The poems ...The poems were my first journey into the world of literature. Well, actually, I had co-written a play with my friend, Maurice, when I was in primary school at Alice Smith in Kuala Lumpur -- it was a short play called 'The Runaway' and I remember that we performed it at assembly, next to some very bad rain -- but I don't have the script for that anymore.
It was about this kid who had a sister who always used to get straight A's and a family that favored her openly and shunned him (and his F's) with equal lack of reserve. The kid, whose name in the play I forget, (which is rather embarrassing since I was playing the role, and I did co-write the play) decides upon coming home from school one day to a confrontation about his report card that he can't take anymore of this, and that his parents don't love him anymore, and that everyone would be better off if he just ran away -- and so he does.
I remember the scene where he actually 'runs away' very clearly. I had planned it so that he (I) would leave the stage, run around the rest of the school sitting in the middle of the hall where we held the assembly every Friday, and come up the stairs at the other side. However, what I hadn't planned on was being waved at by the most beautiful girl in the school. "Hi, Aral!" Wow, I almost lost all my concentration and bumped into a wall -- that's when I realized that stage work can be rewarding in more ways than one. I guess you could say she was my first fan, ever!
Anyway, back to the play -- he soon discovers that the real world is not all fun and games when he runs into a gang with more on their minds than just smoking dope and having a few drinks. They see him as he's looking hungrily through a display case at a supermarket. Sizing him up for a momma's boy, and for the runaway that he is, they inch towards him and the curtain goes down on the first scene as they make his acquaintance.
The curtain rises with the runaway strolling along as a member of the gang with blue hair and a leather jacket. I especially remember the blue hair 'cos I kept rushing backstage to put more of the spray on because I had the constant feeling that it wasn't enough and that people wouldn't be able to see it -- after all, you don't get many chances to walk around primary school with blue hair! I also had this fake cigarette which looked especially believable from the stage. (It was full of talcum powder which I blew out to look like smoke.) It was so real, in fact, that the headmaster had asked to see it just to make sure that it was fake.
While the runaway is happy to have found new friends he's also hungry, and the gang have a practical solution -- if you want something, take it!
"But isn't stealing illegal?"
"Hey, it's only illegal if you get caught -- and anyway you're not stealing; you're borrowing!"
So he goes in to the market, along with the others in the gang and, sure enough, he gets caught red-handed.
The curtain falls and ultimately rises for the third scene, which takes place back at the house. The poor little runaway has a policeman by his side who rings the bell three times before the father answers the door. (I remember his name, and I can see his face in my mind's eye as I write this -- the kid who played the policeman was Malcolm, he was Scottish, and was a good friend. One of the reasons why I remember so clearly is because he actually cried of stage-fright before the show, and it took a lot of persuasion to get him to go on. It hit me as strange at the time, after all, he didn't have a very big part.) The policeman goes on to tell his parents that the real trouble lies with them, and that they really shouldn't treat the two siblings differently and that all the kid needs is a little love -- after all, he is a good kid (and the starring role, so give him a break!)
The play, as I remember, concludes with a teary-eyed mom and dad hugging their two kids and swearing that they'll never differentiate between them. A tender scene, but a happy ending, nevertheless.
I was eight years old when I wrote that. I also directed it and starred in it. Unfortunately I have, over the years, lost the script and I don't have a video of it (although I remember very clearly that one of the dad's in the audience had a small camera going) but I can still remember most of it as if it were yesterday. I liked that play.
Coming back to the topic of the poems: The first poem I ever wrote (it's also the first poem here) was titled 'A Friend' -- I wrote it one day while in an English class in my last year of secondary school, in 1989. I was thinking about a very special girl I had left behind in Malaysia; Nora. She was Egyptian, and was the daughter of a high-ranked man in the embassy. She had a little sister, Nagla. She was my first true love. Now don't ask me how there can be true love at 13 -- I don't know -- but there can and there was... I will never forget my last day in Malaysia.
It was quickly approaching night time and I knew that my parents would be coming in about half an hour to pick me up for the airport. I still hadn't realized the implications involved -- I would be leaving (forever.) I went up to her apartment where we talked a little outside her door (I don't remember what we talked about, all I remember is that I was sad, and getting more so with every passing minute.) All of a sudden, she rushed in and emerged a few moments later with what seemed like a tear-out from a small book of some sort. It was, she explained, a few special pages out of the Qu'ran, and that it would keep me safe during the flight. It was the sweetest thing in the world. For the first (and probably the last) time in the world I acted completely out of impulse, I held her tight and kissed her. It was a long, passionate wet kiss and during a split-second when my eyes opened and closed, I saw Nagla turning away to give us some privacy. I loved her. I was only thirteen.
I don't know how, but one way or another we ended up in the lobby of the building. It had marble-floor and it was open on all sides. The building, by the way, was a luxury condominium with a tennis court and a large swimming pool with barbecue stalls lining its further side. It was called GCB Court -- to this day I do not know what those letters stand for. All my friends were lined up; there was Margarita, a tall and beautiful Yugoslavian girl who used to bite when she Frenched and who had a little bunch of white protruding from the front of her otherwise brown hair, which was cut short at the time. She was a few years older than me, and was the first girl I'd gone to bed with -- take that literally because we didn't have sex...
It was at Turgay's birthday party. Turgay was, along with Alper, the only other Turkish kids there at the time. Well, there was Cenk and Ipek -- who were very dear to me, but they had left by that time. We had a nice tradition of playing 'spin the bottle' at our parties (I guess most inquisitive little teenagers do) and we had 'levels' which you had to go through. It worked something like this: if you spun the bottle and it came to a girl it hadn't come to before, you gave her a kiss on the lips. If the same couple were 'bottled' again, it was a French kiss, and the third time meant that you went into Turgay's room and "did whatever you wanted."
We had discussed the whole affair beforehand and Turgay had suggested that I take Nora and he take Margarita and that we go into his room and do something. I had argued that I didn't want Nora, but that I wanted Margarita instead (although I hadn't known it at the time, I had been a fool in my choice.) He agreed, and the deal was done. So, half way through the party, we proposed an intimate two-bed adventure and both parties accepted. We told the rest of the party that we'd go in for a double "do whatever you want" and that we'd be out shortly -- "you guys go on without us".
It was fun. There I was on a bed with Margarita under me and without a clue in my head as to what to do. Please don't forget that I was around twelve at the time -- and my family hadn't told me about the birds and the bees. Apparently the other couple, together on the bed next to ours, were in a similar situation. In no time at all a dialogue was formed between the beds with the general topic being "so what do we do now?" The girls were chatting amongst themselves and deciding on such matters as "should we take off our bras?" while Turgay and I were discussing possible ways of getting to the heart of the matter; which I might add, none of us had the slightest notion of at the time.
Well, the girls had decided that it was O.K. to take off the bras. Sure, sure it's O.K. -- yeah, like I've ever seen a bra before. My god, this must be worse than breaking into Fort Knox. It was one of those with both a shoulder strap and a strap round the back. Come on, give a guy a break. A stole a glance towards the other bed -- Oh, great, hers only had one strap and it was off in minutes. Well, better go back to work on this one ... should've chosen Nora, should've chosen Nora. By the way, the bra never came off completely -- and for a long time afterwards I held a deep hate for bras everywhere.
As if the bra business wasn't bad enough, I found out (painfully, may I add) that she understood Frenching to be a biting ritual -- and was eager to carry it out indefinitely. I didn't like that. So, I concentrated on the breasts which were ferociously guarded by that god-damn bra. I do believe that we were also going through the motions (after all, it is natural and all -- so I guess you don't really have the learn much) because I remember a lot of squeaking going on. Thank god we were both dressed, and that she was equally (if not more so) guarded below the waist as she was above it -- because, with the sheer ignorance I had at the time about sex, I'd have been a father in no time! She was, by the way, wearing tights. A very tight pair of tights!
So, the two lovebirds next door were down to the panties and I was struggling with a pair of nylon tights, and dodging the mouth and prying the bra and astonishingly going through the up-and-down motions at the same time.
We broke the bed. I don't think that needs much explanation; but I might add that the bed we broke belonged to Turgay's older brother Canay, who was amused at the thought, but resented the broken bed nevertheless.
Anyway, after what seemed about fifteen minutes of this, we decided that it would be rude to the others if we kept them waiting any longer, so we dressed (some of us didn't have to put on a lot!) and went out. The living room, where the party had housed fifteen or so people was nearly empty -- apparently we'd been in the little room for over an hour. How time flies when you're trying to pry open a bra ...
Seeing as how I'm deeply engulfed in this flash-back, I might as well tell you about one other funny thing that happened at the party -- the truth behind which I found out only about two years later, in Turkiye, from Turgay. It hadn't really made sense to me then, but as you'll recall I had other things on my mind at the time, so I hadn't really pondered on it that much. It happened like this:
It was relatively early and we were still playing spin the bottle. The hand of faith brought Nora and Alper together for the "do what you want" deal and they went, like a couple of obedient school-kids, into Turgay's room. A moment of so later there was a noise from within the door and Alper came out looking pale and sick. The official story at the time was that he had fainted. I remember thinking that Nora must have been some girl to get him to faint. But apparently he had had a fever and had suddenly gotten sick and wasn't there when we came out of the room later with the girls.
The actual story, which Turgay told me two years later, went something like this: Turgay and Alper had been talking about the girls (and by the girls I mean the girls in our group at the time; Margarita, Nora, Patricia, and sometimes Olga and Polina) and Turgay told him that Nora liked it if you touched her buttocks while you Frenched. So, Alper, in eager anticipation, apparently inched his hands down while in the room and Nora, not expecting this from Alper, screamed. When confronted with this tragedy for which he was completely unprepared, he did the first thing that came to him -- faked a faint. He was sick. He had an excuse. (And in all honesty, it was a good act and if Turgay hadn't told me I would still believe it to this day.)
Going back to the lineup on that rainy evening of my departure: I'm not quite sure if Olga, Patricia and Polina were there, but I believe that they were. I was only thinking of Nora. I remember going up to her, teary eyed, and kissing her one last time in front of everyone -- my parents, Turgay, Alper and the rest -- then turning away towards my beckoning parents -- then stopping and turning back for one last look, then another ... I was crying. I didn't want to leave her but I knew I had to. It was too much to bear, and after watching the city disappear from sight on the plane, I fell into a deep and merciful sleep for the rest of the journey, only waking once when a hostess picked up the booklet Nora had given me from the floor and gave it back. I swore I would never let it go.
The overwhelming majority of my poems were written during 1989 and 1990, the two most troubled years of my life to date. They were the hardest hit by the transgressionary period and the culture shock which I went trough. The poems were, I believe, a way for me to channel out the unbelievably strong feelings of heartbreak, and homesickness which were tearing me up inside. They would come to me in an instant -- and if I had neither pen nor paper, they would disappear just as quickly. Most of these poems were written by a thirteen/fourteen year old, who felt overpowering emotions of love (Nora), homesickness (Malaysia) and culture shock which he could not deal with.
I've tried to arrange them in chronological order but the lack of dates on the poems (some of which were scribbled on little bits of paper) has made it quite impossible to do so correctly. I am sure, however, that the first nineteen poems were written during 1989 and 1990, and that the remaining were written afterwards; some quite recently.