“Come on, Galip! Give me a smile!”
I always grew tired of my mom’s bludgeoning enthusiasm the second it showed itself. It was a sunny morning, low and languorous, spurring most people to idleness and my mom to frenetic photo sessions. “Come on, you’re both all dressed up! I want a photo of you with the backdrop of the house.”
I was too young to fully comprehend what she left unsaid, but I could—even then—understand it a little. I want a photo of you with the backdrop of the house because we’re leaving it and I want memories.
Of course, that still did not affect my adverseness to the idea. Why do I have to do this again? Take a photo of you and dad and the house and be done with it. Or if you want me in the photo, take one and be done with it!
I’d tried to inform my mom of the latter thought, but it had fallen on deaf ears the first time. And the second.
I sighed, moving to step down from the green-and-brown couch. Aylan’s hand, tugging on a fistful of shirt, stopped me. “Please, bira,” he implored, his brown doe eyes seeming larger than usual, half-formed words spilling from his mouth. “Photo bad otherwise.”
Half-formed grammar as well, I noted.
He was a tiny little bundle of yellow, dark brown hair and glowing skin. I sometimes thought that if he ever stopped smiling, the skin of his cheeks would begin to droop simply because of how much his incessant grinning stretched them. It was slightly annoying, a tad amusing, and quite adorable. He was adorable.
“Okay, then…” I sighed, my lips tugged up in a semblance of a smile as my little brother beamed at the camera the day before we were set to make our escape.
I opened my eyes to a glaring sun and the cacophonous squawking of surrounding seagulls, my eyes crusted with sand from the ground and salt from tears and seawater.
I pushed myself to stand, stumbling as I fought for balance.
The outline of reality blurred before my eyes, vision an unfocused mélange of shapes and silhouettes. The lapping waves licked at my feet, washing off sand, bringing mud to replace it, tickling me while—quite literally—rubbing salt into my wounds.
I could vaguely make out what was around me. The soft blues and bright whites of the sky were a sight for sore eyes, soothing my inexplicable agitation after the squally shades of the sea in storm. The waves were a frothy mess of the same color, simply lighter and a tad translucent. Grey-black shapes outlined themselves against the clouds, announcing their presence with sounds that—according to one’s tolerance—could be called simply unpleasant or undeniably cacophonous.
I looked around, trying to make sense of what I saw. There were things that looked like deflated dinghies, pruned and torn by the tossing of the sea and a myriad of miscellaneous detritus that followed the contours of the beach over their shifts in direction, shape, and even color.
Sand bounded up between my toes, course and comforting amidst the rubbish, a brown reminder of finally-attained safety. It led from between my toes and its ubiquitous presence on the beach to a scraggly bundle of red and blue that seemed to be a part of the ground in places.
The floating clouds of my vision began to coalesce. The double images morphed into one.
The fusion colored in the parts of the bundle of red and blue that seemed to meld into the sand. A color that, much like my own, normally bespoke life.
It was a tiny body, pressed against the sand. The head was turned away from me, hair brushing against his collar with remarkable familiarity. In fact, even his clothes – the reds and blues of his clothing, even the color of his skin… all remarkably like my own. I quirked an eyebrow, quizzically trying to think through the fog that clouded my mind. His hands were to the side, palms facing the sky like a sighing call for salvation. His back was slightly arched, as though he’d been dumped on the ground and left there without a second thought, face sinking into the sand. He still has his shoes on, I noted. Why did I find that so strange?
Funny, I thought. Those are just like…
Realization swept me away.
I could hear a distant screech from somewhere. A heart-breaking, shattering scream that tore the sky, a wail of mourning despair. A cry of hopeless desperation, and breathless grief.
I realized it was my own even as the broken pieces of my soul clutched at the corpse of my brother.