“Oh, that’s beautiful! Who sings this?” I ask, leaning forward to increase the volume of the music.
The narrow, dusty road is winding through the hinterland with its scrub, its holm oaks, strawberry trees, japes, junipers, buckthorns and pine trees. To our right, craggy peaks and rugged rocks cut into the light, transparent sky. To the left, the sea shimmers in silvery reflections, but far below us. I let my arm hang out through the open car window, trying to catch some of the cool mountain air with my fingers.
Murat has kept his promise, providing not only a car, but also someone to drive me around. I don’t know if it’s a random decision or if Murat has noticed his bodyguard’s timid smile, yesterday. A smile I might only have imagined, to be honest.
But whatever. My personal tourist guide today is the young, lean, melancholic Hazim.
Half an hour ago, he knocked on my door as I was finishing my solitary breakfast on the balcony. I was rather surprised to see him when I opened. When I offered coffee and orange juice, he declined with a mute sign of his head. When I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth, he didn’t even want to sit down.
And he hasn’t said much ever since. His face an unreadable mask of polite neutrality, he led me through the hotel park in silence, then across the parking lot. He opened the back door of a black Audi, but I ignored him, walked around the car and sat down on the passenger seat.
“Where you want to go?” was the only thing he muttered without looking at me when he started the engine.
“Choose a place. I don’t care,” I answered.
And that was it. End of our thrilling conversation.
He switched on the car audio system and inserted a CD as soon as we left the hotel premises, though.
And now there’s this woman singing. A strange melody that all those florid Turkish vowels and consonants render almost surreal. She’s got a rich and throaty voice, the voice of an old woman who’s seen it all. Yet I’m pretty sure she’s only in her twenties or thirties. Turkish female singers all seem to have a rare quality: to put a whole lifetime of experiences, pleasant and unpleasant, into their voices. Even those who’ve barely entered adulthood.
“Hazim! The singer—what’s her name?” I repeat, noticing that my voice is harsher than planned. But I’m thrown off by his behaviour. It doesn’t feel hostile, but wary, as if he didn’t want an invisible barrier to disappear between us.
Despite my irritated tone, he keeps staring at the road, blocking me out. I start to wonder—is he deaf? Or doesn’t he speak English?
Finally, when I’ve given up hope to get an answer, Hazim clears his voice and says, “Burcu Güneş. Her name is Burcu Güneş.”
“Oh, you do have a tongue, then,” I comment drily, drumming my fingers on the door.
We listen to the song for a while. When I can stand it no longer, I say, “I don’t understand what’s going on. Are you, I don’t know, mad at me for something? I would’ve thought that having a day off was nicer than walking through Antalya at your boss’s side. Even if it means you are forced to spend the day with me.”
Another silence. Then he replies, “It’s not that bad.” He shoots me an odd glance.
“Then talk, for God’s sake!”
“I have nothing to say.”
“That may be so, but you barely answer my questions! I can’t stop you from sulking, but to be honest, if I had known that I would spend the day in broody silence, I would’ve stayed all alone. I do have a driving licence, after all. I don’t need a chauffeur.”
“I’m sorry, my English is not good.”
“Cut it out, your English is good enough! I don’t ask you to explain the complexity of the universe, I merely ask for some superficial small talk.”
He mulls this over. Then he surprises me by saying, “You notice we both wear black clothes?” Which, indeed, has nothing to do with the complexity of the universe.
“Hey, I guess you’re right! What a coincidence!”, I coo in a mocking tone.
“You always wear black clothes. I have noticed, in Istanbul, last time I saw you. I only wear black clothes, too.”
“Great. We have something in common then.”
“You look good in black, sir.”
“You do, too. And don’t ‘sir’ me, please. My name’s Marc.”
The song is over, another one starts.
“You want me to play the song again, um… Marc?” Hazim asks.
“Oh. Yes, please. If you don’t mind.”
The woman, Burcu Güneş, starts again. “Bülbülüm gel de dile…”, she sings.
“What’s she singing about?” I want to know.
“Difficult. I don’t know if I can translate.”
“Give it a try, come on.”
“She sings ‘My song-bird, start talking… even sing with me… make your voice heard to strangers… Sorrow, oh my sorrow bird…’ It’s a traditional Turkish song called ‘Çile bülbülüm’.”
“Beautiful,” I say, trying out the sound of the song titel. “Çile bülbülüm. My sorrow bird. Really beautiful.” I look at Hazim. “Thank you.”
“For the translation. And for, you know, making an effort.”
He gazes back and seems about to answer something. Yet he doesn’t. Just closes down his invisible shutters and drives on.
I wonder what I’ve said that makes him brood again.