A walk

March 25, 2015


I stepped out from the warm space into the night and I was surprised by bitter cold. Orçun was standing against the wall smoking a cigarette.

“Where are you going?” He asks. This question is always asked when you live in Turkey and people care about you. They always want to know. I don’t always want to answer, but I learned to give just enough information to make everyone happy.

“Taskim. Woah, it’s so cold!” I said. I looked up at the sky, it was crisp and clear, with visible stars.

“We’ll have sun tomorrow… I gotta go…” I kissed both his cheeks and headed in the night. The white cat with the blue and yellow eyes was sitting right in the middle of the entrance of the hotel next door on a piece of cardboard. He looked at me. I continue down Balyoz towards the Marmara Pera Hotel, people come up, two men, a woman, I look at their silhouettes against the dark night and the city lights I catch the eyes of one of the men. There was so much life in those eyes. I wonder about all the life in all the eyes of all the humans of all the world… how is it that we manage to feel alone? All of us… How is it when there is all this life around?

It is Tuesday night, so it’s quiet, but there are more tourists now than there was a month ago, it will become so crowded with them, with their greedy cameras, wants, desires of excitement. The broken sidewalk, a sleek new black Mercedes, on its hood the little circular emblem, erect gleams haughtily. Headlights on, door ajar, the driver wears a definitely upscale suit, one foot out of the door, cell phone on his ear, again eyes that meet but the read in unclear due to the smoky film on the car window. A few steps from there the Syrian women and their children are lined against the cold stone walls beg… such poverty is an affront to the heart, it’s unacceptable… yet… There they are. Sitting on the frigid pavement, with them 2, 3, 4, children, babies. these women, girls really, some not much older than their offspring. All I have in my pocket is a little over 5 lira, that is what I have left until Sunday, I cannot give it to them… or maybe I should? I see their need. I feel their need. And I feel really bad. I feel a pain that can eat me if I let it. Such injustice… Mercedes and Armani suits right next to this destitution. Barefoot kids on the dirty, dirty Istanbul pavement,the war refugees no one wants to see or handle. In the dark eyes of these girls all the unfairness of the world. Troubled, I continue.

Yellow taxis their headlights creating glowing orbs of light coursing the night. The small barber shop has been emptied overnight, now a barren space, a cavity, its open face gated with a dirty, rusty white wrought iron shutter. Something-nothing. We do that, humans, we make and undo, put life in, retrieve it. Magicians.

I keep walking, I hear a clumsy drum like sound, a woman has an empty box on her knees, she sits on the steps of a closed business, she has a long skirt, gypsy like, she looks so sad, so empty, her head bowed down, momentarily beaten. She is trying to play for money.

At Nevizade Sokak, the restaurants are quite empty and the hustlers that usually leave me alone try to incite me in their establishments. “Buyrun!” “Welcome!” I walk on, then I find myself stuck behind two women, tourists, walking slowly, with the stiff hips and knees of ones not used to moving their bodies much, trying to decide where to go, where to spend their money. They are heavy, they have nice clothes, look clueless, touristing their way in this seeming exotic-ness forging their momentous memories. I hurry on.

Turning right on the next street, approaching prostitute row, in the brisk air, the exhaust pipe from a hotel spews warm steam, likely from a drying machine, a child of about 8, her eyes shining, her light yellow shirt a patch of brightness in the night, attempts to catch the elusive warmth contained in the white steam. She extends her arms and embraces the billowing fog, her body making a graceful motion… and from behind the fog, silhouettes of two men walking in the night, approaching. Nearing the corner, the sound of an engine, bright headlights now cut the night with their cold white LED power. A white sport Mercedes, rounds the turn, morphing everyone into shadows. This white sparkling Cinderella carriage rolls into the decrepit street of filthy walls, lifting ancient paint, cracked walls, rusting grates barring hopeless windows where painted whores sell their wares. This is Istanbul, where the sublime sides with the despicable. Where all the lusts can be satiated side by side with the ultra conservative asceticism. Where those who’have’ignore loftily, even trample those who don’t. Where life isn’t so easy, where dreams aren’t so graspable, or dream-able for that matter.

I make the turn in the other direction, I see the gated windows where usually girls and she-men hang out. Only a few are habited on this slow night. A couple of young men look up to those patches of warm light with greedy eyes. An older man, possibly their father stands there with them. O man the animal.

I turn the last corner to destination. I see a friendly face illuminated with an impossibly beautiful smile. Life like a movie.


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