a person, I was dedicated to this work. I gave everything I had to this work. I found funding. I sat down every night and did calculations to make sure I had enough money to do what I did. I worked my ass off to get it exhibited in a valid institution. There were pieces I changed because they said the audience wouldn't understand them. From the time I got up in the morning until I went to bed at night, I didn't think about anything else. I didn't think about my friends, my family, my cats, you or anyone else, the people suffering in the world. Most importantly, I thought it was a story worth telling. When it was exhibited, I thought it would end with an explosion, a grand ceremony of shared feelings. I thought, at least my life would never be the same.

- What did you think of instead? Did you think someone would write about it? Were you waiting for an email from the curator of Documenta?

8. Return to Dream Again


She is waiting in the garden of the palace for someone to be late. She does not mind, because she has the experience of waiting for those who are late. She watches the sea, resting her elbows on the fences set up on the shore. The sun is so bright that it is impossible to see anything. So she closes her eyes. She hears a familiar voice from somewhere in the distance, from the right side, towards the end of the Bosphorus. 


 - Please be aware that we are together and have the privilege to share this experience.


This is an announcement. She opens her eyes. She looks to her right, to the end of the Bosphorus. The announcement is almost embodied by the clouds. There is a liveliness behind the clouds, as if they are trying to force themselves into a body. 

As the sound tries to push behind the clouds, somewhere beyond the end of the Bosphorus; offshore, the sea begins to rise. It turns into a two-tiered geography, no longer a flat surface. The light blue staircase rises, a swaying ship lies on top. 

The ship is large, but its shape looks like a small boat. It is a ship that defies the laws of physics, but she prefers not to question it. The ship continues to rock under the bright sun. 

As she watches the ship, she simply decides not to wait. But instead of imagining that her expectations will be fulfilled, she opens her eyes and looks at the sea. Perhaps the sea will rise so high that the sky will become the sea. Perhaps the sea will rise so high that it will no longer be able to maintain its balance; it will fall to pieces and pour over Istanbul. The earth, the sky and everything in this world turn out the sea. Perhaps it will sink again. Behind the clouds, the sound pushing, "Please here, now and here, now together" will turn into a meteor shower with a huge explosion. Maybe a rainbow appears behind the pieces of fire falling into the sea. Maybe the sound turns into a storm goddess, but she would be too lazy to cast lightning. By the way, what was she doing here?

Someone is coming. Someone she knows. He apologizes for being late. They must have agreed to meet here. She does not want to show she's forgotten, so she says something that might give him a way out of being late. While the acquaintance is answering her, she gets distracted and something comes out of her mouth that she didn't intend to say. 

She jumps over the fences. The one she knows accompanies her. There is a picture on the rock. "What do you think it is? Is it a deer?" "Not a deer. It's a horse. How did you come up with deer?" 

Horse or deer. She can think about that later. Right now she feels like she has to do something else. She goes into the sea without undressing. Behind the clouds, the sound is still making an effort to show its face: "Please here and now, sharing together, the privilege of experience together, being here together, aware now..." The sun is very bright. She has to close her eyes, but maybe it's because she has no eyelashes.


9. Back to The Very Beginning with The First and Second Contexts


- I don't know, to be honest. 


She continues to eat potatoes with the same smile on her face. 


- Do you think you failed? 


What does it mean to have failed? Is it failing to meet common expectations? Or is it not paying attention to whether the goals you set for yourself 

Or is it not caring if the goals you set for yourself and end up not achieving are realistic or crazy? People are beings cursed to talk. They are cursed to talk and carrying around the prejudices from the past. They are beings cursed to talk to make sense of the unbelievable, hard to cope with, coincidental events they experience with the references they have learned. This effort is such a huge part of life that none of us allow ourselves to fall into euphoria or into the arms of sadness. This curse upon us all remains in the back of the mind of even the most comfortable man-animal, and none of us can ever have sex with a calm mind. We cannot just ignore the waves of sadness. We cannot do what we enjoy and what makes us tick without considering the possibilities of our successes or failures. Because if we do, we're called crazy. 

Based on past or cherry-picked data, she decided that the question, "Do you think you've failed," was critical or snobbish. She found this offensive. 


- I don't know. If being successful means getting an article or receiving email from the curator of Documenta, then I've failed. But I have to cut this off and ask myself: why am I doing this? An email from the curator of Documenta might be nice, but my happiness shouldn't depend on it. The process is also crucial. If we don't say we had an unsuccessful encounter just because we didn't have sex, you can't say how successful my work was either.It would be nice if we had sex, but let's not look at it in such a results-oriented way. 

The smile in his potato chewing mouth disappeared. She said we hadn't had sex. She called that failure. She thought we had failed together. They went back to the very beginning. How could anyone keep this conversation going? Because they were both in a mediocre panic. Unfulfilling sex suggests never having sex again. Or it does not. A work that doesn't warrant an email from the curator of Documenta is an obstacle to making art again. Or it is not. 

The feet have been stretched out. It doesn't matter which one stretches the feet out. Because the other is stretching them out too. They both moved their toes and watched their fingers move. They watched their fingers and a giraffe passed by the bedroom window.