On Turkish Names: Neslihan

[Published in Fractured West]

Read it in two parts, Nesli and HanNesli, meaning the past of her people and Han, meaning a caravanserai. Nesli, meaning ancestors and Han, meaning a place to stay. A caravanserai meaning a lodging for travellers in the night, or for travellers of the day. For those who do not have a permanent home, or have it and decide not to occupy it. For people who decide to be occupied by things on the move, or by things that require movement, and hence for people who never stay put. Neslihan, say it in two parts. Nesli, breathe it in, and Han, breathe it out.

Neslihan is a woman from Kütahya with an Afghan face and a smouldering wish to wrap her hands around my neck. She lives in the apartment across mine and each time I wake up I see her on its crocus decked balcony, glued to the railings, trying not to succumb to gravity.

Neslihan has a silver service tray she holds sideways and stares at me from, like from a rear view mirror. Her kitchen overlooks my bedroom and sometimes in my bedroom there are other people but she doesn’t mind sharing me. Neslihan is older, and does not have high standards. She also has eyes glazed over that tell me she may never have had any.

I wait for her to throw a paper plane my way in which she will have scribbled a “hello.” A “come over and drink my tea,” a “I am your new neighbour from Kütahya.” I keep my sidelights wide open. Every evening I make a small list and paste it on the window, inside out. From her tray she should be able to see it, like from a rear view mirror. 1.  I hung the paintings up today though you didn’t notice. 2. Your thin hair is growing longer, you wake up too late. 3. Dream me up Neslihanit doesn’t hurt me.

Neslihan is also the name of a woman I used to find pretty. Our bodies did not look the same, but our clothes fit each other perfectly. She always wore high heels and she had breasts soft and supple and large and they filled up the silk of my blouses. There was bare skin between the buttons which I kept licking in the passing. 4. Neslihan, are you wondering how that feels?

Neslihan from Kütahya with an Afghan face wakes up later and later. I see two shadows inside her flat frolicking until dawn. I see a man on her balcony in the mornings, sitting on a stool, sipping stale tea, a newspaper in one hand, rosary beads in the other. A moustache, hairy back arms and white calluses on his heels.

Neslihan, was this it?

I go to my bedroom, I wrap other hands around my neck. I put an evil eye on the sidelights. Nesli meaning us, Han meaning hollow building.