Prof. Dr. Kemal Arıkan
Psychiatrist

Mice and Freedom

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There are some memories that you don’t wish to recall. As a matter of fact, even if you wanted to, you would recognize that you buried the details somewhere deep.  You cannot tell about them.  Let’s see how successful I can be…

I was staying at a house in Fındıklı.  An old, lonesome house at the top of maybe three hundred steps.  I was twenty or twenty-one.  Right in the middle of my puberty period.  When I was a bold, fearless warrior.   In the days when I left everything for pure love, respect and, most importantly, for freedom.  I was a junior in the medical school, at the time when September 12 was happening… Everything I looked for, freedom included, was hidden in the woman I fell in love with.

At the moment, I’m lost in deep thoughts, with a keyboard on my fingertips… At those dark nights, in a one-room house with walls that almost fell down, accompanied by a dirty mattress covered with an oil-stained sheet, and a wooden table with one broken leg.  How did it feel like to find pleasure in living in a setting that had nothing but a squeaking, unbalanced chair?

Yes, the moonlight magnificently slipping in through a wide window with cracked edges, the Istanbul Strait and the Maiden’s Tower. Oh, that Maiden’s Tower. That was a powerful reason for me to cling to life… And the small, battery-operated radio that I had.  Those lonely nights and days spent with Hijaz and Nihavend tunes…

Finally, those horrible midnight hours… Those crimson, bright, tiny eyes that didn’t look friendly at all… The raids of the mice that aimed for the piece of bread hung on a doorknob in a plastic bag, which was the only food I had. Yet, to bury my head in the quilt and wait for the rustling to come to an end… That was the only thing I could do.  However, those raids would have never stopped.

I drove a tight wedge under the door sill.  But that was in vain. How about rat poison?  Unfortunately, they were too great in numbers and extremely intelligent animals.

After all those desperate, lonesome and fearful nights, the only protective thing started to show itself slowly… Sunlight! Bright and full of life…The sunlight that gave hope and defeated the fear…

Those breakfasts I prepared with great pleasure. The tightly-covered cheese, olives, marmalade… And the leftover breadcrumbs that I had to share with the mice…

Those arm-sized sewer rats couldn’t enter the room after that wedge… Dormice were harmless…But the bread… Could it eat be eaten?  What’s worse, I had no money… So, it was not possible to buy freshly-baked bread every day.

That’s to say, love was such a powerful impulsion that paved the way for a spiritual and mental freedom, leading to a much more glorious attitude, eliminating all sorts of physical traumas like hunger, loneliness, danger, mice and many more… Thus, although prisons meant physical captivity for freedom warriors, it was not possible to put such exalted spirits in chains.

At one night during those days, through my radio that was on at all times, I was going to hear a statement from the junta leaders, saying even those failing only one course would be deemed to lose an entire year.  There were just five days until the microbiology exam, which was already postponed to the February period.  And that gigantic microbiology exam was going to be passed only through a five-day study period full of attempts to predict what topics would the great professor Ekrem Kadri Unat would ask about, while watching the changing views of the Maiden’s Tower as I was feeling exhausted.  Long story short, it was going to take its places in my memories as one of the greatest achievements of my life.

So, being free meant creativity.  It meant the joy of life.  It was an everlasting energy.

After years, I was going to hear Victor Hugo say in my ears, you should be able to leave everything for your darling, but you should also be able to leave her for your freedom…

The great master was right…

About the house?  It was going to keep being a shelter for many students, some fellow fugitives of the September 12 included.  Nowadays, when I pass by, I see that it was demolished and replaced with quite a flamboyant building.  It almost seemed like it virtually became a prisoner of the general skyline of the city, deprived of its freedom despite the beautiful looks…

A valuable friend of mine from those days said, “It protected you quite well.”. “Who?” I asked.  “Nature,” he said, after a short pause.

I cannot help but say “Thank God” from within.  After all, from those times to these times…

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