On the way back from Cappadocia[1], the bus stopped in Avanos[2]. All the tourists got off and scattered around the city. The day was clear and warm and plenty of sunshine and purple light were all around. The houses lined the steep hillside and adjoined a large lighted storefront. In front of the houses and along the winding streets, colorful ceramic vessels were displayed: pitchers, cups, plates, jugs, cups, kettles, vases, and kegs for oil, wine, and grain. There were also some other vessels whose purpose was unknown. All were beautifully baked and richly painted with braids of some oriental ornamentation. It was obvious that all the inhabitants of Avanos were great potters. Almost the entire city was occupied by all kinds of dishes. Above their openings, human voices buzzed, rang, and echoed, like bees over a honeycomb.

Gjuvezia Dubrovska and Sija Hadjibanova were stunned. They looked everywhere and didn’t know what to choose next to look at. Their eyes simply wandered over the dishes and were blinded by the sun reflecting off the baked clay. They liked everything, but they couldn’t buy it all.

When they stopped in front of a potter’s shop, the potter invited them inside. After those words, the girls started shaking. An inexplicable chill came over them coming out through the open door. Actually, the pottery was a deep cave repeatedly expanded by the masters. The cold seeped from its stone vaults. But their shaking seemed to be not only from the cold but also came from some vague fear. They expected that something would happen to them, that something would catch them off guard. The potter got lost in the pottery, and when he reappeared, he was holding a tray with two earthen cups filled with cold wine. The glasses had golden rims that matched the wine.

– Buyrun, said the potter with a mouth full of gentleness, but also with shortness of breath.

The girls raised their eyebrows and didn’t know what to do. They were indecisive. But the potter persistently held the tray in front of them. A light scent of a vineyard, of an oak barrel, of a darkened wine cellar rose in the air. The girls looked at each other asking unspoken questions just like that, just with their eyes. And then, as if they were encouraged, at the same moment they reached out and took the glasses. They touched their lips to the golden rims and, squinting, took a sip of the wine. It was easy to see how they swallowed and how the throat moved on their necks. First up, then down. They repeated the sipping and immediately felt the wine go into their veins with its blissful bitterness. It widened their eyes and opened their pupils. Then, they raised their glasses twice more and drank the wine. The potter took the cups and went to the workshop. Gjuvezia Dubrovska and Sija Hadjibanova followed him without hesitation. Emboldened by the wine, they just smiled and walked in there. There was nothing to hesitate anymore. Their faces were red as if nettles ran down their cheeks.

They came in with the same smile they had outside. But the cold coming from the cave walls soon shut their mouths. Immediately, it removed the blood from their cheeks. They felt as if they were in a deep tomb lit only by the meager light that came from outside and by a bare lamp inside. Overhanging them were gray stone arches that they thought might loosen and collapse at any moment. In the workshop stood piles of kneaded clay and several raised wheels for shaping vessels. But they were all empty as if they stopped long ago. There was no potter before any wheel. God knows where the potters went. The floor was swept and clean. On the uneven walls hung unfinished vessels and some reliefs of astonished human faces. The potter walked along the strict paths that connected the workshop with attached low lodges and kept explaining something. His words gurgled and tumbled like murky floodwaters. The girls followed him and heard almost nothing. Rather, they listened to some kind of talking that didn’t mean anything to them. The wine warmed their chests, but they were cold outside. Just as light rain was getting through their clothes and making them cold all the time. They had been dressed lightly, wearing their summer dresses. Their feet were shod in shallow sandals but without socks. Maybe that’s why they had goosebumps all over their bodies. Tiny hairs were straightened, and they felt them even where they had never been before. Especially after they saw the many strands of women’s hair hanging like handfuls of rye ears. You think they sprouted from the walls and crawled out of the cracks. The girls stood just, in awe, looking sometimes at the hair, sometimes at the potter. They approached some birds in a cage; they raised their wings, scratched their nails, turn their heads, but they didn’t know what happened to them. And then the potter took some scissors and breathlessly asked:

– Do you want to be eternal?

It was now they felt all the weight in his breathing and hardness in putting his words in sentences. His gasp could be heard even from his chest. It was terrible to hear that crackling and hissing that ravaged his lungs and respiratory organs. But Sija Hadjibanova soon recovered her composure. She quickly looked at her feet as if to make sure they were there, and then ran away even faster. She almost went over through the potter and Gjuvezia Dubrovska. And Gjuvezia Dubrovska remained just, staring dazedly at the potter. She couldn’t even realize how suddenly her head was in his hands. She just heard the clatter of the scissors and a strand of her lush hair separated from her head and passed before her eyes like a summer cloud. The potter tied up her hair and glued it at the top end with a lump of wet clay. Then he asked her about the name and surname, about the date of birth, about the place of birth… Gjuvezia Dubrovska answered obediently, without any sign of opposition. In fact, she didn’t even know what she was doing.

On the way out of the pottery, she was hit by a wave of warm air that went through her bones like an earthquake. It almost knocked her over and made her faint. When he recovered, he also saw Siya Hadjibanova. Her jaws were shaking, her lips were trembling, and she was mumbling something indistinctly.

– What is wrong with you, asked Gjuvezia Dubrovska.

– I am afraid, said Sija Hadjibanova.


[1] Cave churches and dwellings of the first Christians.

[2] A town in Anatolia, central Turkey.

AuthorPetre M. Andreevski
2024-05-12T11:51:31+00:00 May 12th, 2024|Categories: Prose, Literature, Blesok no. 153|Comments Off on AVANOS