Shuttle of Ayrancı-Neukölln: A mini Story Series by Tevfik Hürkan Urhan

Shuttle of Ayrancı-Neukölln 

Part I

Courtesy of Yiğitcan Erdoğan

What is next now? The university years that seemed like they would never end were over! Özgün was absently walking through Middle East Technical University in Ankara, the capital city of Turkey after their last exam. They mumbled on by themself: 

-“I guess it wasn’t a good idea to finish my studies my dear, what am I supposed to do right now?”  

Özgün remembered the moment when they came from a remote corner of Anatolia and walked through the door of this campus like it was only yesterday. Years ago, they were finally able to free themself from the suffocating monotony of the countryside and plunge into a social mobility, namely into a life of a university campus. But Özgün had never considered that this study experience would only form just a small part of their life. They were like fish out of water. Terrifying feelings were rushing on them. They were graduating.

Özgün felt even more upset with themself when they saw how happy everyone else was to graduate, celebrating their graduation childishly. Proceeding from the fact that the probability of something going wrong with everyone except themself is very low, they decided to concentrate their thoughts on themself. Actually, Özgün just forgot that they were going to graduate one day, and it wasn’t a big deal in the end. They had assumed that they would live like this for the rest of their life. A simple mistake, an innocent premise…

Özgün had to find a solution. What should they do now? Would they start working? What would happen to their political ideals, their artistic dreams, and their search for an alternative life? Was it over? Everything they had ever dreamed of and believed in was collapsing like sandcastles. Their closest friends were starting to get jobs one by one, and now only their career plans were mentioned in confabulations as if almost everyone has prepared a ten-year development plan and had even started to implement it step by step. Indeed, Özgün didn’t even know what their plans for the next ten days are. The money they had, could at most protect them from hunger and cold for a few more months. Özgün felt very stuck. Özgün kept repeating: this story shouldn’t end like this.

Whilst thinking about these matters, Özgün raised their head and realized that they had come to the bus stop next to the cafeteria. Özgün had to take the Ayrancı shuttle from there, to go home. But Özgün didn’t want to get on yet. Özgün was thinking with a good sense when they were walking. At the same time, walking was calming them down, making them feel better. They decided to walk a little further, pass the Revolution stadium, which was called that way because of the writing on top: “Revolution”, and get on the shuttle from there, in front of the dormitories. They were very confident that while walking they would suddenly find a radical and clever solution to all their problems.

Özgün raised their head again. They were in front of the dormitories. But they couldn’t pull a rabbit out of a hat yet. They started to walk up to the gate of the university, known as A4. The rabbit would be pulled for sure until they get there. 

Özgün raised their head: A4. Still no rabbits. They got out of the university. ”I’ll get on from Yüzüncüyıl Bazaar”, they said. This time perhaps, it is not possible to pull a rabbit out of a hat under these circumstances, they thought.

Raised their head again: Yüzüncüyıl Bazaar. There is no hope. Destination: Karakusunlar. ”But I will for sure catch the shuttle in there!”

They raised their head one more time: Karakusunlar. There is no solution. They started to think about their own condition they are in… Direction: Balgat crossroads. ”I have to get on the shuttle from there, how long I can walk?” 

They raised their head: Balgat crossroad. “What will happen to my political ideals?” Direction: Sokullu. ”Fuck the shuttle, I’ll get on once I’m tired.” 

They raised their head: Sokullu. “What will happen to my artistic dreams?” Direction: Hoşdere. “May God damn the shuttle and this order!”

They raised their head: Hoşdere. “What will happen to my search for an alternative life?” Destination: Ayrancı. ”I’m almost in Ayrancı.”

They raised their head: Ayrancı. “Will I starve to death if I pursue my dreams?” “Is this how this system works?”. “So my subjectivity has no value in the face of material conditions?” Direction: Alaçam Street, home.

They were quite tired when they arrived at Alaçam Street. But they didn’t want to go into the house just yet. They knew that if they entered their home without finding any solution, it would mean admitting defeat. Entering that house was a psychological border line in this case. They wanted to walk and think until they found a solution but their legs had no strength left, and their brain couldn’t move their legs any longer. In order not to enter the house yet, they sat in front of the second-hand bookshop on Alaçam Street. They checked the shop, it was closed, and there were only the owner’s cats inside, watching him through the window. They checked the time. Later in the evening, it was. As it was in these hours, there were no people on this street.

They tried to roll a cigarette as they took the tobacco out. Found the tobacco, found the filter, found the paper, but couldn’t find the lighter. They must have dropped it on the way. They weren’t exactly a smoker, however, were feeling the need for it greatly at that moment. The cigarette was an object of desire from after that moment, wave after wave, it was stimulating their body and mind. 

They decided to ask the first person who passes through the street for a lighter. However, Alaçam Street was rather emptier than usual, with not a soul to be seen. They lay down on the grass in front of the shop, yet, sitting did not stop their fatigue. They were going to get up if they hear someone passing, and eventually were going to digest their defeat against life with a sad cigarette and will go straight home. At least they had tried to fight in their own way and deserved this honorable defeat. Özgün had nothing to do, so they released themself slowly…

Özgün was beginning to feel a kind of inner peace which they couldn’t understand exactly where it was coming from when the silence of Alaçam Street was torn by the engine noise of a vehicle that sound like a shuttle. Özgün continued to lie down without breaking their stride, and just took a glance. The shuttle stopped when it came across the second-hand bookstore. Özgün heard the driver of the shuttle open the front door. He spits on the floor, jumped out of the vehicle, and closed the door. After a glimpse of silence, the driver started screaming:

– Neukölln, Neukölln, Neukölln… Ayrancı Neukölln, Ayrancı Neukölln, Ayrancı Neukölln…

Courtesy of Yiğitcan Erdoğan

Part II

Neukölln, Neukölln, Neukölln… Ayrancı Neukölln. Ayra… Kaff, kaff, kaff… Captain Hakan had to stop screaming because of his sore throat. He grumbled about not having a road assistant and having to do everything himself at his age.

He was just about to start screaming again when he realized that no one was around and that he was shouting all alone. He piped down, embarrassed. Then, he couldn’t scream again. After all, according to a rumor, shuttle veterans are soft under their tough appearance. At least, it can be said that those who have passed through the mill are like this such as Hakan Kaptan.

He lit a cigarette. As soon as he did so, his eyes were fixed on the young who was looking at him with a raised head from in front of the shop. He realized that his previous unnecessary screaming had been witnessed by someone other than himself and he blushed a little more. This drama also brought a reflex, such as taking a harder pull from his cigarette, compared to a usual one. He kept the smoke in his lungs, more than ever, and he let out the smoke with all his fury. It was almost as if he had pinned the poison of his mind to the smoke and thrown it out.

The young had risen up and started to approach him. The clothes of this person, who is about to reach their mid-twenties, were very shabby according to Captain Hakan. An ugly gray t-shirt, which was obviously chosen and worn hastily over jeans, and besides, the antidote to chilly Ankara evenings was a brown cardigan, which years have worn out but could not kill. The captain rated this outfit as four out of ten.    

However, his rate for his own clothes was nine, thanks to his modestness. It was in fact, a ten. There was no club in Berlin that he could not enter. In time, he learned about Berlin fashion. He likes black, and when he sees chains, he couldn’t help himself but he would put them on himself, or even on his shuttle. These chains were especially useful for the shuttle on snowy roads.

The young approached him. They politely asked for a lighter, smiling. Captain Hakan immediately took a shine on this person and, he took his lighter out of his pocket, handed it:

– There you go homie!

– Thank you (They took the lighter, lit their cigarette, and returned the lighter).

– You’re welcome.

– Is this shuttle line new? I’ve been living here for years and have never seen a single shuttle.

– Is that so? No, it’s not new, and I’ve been driving on this line for years.

– Interesting! Where is this place you call Neukölln? It’s not familiar… Is it around Cebeci?   

– No, it is not. Neukölln is a district of Berlin.

The young was surprised. What was this driver, who was in all black like teenagers, saying?

– I don’t think you’re claiming that this shuttle goes to Berlin.

– On the contrary, that’s exactly what I’m saying, my young friend.

– Brother, don’t play with my mind, please, I’m already having a hard day.

– Far from it. Why would I do such a thing? Why are you having a hard day?

– Mmmmh. Now, it’s hard to explain when it’s suddenly asked like this, but… Anyway, let me give you a quick and direct summary. I finished studying. I’m drifting towards a life I don’t want. But I have no other choice, I think I have to submit to my fate. But still, it tears my heart out.

– Maybe that’s all Ankara can give you. How many years have you been in this city?

– It has been 6-7 years… I took a victory lap.

– My dear, I suggest you to change your city. The new city comes with its new energy. It is obvious that Ankara has already given what it can give you. You should be able to say thanks and move on, so that you don’t get dragged into a life you don’t want.

– It’s easy to say, how can I go? 

– Big decisions are sometimes made in five years, sometimes in five seconds. In my experience, there is no difference between five-second ones and five-year ones.

– I don’t quite understand?

– Jump into the shuttle of Ayrancı-Neukölln. No need for money either. It’s on me this time. We’re going to Berlin.  What’s your name by the way? I’m Captain Hakan.

– I am Özgün.

Özgün was very confused. What was happening? Were they dreaming? It was obviously a little too much for them to meet this strange shuttle driver, combined with the feeling of despair they had experienced in the last few hours. Instead of thinking a little more and deciding not to take this ride, they wanted to embark on this ridiculous adventure that appeared out of nowhere. So that they could forget about their narrowness a little.  After all, this shuttle couldn’t really be going to Berlin. 

They opened the front passenger door of the shuttle and jumped in. “Come on, Captain Hakan, let’s go!”. Captain took another puff on his cigarette and killed it under his foot. Jumped into the driver’s seat with a huff, started the engine. ”Aye aye” 

Courtesy of Yiğitcan Erdoğan

Part III

It’s the shuttle. The spine of life. Let’s face it, we didn’t have a lot of metro networks, suburban trains, or trams. Even our bus lines were not enough. O my Anatolia! My poor but peaceful Anatolia. Shuttles would suit you the best. They move when they are full. People pass on the money, hand to hand. Maybe it is still the same. I don’t know. I have fallen away from my beloved Anatolia. Now Özgün and Captain Hakan are coming towards me. They can’t bring Anatolia to me, but they are bringing the shuttle of it. Well, sometimes it happens that way. 

The shuttle is moving forward now. Ankara, Istanbul, then Athens, and from there to Prague. Then, ‘all aboard!’, Berlin. The last stop: Neukölln. S Sonnenallee to be exact. Captain Hakan always ends his journey there. His favorite club was here. It’s no longer here though! They destroyed it. Instead, they built luxurious offices. They gentrified the neighborhood! Hey rich white Europeans, no matter how much profit you make, you can’t buy the personas that Captain Hakan left in that club! Come on, don’t tell me fairy tales, come off it! They destroyed the club, but Captain Hakan still intends to respect the club, he always stops his shuttle there. You have destroyed it and the day will come when Captain Hakan will destroy you, you should not take especially a mine worker or a shuttle driver against you in this life, friend. You are going to learn this!

For now, the shuttle is moving forward, stopping, and moving off again. Slowly slowly, but also insistently and consistently.  Sometimes a migrant gets on it, sometimes a sex worker, sometimes a dissident intellectual. If this shuttle could have talked, it would tell numerous deep stories to us!  Some passengers of this shuttle flee from war, some from hunger, and some from oppression. Captain Hakan does not ask any questions to his passengers, and he doesn’t take any money. He doesn’t need money, he doesn’t do it for money. 

Radio plays Anatolian folk songs, in Germany, and techno in Turkey. Between both countries, Captain Hakan gives the turn to passengers. His musical vocabulary expands this way, and a kind of social environment can be formed. People talk based on music. If they were to be silent, music would fill the silence. Music is good anyways. Captain Hakan likes to listen to music and make people listen.

The shuttle is moving forward, filling and emptying itself. Özgün, as happy as a bug in a rug, has thoroughly surrendered himself to the arms of the adventure.  Captain Hakan got into his role again and started to step up the gear in the most elegant way. 

Özgün realized that the road will not end any soon. He asked the Captain:

– Brother Hakan, where are we?

– I don’t know.

– What do you mean you don’t know? Aren’t you the driver?

– Why does the place matter, my dear, we are going!

– And when will we arrive?

– I don’t know.

– What do you mean you don’t know? If you don’t know, who will?

– What is the value of time, my dear, we are going!

– What matters then, brother, what?

– Don’t be mad. Look, the road is important, the journey is important! And we are going on it, there is no problem!

– You are so carefree captain, for sure you will live a long life.

The shuttle is moving forward, making a person both melancholic and bored. But anyway, the shuttle is hope. It is to go on the road. It is to leave a place behind and take the path to the unknown. Not everyone can go like a shuttle, not so easy. 

The shuttle is moving forward, the road is getting longer and longer, and passengers are traveling in their inner worlds, besides traveling in the outer world. They go the same way outside and different ways inside. Özgün was thinking of the people they had kissed in Ankara, of course, there must be a reason. And Captain Hakan was thinking everyone he had sex with, probably there was no reason.  

– Özgün, look, my dear, our friendship is all the way to Berlin. When you get there, you didn’t see me, you didn’t hear about me. I didn’t bring you. Don’t get me in trouble with the German police.

– How is it, Captain? What am I going to do there? Won’t you help me? It’s not nice. You’ve upset your loved ones.

– My dear, firstly, you are very sweet, of course, I would like to help, but firstly, I also have a life, although it’s hard to believe, and secondly, I would be doing evil if I helped you.

– What would cause that?

– My dear, you must learn to bite, or you will not be permanent in this city. If I help, you won’t learn to bite.

– Brother, you underestimated me so much, I could get water from a flint!

– My dear Özgün, look, it’s not that easy. How many brave fellows have passed in this city, it’s not that easy. Although you may not have noticed, when you travel to Berlin with this shuttle, you leave not only your hometown but also your privileges back.

– What a privilege! The situation is obvious in our country, what a privilege.

– Your privileges that you’re not even aware of, my Özgün. That you’re not even aware of. Those you can understand only when you lose them. 

– Captain Hakan, don’t exaggerate, please.

– In short, now that you have come to the place of real Whites, your white Turkishness is not white enough my dear Özgün. 

– There ought to be a law to say that I am a white Turk Captain. I’m from the countryside, a fucking countryside! Not a white Turk.

– I like to use concepts with a little twist dear Özgün. After all, I am not an academician, but a driver. They didn’t accept me for a doctorate before and the white privileged academy excluded my alternative views. The bastards even monopolize the knowledge. They even take the knowledge under their domination.

– And what did you do captain?

– I became a shuttle driver, as you can see. Instead of lessons, I chat in the shuttle. This is how we resist, my Özgün. Underground social science… That’s the deal. There isn’t anything to do!

– You’re a strange person, captain, definitely one of the strangest people I have ever met, I must say.

Captain Hakan pulled the shuttle to the right, slowed down, and stopped the vehicle. He looked at Özgün for a while. He didn’t say anything. Then he turned his gaze inside the shuttle:

– Dear passengers of the Ayrancı Neukölln Shuttle, welcome to Neukölln. Don’t forget to return to your homes at the end of the night. Viel Spaß!

Courtesy of Yiğitcan Erdoğan

Tevfik Hürkan Urhan
Berlin, 2021


Translation from the Turkish Original:
Ilgın Nehir Akfırat
Tevfik Hürkan Urhan