Letter 1: Karin Karakaşlı
To the 3 am people,
We somehow made it through the day again, didn’t we my dears? Keeping ourselves very functional and very busy. It is apocalyptic out there, I agree. One strange masquerade. What we call home has turned from a shelter into an open-air prison for quite some time now. What remains are many working hours in front of the computer and compulsory consumption. And attempts at telephone conversations. In short, even if it resonates like a simulation of the old life, loosing quite a lot of its taste and meaning, there is still life under the sun.
But then comes the night. I, for instance, constantly have to remind myself the name of the day. Time has literally twisted. Instants stretch into eternity, weeks and months fly away in a blink of an eye. A vicious circle that invalidates what is called a calendar repeating itself into undistinguished days. I don’t know what to do with myself when night falls. There comes a time when TV series, movies and books are not enough. My own self overwhelms me, yet my life seems insufficient, there is no way I can dive into any other fiction like before. The dynamic of imagination seems to have collapsed. But what are we without imagination?
And so, every night, at 3am, I talk to you. The people I haven’t met but know deep down, somehow. I try to picture your houses and your rooms. We are a tribe; a commune that rewrites the concept of family. I seem to have confidants in every corner of the world. It is a fresh prospect that reminds us of patience, to hope for the future.
Sometimes it seems like my past crowds and overwhelms, my present falls short and my future remains inexistent. That’s why I’m constantly getting rid of things. I am nothing more than the balcony corner where I perch, the cigarette I smoke, my backpack and headphones. I am learning to converse with my sorrows, you know? … I rewrite the priorities. Especially at 3 am. Far ahead into the night, yet far from daylight, a middle point it is, three o’clock at night. A singular, uninhabited island.
Time seems to stratify in itself; it thickens. I stare at the ceiling and dive into stories that I have never been able to write. Suddenly, I find myself with you, among those most familiar strangers.
Some of you are my lover, some of you my friend, some of you are a baby with whom I roll over on the ground, or an ageless elder I sit at the feet of. We are trying a new existence with our fluid essence away from the imposition of any gender binary. We have so much to tell each other and we can lie side by side while we keep quiet together.
Some homelands impose anxiety and fear at night. You might even be waiting for the bomb that will fall on your head, or the digger that will demolish your house. There can be a curfew, for example, and days without a ban become an exception. Decree Laws and Coup Notices are always published at night. Associations created with endless effort and professions that have existed for decades are destroyed with a single sentence. You end up staring at your life. At what you find meaning, in your cotton threads, your acrobat threads, at the temporality and fragility of everything.
Night is when raids also happen in some homelands. Every phone call, every sound in the apartment building that occurs after a certain hour becomes a tense nerve of anticipation connected to someone you love or to yourself. It is as if you were taking on the duty of guarding your city by not sleeping, not being able to surrender to sleep. As if everyone could be safe while you were on guard. It’s as if you closed and locked the door after everyone else.
A Fikret Kızılok song always comes to my mind at times like these. Because some songs are made exactly to be listened at 3 am at night.
Not the soul nor the beloved
Not a male nor a mystic
Neither late nor early
A rose rises inside of me
Just like the way I knew
Ah, at precisely 3 am at night
At precisely 3 am at night
You cannot fool the night at 3 am. Truth unravels from inside us. In the dead of the night, as the howl of silence can only be broken by the sound of the refrigerator or a creaking piece of furniture, you face yourself naked. These are the hours of love and death, of disappointment and loss. It is as if the world was going round and round while you have stopped. And you find yourself sitting on the sidewalk.
You are the shadow that appears next to me, gently perching on the edge of my soul. You were already in my imagination way before this huge epidemic started. But now my imagination may be my only reality. You are my sole need, my most beautiful possibility.
Day after day, I stay awake all night with you. Until dawn when a choreography of colours begins. A rusty colour exploding from inside the dark. The first song of the birds, the morning ezan of the muezzin. I look in amazement and admiration at the day being born again. How the sun never gives up hope on us.
My dear people of 3 am, my friends with a big heart. I dream of the day we will meet after the god of chance rolls their dice. We will recognise each other through the eyes, I know. These days where all the smells inside my mask transform into my own breath are going to end. We will meet in our laughter. At our touch.
So, take good care of yourselves for me too, will you? We have so much more to experience together.
Until life brings us together and regains its meaning, take good care…
Karin Karakaşlı (1972) is a writer from Istanbul. She is a columnist at Agos and Radikal newspapers, writes fiction and poetry and teaches Armenian language and culture and translation studies. Her books include a children’s novel called Ay Denizle Buluşunca (When the Moon Meets the Sea), short story collections Başka Dillerin Şarkısı (Song of Other Languages), works of poetry, Her Kimsen SANA (Whoever you are this is FOR YOU). She is the co-writer of the research book Türkiye’de Ermeniler: Cemaat, Birey, Yurttaş (Armenians in Turkey: Community, Individual, Citizen).
Translation from the Turkish by Canan Marasligil.
“And so, every night, at 3am, I talk to you. The people I haven’t met but know deep down, somehow. I try to picture your houses and your rooms. We are a tribe; a commune that rewrites the concept of family. I seem to have confidants in every corner of the world. It is a fresh prospect that reminds us of patience, to hope for the future.”Letter 1: Karin Karakaşlı
“There is no better way to escape reality than reading, there is also no better way to connect with it.Some books aren’t written to touch our souls, but for the writer to tell us something he knows. Those books I throw away to the recycling bin, even after reading just one page. I only read books that empower me and make me stronger, that touch my soul. Regrettably, I sometimes feel we are living in the past. The past that destroys us.”Letter 2: Rodaan Al Galidi
“He parks the car next to the tall grass, at the edge of the silhouette of the mountains. There he stands, an iPhone with a broken screen in his left hand, a Nokia with broken dreams in his right. Silver dots float through the twinkling air while a languorous voice speaks through the old device. Her husband has suspicions, she says. They have to end this.”Letter 3: Beri Shalmashi
“The genome is the blueprint of a cell and ninety percent of our human cells are filled with genomes of bacteria, fungi and other single cell species. Countless small, internal companions keep us upright. Our inner world is a teeming ecosystem, existing in many forms and far from lonely.”Letter 4: Marjolijn van Heemstra
“Humidity. Mosquitoes. Tropical traumas. Each morning, as part of a world slowly mending, I would hear birds quarrelling outside my window. One morning, I decided that they were actually beckoning. And so, for the first time in 20 years, I bought a pair of jogging shoes. I slapped on sunblock and marched to a nature trail 40 minutes from my house.”Letter 5: Alfian Sa'at