Hêvî Come Home!

Ontario, Canada
genre: General

It began with growing up in an unhappy home in Istanbul.

My mother was a sad alcoholic, my father a bookkeeper for a local manufacturer of men's shirts.

More than once, when we were alone, my father advised me, "Get an education, Burak. Work smarter—marry better than I did."

Being an only child, my father gave me permission to adopt one of the many stray dogs which roamed our district, Gazi Mahallesi. The dog I chose I named Hêvî, the Kurdish word for "hope."

I wouldn't hazard a guess what breed or mix Hêvî was. For months, on my walk to and from school, I would see him wandering alone, not with the packs the other strays would keep themselves with. His fur was dirty and matted; however, I could tell he was golden brown. I imagined what he would look like after I bathed him. His eyes were wide, constantly darting back and forth, his ears were flat. Somehow, I knew Hêvî, and I would get along.

Hêvî and I started our friendship in early October when I dropped my lunch pail right in front of Ovacık Market while taking my usual route to school. Inegol kofte and kisir, leftovers from last night's dinner my father had made while my mother was out at our local meyhane, where her tolerance for raki had become legendary, spilled on the sidewalk. Hêvî happened to be sniffing around the garbage bin next to the market.

The metallic clang the lid made caught Hêvî's attention. He looked up in my direction. For a moment, we stared at each other, then Hêvî looked at the spilt food and back at me. I crouched down.

"It's okay," I said. "I can't eat this now. You can have it." I then stood up and pointed to the mess I had made.

Hêvî scrutinized me with wondering eyes, his head tilted to the right. I bent down and picked up my lunch pail and lid.

"I've got to get to school, so this is all yours—enjoy!"

Hêvî eyes followed me as I walked past him to continue my walk to school. I was a few metres away when I heard Hêvî noisily lapping up the food. I turned around and watched Hêvî satisfy his hunger with the meaty meal.

"That's a boy, Hêvî!" I called out. It was the first time I called him "Hêvî." He raised his head, glanced in my direction, barked and went back to eating. Knowing the other strays would soon be catching the scent of the food and start congregating on it, I accept Hêvî's brief thanks and let him go back to finishing his meal.

Over the following months Hêvî, and I got to know each other. After much pleading on my part, I would spend the few liras my father would occasionally give me as spending money on dog treats. This required me to go to Istanbul's better districts, such as Besiktas, Kadikoy, and Maltepe. I imagined my mother sitting with middle-aged businessmen at the upscale bars in these districts, sipping red wine while giving a smile of approval to the attention given to her.

On the last day of January, Istanbul received snow. A week later, another snowfall blanketed the city. It was time to take Hêvî home, which my father said I could as long as he slept on the balcony. "As it is, your mother has a lot to deal with already. This dog will be entirely your responsibility. At night he's to sleep on the balcony. You are only to feed him our table scraps. He's to eat in the kitchen, and you are to walk him as needed. Do you understand?"

I nodded enthusiastically.

My father brought home a bag of scrap material from his work, which I lined the bottom of a wooded fruit crate I had found. This would be Hêvî's bed. I placed it on our narrow balcony. A few days later, I saw Hêvî sleeping in a doorway. I woke him and asked if he would like to come home with me. Hêvî barked, which I took as a "Yes!"

"Well then, let's go," I said, and Hêvî followed me home. It was that easy.

For my mother, Hêvî was the best thing ever to happen to her. I never spoke to her about Hêvî, only to my father, who must have told her about my plans to bring him home to live with us. When I walked in with Hêvî, her first words were, "He needs a bath right now."

The bath, which was a struggle, proved I was right; Hêvî fur was golden brown. With her permission, I used my mother's shampoo, which made Hêvî smell of lavender. When I brought Hêvî out into the living room, my mother, with a glass of Kentucky bourbon in her hand, asked, "Where's he's going to sleep?"

"You haven't noticed the bed Burak made out our balcony?" answered my father from the kitchen.

"I can't recall the last time I went out on the balcony—it's been cold for weeks."

Hêvî decided to bark right then.

"Even the dog agrees it's cold. He's sleeping in here. Burak, place—what's his name?"

"Hêvî"

"Place Hevi's bed in the kitchen, next to the pantry."

I glanced at my father, who was now standing in the kitchen doorway. He looked defeated. "Do as your mother ask."

When I brought Hêvî's bed into the kitchen, my mother was placing a bowl of water and a plate of minced meat on the floor.

"I hope the meat won't be too spicy for Hêvî," she said as she reached for the bottle of bourbon on the counter and began pouring herself another drink. She then poured what seemed to be a generous amount of bourbon into the bowl of water. "He'll sleep better, this being his first night here."

The minced meat gave Hêvî gas which I heard him letting off throughout the night. My mother was right; the bourbon made Hêvî sleep peacefully—he just snored and expelled gas. It was probably the most fitful sleep Hêvî had in a very long time.

My mother insisted she looked after Hêvî's diet. My only responsibility was to walk him after school. However, every day I would come home to find Hêvî alone, my mother having gone to the meyhane or was passed out on her bed or our couch. I often would have to wake Hêvî' and try to walk him, while mostly be stumbled, around the block at least once. "What is she doing to you?" I would ask as Hêvî tried to relieve himself without falling over.

For the first time, I could vividly recall my mother being happy. Hêvî made her happy, and she started bringing him to the meyhane. "You don't have to walk him now, and everyone at the meyhane loves Hêvî. A few of the regulars bring treats for him. I hope you don't mind."

"Taking Hêvî with you is okay—it's you giving him alcohol that bothers me," I said.

"Why? It keeps him calm."

"It keeps him drunk, and he makes messes throughout the apartment that Burak has to clean up," injected my father, trying to defend me.

"He'll get used to it," replied my mother.

Two months shy of what would have been her thirty-seventh birthday, my mother went to the meyhane and did not come home. I guess Hêvî did not make her as happy as much as I thought. 

Since I did not give Hêvî alcohol, he went into withdrawal. His sleep became restless. Our relationship changed. I was now just someone who fed and sheltered him.

Today, at fifty-two, I'm single and unemployed.


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