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“Did you have fun?” a voice speaks beyond the light.

“I did.” answers Özgür, his face smiling against the intense light.

“I’m glad to hear that.” the voice moves around, his silhouette paints against the light. “Tell me, Özgür, what do you think of your friends?”

“My friends. They’re the best I ever had. Even if I lose the rest of the memories I have in my head, they’d always be there for me. Even if I forget to breathe, they’d be my lungs. They’re everything I could ask for.”

“If they were here right now, what would you tell them?”

Teşekkürler dostlarim. You are the best friends I could ask for. I’m glad to be on this journey with you.” Özgür smiles, the peaceful gleam of his smile meets the voice’s eyes. “Thank you for the birthday gift.”


A few hours ago, in a quiet amusement park just outside of Istanbul, three shadowy figures stood at the front gate in the dimmest lights of dawn, waiting for someone. Another car passed by but it wasn’t Fatih’s. He was always known for running late, but there was no way he could have missed Özgür’s special day.

“Have you called him?” Mehmet asked impatiently, his feet tapping against the edge of a frosted puddle. “He should have been here an hour ago.”

“You were still sleeping an hour ago, canım. Now, kindly shut up and wait, please.” Alim snapped at his younger colleague before turning over to grab Özgür’s shoulders. “Fatih abi will be here soon, tamam Özgür abi?”

Özgür nodded and smiled up at Alim. At the age of twenty-three, Özgür was hospitalized and diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease. His friends--the only family he ever had--were there to hear the news. After hearing the news, the young Turk was devastated.

The first month after hearing the news, he forgot how to spell in Greek, his father’s tongue, then he lost his ability to code. This cost him his decent-paying job and snuffed out his dream of ever travelling to Belgium, his dream country. Soon, his birthday was lost to the mist of his mind. Bits and pieces of Özgür fell out of his head and onto sticky notes plastered all over the window, so much so that he forgot he ever had a window.

Then his fingers started to forget. Writing was hard and so was eating. Holding up a fork is no easier than lifting a meter-long weighted barbell with two fingers. Another month passed and Özgür completely forgot he ever had parents. As the disease attacked his relationships, Özgür found himself more isolated as his world was slowly being replaced by people he didn’t know, or those he forgot to know. Just last week, he forgot how to walk, and soon, he might forget how to breathe.

Now, on his wheelchair, waiting in front of Fatih’s amusement park, Özgür pondered how much time he had left and why they all decided to meet before the sun was even out. Couldn’t they have done the drop tower a little later?

A car pulled into the employee parking spot and out came a man in a thick parka, his hair slicked back and beard cleanly trimmed.

“There you are Fatih abi. What took so long?” Alim pushed Özgür’s wheelchair and approached his senior.

“Traffic, canım.” Fatih laughed and pressed on his car keys, waiting for a honk. “You know how the esplanade is.”

Abi, don’t bullshit us. I took the tram here, I didn’t see a single car.”

Allah Allah canım! You must believe me!” Fatih gestured as he fumbled the gate latch.

Mehmet leaned in and quickly shot back to whisper with Alim. “Fatih abi smells like döner-”

“I do not!” Fatih snapped back. He pushed the employee’s entrance open and waited for everyone to enter before locking it. Today was a special day for Özgür and no one should intrude on his special day. Sighing, Fatih pushed on the padlock and joined his friends.

“What did Özgür say he wanted to do?” Fatih called towards the younger Alim.

“Özgür abi said he wanted to do the drop tower. He said he’s always been too scared to try it but he wanted to at least give it a shot for his birthday.” Alim looked over at Fatih and nodded at him, whispering something beyond Özgür’s earshot. “What time does the train leave?”

“8 AM. I have the tickets.”

“Good. Keep them safe on you. Don’t lose them, those cost a fortune to get.”

Alim wheeled Özgür towards the control room while Mehmet climbed up the ride platform and undid the water-pooled tarp covering the seat from the rain last night. The thirty-foot tall ride revealed itself in the backdrop of the rising sun. Sometimes, Mehmet still couldn’t believe anyone could own an amusement park.

Meanwhile, in the control room, Fatih and Özgür warmed up as the former flipped a few switches to turn on the ride. The LED lights on the drop tower lit up and music started playing through the air. Özgür’s eyes opened wide and his feet were weakly tapping against the footrest in uncontained joy.

“Özgür abi, you like that huh?” Fatih smiled at the excited Özgür, then he looked at Alim. “Canım! Would you mind moving abi to the ride and make sure he’s secured? You two and Mehmet should hop on the ride too.”

Fatih stayed in the control room while the trio seated themselves onto the ride, Alim and Mehmet sitting on the sides and Özgür in the middle. Both of them holding onto their abi tightly.

Fatih pushed on a lever and the ride started rumbling, Özgür’s tippy taps were more obvious and his younger colleagues noticed.

“Excited huh, abi?” asked Mehmet.

Özgür nodded in response as the seats climbed taller. The sky never felt so close for Özgür and for a moment, he paused to look at the clouds and feel the warmth of the sun who’s racing to beat the drop tower.

A silent pause.

A loud shriek of mechanical grinding tore through the district as the seat dropped, plunging towards the ground. In one swift motion, the ride froze and shot back up to two-thirds of its max height before diving again.


“How are you feeling, Özgür?” asks the voice.

“Very tired, kind sir. Most definitely.”

“The train ride wasn’t the smoothest, no?”

“The journey itself was, and I have my friends to thank for that.” Özgür answers without hesitation. “You have a very beautiful country.”

“So I’m told.” the voice motions another person from outside Özgür’s vision. A cold swab on his veins and a light sting on his arm.

“Relax, Özgür. Take a deep breath.” the voice continues. “So, you were saying something about my country?”

“I’ve always wanted to come to Belgium actually.”


Oui. J'étudie le français seulement pour voyager en Belgique."

Oh? Vraiment? Learning an entire language just to travel here?”

“Yes. I really wanted to come here but I never could afford it; and then this happened.”

The voice nods in admiration and looks over to the distance. “You have good friends, Özgür. I’m jealous.” The voice holds up his arm, tapes up his vein and continues. “Your friends will miss you lots after this.”

Özgür looks at the voice and gives one last smile before the sedatives kick in. “Please tell them I say thank you.”

While Özgür’s eyes slowly close, a faint whimper can be heard from a wall beyond. For a moment, it sounds like Fatih holding back his tears like that time he heard the diagnosis, or Alim when he got coffee sand on him, or Mehmet when he argued with his boss to keep Özgür in the company.

A draft glides into the operation room as Özgür’s heart slows down and his brain activity steadily decreases. As the draft caresses gently on his face, Özgür smiles, remembering the morning, salt-crusted dew of the Bosphorus touching his skin as the drop tower catapulted him downwards. Though there isn’t much left in his mind to rewind to, Özgür is glad that his seven minutes are well spent on the three people he cared about.