Will you be my Valentine?
It may sound like a simple question from somebody who feels a little lonely, who can’t get a date, who doesn’t have anybody to love and doesn’t want to accept that being loved is just a movie thing. Maybe somebody who thinks that their Valentine is going to be their one true love.
It’s a simple question the girl handing out food samples outside Simit Sarayi on Green Lanes is asking to passers-by – a direct marketing effort to attract people inside for food. She’s nice and smiley to everyone, and some stop for a chat. Over and over again, for hours, she asks: “will you be my Valentine?”
She’s worked there for a couple of months now, I think, always handing out food and chatting with people. I heard her name is Asena and she’s Turkish. She’s from a poor area near Istanbul, from a very old-fashioned and patriarchic family who still believes in arranged marriages. Back there, they wouldn’t allow her to work, nor wear fancy dresses, nor go out much. She could only do housework – cook, clean, knit. It surely wasn’t the life she expected and she’d often dream of incredible experiences through the shows on TV.
One day, while running her usual errands in town, she bumped into a visitor named John who seemed to show some flair for her. She was shy but not enough to hide a smile from him, a smile that, day after day, convinced him to approach her. John was English; he was a photographer travelling the world to get nice shots for his portfolio and images he could then sell. He was a roamer, an explorer; he knew facts, stories – the world – and his tales could only fascinate a girl like Asena who, of the world, had only pictured what she saw on TV.
They met every day. They’d talk, laugh, get to know each other. She would spend all of her time with him before curfew. They’d secretly hold hands, exchange romantic notes she would store under her mattress, and finally one day he kissed her. And it was the sweetest kiss ever! She touched the sky, the planets, the top of the universe. She finally understood what love tastes like through the lips of somebody who loves you. It was all real.
Always being careful not to alert her father with her constant escapes, they met at his hotel. They made love, over and over and over again. She discovered her libido, lust, passion, her and his body. And she loved it.
It was February 14th when he asked her to be his Valentine and handed her a small shiny-red box of chocolate. She glittered! She could never hope something this delightful would happen to her, that love itself would happen at all.
They would never leave each other, they were meant to be together forever – they both acknowledged it. So she decided to step up and talk to her father, to explain she’d found true love and get his blessing. It was the right thing to do in the name of love!
Against all purest and most naive expectations, his reaction was furious! He would never allow her to see anybody he hadn’t made arrangements for. He yelled at her, made her feel miserable, called her offensive names while hitting her violently, and locked her in her room for good.
A couple of days later, hit after hit, cry after cry, she managed to escape and go see John. She begged him to take her with him anywhere in the world, as long as they could be together – as long as they could live their true love story. But John seemed to be a little off. He had had second thoughts about that relationship, he wasn’t sure it was going to work, plus he had to leave soon for another place. He sounded distant, uninterested. She was confused, “I thought this was love love”, she cried – tears of desperation, of abandonment.
But that was the naked truth. While for Asena, John was the one true love, for John, Asena was just another experience. One that would end as soon as he moved to a new place in the world.
When she got home, her father punished her with extreme violence. He’d hit her to bleed before locking her in once again.
The days that followed developed through physical and mental pain, tears, regret, hurtfulness. She wasn’t allowed to leave the house, her room, anymore. She would read and read the love notes they exchanged, she relived in her mind the future she thought they’d have – happiness – and the more she dived in, the more it buried her. She went completely insane.
So one night she did it. When her father got into her room to hit her again and swang his hand to slap her face, she pierced his neck with a paper-knife she had hidden in her tights. He fell on the floor with a horrified look and bled to death in less than a minute. Asena stared – she couldn’t move. She was terrified but relieved, and had to think quick. She got his wallet and ran off, and after a couple of miles running, she got to the port. A ferry was about to ship soon and Asena saw her only opportunity to leave that place. So she hid on the ferry and began her journey, while pain, horror, fear, love began to nurture her obsession: she’d sneer and whisper “I will find you, John, my love…I will find you.”
The last thing she heard from John was that he was going back to England for a while to settle his work. He told her he was from London, from a North-East area called Green Lanes, the Turkish area. That’s where she was headed.
Days passed by and Asena finally reached her destination. Green Lanes felt so familiar, everyone was so kind and welcoming and she managed to find a job as a waitress at Simit Sarayi – everyone liked her immediately.
So now she has a new life. She’s got a job, she’s got people who care for her, she’s happy.
Today she’s handing out food samples, all smiley and chatty.
“Will you be my Valentine?” may sound like a simple question from somebody who feels a little lonely, somebody who thinks that their Valentine is going to be their one true love. Or maybe is a sign of obsession, of mental insanity, of somebody who’s not going to stop until she finds John.
“Sir, sir…will you be my Valentine?”
The Britalian Post