Excerpt of The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak
(Page 7 of 9)
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Good, keep shouting, Zeliha muttered to herself. She didnt like silence. As a
matter of fact, she abhorred silence. It was okay that people stared at her on
the street, in the bazaar, at the doctors waiting room, here and there, day and
night; it was all right that they watched and gawked, and eyeballed at length
again as if seeing her for the first time. One way or another she could always
fight back their gaze. What she could not possibly fight back was their silence.
Tangerinist . . . Tangerinist . . . How much costs a kilo? a woman yelled from
an open window on the upper floor of a building across the street. It had always
amused Zeliha to see how easily, almost effortlessly, the denizens of this city
were capable of inventing unlikely names for ordinary professions. You could add
an -ist to almost every single thing sold in the market, and the next thing you
knew, you had yet another name to be included in the elongated list of urban
professions. Thus, depending on what was put on sale, one could easily be called
a tangerinist, waterist, or bagelist, or . . . abortionist.
By now Zeliha had no doubt. Not that she needed one to know what she already was
sure about, but she had also had a test done at the newly opened clinic in their
vicinity. On the day of the grand opening the people at the clinic had given a
showy reception for a bunch of selected guests, and had lined up all the
bouquets and garlands right outside at the entrance so that the passersby on the
street could be informed about the occasion as well. When Zeliha had visited the
clinic the very next day, most of these flowers had already faded, but the
flyers were as colorful as before. free pregnancy test with each blood sugar
test! it said in phosphorescent capital letters. The correlation between the two
was unknown to Zeliha, but she had taken the test all the same. When the results
arrived, her blood sugar turned out to be normal and she turned out to be
Miss, you can come in now! called the receptionist as she stood in the
doorway, fighting another r, this time one that was hard to avoid in her
profession. The doctor . . . he is waiting for you.
Grabbing her box of tea glasses and the broken heel, Zeliha jumped to her feet.
She felt all the heads in the room turn toward her, recording her every gesture.
Normally, she would have walked as rapidly as she could. At the moment, however,
her moves were visibly slow, almost languorous. Just when she was about to leave
the room, she paused, and as if pushed by a button, she turned around, knowing
exactly whom to look at. There, at the center of her gaze, was a most embittered
face. The head-scarved woman grimaced, her brown eyes shadowed by resentment,
her lips moving and cursing the doctor and this nineteen-year-old about to abort
the child Allah should have bestowed not on a slapdash girl but on her.
The doctor was a burly man who communicated strength through his erect
posture. Unlike his receptionist, there was no judgment in his stare, no unwise
questions on his tongue. He seemed to welcome Zeliha in every way. He made her
sign some papers, and then more papers in case anything went wrong either during
or after the procedure. Next to him, Zeliha felt her nerve slacken and her skin
thin out, which was too bad because whenever her nerves slackened and her skin
thinned out, she became as fragile as a tea glass, and whenever she became as
fragile as a tea glass, she couldnt help but come close to tears. And that was
one thing she truly hated. Harboring profound contempt for weepy women ever
since she was a little girl, Zeliha had promised herself never to turn into one
of those walking miseries who scattered tears and nitpicky complaints everywhere
they went and of which there were far too many around her. She had forbidden
herself to cry. To this day, she had on the whole managed pretty well to stick
to her promise. When and if tears welled up in her eyes, she simply held her
breath and remembered her promise. So on this first Friday of July she once
again did what she had always done to stifle the tears: She took a deep breath
and thrust her chin upward as an indication of strength. This time, however,
something went awfully wrong and the breath she had held came out as a sob.
Excerpted from The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak, © 2007 by Elif Shafak. Excerpted by permission of Viking Press, a division of Penguin Group. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.