National

Short Fiction: Still Life

It wasn’t evening yet. The drowning sun was dragging itself back into its hiding while the muezzin’s call to prayer announced itself from the speakers at a distant nook on the street which was called Sultanahmet.

A paint brush.
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“Anatomically good, aesthetically, yet to be there,” said the calligraphy artist as she craned her neck to look at Lisa’s fifth attempt at drawing the third letter in the Turkish alphabet. 

The master calligrapher was dressed in black. She had short hair and her eyes were the colour of honey. Each time there was a hint of a smile on her slim, wafer-thin lips, the dim rays of the setting sun sieving through the ornate window overlooking the Blue Mosque on the other side of the road, planted a gentle kiss on the dimple of her left cheek. 

It wasn’t evening yet. The drowning sun was dragging itself back into its hiding while the muezzin’s call to prayer announced itself from the speakers at a distant nook on the street which was called Sultanahmet. The cotton candy seller was handing over the last glittering sugary cloud of pink to a jubilant six-year-old and a tall, lanky bloke covered in a massive blazer was smoking his tenth cigarette of the day. The sleeves of his blazer were loose and longer than his arms to an extent that his hands were practically invisible. It seemed as though the cigarette was moving up, down, around his lips on its own accord, like a magician's finest trick. Or, was he in a borrowed blazer? The Turkish ice cream man hoodwinking a Chinese girl with two neat ponytails was another magic trick unfolding in this city of djinns. The more the little girl tried to reach for her ice cream cone, the more she found it slipping away from her grip. When was the last time an ice cream man did that? It’s just a fun game, and it’s become part of the culture and tradition here. 

The scene outside the window of the calligraphy artist was making Lisa drowsy. The floating cigarette, the lilting tunes of the azaan, the smoke in the nippy air: all smells and sounds created a heady concoction much like Raki–the national alcoholic beverage–, that, when inhaled, had the power to transport you to another scene in a different city, perhaps. 

Lisa’s reverie was broken by another sound. The artist was sharpening her calligraphy pencil with a small knife or a big blade. Was she shaving the pencil to carve out a crescent moon that was yet to rise in this old town of Istanbul?

Lisa’s phone beeped. She picked up the device to check the message that had entered the inbox full of unread texts. Lifting her phone, she saw the phone’s wallpaper. Her gaze was fixed at the image on her phone screen: A hand drawing out the Turkish alphabet on a soft, glazing white sheet which had faint ruled lines for the letters to perch on comfortably. 

That’s right, the still image was a time capsule which made Lisa return to her trip to the land of dervishes from several years ago! So vivid and sensual. But, could she recall the memory perfectly as it happened, or did she add her own imagination? Well, whatever it was, it was: ‘aesthetically pleasing, anatomically doubtful.’ 

The Dervish twirled once more.

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