by Ada Sevimli
I learnt so much about the world around me, primarily that I know so little about it. In classes, seminars, and during revision, I filled a small but precious pool of knowledge and relished in its beauty. Took pride in the fact that it glistened like the foreheads of those who labour honestly.
In listening to people who study other subjects, who speak languages only ghosts converse in, who read pages made out of animal skin, or type on computers that train neural networks or run code, I came to learn about their lives. I cherish the privilege of having been invited inside their gates.
I watched their hands. Hands of all kinds, like minds, doing, holding or holding onto many things; typing furiously, sweating nervously, swiping, shaking those of a stranger’s, waiting, reaching, cheering, praying, praying for another’s hands in theirs, ripping hearts off chests, winning blades, holding glasses of booze or cigarettes.
I also learnt about people in general perhaps, how different yet extremely similar we all are and how we all seem to yearn for similar things to varying degrees. I also saw the same kinds of eyes, forward looking, always a bit wet, falling upon the same kinds of phenomena but drawing different conclusions.
Curiosity and wonder were the main propellers. And I let them drive me, with hunger I listened and watched, I tried to be without judgement but critical, open but with my own convictions.
I memorised the faces of a thousand people, spoke with hundreds, got to know dozens and wholeheartedly loved several. Surrounded by a sea of gratitude, I am profoundly thankful; we were strangers from different places and now these friends whom I met thanks to the blessings of chance are my family. Their happiness is my happiness and I exhale to the rhythm of their inbreath. Our strands of silk met and intermingled, entangled and for a while we weaved the webs of our destinies together. As the hour of goodbye draws nearer I feel the heft of an eclipse. Not that I’d rather not say goodbye, the river flows and I cannot stop it, neither would I want to, but that does not make leaving any less hurtful. To love and to have to say goodbye, having the privilege of calling the world my oyster and on the flip side not having an anchor, having to always navigate, the stars being the only constant, the freedom of perpetual sailing between harbours.
Among the faces I memorised, I was mesmerised by some that belonged to men. I met with many, kissed five, fell in love with two but did not love them, and loved one without falling in love.
Yesterday, I said goodbye to the man I’d begun to fall in love with, the second of the two. While I don’t want his story to cast a shadow over my sea of gratitude, there may be value in relaying it. Slowly, it will fade, until I forget his scent which, after a night in his arms, would overpower my own. And the sensation of his lips on mine, on my hair, on my hands. And the way his eyelids drooped over his eyes a bit, making him look older than he is, also kinder than he is, I will forget. He broke his neck in his second year when he jumped into the river at Christ Church Meadows, and had surgery that left a red, scary mark on the back of his neck, I will forget. How the fact that his canines were a bit longer than average made me smile, I will not remember. The way he tilted his head to the side sometimes when he was undecided or uncertain, along with the veins on his arms that looked like rivers on a map, I will forget. I will forget how easily my fingers would slide in his hair as I stroked it, and how it shined blue black in the morning light as he kissed my collar bone. How heavy his head felt on my chest, and the weight of each goodbye. And what his breathy deep voice sounded like when he called my name, I will not remember. I will forget the feeling of waking from a peaceful slumber, having fallen asleep on his shoulder. And in the gift of forgetfulness that time brings, I will forgive him.
I first felt the pull of gravity when we were in the second quad, late at night looking at the sky which seemed particularly alight, bright and dry as if to kindle a spark, guessing which speck Venus was. Then I felt gravity’s force again, sending me towards him, stronger this time, when he held me so tight in his arms and told me this felt right and he felt happy. Then the pull became even harder to resist when he pressed me into his heart with such tenderness and asked me many times to please stay. Finally, I felt the disorienting fall coming to pass when he looked into the depths of my eyes and said he would never hurt me and no one could ever hurt me when I was with him. He told me he did not want to see anyone else. I did not trust him yet but I believed him. I went to London for two days and when I returned, he took it all back. But I had believed him.
The forbidden grass I tread and the omniscient streets that are gently lit witnessed the injury I suffered. And the trees in Port Meadow heard it all. I now indignantly climb up from what I thought was a fertile valley but was in fact a desert pit into which I’d fallen. And there are no tears, because I know somewhere in my lungs that cough dust, that such arid soils do not deserve to be watered by my eyes. I neither love nor respect him; how can one respect someone who fails to conceive of the significance and meaning of words uttered, someone who has not given thought to which values they ought to adhere to.
But, though I wish I hadn’t, I did fall in love, and I bet those who can read could see the traces of impact near the stone bench in the meadows where my heart dropped and broke.
I do not grieve him; I mourn the piece of innocence he plundered.
His story ends here and it coincides with the beginning of the end of my days as a master’s student at Oxford.
Now as a chapter closes and as I stand in the precipice that overlooks endless waters of potentiality, I confuse concepts and feelings of liberty and fear, uncertainty and tragedy, promise and inadequacy. The taste of summer nights and the potent, sweet scent of the last vials of youth arrive with the winds. I am galloping to reach, to conquer. The fear of heartbreak and at the same time the fear of losing my ability to feel heartache are like hooves on my throat. As I begin to learn of the things I did not know I don’t know, one thing I have come to know is that only I can make me happy. Knitting a life, every choice a stitch, every path a different colored yarn, takes accountability and responsibility.
Time to set off, with gratitude, melancholy and courage on roads that are pregnant with the promise of good days, towards future lands, with the compass wedged firmly within my ribcage, alone sometimes perhaps but never lonely. Loyal to the truth I excavated from within I stare into the future, the enveloping great unknown that is teeming with new beginnings. In a grateful lament I turn towards the dining hall and thank those I call my friends, my family, from the bottom of my heart, for the days, nights, bar shifts, cocktails, formals, laughs, cries, secrets, stories, dances, memories, and love we shared.
Thank you. I love you.