Yes by Meredith Miller

Miryem carried a fully laden tray into her father’s living room with a spring in her step. She was a confidant girl, a fact which her mother saw in a disapproving light. Their living room was dimly lit, yet elegant furnishing combined with that lighting and the number of people packed into sofas lent reality to a certain cosy air which belied 
Yes
Yes by Meredith Miller

Miryem’s imagination of the grand bazaar in Istanbul. Dust and spice particles scattered the light, smoke and sound and sights and smell all blended into rich hues of experience not unlike any one of the cups of turkish coffee she served. She handed one each to her parents and the two other guests with a smile, then stepped around the wide three seat sofa to place one more cup on a coffee table next to it. Her and the occupier of that third seat exchanged polite smiles. Masrur.

She and Masrur had been childhood friends due to the fact that their parents lived across the hallway from each other. Miryem’s father had a small grocery shop and Masrur’s in turn worked as a barber. The two would often play together in both establishments as children, keeping out from their parent’s way for the most part but not without eliciting a shout or two from them at times. One such time was when Miryem sneaked the older Masrur away from the barber shop and to a nearby park without permission or a companion. Frankfurt was a dangerous place for two children of six and seven, and so when the two arrived safely they were treated to a scalding hot tirade from outraged mothers in colourful patterned hijabs. As the years went by they had started to play together less and less until they finally drifted apart. Now, they didn’t even shake hands or stop to chat. Miryem didn’t mind shaking hands with or hugging boys, for she was of an independent and open mind. Tradition dictated otherwise. She found such things boring and stupid, but she pretended to go along with them as long as her parents were watching, simply to spare their feelings.

“So, Masrur, you are a pro boxer now, no?” Her father remarked playfully, at which the twenty four year nodded. She had heard about the fact. In a way Masrur was seen to be a sort of hero for the other people in their neighbourhood who also had Turkish origins. They said that in a few years he was going to take the German title. Miryem herself was far away from such things, but she couldn’t help but find the look of the young boxer doing his roadwork every morning slightly pleasing. It was one of the perks that came with being a tall and handsome boxer, she thought, that one would be able to get any girl he wants. Strangely enough, Miryem couldn’t recall ever hearing anything about Masrur having a girlfriend or, indeed, cutting it loose on weekends. It was as if the young man was entirely devoted to his craft. He was not even well dressed today, rather electing a simple black T-shirt and jeans. He had shaved his beard and head, which left him looking quite young, if a bit on the bonier side. She was not surprised to see Masrur in a T-shirt larger than his own size, but Miryem couldn’t for the life of her figure out why he would dress himself that way, instead of showing off his well toned body.

Her father exclaimed just then, “My Miryem is almost done with her bachelors at the university. Top of her class, she is! Did you know that?” Masrur politely replied that no, he did not. Her father shot her a look of pride, ignoring her flush of embarrassment. She hated it when her parents used her for bragging rights. It really put her right in the centre of attention.

The conversation drifted off to other things between the two older couples with Masrur keeping quiet for the most part and Miryem drifting off, thinking about how well she’d like to go out with the girls the next day. She would need to curl her hair, which she didn’t really like to do, but she had hair so straight that it really needed some work put into it sometimes. No reason to look like the girl from “The ring” if you don’t need to. Besides, there might be some cute guys showing up with Giorgia, so it may be well worth it to look her best.

Miryem came back to reality, noticing that the conversation had taken on a more serious note. Everyone around had a mask of gravity on their faces, seeming like it could suck the very life out of a merry Turkish wedding if it so chose. “So, Mansur,” said Masrur’s father, “about what we were talking about in private...” The way he said those words, more than anything, put Miryem on her guard. His voice sounded uncertain, heralding something unknown and yet strangely ominous.

“Ah, yes, it is time!” Her father agreed, and in stark contrast to Masrur’s father he looked quite pleased with himself. “Miryem, come here, my daughter.” A formal tone was a cautionary one, and when she moved to stand next to his chair, the young girl felt her feet compel her to run far away and never look back. Miryem ignored the compulsion. It was only when she noticed that the mothers had moved away, after she took note of everyone’s respective position,that her heart sank. Mansur and Miryem standing next to him were directly opposite the sofa where Masrur and his father, Mehmet, sat with their hands formally clasped between their legs. “My children,” Mehmet announced, “Me and Mansur have spoken at length, and have decided to have you two be bound in marriage, with God’s blessings and your own.”

A second of silence went by, then two. Miryem felt her shock turn into rage quite naturally, and by the time her father looked at her she had started to shout. “What!” she bellowed, “You didn’t even ask me before! No way, no!” She rounded on her mother, who was sitting off to the side with her eyes mid roll. “Did you know about this? We’re in the twenty first century, you don’t get to decide who I marry!” she turned towards Masrur, her hair whipping about. “You say something as well! They can’t do this, they can’t force us!” In the silence, she noticed a change of expression cross his face, but then the boxer’s features turned calm and unreadable again. Instead of acknowledging her, however, he turned to his father and bowed slightly in his sitting position. “I submit to your wisdom, father.” He stated simply. She looked at him in horror, yet he avoided her eyes, keeping his attention on his dad.

That just helped raise Miryem’s rage to a whole new degree and she let out a frustrated scream “That’s it! I’m outta here!” She could see the door beyond Masrur and Mehmet, and it beckoned to her. The girl crossed over the living room and marched right out of the apartment, hearing her father apologize to Mehmet. “She’ll come around...” he said before she rounded the corner into the hallway, slamming the apartment door behind her.

It was a few hours later in the park that Miryem cooled down enough to be able to think rationally. She knew her family well, and as traditional as they were they could never force her to do something like this. She grabbed a tulip by the stem and pulled in its budding orange closer to her. Nor would they, even if they could. Miryem calmly considered, and decided that she had to be the bigger person here. She would go back to the apartment, politely refuse to marry Masrur, and then go about her life. Arranged marriages were a thing of the past. She should be allowed to fall in love with whoever she wanted, shouldn’t she? Miryem whiffed at the tulip absentmindedly, then almost laughed at her foolishness. Despite looking temptingly colourful and joyous, tulips had no scent. They were perhaps the most deceitful of flowers. Her leftover anger was directed at the spineless coward, Masrur.

Miryem made her way home in a relatively good mood, weaving through the busy streets of Frankfurt. Here no one cared about others. It was easy to be anonymous, a simple face going to work and coming back. Walking through this city made Miryem feel like an ant sometimes, alone and insignificant. Other times, she relished being unknown, free to do whatever she wished in the city lights. When she got tired of it, there was always the Turkish neighbourhood, and more specifically their third floor, where everyone knew everybody else. Drab sometimes with its grey walls and unpredictably flashing fluorescent lights, it had acted as her playground far too long for its long hallway to depress her.

Miryem opened the door to her house quietly, noting that it was twelve O’clock already. She found her father asleep on the sofa in front of the TV. Obviously he had wanted to wait for her to come back and had fallen asleep while doing so. She closed the TV and kissed her parent on the forehead before going to bed herself. As she dozed off she could still make out his quiet snores, and she smiled. There was little else she would rather have as a lullaby, she decided. The snoring carried Miryem off into a world of dreams where she was safe and sheltered, where an evil wizard attempted to kidnap her but an elderly knight yelled the vile one away.

The next day, Miryem apologized to her parents over breakfast, a simple affair of eggs, toast, and butter. They took the apology graciously at first, but tensed when she told them she still wouldn’t take Masrur as a husband. “I don’t know him, I didn’t choose him, I don’t love him. Dad, I can’t marry someone who just went along with the decision just like that. He’s weak.”

“He’s a boxer who will do well in his life.” her father retorted, not angry but seemingly annoyed, “He is kind, respectful, and listens to his elders. We have known him for years, daughter.” He waited for her to mull that over while buttering up a piece of toast, his eyes never leaving her face. Apparently he didn’t understand that there was more to choosing a husband than someone’s vague recommendation.

“And he doesn’t care a bit about marriage. He agreed so easily, dad! I don’t want a man with no backbone as a husband! He just took the order from his father like he had told him to go buy something from the store! I am worth a man who wants me for me. I’ll not be with a man who thinks that little of this issue, and that’s that!” at the end of the tirade her father widened his eyes in caution and Miryem sat back down unto her metal chair. She was a passionate person and sometimes went outside the boundaries of reason when speaking, she knew that much. Still, better than being a mindless slave.

“I have already said to Mehmet that you will consider this, and consider it you will,” her father started. Before she could retort, he lifted his hand in a soothing gesture. “You will consider for a month, and if you still say no by the end of it then the matter is dead. Agreed?”

“...Alright.” With that she excused herself and went to her university in the middle of town, carrying her backpack with her. Now all she had to do was ignore Masrur’s advancements for a month, refuse him at its end, and then go about her life. She was sure that Masrur was going to try his best to convince her to marry him, as his father would undoubtedly want. Maybe he’d even pull a page out of those lame Turkish dramas and wait for her outside her university. That would be far too embarrassing, Miryem decided. She walked along the trodden dirt path in the grass towards her campus of business and economics, built of rustic brown metal plates and blue glass in tribute to some artist or the other. The building was all lean curves and beauty, and she appreciated it quietly. She went to her large lecture hall, meant to house four hundred students but holding at least a hundred more, and listened to a lecture about the nuances of stock predictions. She chatted with her friends about the latest music and films, and had a friendly argument with the blonde haired Giorgia about some singer or the other. All the while, Miryem’s thoughts stayed on her rage against Masrur. The parents she could understand, for they came from a different land and a different time. He however, had no reason at all for being so meek in the face of that same thinking. It was just so backwards! Did he truly not care? Did he just want a slave, or a baby factory? Or was he just too weak to say no to his father? She snorted at the thought of that kind of person becoming Germany’s boxing champion. Next to her in the modern styled library, filled with rows of white tables, Giorgia asked her what was so funny, and she snapped back to reality, focusing on the open book before her. She couldn’t wait for Masrur to approach her so she could give him a piece of her mind.

A week later, Miryem waited still. It was Friday already, and despite not having seen any evidence of the youth trying to woo her, she had seen him as often as usual, when he went for runs or came by to buy milk from the store. Each time he had seen her the boxer had seemed surprised, his eyebrows shooting up and his lips pursing for but an instant before he composed himself. Miryem, of course, had given him a hard cold stare every single time, expectantly. Each time, she had been disappointed.

On the eve of that Friday, her father remarked to her absentmindedly that he was going to go watch Masrur’s boxing match. “What boxing match?” Miryem asked, her fork paused precariously in front of her mouth.

“It’s a ranking match. If he wins he can go up to eighth place on the nationals. I thought he would have given you tickets.”

As Mansur got ready to go out, she wondered the same thing herself. Why hadn’t Masrur even mentioned the match the day before when he dropped by for some groceries? That was no way to impress a girl, after all. Most boys relished showing off for far less.

Miryem ended up not watching the match on T.V, electing instead to chat with one of her friends on her phone about some meaningless thing or the other. After her father came back excited from the match he told her all about how Masrur had delivered a crushing victory in the third round. When her parents had gone to bed the girl felt like she could use some fresh air. She looked over to her large window, and saw the full moon shining brightly beyond, beckoning her towards its white round face. Never one to underestimate her instincts, she got dressed and headed to the park as she always did when her mind needed to be cleared. The city lights were now behind her, and there was nothing but pale moonlight to guide her to her usual bench, next to the orange tulips. She was surprised to see someone sitting there already, despite the late hour.

Masrur looked horrible. Bruises painted his face and he favoured his right side as if his ribs were injured. Miryem almost decided to walk past him or go back, but the boxer had already seen her and moved a bit on the bench to give her a respectful amount of space. She sat next to him, keeping her eyes on the tulips, on the starry sky, on the dirt path framed by tall trees. She looked everywhere except at his handsome beat up face. “I heard you won today,” She said after a moment of silence that had stretched far too long and thus turned as tense as a rubber band.

“Yes,” he replied simply, and when she waited for him to elaborate he kept his peace. For as long as she could remember, boys had always tried their hardest to impress girls they liked. For all intents and purposes, this man sitting next to her seemed entirely uninterested. She kept her eyes glued on the dirt path before them, looping around the park’s perimeter.

Miryem’s past anger at the passiveness of this boxer in the face of this arranged marriage resurfaced then, simmering quietly. “I heard he is also a ranker, so it must have been a tough fight. Dad said you won easily so I’m surprised you’re this beat up.” This was meant to be a jab, to provoke the fighter into an argument, but his answer surprised her.

“Yes,” he stated again, then after a minute and in a calm deep voice, “Boxers feel pain like everyone else. Our muscles are to keep the damage away, but the pain remains. We just learn to hide it better when we fight. This is why your father thought I was fine.”

By then Miryem was positively furious with Masrur for his lack of care, and in a seething voice she said “You learn to beat up people for a living, but don’t even say no to your father when he forces you into this?”

She brushed her hair out of her eyes furiously and stood up, just in time to hear him murmur, “Yes,” one final time. She had taken two steps away when he exclaimed “uh, Miryem!” The girl turned to him, looking him in his despicable face for the first time that night, and all he had to say was “I... like tulips.”

Miryem’s anger was driven to a boil now, and with a hissing voice she said, “I don’t care! Now you listen to me, I will never marry you, you hear me?” His eyebrows lifted again, and those bruised lips pursed. Was he surprised she was angry at him? What kind of person treats a marriage with this lack of interest and then expects the girl to fall head over heels for him? She left the hunched over boxer in his seat and went home to a fitful sleep filled with dreams where robots said “Yes” in a monotone voice.

For the next three weeks, Miryem did her best to avoid Masrur, which was to say she went to the back of the store when he dropped by to buy something. Her anger with him had turned quickly into seething hate after their short conversation at the park, and it had gotten to the point where she could not stand the sight of him. Still, he had not approached her at all after that night, thankfully, and her parents had gotten more and more fidgety as the days went by without any changes in their daughter’s stance. They had not breached the subject with her, electing instead to give the student as much time and privacy as they could until the promised day.

That Thursday, Miryem was out in the park in her usual spot in the afternoon, watching the orange Tulip while silently congratulating herself on a job well done. One more day and she would be free of that useless boxer forever. It was just her, the streaming sunlight, and the trees. Behind her, where a large patch of grass lay, some children played football, yelling excitedly about each of their little plays as they went back and forth between two makeshift goals. Other than that, the only sound for a few hours was the chirping of birds as they flew about from tree to tree, doing things unnoticeable to humans but which undoubtedly constituted a daily routine for them. Then Miryem suddenly heard an incessant but faint sound, a crunch crunch that got louder and closer by the second. Looking towards the left where the sound came from, she saw a figure in sports clothes jogging towards her silently. Oh no, had he gotten that desperate? This wasn’t even where he did his roadwork usually. When he reached the spot where she sat, Miryem stiffened in her seat, but Masrur simply ran by without saying a word. What is he even doing? She thought to herself. This was nonsense. Once, twice, three times he went past her as he did laps around the park, and each time he silently did Miryem became more furious. Finally on the fifth lap she couldn’t take it anymore, and as he passed her she exclaimed, “Oh stop!”

He did, turning towards her and panting only slightly despite how long he had been running.

“What is wrong with you, Masrur?” she said tiredly, and his usual surprised expression came up before disappearing in an instant as it always did. She dove in unheedingly. “Why are you doing this sort of trouble if you don’t even care? Pleasing your dad can’t be this important to you, can it?! I mean, you can’t be this goddamn weak!” She felt like she was pleading, but Miryem pressed on regardless. “Don’t you think you should speak up when you don’t want something?”

He looked at her, and sheepishly said “Yes.”

“Urgh! There you go again! Can’t you just be honest and tell me the truth for once?” The boxer stood quietly, incredulous, then something changed in his expression. He walked over to the orange tulip she had spent so much time looking at this month, that deceitful flower that smelled nothing like how it looked.

“Yes, I will.”

She was almost at her wit’s end, but she’d finally gotten him to agree to just say what he feels. It will be better for idiot himself than just listening to his father all the time like a lost lamb. “Isn’t there anyone that you feel you really love? Someone you could propose to yourself if this arranged marriage business hadn’t happened? Well, isn’t there?”

He picked the flower and turned around, handing it to her. He had that usual expression on his face and he looked her in the eyes. This time, Masrur didn’t compose himself instantly, and upon closer inspection he looked almost... hurt. She remembered that the first time he had shown her that expression was when she had immediately rejected the idea of marrying him, before he had the chance to say anything. “Yes”, he whispered for the third time. She was jerked back by the word and the flower in his hand, the tenderness in his eyes whenever she had called him something hurtful and mistaking it for surprise. It was only in retrospect that the poor girl understood. She shed a tear, then two, then started bawling, realizing that each time he’d said yes, what he had actually meant was I love you.

She cried for a while, calling him and idiot over and over for hiding his pain as he had been taught to. He’d warned her, told her that boxers felt pain like everybody else. All that time Masrur had one hand on her shoulder, standing over her behind the bench like a guardian statue as her shoulders rocked with her sobs. When she had quieted down, he asked her, almost fearfully:

“What are you going to say tomorrow?”

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