had a mandolin that he played every now and then. Ever since the two rooms
had been rented he had been playing it more often. He didn’t know why!
He guessed it was because there was a girl in the house, a beautiful high
day as he was playing, he heard footsteps on the stairs. He went on playing
until the footsteps came nearer and stopped on the landing. He stopped
playing and looked in the direction of the landing. She looked at him and
at the mandolin with a pleasant smile on her face.
her to sit with him. She sat by the window and asked him to play a piece
not much of a musician,” he said. “I only took a few lessons from an Italian
teacher before I entered the army.”
like very much to learn to play it,” she said, blushingly.
teach you what little I know,” he said, feeling somewhat relaxed.
to her certain elementary rules. He told her the names of each string,
then after playing the scale, he let her do the same. She was very excited
and he could see in her eyes a fascinating glow of enjoyment. Her mother’s
voice came from the second floor. She had just come home from work. The
girl got up unwillingly and on her way down met Maria on the stairs.
had company, Sempad?”
was up here for a moment,” he said indifferently.
your certificate, now. Your name is Garo from now on. Don’t forget it.
The Chief of Police was my husband’s friend. I am going to ask him for
a favor. I am going to tell him that you are my brother and that you are
afraid to go out because of the troubles the Armenians are in now. I am
going to try to get a permit for you so that you may go out, once in a
while, and take in a little fresh air and sunshine. You’re getting a little
One day, he had a very high fever. Maria was worried and had gone out to
get him some medicine. After she had left the house the young girl, whose
name was Dikranouhie, cautiously opened the door and walked to his
bed where he was breathing heavily, half asleep, saying: “How do you feel,
Sempad?” Noticing the perspiration running down his face and wetting the
pillow, she took her red scarf out of her pocket and was wiping his face,
neck and chest, just when Maria happened to come up the stairs and stopping
on the landing she cried out: “Hey! What the hell are you doing over there?”
was surprised and frightened. She turned around and said calmly: “The poor
boy is sick. He has a high fever. Can’t I even give him a glass of water?”
out of his room and stay out!” she shouted violently.
left her scarf on his chest and walked out, extremely upset.
walked into his room and began laughing hysterically. She went to her room
and came back with a mirror in her hand and held it so that Sempad could
see his face in it and said: “Look! Look at your beautiful face.”
in the mirror and in spite of his fever he began to laugh because the red
dye from the scarf had made a perfect clown out of him. His face, his nose
and neck and chest were all dyed a bright red. Sitting on the edge of his
bed, Maria took a wet towel and wiped the red away. She let him drink a
glass of Tahn, diluted yogurt, gave him some medicine and put an
ice-bag on his forehead.
will be all right by tomorrow,” she said.
way, I saw the police Chief today. He told me to take you to the police
station and introduce you to his men so they may become acquainted with
you and take care of you. He also told me that you must not leave his district.
As long as you stay in his district you should have nothing to worry about.
Tomorrow morning we will go there and get acquainted with them.”
Dikranouhie and her mother had learned about that mysterious appointment.
The following morning when they saw him with Maria on the way to the police
station, Dikranouhie cried out, in anguish: “If you are doing this because
of me, we will be glad to move out of here and never see you anymore. It’s
horrible to put that innocent boy’s life in danger for nothing.”
told Sempad not to pay any attention to her and not to worry.
went to the station. The Chief introduced him to his men, saying: “He is
my friend; take good care of him.” He, then, turned to them and said: “It’s
a nice day. You can stroll around for a while before you go home.”
left the station composed and relaxed. The sky was blue, the air cool and
delightful. The streets were full of civilians and soldiers and they walked
silently and distressed, smiling every now and then to brighten their inner
gloom. Moments afterward, when they returned home, they saw Dikranouhie
and her mother standing at the window, wiping the tears from their eyes.
rolled by, dark and dreary, punctuated by enchanting moments of glowing
delight. He stopped playing the mandolin. He spent most of his time lying
on his bed next to her room, thinking about his dangerous situation. He
was also reflecting about his readings. His mind was soaring with poetical
creations, his colorful visions, and his restless imagination. He was trying
to analyze the hidden structure of his mind, its correlation with his heart,
the essence of their contents and their possible mutual effects. Could
there be any fundamental physiological difference between love and sexual
craving? Are gratitude and other protective impulses similar to the sensations
born of love. None of these so-called moral attributes can give you wings
to fly. They pull you down to Earth.
make you calculate, earnestly, to cope with difficulties, to walk on the
ground and feel the hard reality beneath your feet. Love is the heavenly
liquor that intoxicates you. It covers reality with a mist, creates a new
world, new colors and new forces incompatible with earthly existence. On
the basis of these deliberations he concluded that he was in love with
Dikranouhie and had only gratitude and protective inclinations toward Maria.
to write poetry and hand it secretly to her. He looked upon her as a shred
of cloud sailing in the blue Heaven. Her hair seemed like the air before
the bursting of a hurricane. Her eyes were like the sparks shining through
the apertures of clouds at night and her voice sounded like the bubbling
of a fountain in the hollow of a cliff, clear, sunny and refreshing. To
these purely immaterial pictures followed sensations he received from his
sister’s scarf, which kept haunting him. He could actually feel the warmth
and fragrance of Satenik’s hair, the glow of her eyes, the softness of
her tiny hands and the charm of her voice and face. He always felt as if
that piece of material were actually a living part of her beating harmoniously
with his heart, inundating his soul with irresistible impulses of revenge:
How could he continue to live in peace when he always pictured, in his
mind, the bloody hatchet falling, cruelly upon the heads of his brother
Arsen, upon the heads of his father and mother and upon his people...Hiding
like a coward here wasn’t the reason for his desertion. He tried hard to
cross over to Bulgaria to join the Allies, in vain. A ray of hope, however,
kept flickering in his soul.
It was his tenth month of hiding. The papers were full of conflicting news.
The Dardenelle Straits were still being bombarded by the English fleet.
The French and German front represented a hellish picture of explosions
on hills covered with thousands of bodies. Russian and German clashes and
bloody battles were continuing. Russia advanced into Turkey all along
the Caucasian front aided by the thousands of Armenian volunteers from
as far as Baku and had occupied the eastern vilayets, Van, Moush and Erzeroum.
The English and French forces were battering the Turkish army in the South,
preparing the ground for new and independent governments on territories
taken away from the Turks. In all of these territories, Iraq, Arabia,
Syria, Palestine and Lebanon, blood was flowing and millions of human beings
were being killed.
atmosphere of international bloodshed Sempad was hiding in a little frame
house and at the same time he was planning to get out of Turkey so that
he might join the Allied forces against the greatest criminal on Earth.
day, on one of his walks at Taksim he bought a Turkish newspaper and took
a seat under a tree on the boulevard and began to read.
been sitting there for about an hour, enjoying the beautiful day, when
to his great surprise he noticed two police officers questioning people
who occupied seats there. He looked around and became alarmed when he realized
that he was outside the limits of the district within which he was permitted.
With fear in his heart he acted as if he were absorbed in his reading,
when one of the police officers stood in front of him.
Mister! he called. Sempad kept reading as if he were unconscious of his
he repeated, this time harshly.
he answered and looked at him calmly.
identification paper, please!”
He quietly took it out of his pocket and handed it to him.
He looked at it for a moment, and asked: “What is your name?”
he answered, unperturbed.
where? It’s time for me to go to work.”
on, let’s go,” he said, raising his voice.
go to work, now.” he said as if annoyed by the whole thing. At this,
the police officer grabbed his arm and shouted angrily: “Let’s go!”
a group of suspects and they started walking down the main street. Crowds
of people watched them pass, when he heard Maria’s voice among the crowd,
calling his name: “Garo! Garo!” He spotted her, jostling the people and
moving with excitement. She followed them to the entrance of the Central
Police Station and cried: “Don’t worry Garo.” She, then, disappeared.
taken upstairs to a doctor’s office. He was asked his name and his age.
The doctor looked in his mouth, then examined his hands and without any
further questioning and disregarding his identification paper, he jotted
down that he was about twenty years old and was fit for military service.
He prepared a certificate for him and they took him down to the ground
floor through a dark corridor, opened a massive door, pushed him in and
shut the door. It was dark inside. He could hardly see anything. He stood
there petrified for a moment until his eyes began to see, as if through
a mist, and began to distinguish things in the interior. It was a spacious
room with dirty plaster walls and no furniture. The floor was littered
with dirty looking people. On the wall facing the door, someone had written
in heavy black letters...Dungeon!
people were lying on the floor, back to back, like corpses...no air...unbearable
stench...Some were asleep...others stared at the ceiling. Someone suddenly
stirred on the floor, struggled into a sitting position, blinked and with
the back of his hand rubbed his eyes looked again and suddenly yelled:
Beto and whispered into his ear that his name was Garo, now. Beto understood
what happening. He was not wearing his Kurdish clothes anymore. Sempad
told him his story and Beto told him his. The two were somewhat in the
were littered on the bare floor like pigs for several days, with a bowl
of soup a day. One morning, a police officer came in with a sheet of paper
in his hand and began to read the names of about twenty of them.
He read Sempad’s name, as Garo, then he read Beto’s name. They struggled
up to their feet went into the corridor and stood in line. Three soldiers
armed with rifles and fixed bayonets moved them outside.
streets were deserted in the early morning hours. They were walking down
Taxim Street, worried and hopeless when Sempad heard Maria’s voice: “Garo!
way, he was glad they were going to treat him as Garo and send him to the
army as a newly drafted man. What if they know who I am? What if somebody
recognizes me? he thought to himself. From the pavement, he again heard
Maria’s voice: “Don’t worry, Garo! Don’t worry!”
entrance to Headquarters, he saw three men dangling on a scaffold with
a piece of cardboard attached to their chests displaying their sentences.
One’s tongue stuck out like a swollen liver, another’s eyes bulged out,
group went through the gate into a very large rectangular courtyard. A
stone stairway led them up to the second floor, which had a long line of
offices, with guards at all the doors. They were all distributed to different
guard pushed Sempad into a spacious office with three desks occupied by
a high-ranking officer and two secretaries. He stood at attention in front
of the desk near the entrance, worried. Before questioning began, Maria
had come in with tears in her eyes.