Nurefşan Gülmez’s non-fiction story got the first position in the ‘Youth Stories’ category of the PakTurkFile Arts Competition titled ‘My Life in Pakistan’. We publish 16-year old Nurefşan’s story titled ‘If Dreams Were Real’ as is:
If Dreams Were Real
I wipe the water on my eyes. The drops of water my mother sprinkled on my face must have worked so I could wake up. I’m running late for the school again. I get dressed just as I jump out of bed. My uniform which I ironed the night before hangs in the closet. While wearing my shalwar kameez, the ink stain on the shirt pocket catches my eye. I do not have time to wear a new one right now. I say under breath, “So what? Almost everyone has a similar stain on their uniform!” I still do not understand why schools require us to use fountain pens. While I keep juggling these thoughts in my head, I find myself already dressed. I have taken my stationery box, my water bottle and my backpack. I hope I haven’t forgotten anything. An outside noise is heard as I try to sit down at the breakfast table. If the school van has already arrived, I have at most 10 minutes to leave the house. Hanif bhai (brother) – our school van driver – normally waits for us, but if he realizes that we will be late, he wheels off. I have a quick snack and run outside with my siblings. We shoehorn ourselves in the van and hit the road to the school just the same every morning with other Turkish children. I arrive at my dear school after a half-an-hour journey. The most important thing comes to my mind as I walk through the school gates… the thing that will make my whole morning twice as hard … my ID card! I realize that I have forgotten it hanging next to my uniform. I do not understand how I forgot it! This is the third time this month. I scold myself a little, saying, “For Allah Almighty’s sake, Nurefşan!” Yet, now is not the time for this; there are more important things to think about at the present. I should stay out of the sight of the teacher on duty who might encounter me right there and then, or else he or she will log me in the register. Not only because I was late, but also because I forgot my school card. There are three more students in front of me, and before my turn comes, I have to run inside as soon as the next gate opens. The gate opens only from the inside and closes immediately due to its spring mechanism. Despite all these limited possibilities, the gate opens and I manage to sneak inside with a quick manoeuvre. It does not escape my sight that the gatekeeper notices me and smiles.
I pace my steps. My classroom is on the top floor and the heavy bag on my back makes things even more difficult. On each floor I go up I greet someone – my teachers, friends, and the kitten you can only see at a certain angle from the stairs of the second floor. It stayed at the top of the building, and despite everything we did, it has been the topic of conversation for everyone at the school that it never comes down to leave. I finally arrive at the door of my classroom. This is my classroom. My friends and almost all of my social life are right here. Things are going very well here; this is my comfort zone. I take my place and listen to a classmate telling how the wedding she attended the day before was. The henna print on her hand appears very beautiful and elegant. A fine design and motifs are hand-drawn in henna. I can observe the twinkles in her eyes. The eyes of the locals twinkle differently. So does her hair. My friend has a long and thick hair. After the morning assembly, the day moves fast. As we hurry from one lesson to the next, we reached to the last lesson. We had classes in Mathematics, English, Islamiat, Biology, Urdu, Social Studies and Physics, and it would be a lie if I said they all had gone very well. I confess I only pay attention to the first 5 minutes of the Urdu class. I always tell myself that I will pay attention to this lesson, but it does not work. Since we gave a break to the Turkish lessons, I have to sit in this class. I know how to speak Urdu but I have never learned how to write it. Anyway, no matter how slowly the time seemed to move, I managed to see the end of that lesson on that day. Apart from that, I have learned today that I had full marks in Physics. I also sat for a Social Studies exam which did not go well. The school’s dormitory is in the next building. I go there and spend time with my mentor sisters, teachers and classmates who stay in the dormitory. Immediately after performing the noon prayer and reciting the voluntary supplications, my mother comes to pick me and my siblings from the school. After waving to my friends one last time, I get into the car.
Mom’s been a little late today. It’s okay, time has already passed quickly. She says Dad’s busy. My siblings and I tell her to take us out to lunch and we insist. Mom’s kind to us, but the place she’s taken us is not a restaurant, but a street food vendor. I am happy because this is my favourite place. This is our golgappa hangout. We buy three servings of golgappa, shawarma and mango smoothie and settle back in the car. After eating the food, we hit the road again. Sometime later I open the window and lean my face outside, and as soon as I do that, I regret it. The scorching hot wind blowing at my face and the dust particles whirling in the air are enough to remind me once again the climate of the place where I live. I immediately lift the window back up and take refuge in the breeze from the car’s air conditioner. I realize that even after telling my mom how my day at the school has been and joking with my siblings for a long time, there is still a long way for us to go. Our house is far from school. We would have chosen to attend to a school near our house, but my school is not like every school. It is also not that every street has to have a Turkish school. What’s more, my father works at my school. I delve into such thoughts and my sister breaks into her song from the back seat. I break into her song, and she delves into a fruit vendor outside. Everything gets heavier, time slows down. Emotions collapse and facts blend…
And everything stops …
-I will not open my eyes this time. Because it has not taken even three seconds for me to fully realize what happened. This time, a surge of anger invades me. Because everything can change within three seconds just the same. Anger withdraws to let tears invade the territory. With my eyes still shut, I turn to my right on the bed. This is the third dream within the last two weeks. For the last three months, my past memories have frequently visited me. I am no more there. We moved to a Scandinavian country long ago. I have a school and my friends; yet, they are not ‘my school and friends’. It’s not hot here; on the contrary, it is ice cold and I love the sun that browns the skin. Everything here is much better than the previous place. The school systems are far better, we earn much enough, and the people here promise us security and future. Still, I keep on seeing these dreams. In this morning too, I will wake and get up with my emotions and mind shaken. I will stand up, get dressed, and go to school. I will be there until 3 pm and I will return home afterwards. It’s cold outside; most probably, I will spend the rest of the day indoors. Everything will continue in a planned and settled way. And it will be overcast through the day. They say, “A dream is a phenomenon which a person sees with their soul and perceives with their mind.” Dreams are the reflection of our subconscious. I am ready to turn a new page in my life. I am ready to learn a new language and build new relationships. Yet, I still have dreams. Now I have to get up, get dressed, and get ready for the school. I open my eyes and get out of bed. I wipe my eyes in tears.