IN A DISTANT LAND
Robert L. Fielding
My father in law got out of the car. It was a hot day. The drive from Magusa hadn't really been a long one, just about an hour, but the temperature had been soaring continually.
The heat was almost unbearable, the outskirts of Lefkosa were as dry and hot as the city itself. Salamis had been pleasant, setting off at half past nine, already warm, but kept fresh by the breezes off the glinting Mediterranean. Fifty miles or so inland, under the backdrop of the coastal ranges of Northern Cyprus, it was different.
Erdogan looked up and down the dirt track. He looked up at the hills to the north, the Turkish Cypriot flag, massive on the hillside overlooking Lefkosa.
"I can't remember it exactly", and he motioned to his wife. We had gone round the same roundabout twice.
"It is difficult. It was a long time ago", he said.
We had seen the sign for Kyrenia, Girne now, and had decided that Gonyela must be further along the road to Guzelyurt.
The line of the mountains to the north was unchanged. He recognized those alright.
"That is new", he said pointing to the star and crescent of the Turkish Cypriot flag, white against the brown sides of the mountains, more akin to the white horses of Wiltshire than to a symbol of treasured nationhood, jealously guarded. It served its purpose, a focus for the citizens of Lefkosa as they sat on their balconies in the cooler evenings.
Erdogan strode purposefully along the road.
"Of course this wasn't here then", he said, standing in front of a block of apartments, as yet only three stories high, unfinished, perhaps an even better symbol of a nation living a perpetual life of uncertainty as to its future, but firmly rooted in its foundations of courage and truth, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
I had my doubts as to whether he would be able to find what he was looking for. He turned back to the centre of the road. The women were already lagging behind, not having the memories of this place to drive and sustain them.
"Dogan, It is hot", cried his wife Sahure, but he had seen something, and carried on walking. He had found a spot, greatly changed no doubt, but he had seen a point from which he could fix everything.
"Over there", he pointed to a ditch, overgrown, looking like it had been the cornerstone of a house at an earlier time.
"We stayed there." His daughter Nazan, my wife, had reached her father's side.
"Baba", she took his arm and hung to it. Her eyes had become moist, more beautiful.
"You stayed here when I was." Her voice was lost on the breeze that rustled the few olive trees that still stood astride a few feet of old concrete and brick.
Both father and daughter lost themselves in that time; playing with her dollies, asking her mother when their father would be coming home again, rocking baby Levent who always cried at the word, 'Baba', for a father he had scarcely seen.
Their mother was serene, severely troubled in her serenity that she preserved that the four children would not become afraid, to reassure them that their Baba was coming.
"Geliyor, geliyor", she said softly, "he is coming, he is coming."
They sat together by the fire, against the cold of an Ankara winter.
The photograph of a husband, a father, and a soldier sustained them through the long months, when their only contact was a short clipped message on a frequency that was difficult to find on the crackling radio.
"I was here my love, looking after my brothers, while you, my babies were sleeping far away, looking at that photo, listening for me on that old radio. You remember, don't you?"
"It was good, looking after your brothers." Nazan leant on her father, as she had done as a child.
"That is right," he looked again at the huge flag on the brown hillside. For several minutes, father and daughter stood looking at the place that had kept them apart all those years ago.
"Now they are safe, your brothers and sisters, he stroked her dark curls. He remembered too.