Alassia in Copperland: "The Forest",
by Panikos Stavrou, Page 2

Mutlu was late again. What was holding him up.? I wondered what would his officer say if he knew that Mutlu had made friends with "the enemy?" For that matter, what would my officer say if he knew I made friends with a Turkish Cypriot soldier and was almost nightly absent-without-a-leave in some nightclub in Nicosia with him, while I was supposed to be guarding the forest? I imagined being caught. Not a pretty picture.

I met Mutlu in the strangest of circumstances. One day, long before my honey-wagon escapes and while on guard between the minefield and the forest, I saw a playboy magazine about five to six meters inside the minefield. I hadn't seen a woman for a month and the magazine couldn't show up at a better time. I spent a few hours cutting tree branches and bamboo and concocting some sort of a fishing rod to bring the magazine out. Time well spent when my efforts bore fruits. I went through the magazine cover-to- cover never wondering how the magazine ended up in the minefield. The next day, another magazine showed up only this time it was twice the distance inside the minefield. More time to fish out, more time well spent. Again, for the third day in a row, I saw another magazine, only this time it was quite far inside the minefield. I've tried hard to fish it out but to no avail. The bamboo rod would bow and break apart because of the distance and weight of the magazine. I've tried and tried but I couldn't get it out.

Memories From The Past:
A Greek Cypriot Man in His Late 70's

I grew up with Turkish Cypriots, we went to school together in fact back in those days we didn't know the difference......In fact the first time anyone told me that my best friend Abdullis was not a Greek was the priest at St.George's church in the walled city......He didn't really meant it in a bad way.....he even gave us (both me and Abdullis) 'andidoron'(communion bread) and as I recall even communion. At times all of us Greeks and Turks used to go the priest for blessings and even to the far as the average person was concerned they wanted to make sure that both types of 'Gods'were satisfied just in case the others were right...........

I've climbed a tree to get closer and fell down, luckily not on a mine. I took off my pants and shirt and tied them to the rod but it still didn't work. As I was trying, I must've looked very pathetic, I heard a laughter coming out from behind the trees in the forest. I looked around and I saw a Turkish Cypriot soldier, Mutlu, folded in two. He was laughing his head off. I was shocked. There I was in my un- derwear and boots on a tree, with my gun a good ten meters away from me, staring at "the enemy" who was getting a big kick out of my ridiculous attempt to fish out of a minefield a playboy magazine. I jumped down the tree and Mutlu's face got serious. He pointed his gun at me, asked me to freeze, and started walking towards me. I was so scared. As he came near me he stopped and asked me to put my clothes on. I did so while he picked up my gun and sat on a rock a few steps away from me. "You are the worst soldier I've ever seen," he said in perfect English with a smile on his face. "I'll take that as a compliment," I replied. Strangely enough I felt at ease considering the situation. My hopelessness may had something to do with it. He explained that the playboy trick was his captain's idea. He wanted to find out if the minefield was real. I certainly couldn't help him with that. We went on conversing about our backgrounds. Our soccer teams. Our dreams and aspirations to study abroad as soon as the army night- mare was over. Women. Armando Diego Maradona. Our love of 50's black and white gangster movies. Pink Floyd. Pop culture trash. More women. What followed was the beginning of a strong friendship that has lasted almost a year now. Mutlu and I met almost daily in the forest for a smoke, a game of backgammon and an occasional ride to Nicosia courtesy of the honey-wagon people. We spent many a nights going from club to club looking for cheap thrills. When we would meet someone Mutlu posed to be a British friend of mine of Greek Cypriot descent who never bothered to learn how to speak Greek.

But today's meeting is very different. This morning, after spending twenty months in this nightmarish place, I received a notice that I was to be transferred tomorrow to another camp where I would serve the remainder of my service, or prison term as I prefer to call it. I wondered what Mutlu's reaction would be as this would most certainly be our last meeting. I wondered what my reaction to his reaction would be. Wondering about things is all a person can do in the army.

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