Sabri was astonished to see the young woman absently smiling in the pouring rain as she passed through the gate and touched, almost caressed, the trunk of the withered palm in the middle of his garden and he smiled.

“Here’s another one. What do you say, Hacivat?”

He shrugged.

“I’ve nothing to do with such screw balls. I like the clever ones like Karagöz.” As a child Sabri had befriended the two shadow puppets, Karagöz and Hacivat, [1] and over a drawn out illness they had become so intimate that thirty years on they were now indelible shades of his personality.

The woman was deep in thought; she heard neither Sabri’s exchange with Hacivat nor his footsteps, but noticed him when he approached. Her hand rose from the tree and for a moment she bore the startled look of a guilty child, but her smile returned in answer to Sabri’s and with the delicate step of a minuet she turned in her place and greeted him with both hands on her skirt. “You realize you’re soaking wet.”

She glanced at her skirt and then the sky; she might have been a little puppet if not for the delight and depth in her eyes.

“I was thinking of the vine. These trees are always wrapped in vines …at least most of the time. I wonder if it dried up … or maybe it burned that night. Or they cut it down …”

“Which night?” Then suddenly he scolded her: “Out in the rain like this at your age!” She shrugged and tossed her head trying to free the hair stuck to her face; but she was so wet she only made her large diamond earrings shine. Suddenly she shivered as if just feeling the cold.

“As if I came here to escape the rain …”

“Come in, you’ll get sick out here, you can dry off inside.” He led her to the doorstep practically pushing her shoulders. “If anything you could have waited under the eaves, or even a tree, but to get this wet …” He realized he was reprimanding a fully grown woman as he would a child only to conceal his surprise and so that he might speak more comfortably: he finished saying “forgive me” and then waited for her to pass through the door he’d opened. For just a moment he felt comfortable with her and this surprised him, then he glanced over his shoulder as if caught at the scene of a terrible crime:

If the neighbors see … And he shrugged. I’ve had this house for five years. Can’t I have guests?

He was pleased to have found someone to talk to this rainswept summer morning; ever since his wife had left the city his life had become a school of loneliness and loneliness in that way was never soothing.

The woman smiled with dark chestnut colored eyes; and for a moment Sabri felt he was bathing in the clear waters of a spring. It was as if under this overcast sky his entire being was dismissing all notions of reality like the last garden roses. More than a woman she could have been a dream left in a corner of the garden by a beautiful summer night.

“Don’t look so sad!” she said consoling him. “People always scold me. I mean I always get this sort of thing.” Sabri gazed at her dark brown hair, her finely shaped almond eyes and the pure whiteness of her face as she spoke. Perhaps it was this fairness and harmony that lent her the dream-like form. She was decidedly beautiful; and the rainy hour had absorbed her: the white teeth of her smile and her docile, compliant joy. A little pool had formed on the spot where she’d momentarily stopped in the hall. Her hair, her face, her bolero and linen skirt, were all tightly pressed to her body, cascading into the room in great planes of water. Opening her arms:

“I’m drenched,” she sighed. “I’ve really done it this time, haven’t I? My socks are covered in mud. How will I ever clean them?” She spoke in a sweet fervor: a warm, sweet tone rose from the back of her throat; but somehow still sharp.

Sabri led her to the bathroom, turned on the water heater and showed her the towels.

“This door opens into the bedroom,” he said. “You’ll find some of my wife’s clothes in the closet. If you like you can lock the door from inside. I’ll make some tea while you freshen up. I still haven’t had any myself.”

He had gone out to get the morning paper and on his way back he had got caught in the rain. He remembered that he too had turned in the same place under the rain, at a tempo very like the woman’s, and he smiled to himself. Some things really do begin with such whimsy. So this strange but brief friendship began serendipitously and set Sabri thinking for months, and turned his life upside down.

He had been home alone since the beginning of summer when his wife had left for Antalya to visit her father whom she hadn’t seen in years. He’d considered going with her, but imagining the busy household and old Süleyman Bey’s drunken evenings and his proclivities he declined. Truth be told his wife had somewhat insisted on his staying. Since their marriage he’d had to abandon several projects, between work and the children, and this troubled her. So she said “let this be a holiday for you. Besides, Ayşe Hanım can look after you …” Over the past few years Sabri had been planning a new book set in the seventeenth century and he’d been busy with it ever since his wife had left. In the mornings he walked down to the libraries in Istanbul to work and collect materials, and in the evenings he went fishing for a while before returning to work. Now the book was driving him to finish.

“This will be another gift for her.” And Karagöz grinned at him over the table top. They were like Doctor Moro’s famous animals; the two eccentric friends had cast off their traditional characters and now shared his vast inner world; they lived as Sabri. Only it does me no good, he thought and walked into the kitchen.

They’ve taken it too far, before they only spoke in the direst of circumstances, now they’re meddling in everything …

While setting down the tea the young woman came into the room wearing the little tea dress Hacce had brought back from her trip to Europe. Sabri couldn’t help laughing at her for dressing up as he had assumed she would have chosen something simple. The young woman evidently had the same idea.

“I couldn’t help it! Such a beautiful dress, I just couldn’t resist. It’s an old habit of mine, if I find something beautiful I simply have to try it on. There was something even more beautiful but …”

Sabri imagined her as a Venetian lady of another era in his wife’s light purple dress with the brown filigree embroidery. Then looking at the woman’s face: All of her aura emanates from the purity of her face.

“Well that would have looked wonderful, too.”

And he winked at his wife Seher, as if teasing her from across the room. But perhaps the woman wasn’t listening. She stood at the window watching the rain.

“Too bad I don’t have my fan with me. This dress would go so well with it.”

“What kind of fan?

“A simple fan, from another time. They say it was my aunt’s. When I was young they’d always compare us. They’d dress me up in her clothes and ask me to speak the same way she did. Who would ever think of such a thing? This thing I have of trying everything on I like is supposedly hers. If she found anything beautiful, she’d say, ‘It’s mine,’ and they’d give it to her.” She turned to Sabri and briskly changed the subject.

“Your wife must be my size,” and without waiting for an answer she walked up to a mirror framed in crystal hanging in a corner of the room above a small lacquered table.

“I hope she won’t be offended by my wearing her dress.” Then she abruptly turned her face from the mirror.

“How can you stand this,” she asked. “Can you even call such a thing a mirror? It’s absolutely hideous. Why would someone ever make a frame out of that transparent material? It’s as if you’re overflowing.”

Sabri laughed and explained that the mirror had been given to them as an engagement present from his wife’s former fiancé and that it was a matter of pride for her, something never discussed.

“As to her being offended, don’t worry. She’s in Antalya with our children.” And then he added as if issuing an important matter of protocol: “My wife’s name’s Hacce Seher. The kids call her Hacce, but I call her Seher.”

Only partly listening to him the woman was twirling to and fro in front of the mirror appraising the dress she had chosen with the eye of a film impresario.

Neither the true owner of the dress nor Sabri’s story seemed to matter. When he finished speaking she said:

“In any case I could tell there wasn’t a woman here.”

“How’s that?”

The young woman answered directly to the mirror.

“There’s no resistance from the furniture. You never feel such complaisance in a woman’s home.”

She was still standing before the mirror, but she was no longer looking at her image; she was watching a reflection of the blurred sky streaked with heavy cords of rain.

“Doesn’t rain become miserable in the sea?” And she noticed a family photograph on the table next to the tea.

“It’s like that then. You work beside your guardian angels.” That sweet smile was still there. Sabri felt as if his home and his happiness belonged to another as she held the picture of his wife and children and he shivered. He had never felt anything like this until now. Perhaps this woman had come here to reveal all his weaknesses.

“They’re beautiful children. Your daughter especially …”

“My wife, too. Don’t you find her beautiful?” he insisted. Suddenly they laughed. And the subject was closed. She sipped her tea as merrily as a child. And the pastry rings the baker’s boy had delivered early in the morning doubled her joy. Then she explained how she had spent the night in Bağlarbaşı with her mother and a distant relative. In the morning she wanted to stop in to see a friend living in Beylerbeyi. But apparently at the beginning of summer the friend had moved. “Just when I thought I’d make the ferry boat I got caught in the rain. I’ve loved summer rains since I was a child. For whatever reason I’d suddenly lose myself and wander, always in the garden, getting soaked to the bone. Everything becomes so different then …’

“You were talking about one night? And the vine?”

She thought for a moment.

“Yes,” she said. “I’ve confused it with something else. You can’t really sleep well when you’re a guest. And we got up so early this morning. They took us out to watch the sunrise, all the way up on Çamlıca Hill. Have you ever been treated to such a gift? Perhaps it’s the most beautiful gift one can give. Once upon a time we lived around here too. Our house burned down when I was very young. The garden reminded me of it. The rest is just sleeplessness and the rain.” She stopped and looked about confusedly. “Before you arrived I thought I was in the garden of my old house.” She fastened her eyes on the window. The sea was all but invisible, just behind skeins of the shower’s bright cloak, there was, as if further below, a grey mass, like a thick weave, intermittently opening and closing. This was water’s assault on water. The movement made two separate entities of the same element. The woman continued to explain:

“We had such a strange night. They’re perhaps the most good-hearted people I know, but still they have their troubles. And not just their own, other people’s troubles; they never miss a beat: a conductor unfairly dismissed from his work, a house demolished for want of repair, a neighbor whose child died of neglect, a mirror nicked from the old neighborhood fountain. They’ve heard it all, they remember everything and always remind each other, one tragedy finishes another and then recalls yet another. The very definition of unhappiness. They delight in nothing but disaster. So much that they no longer have lives of their own. Once they’ve finished with the how-are-you’s the chain reaction is set in motion. They’ve even infected their in-laws. It’s really something to see. But only once …”

“Like that from one mistake to the next, from one injustice to another. How far have we come, do you think?”

Again her large, impossible and luminous eyes bore into him.

She knows the beauty of her face he thought, and then, to stop Hacivat from confusing things he finished the thought and she uses it well.

“It seems that at the end of it you find yourself in the age of Mecit.”

“Which Mecit? That’s the stuff of the past. Besides, Rıza Paşa took the family plot. But we go back as far as Galileo! The son of the house wanted Galileo retried. He’s been working on the case since middle school. But the strange thing is the way his mother supports him …”

Sabri didn’t find the opening of such a case entirely meaningless; it was a case of the church officially accepting modern science.

“Yes, perhaps, but the way his mother revealed the matter, of course the poor woman had no idea who Galileo was.” She stopped and shook her head. “To tell you the truth, all of this doesn’t sound entirely strange to me. Our house was like that before. We also lived outside the calendar. Everything for us was balanced, but different, I mean we had no complaints. We would only reminisce. My grandmother, my grandfather, my father, my housemaids, everyone would reminisce. And suddenly you looked up and it was as if the entire Bosphorus had suddenly poured into the room.”

“Would you also reminisce?”

Her face was still.

“No,” she said, “I was too young. There was nothing I could remember. I only listened. Everything that was ever explained swelled inside me, and suddenly my insides became heavy.” She closed her eyes, “you know how water becomes heavy in the evening, it gradually absorbs over the day, becoming pregnant with the things of other people’s lives. I was like that …”

Sabri imagined a little girl tired of traveling to and from a world of lost objects with a knot of names in her head kneeling before her mother with her hands tightly pressed against her temples. A person who an hour ago for him didn’t exist had entered his life and was now a figment of his imagination.

“Why couldn’t you sleep last night?”

She made an incomplete and clumsy movement with her hand that was surely a gesture leftover from childhood.

“Dreams,” she said. “But it’s my fault. I once heard that if before going to sleep for the first time in a new house you steal a piece of bread from the dining room table and place it under your head at night your dreams will come true. For whatever reason I thought of that last night.”

“Did you have many dreams?”

“Not many, only one, but that was enough. I couldn’t get back to sleep.”

Seemingly huddling in a corner she shrank into the sofa, and even more so into herself.

She must be twenty-seven, twenty-eight … but then again, she could be eighteen, even fifteen. She had an air of a young girl, even a small child, it was difficult to understand.

A child shrouded in safety, living on the purity emanating from inside her. And he remembered her state in the garden a little earlier. She was like a dream under the rain, a remnant from the evening. And then his thought was completed elsewhere. A little like a thoroughbred animal … she always finds the most compelling poses, the most beautiful … and doubtless without thinking. But what he enjoyed most about the young woman was her broken speech, as if she were speaking through memories. Already even the most meaningless movements took on a form which left the sensation of return following a moment of forgetfulness. It was as if more than what she was doing or saying at that moment, she was living another time, entirely separate and particular to herself alone, pursuing something inside her, something more pressing, an idea which would more deeply apprehend her life. And this form changed her elegant, beautiful, womanly essence, and pushed it to other planes: Now she was one of those well-known puppets in the popular music boxes of a different time, which, gathering force in the sphere of our informed, sensitized, deep-seated emotions seize attention before exploding in frenzied automated action; a moment later she was perpetuating her life through the knowing glance and pose instilled in a gilded framed portrait rendered in some forgotten time; and sometimes she went further, dismissing all physiognomy as she settled inside him in the footstep of single phrase.

“You’re daydreaming!”

“I was thinking of you. Or rather the dream you had …”

She held up her hands as if mindful of an imminent danger.

“Don’t ask about that. It was terrible.” She rose to her feet and approached the window. Watching the rain she said, “How the rain invites us to withdraw into ourselves.” She looked intently at Sabri. “I don’t usually have dreams and I don’t particularly like them. I enjoy living for the moment. It’s best living day by day, isn’t it? With things coming one after the other.”

“And to think of the many things beneath them.”

She laughed.

“And where did that come from?”

But Sabri didn’t mind. It was a way for her to defend herself.

He remembered the psychiatrist he and his wife had visited once upon a time and the questions the doctor had asked them. “Do you have children?” And because he was a little embarrassed he softened: “You’re married, aren’t you?” But Sabri was more preoccupied with himself than with answers. Ever since this strange guest had stepped into his home an indescribable change had come over him. His entire life hovered outside his body, like something he could lose at any moment. He had never sensed Seher so deeply angry with him until then, her eyes upon him, so close but at a fork in the road. The image came to him with so many questions, or rather thoughts that his voice shifted. “What’s becoming of me? I’ve practically become a poet of those new songs!”

“I’ve been married for some time now.” She smiled easily. “But we don’t have children.” She stopped and became serious. “Are you a doctor?”

Sabri recalled how difficult it was for him to explain just who he was and what he did. Thank God the woman was in no mood to listen, “It’s just that doctors always advise children, I mean psychologists. I suppose you think I’m rather strange?” And then as if to close the subject in a calm voice she intoned:

“I’m married but I have no responsibilities to my husband.”

[1] Characters from traditional Turkish shadow puppet theater