Cats in the night and the case of who’s smartest.

March 28, 2015

A36

It was a black cat, in the spring night. All pitch black with yellow eyes and a tiny white spot on his chest cutting through that blackness. He sat on the freshly rained on green grass, an Egyptian drawing brought to life. Me and a friend stood on the paved path a little bit away. .

“Oh! He’s beautiful…”

I called him the way Turks call the cats, with a soft “psss, psss, psss” He looked. Evaluated. Stood up. Stretched and miawed, his mouth opening widely, red bit with white teeth amidst the black. He approached and smartly kept watching for my body language, was I about to do something nasty? Was I to be trusted? OK, looks good he seemed to decide. He came next to me. Putting himself sideways, offering his back, then seeing that all was cool, offered his head. He was so very beautiful. Suddenly, like a dog would, he closed his eyes and abandoned his head on my thigh. I was moved with this trust, this peace.

I asked: Why is it that they need love from us? Or is it just the knowledge that friendliness with humans can possibly yield food, water? Or is it a definite need for sharing warmth, affection, connection?

My friend asked in return: Why is it that cats don’t build planes and crash them into mountain sides? And following, why is it that humans build planes and crash them into mountain sides? In my mind images of flying cats, goggled arrogant pilots flying around, building planes and other such human things.. the absurdity of it, and the absurdity of what we humans qualify as intelligent acts. Like manufacturing weapons designed to shoot one another. My head started racing with images of all the vile things humans do to each other. I shuddered and decided to let it go… I had just seen earlier that night on the internet images of a girl in Quebec who was shot point blank in the face, by a policeman carrying a tear gas gun. Thankfully for her, in Quebec they use a different tear gas gun system than they use here in Turkey. What is used in Turkey, releases the whole metal canister, in Quebec it is “only” a cardboard cap… If she had found herself in Turkey she’d probably be dead now, or would have lost her jaw… but the case is, a man in uniform whose job is to serve and protect, shot a student point blank in the face and felt justified for doing so. I guess one could argue that the person or entity being served is actually not defined in that statement so the shooting might indeed have been in line with the job description and duties. But I digress.

Later, more cats. By this time I am alone. There is a park in this wealthy neighborhood where the cats are fed massive amounts of food, have fresh water and little shelters built for them. Contrary to the Tarlabaşı cats, they see humans as generally friendly fellows to be trusted. There were 3 of them. I kneeled. “Psss, psss, psss…” They were looking at me, the same way the black cat did, evaluating my intentions. A mainly white cat came to me, I touched her back, she put both her paws on my leg, stretching her body up tremulously, planting her claws in my jacket, and staying there in this stretched position as if trying to absorb everything out of the moment, taking in every bit of the petting as a thirsty desert dweller drinks water. Then she put her head directly in my hand, closing her eyes. Her face perfectly cradled by my hand. Oh… Such emotion in the vulnerability of this trust and need. A powerful, quiet moment. Both our sensitivities connected in this Istanbul Friday night, where all the madness roams crazily not far away in Beyoğlu. On this deserted sidewalk, a human and a cat, both our fates uncertain, in the hands of life, trusting, sharing together. It lasted a few beautiful instants. I took a deep breath while taxis rush by and the thump of a discotheque not far away pumps lustfully in the night that surrounds us.

I said goodbye and resumed my walk back towards Taksim. On the large space that lays in front of Gezi park vendors, street musicians, peddlers offer their wares in the growing din coming from all the bars and establishments. Umbrella sellers, a South American Indian band wearing Geronimo like headdress and a South American girl selling hand made tuques. (she knits them and is with the band, I’ve seen them around Istiklal before) there are late night simit sellers, flower sellers, kids with flower head dresses for the girls… Groups of mostly men dressed in black, navigate along, small squadrons of pure virility. One must slalom between them. On Istiklal, the pavement is still wet from the rain and the little girl I saw there in that same spot two days before there again, sits on a scrap of cardboard. Her skin is very dark, likely a Gypsy girl from Tarlabaşı, her long hair cascading, she must be 9 years old or so. She sings with a high pitched voice, that voice… there was a band in the 90’s that played world music and there was such a voice… I can’t remember the name… She has that same voice, a voice that sold so many albums… but there she is, 8, 9 years old, it is 2 AM on Friday night and she is begging in the midst of the crowded thrill seeking, alcohol soaked, Istiklal street. Her voice pierces the air with a slight touch of anguish, cuts through the disco beats, conversations, noises… and we walk by ignoring her. Maybe 100 feet down the street I see a man setting up another child on another piece of cardboard on the still wet pavement on the opposite side of the street. Yeah.

I get off Istiklal to take the back streets. Oh the dirt. After the rain, the streets are muddy. There are thousands of people peopling all the bars, it is as if every crevice in every wall is set up in an attempt to pull money from anything that moves around. At Rock & Rolla, a rock bar, the cool crowd of “rockers” fill the patio and the other side of the street. A couple motorcycles are parked there and their too cool riders pose next to them. The hipsters, tourists, revelers and hustlers all together talking and laughing too loud. A tall skinny man looking like a man from some far away village carries in his right hand a large beer bock out on the street, the light from the establishments behind him shine through the yellow liquid making it a gold jewel in the night. The small Renault truck transformed into a kitchen releases big clouds of spicy smoke, a man inside in the small crowded space sells köfte party night after party night. Girls in tight pants and too much make up, guys in black short leather jackets and acid washed jeans strolling down the street, cafes, tea houses, bars, restaurants all full. I stream my way back to the hostel, passing through all this almost invisibly.

It is fascinating and repulsive all at once this grand, never ending party. Why do people have to drink so much? I wonder. Why? Why? Why? Why everything? I find less and less answers, instead a thought that I don’t like keeps surfacing… The thought: there are so many stupid people… oh what an ugly thought. It’s a such a judgmental thought But it is what I see… A blindness, insensitivity, a greed and selfishness beyond comprehension. But I am stupid too. Too stupid to pull myself out of this. This world is stupid. All the agreements we make that keep this madness alive, day in and day out… Rain starts to come down. All is absurdity. And the question: “Why don’t cats build airplanes?” Lends the answer that cats are way smarter than we humans are. I feel a stiff pull on my clothes, I turn around, a man was holding on to my hoodie.

“Oh pardon!!” he apologizes, likely he thought I was someone else. I continue. Near the London Büyük Otel, a couple, they stand face to face, both bodies taut in an aggressive stance. He pushes her hard. She screams. I stop.

“What the f…” I watch. Three men are approaching in the other direction. I wait some more. She then violently pushes him hitting him on the chest and starts yelling hysterically at him a long litany I don’t understand, she is drunk. He stands there, an indescribable expression in his eyes. I think it will be OK, He doesn’t look like he will strike her. I resume my walk. It actually looks exactly like a scene pulled out of most of the music videos for Turkish pop music… boyfriend-girlfriend breaking up with much tears and drama. As I approach the Peak Hotel I see the little dog. He lives in this neighborhood, one of the street dogs. He is lying down on the thick plastic mat in front of the door. I approach him, pet him on the head. His eyes soften into a sort of thankful look, I scratch his ears, head, neck. Around it’s all this drunkenness, madness, aggressiveness. I get up after giving a few soft words to the dog and head to the market to buy a chocolate bar I’ll end up not eating. I see the couple who was fighting walking by. The man’s face is pale, his eyes looking ahead blankly, the woman’s face looks down as she walks with a bit of a stumble. I trace my steps back. The dog now is looking up, panting stressfully, looking up with a strange expression and that finally slays me. It’s just all too much sometimes, all this emotion, all of this life, all of the need, the acuteness of it all. Tears rush to my eyes as I walk up Balyoz Sokak back to Chillout. But I won’t cry. I swallow it all up. I walk inside, smile to everyone. I go make sage tea, sit down, breathe deeply, check messages on the internet then go back up to the 5th floor where my temporary room awaits me for another night.

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