Through the hills sprout white turbines, lofted over fifty meters into the air. In the breeze they swing languid arms in arcs across the sky, dipping the tips of blades beneath the horizon and pulling them back up like the strokes of a swimmer. They are propellers anchored to the Earth, carrying it through its leisurely orbit. They are bright in the sun, these turbines, and at night their rotors glow by red safety lights, and we can't see the pillars or the blades, just the hubs sprinkling the air like cigarette butts.
And the miners walk in the release of the moon, heading with their meals in pails and plastic bags, heading with their hardhats heavy in their hands, heading to the shaft elevator that extends some two thousand meters underground where they will work in golden pockets of electric light while the sun begins its sweep across the sky. After six hours they will ride the elevator up, stopping shy of the surface to let their eyes adjust before they breach once more into the world above.
As a boy I woke with my father and watched him pack his breakfast of sucuk and boiled eggs, and struggled in his arms as he lifted me and kissed my cheek, stamping it black with coal dust carried always between the fibers of his mustache. Then my mother would wake and wipe my cheek clean and perform her own ablutions, and still hours before sunrise I would go to our apartment's balcony and wave goodbye to the miners. The moon so big and bright I waited all night for it to explode.
Still, I wake a little after four and go to the balcony with my coffee while my parents sleep. I wave to the miners as they walk through our village, and I make jokes: "Lock up your women. I'm on the prowl." They shout back: "Get a job, useless."
The file of men disappears behind the curve of the road, a scythe through the hills. For a half hour, at shift change, the town streets are empty and dark, the breeze shakes the homes of absent men, as if the village need only a little encouragement to leap up into the air and ride the wind far away.
Now those done with their shifts creep up the road quietly in a long column; the only sound is the shuffle of their feet. At the edge of the village [End Page 78] they break rank and slip over stone streets to their homes, to their beds. I wave at my friend Mesut, who comes to the base of my building wearing his smile like a shard of porcelain in the dirt. I finish my coffee, grab my bag, and hurry down to him. Through the slopes of our village, I follow him, asking about the soccer match, about his shift, about the movie I lent him. The sun on its way and I am restless.
We sneak out of the dawn and into his parents' apartment. The kitchen light displaces darkness, and from the hallway rolls his mother's snoring. Mesut goes to rinse the grit out of his hair so I sit at the table, take out my test-prep book, and start working on the mathematics practice problems. Unable to focus, I pick at the seams of the plastic table cover decorated in daisies, coming undone. Mesut's mother keeps in a small white vase on the table a purple orchid—plastic stem, paper petals. I tap my pencil on the book, I flip the pages back and forth. I watch the way the windows grow full of light.
Mesut shoves my book off the table, replacing it with a plate of pasta his mother cooks up each night. "Swallow a big gulp before saying a big word."
I pick the book back up and set it next to the pasta. Mesut's a year older than me. He dropped out of high school and has been working the mine for the last year.
"Win this race first, Izzet, then you can worry about entrance exams."
"I need both...