From the other side of the water – Suyun öte tarafına merhaba

To Eşref Karadağ

As soon as the weather turned fine, Stratis would spend the whole week waiting for Sundays, so he could go fishing with his father.
On the Saturdays before each fishing trip he’d spend all morning combing the empty beach in his rubber boots, collecting bait. First he’d search among the little rocks and then in the damp sand. Whenever he saw little holes, hardly larger than a pinhead, he would dig there with his fingers, finding limpets, mussels, cockles and sometimes even tiny little crabs. He would drop them all into a bucket of sea water and then take them home. Then, wearing his earphones, he’d sit for hours in front of the computer his father had bought him as a reward for the good marks he had achieved in his last school report. However, his new mania for sitting glued to the screen was a permanent source of quarrels in the house. After every scolding he would get down to his homework then bury himself in works of literature. Poetry -that was what drew him most.
He had a notebook which he kept securely locked up in a drawer and which contained his very own verses. Sometimes, if he was in the mood, he would play his guitar alone. In the evenings, he usually ate on the sofa, watching television with a tray balanced on his knees. And on Saturday evenings, as soon as he had eaten he’d go straight to bed without anybody telling him, weekend or not, because next day he’d have to wake up before dawn if he wanted to go fishing.
On this particular Sunday he got up in pitch darkness, without the alarm clock, and dressed hurriedly: jeans, a summer vest, then a thick cotton shirt; next an old woollen sweater and over them all his yellow oilskin. He gave himself a critical look in the mirror, ran his fingers through his hair and pulled his forelock down just enough to cover his right eye. He slipped his rucksack over his shoulders, picked up the bucket of bait and went out with his father into the dampness of the pre-dawn morning.
They walked in silence side by side, wrapped in the chill of the paling night, their breaths like little clouds in the grey light. Stratis was holding the bait and his father the rods. In their rucksacks were hooks, a thermos of hot chocolate and another of coffee, two bottles of water and a few little rolls sprinkled with sesame seeds, baked by his granny, his father’s mother, who lived with them.
When they reached the shore, they jumped in their rubber boots into the old wooden boat, which creaked with joy, stowed their gear in the bows, got the little engine started and slowly chugged across the calm, dark waters.
As they came out into the open sea they saw the sun emerging over the hazy coast of Asia Minor and cut the engine. They threw out the sea anchor, put the bait on the hooks and then, with a “one, two, three” shot their rod arms up and out with such coordinated grace that their two lines described the same curve through the air and the weights fell into the water with the same little splash. And then they waited, looking out over the deep blue of the sky and water, cut in two by the shimmering strip of Asiatic land.
Stratis watched transfixed as its vague form little by little acquired colour, clear outlines and a silent life.
The fish weren’t biting that morning and they didn’t make much of a catch: a perch, a few small parrot fish and two mackerels -not even enough for granny to make a bowl of fish soup. Once the sun was too high in the sky the two fishermen grumpily packed up their gear and then, just as they were about to start the engine, Stratis saw something floating a hundred metres off towards the facing shore. A light breeze had blown up, raising little white tops on the waves, so that whatever it was could be seen for a moment and then would disappear again.
“It doesn’t look like fish -perhaps it’s a plastic bag,” his father muttered.
“Let’s go and see, it’s not far,” Stratis replied impatiently. “Please, I want to see it,” he added.
They started the engine and slowly approached. Stratis was ready with the landing net and caught the object at the first pass. Whatever it was, it didn’t wriggle.
“It’s rubbish,” his father grumbled. “Just an old bottle someone’s thrown away.”
“But it’s been carefully sealed, and there’s something inside!” Stratis cried excitedly. He took hold of it. The bottle was well stoppered, its cork coated with melted wax. He wiped it dry and put it in his rucksack.

They returned home in silence, with lowered eyes. The two of them were very much alike. They kept themselves to themselves as granny often said. And in secret, when Stratis and his father weren’t around, she would call the boy ‘the poor orphan’, for his mother had died giving birth to him. The neighbours’ opinion was that Stratis was a good boy but strange (but then he had never known a mother’s kisses, so what did one expect?) and his teachers said he was a dreamer.
As soon as he got into his room, Stratis sat down at the little wooden table that served him as a desk, cleared a space by pushing back the scattered books and papers, took the bottle and carefully removed the wax and then the cork, using an old paper knife. Then he turned the bottle upside down and shook it, hitting its base until onto the knotted surface of the table there fell a little plastic bag tightly bound with string. He untied the string, opened the bag and found inside a rolled up sheet of paper. Uncurling it, he read in two languages, one beneath the other -Greek and Turkish: ‘My name is Yunus. I am thirteen years old. Greetings from the other side of the water’. And underneath the message was an e-mail address.
Stratis sat down at his computer straight away and rhythmically typed Yunus’s address, enjoying every letter that he struck, as if he were hitting the keys of a piano.
Granny appeared in the doorway holding a plate of little waffles swimming in warm honey, with cinnamon sprinkled over them.
“Eat something,” she told him. “You haven’t had a bite all morning. How did the fishing go?”
“Fine, granny, just fine,” replied Stratis giving her a broad smile. “We had a fantastic catch!”