The room was stuffy with goodbyes.

The kind that clung to laughter like heavy hooks.

Women leaned against the window, their backs to the hills of Broadmeadows. Others sat on the white bed, on the chairs they’d borrowed from the visitors lounge. 

My mum’s friend Hulya sat in the middle of the hospital room in light blue cotton pyjamas, her lips vivacious red. “Merhaba,” she said with a crooked smile. “Gelin.” She waved us in and someone found chairs for me and Mum.

“Hello, Hulya teyze,” I said, kissing her swollen cheeks. I swallowed to douse the lump in my throat.

Nasilsiniz?” Her voice crackled with life the way it did in our lounge room when she’d drop in some afternoons for Turkish coffee, her short hair bouncing.

“I’m good.” I smiled but my heavy lips sagged. “Working and writing.”

She nodded, turned to Mum and I noticed her cheek was puffier near her jaw. I bit my lip to borrow from the courage that pulsed in this amazing woman whose family and friends wrapped her like a hug.

Conversations about kids and husbands buzzed in the room but no one said the words. The unuttered goodbyes gathered in my throat, stung my eyes. I hated that I couldn’t laugh with her in case I cried, hated that I didn’t have the guts to say the words that mattered.

Her mother sat in a chair staring at the daughter whose face was not the one she nurtured. I squeezed her creased hand and she smiled at me with eyes that were already mourning. 

“Demet,” said Hulya teyze in Turkish. “When are you going to hire a convertible from work and take me for a drive? We’ll go to the zoo! Or the beach!”

“Whenever you want,” I said, my voice trembling. I imagined the wind ruffling her hair as we cruised the streets of Melbourne, her laughter trailing the car like a ribbon. “It will be so good.” My heart raced with the possibility. “Imagine the sun, the music…” I looked hopefully at Hulya teyze’s sister who sat behind her. She shook her head sadly. “It will be so much fun!” I said, shrugging off reality.

Yes!” said Hulya Teyze, giggling. “Let’s do it.” She took out her lipstick from her pyjama pocket, dabbed her lips. Suddenly her face was not kissed by a tumour, it was alive. I was the one dying with my silences, my forced laughter, my premature grieving. With every stroke of her red lipstick, this amazing woman was saluting life.

I sucked in my sadness, got back in the convertible with the woman with a vivacious red smile.



Gone but not forgotten. Hulya Ceyran (1959-2005)