The Story of a Name

In every beginning, there’s always a baby and just a baby.

Once upon a time, there was a tribe of storytellers who knew this. They were like the man at the corner store, weaving the threads that attach everyone to everyone else. They were the ones who held down pieces of the universe, stitchers and sewers of that which was and that which will be. And every baby, they knew, was a story waiting to be told.

Whenever a baby was born, she was placed in a bundle in the middle of the room and the story-tellers would gather around her crib. They watched closely and waited for her name to fall from the heavens and when they grew weary they rested their chins on long wooden sticks. They were patient, these watchers, because they knew a baby needed a name before she could have a story. That was how she took her place in the world. Sometimes they waited for days. Heavy-breasted mothers might begin to worry and run a fever. And then a shout, the sound of clapping and singing: Welcome, they would say, pronouncing the child’s name. And there would be much rejoicing.

Now once you had grown up, if times were hard and the trials of living perhaps weightier than you could say, well then you could ask the elders to tell you your story. And they would, providing you were ready. They knew, you see, that the medicine your soul needs is to know where it came from. And so once upon a time there was a night arranged just for you! How many nights? One, no, three nights! Musicians were brought in to inspire the storytellers. The story goes that when that music lifted into the air, all the birds and the trees and the old men in the mountains and the deep river sprites came running to repair this one human heart. They played just for you and the music they played was your heart’s most secret yearning. They sang your name.

© Pelin Turgut. Translated from Turkish by Alexander Dawe; first published  in Eriyen Ülkenin Sırları, Ganj Yayınları 2018.