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Gramophone— Murat Yurdakul

Jun 25, 2023 | Fiction | 0 comments

TRANSLATED FROM THE TURKISH BY SELIN LARA LOTUS

 

 

 I want rose to the voice of my heart now

 a bird draws tears in my inner night

 

The workplace where I work is quite noisy.  All day long, as if it weren’t enough for the increasing numbers of people in the corridors to speak loudly, various melodies of cell phones ring around;  The shouts and car horns coming from the busy street outside never cease to be in my ears.  That day, amid all the noise, I was astonished at how I heard that low-pitched buzz.  It buzzes for a while, stops, and then you can hear it again.  At first I thought it was coming from the computer on my desk, but after a little listening, I realized that it wasn’t from there.  Nor did it come from the penholder’s watch and the digital display phone.  Even though I got up and wandered around the room for a long time to understand where the sound was coming from, I got no results.  If a guest who came to my room for a job interview hadn’t said, “Your clock is ringing,” I guess I wouldn’t have been able to find the place where the voice came from for a longer time.  I do not have the skills to remember important days when necessary.  My wife, on the other hand, attaches great importance to special days and wants them to be remembered.  Her would get very angry that I forgot our wedding anniversary and wouldn’t look at me for days.

Her gave me an alarm clock for the special day as he was tired of being offended and could not be proud of reminding him beforehand.  I also set one of the special day alarms for our wedding day.

Like so many things, I forgot about it.  It was winter, the days were very short;  so no matter how rushed I was, it was already dusk when I got outside.  Moreover, there was both sleet and wind.  Therefore, there was no place to go but a passage or two in the market.  I had to find my gift from here.

I spent a lot of time looking uncertainly in shop windows to see if I should buy gold jewelry like earrings or necklaces, or clothing like sweaters and shirts.  I would not be able to buy gifts anyway, I would run around with hesitation, and then I would buy something as soon as I could with fatigue and intimidation.

This time, it was like that, the antique gramophone in the window of a souvenir shop caught my eye.  I immediately thought of the gramophone that my wife had seen at an auction hall two years ago out of sheer curiosity, but could not afford it because it was too expensive.

At that time he really wanted to have that gramophone and was very upset that we did not have enough money to spare for such things.  I went inside and took a closer look.  The seller was a middle-aged woman.  Maybe she hadn’t even had a single customer all day because the weather was awful outside.  She was immersed in reading thick books as a way to relieve herself and relieve herself of the distress caused by this.

Her approached the heat of the electric stove right next to the counter where the safe was, and lost himself in the mystery of the book, perhaps even for a few minutes, he had taken the place of one of the protagonists of the book.  He soon realized that someone was inside.

Her immediately stood up, put an old lottery ticket between the book so that he could find his place easily, and came to me with his glasses in his hand.   “Let me help you, Sir!”

“Is that gramophone for sale?”  I said, pointing to the gramophone neatly placed in the middle of the display case.

“Yes”  said the woman.  Her said that while he was pushing the sliding glass behind the showcase so that I could see the gramophone more closely, her had brought it to be sold by a friend who was stuck with money.  I think these words were meant to indicate that the gramophone is a special and valuable item.

“What is the price?”

“Two thousand liras , including a collection of broken records… A very nice gramophone.  Now, this brand and this model are not easily found even in antique shops.  It is both solid and its sound comes out as clear as the first day.  Like I said, I’m sure the owner wouldn’t have sold it if he didn’t have to…”

When I got the gramophone and records packed and left the store, I thought I had bought a wedding anniversary gift that was overpriced but would make my wife really happy.  When I went home with a bunch of flowers, my wife was very surprised as she never expected to remember our wedding anniversary.

Her surprise increased when I handed her the flowers and kissed her, then slowly opened the package I brought as if she was doing a magic show, revealing the gramophone.

“Oh my God!..” he said then, running the tip of his finger over the finger nickel of the sound amplifier of the gramophone.  “I can’t believe what I saw, I guess it must be a dream!”  he couldn’t help but be told.  Because for the first time in our five years of marriage, I didn’t forget the wedding anniversary, and I was also giving her a gift that she might really like.

When we set up the gramophone in the corner of the hall and collapsed on her head, my wife was happy.  Indeed, his voice was crisp and clear.  Most of the records were a collection of classical western music.  Bizzet, Brahms, Strauss, Verdi, Mozart, Rossini, Wagner, Vivaldi… Especially Vivaldi’s concerto compilation was so magnificent that it would make you ecstatic.  

Then there were other compilations such as famous overtudes, famous operas.  We couldn’t help but play them all once.  It was two o’clock in the morning when we left the gramophone with difficulty and went to bed.  After that night, gramophone and records became the most valuable items in our house.  We listened to them without getting tired.  Some evenings, we would invite our family friends and friends, proudly show them the gramophone, and try to share our happiness by playing the records.  Two months had passed.  One Sunday, a woman we didn’t know knocked on our door.  Her’s in his seventies, slim, tall, cute.  My wife looked at his smiling face and age and welcomed him inside.  She entered the hall as if she was waiting for this invitation, and sat down in the nearest armchair at the entrance to the hall with a timid attitude.

“My name is Firdevs, sorry to disturb you!”

“You’re welcome sir,” my wife said.  “How can we help you?”

“Sir, I left a gramophone to be sold in the shop you know a while ago, I think you bought it!”

“Yes!”  I said, straightening up a little in my seat.  Hearing the word gramophone excited me a little, I involuntarily turned my gaze to the gramophone that was covered on the coffee table with a shelf.

The saleswoman said that the owner of the gramophone was her friend who was stuck with money.  Had this old woman who had been in our house as a guest uninvited, come to get her back when the money shortage had passed?  “I bought a gramophone from the shop in Nişantaşı as a wedding anniversary gift for my wife, but…” Miss Firdevs might not want to dwell too much on the story of the gramophone’s sale, so she took a small tin box from her bag and placed it on the coffee table in the middle.

“These are mine.  I noticed it while tidying my room.”

I bought it and looked, there were dozens of gramophone needles in the box.

“I guess these needles are not sold anywhere anymore,” said Miss Firdevs.  “It used to be hard to find, but Mr Ziya, my husband, had someone he knew brought it from London.”

 I was surprised.  This woman, whom we never knew, had searched street by street and found our house in the strong wind outside in order to give us a box of needles.

“Oh, sir,” I said,  “you got up and found our house for these, what a trouble.”

“These are of no use to me anymore… And maybe you have questions about the gramophone.”

In fact, she was a very soft-spoken woman.  He stayed with us for two hours that day.  I think he loved us and we loved him too.  She praised her gramophone at length.  According to him, it was not possible to find this spirit in today’s flashy music sets.  First of all, they were frightening and disturbing, with their colorful lights and tremendous sound power.

Then, like a gramophone expert, her also told a brief history of gramophones and gave a lot of useful information from how to change the needle, from maintenance of his tube to cleaning the records.  Her wrote down his address and phone number to my wife.  “Call me if there’s a problem, I’ll come and help,” she said.  It was strange that he behaved like this, that he wanted to help people he had never met for an old gramophone he had sold and paid for.

After a while she came back on a Sunday.

“I came to an acquaintance this way and thought I’d drop by,” she said.  We were glad to see him.  My wife immediately went and brewed tea.  While sipping our teas, she pulled out a small box again from her bag.  While cleaning the house, this time he got a small bottle of oil.  Her said that some parts of the gramophone had to be lubricated from time to time, so using oil at random would do more harm than good… Then he oiled it with his own hands.  We sat and listened to a few records to see the results of the lubrication.

Both times he came midweek when I was at work.  In the first, he brought a special cloth to wipe the records.  In the second, a special polisher for polishing the nickels of the gramophone.  Every time he came, they sat and listened to records for a while with my wife.

In the meantime, her could not help but tell about the special memories of the moments when the records they listened to were taken.  My wife loved it very much.  He was thinking of going to visit her at his house one day.  Still, I couldn’t get the little question mark out of my mind about the woman’s coming and going.  I didn’t really want to believe that her was making these visits just because her was sympathetic to us, but I couldn’t find any other reason.  Nor did I think that there could be any malicious intent in the old woman’s coming to our house.  She hadn’t had a chance to talk much about her private life, but at least we knew she was living alone.

Maybe she didn’t come and go, and she might have been trying to make new friends for herself.  She was perhaps the one who made easy friendships with people, and she did not miss any opportunity for this.

When her came back one afternoon, he had two records in his hand.  Her supposedly found it while rummaging through the bottom eyes of the bookshelf.

“It’s old age, but I’ve been looking for them in the house for days.  Turns out I took it and put it among the old magazines!..”

When my wife went to set the tea on the fire, she said a few words about the difficulties of living alone for a woman her age.  Then she said,  “I’m not complaining too much about my situation, but still, one can’t help but feel sad about the old days, when she was with her husband.”

On the plates her brought, there were tangos from the voice of a female singer whose name I had never heard of.  After listening to the first record silently, Miss Firdevs stood up when it was time for the next record, carefully removed it from her paper and placed it on the gramophone.

Mourning Birds,” she said as the first sounds of the music on the record sounded on the huge-mouthed amp.  I didn’t know why, but his voice was a little broken, his cheeks slightly red.  Tango was about a day two lovers spent together.  They were very happy at the moment, but they knew very well that after this happy day, separation and sadness would come immediately.  They knew it was one day’s happiness, and there would never be another moment after that.  Now this moment was important.  Love, love and dreams;  everything had to fit into this moment.

 

“Let my aching heart not be ashamed of its wound in autumn

 a bird draws tears in my inner night

 in a grief with rains in her voice

 bird parks take off from my purple dreams

 oh world!

 Looking at you is a definite pain, deep… but shattered

 because at the sound of mourning birds my tears are painful”

 

“Tango is really beautiful, even I was sad,” I said to Miss Firdevs, in order to explain that there was nothing to apologize for.

“My husband and I, of course, did not fit into a single day like in tango, we lived together for thirty-eight years.  Happy thirty-eight years.  We had many problems, but we spent those years without breaking each other even for a day,” said Miss Firdevs.  Her had calmed down a bit.

“It has been twelve years since my husband died.  I couldn’t get used to your absence.  There is also that television, but it can only console my body.  I look at it for hours, my eyes are tired, I’m falling asleep on the sofa;  God bless the creator.

Most nights I can only catch sleep thanks to him.  I said that my body’s consolation is easy, but my soul has not known what consolation is for twelve years.  A gramophone and records.  First the voices enter my soul, then the faces.

The sounds on the stone records call many memories to my room.  Many faces that I love and cannot forget are starting to look at me with smiles.  My memory happens at a feast.  My beloved husband hugs me warmly.  he is the holiest, most beloved of the faces I can remember.  My tears put my soul to sleep like a child.

I listen to the records and cry.  When it comes to crying, I don’t want you to feel sorry for me;  I want to cry, I relax so I feel closer to my husband’s soul.”

“Why did you sell the gramophone, Miss Firdevs?”

“My daughter is married to a foreign affairs officer.  They’ve been in Mexico for six years.  The road is far, so you can neither come nor go.  I haven’t seen them since they left.  My daughter gave birth the following year.  I became a grandmother, but I never had the chance to see my granddaughter.  In our phone conversation a few months ago, they said that a friend of theirs from the embassy would go to Istanbul as an officer, and that they would stop by me in the meantime.  The person they told me knocked on my door a few days later with a small gift package in hand.  He was a talkative man, sat down for a while to have a cup of coffee, but told me many things about my daughter, son-in-law, and grandson that would make me happy.  He’ll be back in Mexico in two days.  Just stop by before you go, I have a little something to send, I told him, but then a sadness took me.  Because I wanted to send a nice gift to my grandson, but I didn’t even have money to buy small toys.  I have two flats inherited from my husband, one in Beşiktaş and the other in Tarlabaşı .  I was taking their rent and making a living.  The apartment in Tarlabaşı has been destroyed in recent years, and after the tenant in it left, no one liked it.

An acquaintance found a tenant a few months ago, he said, it is very little money, but at least he should pay for the electricity and water of his house.  We are in court with the tenant in Beşiktaş, he has not paid a penny in rent for two years.  That’s why I didn’t have a penny in my hand.  In recent years, I did not have the mentality to make money because I sold everything one by one.

I don’t have any relatives from whom I can get money, and I couldn’t afford to ask the neighbors in the apartment I live in.  Thank you, Miss Büşra, from whom you bought the gramophone, is an old friend of mine, she said, ‘I’ll give you how much money you need.  So I left the gramophone to sell it to him.”

From that day on, the sound of the gramophone changed.  The tears of Miss Firdevs began to mix with the return of each record.  There was always an air of sadness in the room.  While listening to that delicious sound of the gramophone, we could not hug each other lovingly and sip our wines.  This feeling deepened in the following days and we did not dare to lift the veil of the gramophone.

When I came back from work one evening, I found my wife anxiously awaiting my arrival.  As soon as he entered, he immediately took it to the gramophone.  “Come see,” she said, “what I found today.”  Her held up the gramophone and asked me to read the gold.  Honestly, it never occurred to me to pick it up and look under it.

At the bottom, on a copper plate that lost its shine, was the inscription   “To my only and eternal love, April 27, 1949”. I think it was screwed onto the copper plate so that the gramophone’s originality would not be spoiled.

“I think this date is Miss Firdevs birthday.  The day her husband gave her the gramophone as a present.”

“Maybe,” I said.  When replacing the gramophone.

“What a coincidence, today is the twenty-seventh of April!”

“Oh right!”

“You know what I’m thinking?”  said my wife with a smile in her eyes.

 “Yes,” I said, I can guess.”

I guess that was the best.  We quickly found a cardboard box and packed the gramophone and records nicely.  We bought a small cake from one of the patisseries on the way.  The address that Miss Firdevs  wrote to my wife was in Nişantaşı.

We found his flat on the second floor of an apartment on a side street easily. Miss Firdevs was quite surprised to see us at the door.  Evidently she had gotten out of bed and opened the door, she;  His hair was disheveled and his face was pale.

“Sorry,” her said, guiding us to get inside.  “Old age, every spring, these days, I must be a bed like this.”  My wife took the gramophone out of the cardboard box and placed it on the empty coffee table in the corner.  Miss Firdevs immediately rushed to her head.

 “Is it broken or not?”

“No,” said my wife,  “it’s nothing to worry about.”

Then we took out the cake and put a big pink candle on it.  Miss Firdevs was watching us with her eyes full of surprise.

 “What’s going on guys?”

“We thought this is the place for this gramophone, this house is next to you…”

 “But!..”

“Besides, today is your birthday and this is our birthday present to you.”

Miss Firdevs started to cry suddenly.  His voice came out like a groan, tears were trickling down his cheeks.  Why did she recover after that?

“Let me change, at least…”

Her e got up softly and disappeared down the narrow corridor.  When her returned, he had a pink toilet on him.  She combed her hair, brushed her cheeks, and put some lipstick on her lips.  Her was smiling.  Her showed me one of the framed photographs hanging on the wall.

“The day I got engaged to Mr. Ziya.  I had this dress that I was wearing that day.”

Then he went and brought a bottle of white wine from somewhere.  From the old showcase in the corner, he took three tall stemmed wine glasses that had perhaps never been out of the glass shelves for years, and filled them with the wine he had brought.

“This wine has been good for you, it has been lying in a corner for years.  I was thinking of opening it when my daughter and son-in-law came to Istanbul…”

Her built the gramophone himself.  Her chose the plate himself.  I thought that her was going to put the record of “Mourning Birds,” that we listened to and cried that day, but I was wrong;  the same woman had brought another record of the singer.  This was tango.  The mysterious voice of that female singer filled the room.  My wife and I took a sip from our glasses and looked at Miss Firdevs  face.  The soul of a stone record embraced his old body and a sweet smile was forming on his lips.

 


Also, read Silence by Mikica Pindzo translated from the Italian by Brenda Porster, and published in The Antonym:


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Murat Yurdakul

Murat Yurdakul

Murat Yurdakul was born in Adana (1983). He was named best translator in the British Journal of Modern Poetry Translation (2018). He was awarded the XIII international Premio Vitruvio Poetry Award in Italy (2018), and the VI international Città Del Galateo Literary Story Award in Italy (2018). Homeros Literature Awards Tarık Dursun K. Story Award 3rd Prize (2020). He was awarded the International Translator of the Year Award (2022) by the International Executive Board of the Poetry Translation and Research Center IPTRC in the People’s Republic of China.

 

Selin Lara Lotus

Selin Lara Lotus

Selin Lara Lotus was born in Ankara in 1996. She graduated from Istanbul University in English Language and Literature. She graduated from Istanbul University’s Cultural Studies Master’s program with her thesis titled Sait Faik Abasıyanık. Her poems, short stories, essays, and translations have been published in various magazines.

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