Portrait of a Young Artist in Istanbul

By Gene J. Parola

The square paving stones had been laid in arcs across the expanse of Taksim Park when the Metro station was completed. This broad space, shone white in the spring sun.

The stark contrast of the crimson pool set against the rigid repetition of the squares caused her to think again about the graphic impact that a single brilliant color made on a blank background. As she sank to one knee, her artist’s eye searched for a balance between the changing relationship of the background squares and the circular pool.

But, the composition had shifted radically. The oval pool was crowded into the top corner of her field of vision and each stone on the slope below, now bordered in the red, sprang from the background.

“A study in red and square, I’d call it,” she said, her head nearer the composition. “If I had time.”

The composition changed even more radically now, the green triangle of her mini-skirt cut across the bottom of the grid. But her changed position was distorting everything. On the level of the stones, the squares became parallelograms. Distorted ones while her left eye was still open — not so much when viewed with just the right.

“When I had time.”

Then the left wouldn’t open — the monocular vision flattened the composition further.

As her chic-short hair sank again into the sticky pool, “Another time,” she whispered.

“Whore!” he spat, shaking the bloodied Koran before her one good eye.

“In another life, maybe. If I have time.” She smiled.

And the eye closed.

God, she was beautiful! The wanton legs! The short skirt. Her hair!

The scripture is right. They rouse a man. They inflame him to passion. To sin. My member swells at the thought of her, the wind blowing her hair — pressing the blouse to her breasts. Men should not have to pray to fight such evil urges.

But you see, that’s what causes it all.

If she would cover her hair —- wear longer skirts, then they could say nothing. Oh, Ashia–she has to say something. And Mehmet! The hypocrite!

She could be an artist — go to the academy. And read and argue the heresies. I am not an ignorant peasant like my neighbors. She could do all this.

She’s so smart. She rebuffed the men who would despoil her. She valued her virginity.

She was stubborn, so proud.

I was proud of her, too.

If she could be more … careful.

They stared at her in the morning when she walked to catch the dolmus! The things they said so her mother would hear!

But it’s done. I did it in Taksim where all could see. Ashia and the others–they will have to gossip of something else.

Her mother will stop crying soon.

Who would have thought the young girl would have so much blood? Was such energy a last gesture of rebellion?

It squirted over my small Koran.


Gene J. Parola, a retired historian, from Koç University in Istanbul, returned home to Hawai’i to write Hawaiian historical fiction. His “Lehua” won a national contest 1st prize. He has been published in two volumes of shorts by Bamboo Ridge Press, and has published two mysteries and three anthologies.

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