Preview Issue: Editor’s Desk; Sudden Fiction: CHAIRS

 

       

 

 

 

        The gilded sign read; The Blue Mist.When the shop opened at 1:00 in the afternoon on a side street of the Tevekie, Simone made the hanging sign visible and left her felt hat on the wooden coat rack to prepare a glass of black tea before Hagia’s arrival. The Anotolian style two-tiered ceramic teapot was steady in her hands as she poured the tea from the top pot and hot water from the second one to get the desired strength.

        She had made tea hundreds of time and had always kept the fashionable stainless steel pot at home and the ceramic one in the shop. It wasn’t just the comfort of tea, but a colorful memory of her mother who had always held the family teapot as if she could have slow danced while balancing it in the palms of her flawless hands.

        This time, the tea was slightly bitter because she was distracted by her mind’s view of Hagia’s offer. Hagia could honor her request, but at what cost? In their intentional conversations she had listened to the resonance of the issue again and again. It was voluntary—the choice to refuse, but the essence of Simone’s speech was compelling and alluded to a practiced beauty and flight of fantasy that she had lost sleep over since the previous Monday. Who did she believe herself to be?  Wasn’t the pursuit and acquisition of material beauty and pleasure her birth right? Since the time of Constantinople, her kind had held an explicit experience of power, fantasy and loss in the region. But this wasn’t the time of Constantine or the Ottomans and history continued creating layer after layer of human complication, adapting from one generation to the next. She like every one flowed from the gold spigot of time.

        As she anticipated, Hagia wore perfume the scent of wood oil and roses dressed in her best linen dress the color of unripe olives and wore her blue-shelled necklace from the sea. As she last remembered, her hair was almost too red from coloring, but on the right day, under the right sun, it gave her an ancient look that the men she had dated preferred.  The knock at the door had been recognizable too, a quick light double tap and then a longer one after a seconds pause.

        “I’ve had tea. Would you like some?”

        “ Please. Really hot.  It’s getting cold. I can feel it at the very tips of my fingers.” She knew Hagia was making small talk and had a look of gentle urgency in her eyes.  She was good at small talk. It’s what she did before selecting the departures and designing the perfect experience for her clients.

        “So, have you thought about the time of year and the fabric?” Getting the water hot enough was the trick. The tea would be hot enough to nearly burn Hagia hands if she caressed the glass at too long of intervals. She imagined the heat burning through top skin and then deeper. It was the power of Hagia’s proposal she resented, the strength of her imagination. Hagia had knew that her offer was irresistible.

        “I’m still deciding.” She put the tea directly in front of Hagia on a small round wooden table with a mirrored surface. Hagia looked into the mirror as peering into a pool of sunlight.

        In her mind she had considered Hagia’s words carefully despite the fascination of it all. After the last few difficult transports, Hagia had advised her to embrace her new perspective and to forget about the possibility of suspension. “A good selection of brocade fabric and the right time of year without suspension could be good enough”, she had expressed as her eyes became wet with tears. But yet, in Simone’s view of the shifting possibilities, an active dreamscape and communication through suspension could help to enrich her life—her business and sense of herself.

        “The suspension of ideals isn’t easy” Hagia spoke as though the meaning of her words were buried in the earth. “And there are incalculable consequences if the client isn’t strong enough to return.” Returning was desired by most. It was the safest thing to do. Getting stuck in the lightness of the experience could cause transfiguration and the loss of life. Hagia didn’t speak. She seemed to have already known that Simone would want the beauty of it—the complete release and return to see things differently—to have it all, the feeling of the ancients, to have a deeper look into herself and innovative possibilities in a post modern Istanbul. It was the city for it, the city for change if those that were transported would return.

        Yet, the city of her birth was a beautiful vortex that offered a vivid survival only for those who could be successfully suspended.

        “The rustic red and gold ottoman silk brocade is what I’ve decided on.” Her heart raced with the excitement of the possibility.  Drinking the last of her tea, Hagia opened her leather journal and began writing.

        “And the chair? “

        “I want a carousel of chairs of the oldest wood.” Hagia’s eyes twinkled beneath a shaft of light escaping from the chilled north window, as Simone stated her ardent request.

        “And the music?”

        “The Persian flute of course and a singer with a voice of the middle range.” In her mind, the combination could be ecstatic. The suspension would bring it to life— give it color again and vividness that the ancients must have felt almost every moment of their lives. When they had worked at making their wools, traveled to new lands for trade, when they ate their spiced meals.

        And Hagia assured her that during suspension, everything would be more sparkling, lucid and  sumptuous and if she wanted a meal, it would taste as no other. Young lamb and fresh cheeses with fennel or lentils with red pepper, bread with potatoes and stuffed seasoned meats would be ultimate pleasures shared with like minds.  She especially emphasized the pomegranate juice as the elixir for returning—and to recognize it would be essential to the whole experience. But she didn’t only want a meal during her suspension, she wanted chairs and a lavish tablescape with the best woven linen napkins, some silver, candles and crystal goblets the shape  of a great diamond—she wanted her guests eating from plates and glasses made over all of time, silver and stone utensils, Isnik pottery and guests of every racial persuasion, who waited as she would to hear the sound of the plates ring when they put down their utensils and agreed, when they recognized an experience that all had shared—when they knew the importance  of a story that had been lost, hidden or erased from history.

        By now, Hagia was noting furiously, undistracted by the sound of a customer who had entered the shop and Simone’s soft welcome. She had known Simone nearly all her life. She had known her as a girl and when she had traveled to France, to Spain and then to America to expand the possibilities of what she offered her customers. She knew of Simone’s dreams of unworldly ephemera and objects that could be lovingly informed by them and life-giving stories to return with from her travels, but had never been fully satisfied. She had wanted maps and astrolabes that could instantly transport, telescope and seeing eyeglasses that made the unseen visible, lifelike figurines that had movement. Hagia’s offer would be the answer, would draw customers to the things they were looking for.

        Now that she had noted the details of Simone’s request, she watched as Simone placed a wooden writing quill into the hands of the customer. “Is it authentic?” The customer’s eyes were deep and beautiful, his hair raven black with large well groomed hands. He wore a cashmere scarf that appeared in the morning light the color of milky pink sea shells.

        “It was made in Syria.” He tests the weight of it by letting it rest on his inner palm and then lightly bouncing it to return on his flattened flesh.

        “The man who owned it is said to have been a sage whose ancestors once traveled with the Portuguese around the cape of Africa.”

        “I’ll take it.” Simone eyed a selection of wrapping papers then selected a marbled red paper with the lightest weight, flecked with gold.

        The season of the suspension would be late summer. It had always been her best time of year. The heat of the summer’s sun would be slightly cooler, clothing would be nearly sheer for perfect morning or nighttime comfort and the havuzlu gardens with tulips would offer her the poetic respite she needed when she craved a chilled glass of yogurt and water. During initial discussion Hagia had informed her that entry into a passing world of suspension would be most remembered, if one could start at a point of atmosphere already familiar and felt through one’s senses for its good association and pleasure. She was ready, ready to suspend, to gain the ability to be in one place—the place of her heart and native ties and in every place simultaneously erasing the burdens of culture and her country’s historical past, yet to gather as a great beautiful stone the wisdom and perfection of those who had already passed into the doorways of life and death and then to see the delicacy and youthful promise of the future.  The new perspective could eventually help solve the problem of geographical boundary and consequential warmongering states of mind that sought conquest and domination.

        Hagia’s special ability wasn’t ordained. There had been no ritual, ceremony, residing authority or magic. As only several hundred like herself, she had awakened one morning and discovered her ability. She could then pass her hands through any object and know the origin of it. After the passing of all the seasons, she had the ability to transport anyone who desired to the only place you could go for the length of one moon’s cycle to be mentally and emotionally transfigured.

        But it could be hazardous. Her last transport had begun without the possibility of disturbance of the balance of karmic debt and reward. The woman who had been transported had been too idealistic and was unable to return. It was too impressive, too much harmony without the work of it all. The final agreement of the transport had been unfulfilled. She had not asked the right questions in her ecstatic state, was too concerned with the sumptuous and lavish room, and the light and the sparkling diamond, emeralds and blue stone. And just when she could have saved herself to return to life, she had fallen deeply into the marrow of chair, its soft pillow made of yellow and gold silk with tiny floating blossoms of ancient poppies, and forgetting to release her hands from its paw like arms made from an exotic nut that she had eaten as a child.

Without the release of the chair’s fascinating sensuous arms, she had just continued spinning in a slow orgasmic rapture till losing her body and ability to re-enter the  myriad world of other possibilities— the possibility of reason, memory through living, real human touch, understanding and relational innovation.   Hagia had been most saddened by her client’s inability to ask her historically neutral guests at the feast table what they knew in their hearts to be most true and how it would save the world. “Just keep your mind and listen to your heart no matter how tempting the beauty.” Hagia had said it to Simone more than once just to make sure that she understood the risks.

        The day had come softly. She had tended to all business related to the shop and had told her closest friend Marhabathat the suspension had been carefully thought through, and that at sunrise Hagia would meet her at her apartment’s  garden gate.  This morning she could smell the perfume of the new roses and gardenia more distinctly, delighted in the sight of the wrought iron bench with interconnected grapes vines that had been made by her father and the look of white blossoms on the orange tree that had produced fruit every December since it had been planted.  She had told Marhaba about the flourish of blossoms and their specific requirement of care. She had told her it felt it would be the tree’s best season.

        Hagia was late. It was unlike her. Since coming into her gift, she had never been late to serve a client. From what she knew about her ability, it was urgent and required a particular responsibility. Although she finally couldn’t predict the outcome, she had to inform those who chose the journey of the risks and the risks of the rewards too when returning. But she knew Simone as a brilliant and practical woman who truly wanted the experience of chairs—their languid arms and shapely legs as lion’s feet, the intoxication of their seats, not just for their stunning beauty their special ability during suspension to open the mind and heart to new relational possibilities.  She knew that she valued too the experience of the ancients and their cunning and flexibility from the beginning and through the age of the Ottomans. She loved the light and flow of the new, and the sagacious will for innovation and hybrid realties in a post modern world. She would go easy and return.

        Simone lifted her arms toward the arch of the gate as if to offer thanks to the sky that had turned blue and then a blue tinged white and then a cotton grey and then just the rushing heat of sun. She wore a brown sheer cotton dress the color of cinnamon and red roses and held in her hand an embroidered white cotton handkerchief her mother had given her when she had opened the shop. It now felt pleasurable to feel the slight summer morning air penetrate her nude skin beneath the dress. As she felt the deep sense of relaxation, she watched the glow of Hagia’s skin and her now brightly glowing hands that rested on a small stone of flint. And now in her mind, she was undecided. Would she know the right questions to ask her wondrous guests only to gather the truest stories from their hearts to be used when returning? Had she decided on too many chairs—a swirling configuration of them to accomplish more? How could she have figured to be strong enough? A carousel of chairs would be all she needed for many lives. But it was cheating. The work of her world—the world that had nurtured her, had to be attended to.

        After touching the stone held in Hagia’s hand and without speaking, they both welcomed the brief conversation of sun. She had decided, and now Hagia’s ability would be put to good use.  A touch and it had begun. Under the influence of the crab’s moon, it would be realized. Lightly ascending and then a slight pull of force. As Hagia could feel the lift of suspension, something familiar and luminous appeared. She felt her heart thump and then refocused her vision. It was Simone’s ghost as twin, sure and then not lingering, passing beneath the garden gate.

 

 

Yon Walls

2011

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