Prosecards from the Edge (of a Continent)

A running commentary on my life in Izmir, Turkey...and other thoughts.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tales from the Road - Lycia, End of the Road

Morning finds me still blissful from the evening's surprising turn of events. Wrapping my starchy, snow-white sheet about myself under the heaven of the A/C, I ask myself the usual question: stay or go? This time the answer is easy: stay, of course! Such possibilities for change and directions unexpected I see here...

Over the course of my nightly visits to the Deep Blue Bar, I have made the acquaintance of a colorful cast of bartenders, waitresses and regulars. Richard is one of the temporary regulars (in that he's only here for a spell, but while he's here, he's at the bar every night), a man with a Santa Claus-like white beard, a disarming smile, and a sailboat. Originating from Portland, Oregon, he has been gradually making his way around the world in his boat, with a prolonged stop in Turkey, emphasis on Fethiye. When I meet him he is in the company of a sprightly, tanned blonde girl who has come to Turkey to learn sailing and has been accompanying Richard on his boat for a few days. She is leaving for the U.S. the following day, and Richard is at the Deep Blue for her farewell round of drinks. When we meet, he is actively seeking a new crew member, and I waste no time in volunteering. Fantastic! Two days in almost sole control of a beauty of a boat! I'm definitely in. I choose to not think too much about the fact that Richard seems to have a predilection for younger, female crew members ("I just don't like men very much," I remember him saying).

The plan is to sail from Fethiye to Göcek, with copious detours and stops on the way. Göcek is a yachtsman's haven, thickly forested hills flanking quiet coves with crystal clear turquoise waters. I couldn't wait to be there. The denizens of the Deep Blue seem to feel that Richard is a solid citizen, no pervert or axe-murderer, and I trust them enough that their opinion on this matter is sufficient. I'm thrilled -- sailing again, at long last!

The following evening M. is on one of his rare shore leaves (one night only). We dine together and top it off with a stop at the Deep Blue. I've told him about my plan for the coming two days, assuming he would be delighted for me. But something is wrong...he is quieter than usual, withdrawn, unresponsive to my questions and attempts to make conversation. Eventually it evolves into a a kind of passive-aggressive fight, where I am prodding -- and eventually jabbing -- verbally, just to get some kind of response, and he retreats deeper into his cigarettes, long looks, and the silent reserves of his soul. After this has continued long enough for me to finally produce sharp remarks from him and tears from me, it comes out, slowly, that this spontaneous decision to spend two days and one night on board the boat of a man whom I barely know is not sitting well with him. I try to make him understand that this is a harmless, loveable, elderly American guy who looks like Santa Claus, everybody loves him, and there is nothing whatsoever to be concerned about, but on this one we are at an impasse...and I am wondering if it has more to do with my safety or with the appropriateness of me going off with some man, alone on his boat...I suspect it is a little of each, highlighting once again the cultural divide between us...

But M. is an interesting soul in that he recognizes the ways in which he is bound by his own culture, but also tries hard to open his mind to different ways of seeing or doing things. It is probably one of the reason he values me: he recognizes the limitations of his own cultural boundaries and appreciates a chance to view things differently. It isn't easy for him -- usually it takes a day or two after his initial resistance to an idea to come around and say, 'ok, let's try that on for size,' but most important is that he does it, and I admire him for this. And once again it occurs to me how radically different we are -- far beyond American vs. Turkish, this is American-cosmopolitan-well-travelled-well-read meets Turkish-small-town-haven't-really-been-anywhere. It would be easier for me to be with an urbanite Istanbulian, or him with an Iowa farm girl, I reflect. But on the other hand, opposition can create interesting ways of looking at life. It is almost a danger to have a partner who comes from the same background, sees things the same way. Unless you make a habit of challenging each other, there is a tendency to simply reinforce the things you already believe.

At any rate, M. knows me well enough to know that he can not 'forbid' me to do something, and indeed, that my independence is one of the things he admires about me. I have seen him watch me climb down steep boulders or swim against a vicious current (when I really could have used a little help), responding to my spluttered outbursts, "I knew you could do it." To make peace, I offer to have him meet Richard, but now he is nonchalant; maybe, if time allows...

When I meet Richard the following day, I share M.'s concerns and the quarrel we had, explaining that it would really be better if the two met and established a little mutual trust. Richard doesn't seem particularly pleased with this turn of events, which I guess should have been a clue to my Pollyanna soul that all was not as innocent as it appeared.

At any rate, Santa Claus and I set sail, and I am so transfixed by the fact of (a) finally being on a sailboat again, (b) being on a GORGEOUS sailboat (c) sailing in a place as beautiful as Fethiye, instead of the Izmir bay, (d) being almost totally in charge, that I am not particularly concerned about what devious motives Richard might be harbouring in the dark recesses of his heart. Focus on opportunism! To hell with the subtext. Gliding out of the Fethiye bay, we spot a giant Caretta Caretta -- a sea tortoise gliding near the surface of the water, and I take this as a positive omen that all will be well.

It coincidentally happens that M. is currently on a tour in the same area. I'm excited that we might actually meet, and maybe I will even have a chance to show off my sailing skills! Richard's boat, built in the 1970's, is a combination of fiberglass and wood, a magnificent specimen of a boat and exactly the one I'd buy if I had the money -- unfortunately, these days it would be impsossible for me to get the dream price that Richard paid for the thing ten years ago. It is called a double-ender, meaning that both ends of the boat are pointed; not something one sees every day. I have to content myself with admiring it -- the gorgeous lines, the three perfect masts, the highly polished tiller made out of polished, exotic wood, the interior that is almost entirely wooden and perfectly designed...ah, envy.

We sail all day, pausing for plunges into the sea to refresh. Pure blue..silver fish...sun...what more perfect world is there? If only M. were present, enjoying this instead of slaving away for his company and customers.

He is anchored at a small island called Domuz Adası. I am enthusiastic in my efforts to convince Richard that we should go there to see him -- after all, it is practically spitting distance from the small cove where Richard has decided that we'll spend the night, preferred by him for its quiet, pristine water and abundant yakamoz, the day-glo green phosphorescence that makes an acid-trip silhouette of your body when you dive in at night. Richard, to my partial surprise (partial, because despite my wishful thinking, I'm not actually totally clueless), is grudging. Despite having taught me how to read the charts that list depths and obstructions to seagoing vessels, Richard is suddenly convinced that these are dangerous waters, perilous in that they are unknown...but Richard, I protest, we are competent sailors! We know what we're doing! What's more, we have the charts! My real wish is to drop anchor next to M.'s boat and have a nice evening of socializing and spending time with the guy, but it is rapidly made clear that Richard wishes to be alone (alone with me??) in the cove of his choice. I really have no alternative but to respect his wishes, and the most I can get is a sail-by, flinging around one of the two islands between which M. is anchored, with a big wave as I pass. This much I do manage, and it is excellent. One hand on the tiller, the other raised in greeting, sails puffed out, we glide past his anchored ship at an impressive 7.5 knots, and I see his hand raise to return the gesture. It kills me that I can't stop...but at least he has seen me at the helm, he knows that I, too, know the sea, and that we share this between us.

Throughout the day Richard has been returning to a particular theme, namely the freedom that a lone, around-the-world sailing expedition offers. He has a wife at home, but as far as I can tell is quite content to have her there, at home, and not here in his magnificent kingdom over which he is sole lord and master...Freedom. What is it? For Richard, it may well be many things, but one physical embodiment of the concept for him happens to be 'naked swimming'. From the outset I have heard his glowing references to the subject, and, okay, I'm down for it, too, but everything has its necessary context. From the way he has waxed lyrical over the openness, free spirit, and bond he shared with his previous lithe, blonde shipmate, I am beginning to get just a tad uncomfortable...and night is falling.

We pop a couple of brews, exchange views of the homeland, of Turkey; he reminisces about the route that brought him from Oregon to here. It's astonishing the number of places he's seen. The courage to go there alone, facing possible shipwreck, abduction by pirates, or just grappling with simple agonizing loneliness on the open seas, impresses me.

In the darkness, a mile or so away, the lights of M.'s ship glimmer, and seeing them makes me miss him. I speak to him on the phone, invite him to visit (my bad -- I realize later that I never asked Richard if it was okay); he says he'll try to make it later. Hanging up, I let Richard know about his impending guest, and he seems put out, jabbering nervously about how he doesn't want to be beaten up or killed by some jealous Turkish boyfriend. But why on earth would he beat you up, Richard? You are, after all, old enough to be my father, and we are only traveling companions. What is there to object to? My arguments fall on deaf ears, and Richard is clearly agitated, rushing about the boat and making sure everything is absolutely ship-shape. There follows an uncomfortable hour or so, during which the naked swimming topic resurfaces, this time in the 'your friend is coming so now I can't do it,' pouty context.

The meeting with M. excites me in its clandestine character. Traveling by tiny motorboat, using only a flashlight to see in the dark, he makes his way across the channel and an expanse of open water. There is almost no moon, and our boat is lit only by one tiny light at the top of the mast. I can hear the sound of the outboard motor for a long time before I can make out any shape in the darkness. Standing at the aft of the boat, waving a flashlight rhythmically to reveal our location, I get the sudden feeling of participating in the underground of some country's revolution.

At last I make out his silhouette in the dark. We throw down the bumpers so the boats do not scratch each other, and M. climbs aboard, laden with copious quantities of beer and snacks. What a good guest, I smile to myself. Richard has to appreciate this. I can see that M. is exhausted, how haggard his face looks in the dark. The work he does is only seasonal, but when it is on, it is full-on , and there's never much of a break and even less privacy. The cabins are full of passengers; the crew is left to sleep outside, wherever they can find space. It's a hard job, and poorly paid. I am glad that we are able to offer this period of respite, some peace and quiet amidst the non-stop hustle.

Conversation is a bit awkward, since M.'s English is slow and painful, and Richard has no Turkish. I wind up playing the role of translator half of the time. Eventually we find our rhythm, and talk on topics known to both...sailing and the sea. M. inspects the boat and is duly impressed, daydreaming aloud about how someday he hopes to have a similar boat and sail the world. Then we sink into silence, sipping our beers, each lost in our private thoughts. M., I suddenly realize, has dozed off while sitting upright. The poor man is exhausted. Let him sleep, I think...but when Richard sees that he is sleeping, something odd happens. "You have to wake him up!" he tells me. "Let's just let him rest a bit, can't we?" "No, you have to wake him up; he has to go!" "But why does he have to go....?" I query, really trying to understand this. "He has a job, he has responsibilities...he can't stay here!" Thinking to myself that M.'s responsibilities are nobody's business but his own, and suddenly feeling really pissed off I am being made to evict a visitor who is clearly exhausted and in need of some rest, tears spring to my eyes. "I can't do it," I say, leaning on my time spent in Turkey, explaining how it's just not the culture to send your guests away, especially guests who are sleeping, guests who came in the dark. "Well, it's not my culture, but it is my boat," he responds, and I'm horrified by the coldness of the response. "Come on, wake him up. It's time for him to go."

There is no point in arguing. Richard has clearly made up his mind on the point, and I am only a guest, so what can I say? With tear-streaked face, I shake M. awake and tell him he has to go, emphasizing with an icy stare in Santa Claus' direction that it is not my decision. M. is groggy but understanding, and leaving the uncomsumed beer with us, slips over the side of the boat and is gone before I realize he's going. Richard, who was below deck at the time, does a bad job of feigning disappointment that he didn't get to say goodbye. I'm disgusted, wishing I weren't here, wanting only to get off the damn boat and be with people I like and respect. Moments later, with a cheeriness that belies the fact that anything distressing just happened, Richard suggests a swim, sans clothes, of course, and disgust is added to my anger. Making M. leave had nothing to do with his work or his responsibilities, but only about Richard's selfish desire to go naked swimming without any third parties present.

Eventually I strip down and dive in, but on the opposite side of the boat. At first I refuse to swim at all; I'm too royally pissed off. But then, contemplating the situation a little, my wiser self tells me that there are two different issues here that need to be separated: one, my feelings towards Richard. Two, the fact that I am in a spectacularly beautiful place with glowing phosophorescence that lights up when you touch it. To not swim is to penalize myself. I can still swim and not like Richard...which is exactly what I do, gliding in the darkness, keeping as far from him as possible. Slowly, the beauty of the night and the magnificent color makes me relax, even putting a hint of a smile on my face. There is much that is beautiful in the universe, I remind myself for the umpteenth time...and it is on this that we must focus.

Morning is limpid, windless. We motor slowly to the Göcek harbor, where I am scheduled to disembark and he plans to pick up his daughter, visiting Turkey for the first time. I have gathered from our various conversations that their relationship is not good, and that he takes a rather judgmental stance towards her chosen life path. Maybe the guy's just an asshole, I think, causing me to wonder again, is it always those people who win? Who wind up with the money and the toys? Do nice guys, in fact, finish last? From where I stand, it sure looks that way.

Göcek is hot. The town is full of the beautıful, over-confident, white-wearing yachting set. As gorgeous as their lives look, I am glad that I am not among their numbers. Maybe it's that you have to have some kind of character deficiency to wind up in this ultra-material life. Certainly I can't help but think that if you didn't have that deficiency in the first place, it would be difficult not to acquire it when surrounded with constant luxury and I trying to justify, to make myself okay with the lifestyle I've got? Maybe. But I feel interestingly okay as I shoulder my backpack and head towards the main road. Enough leisure, already. Time to do something important, even if all that amounts to is cleaning my house or writing to a dear friend. As I wait by the side of the road for busses that will ultimately take me back to Izmir, my phone beeps with a text message. It is M. "My dear, don't worry about me, everything is okay. It was good to see you." And then, quoting a lyric from a Turkish art music song: "One day we'll meet again for sure...this cannot remain half finished." I have to concede that I haven't resolved the issue that I set out to two weeks ago. But I've had some interesting, thought-provoking experiences. I have a relationship with this lovely person, whatever may come of it. And, finally cutting myself some slack for a moment, I remember what somebody or other said recently: "Relax. If a decision is that hard to make, it means you're not ready to make it." Enough. It's time to go home.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tales from the Road - Lycia, Day 10 (Wednesday)

Ah, how time slips's been four months since my last post -- can that be true?! I've felt too empty, tired and worn down to write anything for so long. It's a pity, though, that I stopped the tale of my trip before I got to the happier part of it. Although it has been quite a while, since I still have the draft I started all those moons ago, I thought I might as well finish the account of what happened. Read on...


Today will not be a waste. I'm going to get out, explore, talk to people (no psychos, please), enjoy. The day starts with a visit to Özsüt, Turkey's dessert chain that's about as ubiquitous as Bank of America but not quite as much so as Starbucks, and justifiably famous for their fabulous milk desserts. At this time of the morning, it's not the desserts I'm after, but the coffee. Not Nescafe ... real coffee, oddly difficult to find in the country that introduced the stuff to Europe. Served in a French press with a pitcher of cream on the side, it's a little taste of heaven. Further confirmation of my theory that the secret to happiness lies in having less of everything: when we do get whatever it is we want, we really appreciate it.

Sipping my coffee on the wharf, I ponder the day ahead. What will it Exploring the Lycian tombs carved into the cliffs above the town? Back to Ölüdeniz for another day of self-pampering? I decide on shopping and beach, and start off with a trip through the pedestrian shopping area, as much to hunt for worldly delights as to say hello to the many shop-keepers and restaurateurs who have gradually become my friends.

A chat and a glass of tea at the rug shop with Mustafa, who is despondent at the lack of sales recently, and who isn't cheered by my 'look at the bright side' reflection that at least, in his line of work, no matter how bad business is, he will always have these glorious rugs to sit, sleep on and look at.

Then it's a walk past the open courtyard, where I once beat leather-shop-owner Mehmet at a game of backgammon (thereby earning his simultaneous ire and admiration), and past the hanging garden restaurant that serves mediocre food for high prices, but seems to be quite popular amongst the hefty, overtanned, over forty British ladies' set. I have to admit, it's a charming setting, and I've even frequented the place more than once for the atmosphere, despite knowing I'd be disappointed by the food.

At this particular restaurant the headwaiter, whom I've come to know, wishes me a good day and asks where I'm headed. When I mention my thoughts of revisiting Ölüdeniz, he concurs that while it's probably the most paradisical setting imaginable, at this time of day and year, Allah! Too crowded. Not nice. Why don't you go to Şövalye Island? he suggests. It's tiny and quiet, and there's good swimming to be had. I'm intrigued. I'd seen the signs for ferries to the island, but had never given much thought to where it was or what it might be like. Having seen pretty much all of Fethiye and its surrounds, isn't it time to hit somewhere new? And thus my plan is changed, and my life, in a minor way at least, is changed.


I'm waylaid on my search for the boat taxi by all the loitering boat trip touts who are bored silly at this time of day and eager to strike up a chat. One eccentric-seeming elderly fellow is particularly intriguing, and I wind up accepting an invitation onto his boat to partake of blood-red cherry juice pulled straight from the freezer. Marvelous in the heat.

Sufi is a self-employed yacht captain. Living on a wooden gulet that he owns himself, he makes his living by chatting up the spontaneous tourist and taking them wherever they are inclined to go. His boat is powered with solar panels, and he tells me that between this and the fish he catches daily, his living costs are next to nothing. And the money his passengers pay goes straight to him, not to a blood-sucking agency that does none of the work and gets most of the money. I tell him about my captain, about the way the agencies make him work like a dog all season long, and at the end make sorry excuses about why they cannot pay, tell him how it infuriates me that he is the one working so hard, having no privacy, getting little sleep, and getting nothing to show for it. Sufi concurs that the life of a commercial gulet captain is onerous, to put it mildly. During the season, he says, forget it. Someone in that line of work is a zombie; they have nothing to give to anyone. I find this admission amazingly comforting, having struggled so long with my own insecurities combined with M.'s reticence, wondering what I am doing wrong, why he isn't giving more of himself, his emotions, his time. Hearing from an independent source about the rigors of his job, I suddenly feel hugely isn't me, after all, it's the grind, he means well, and in fact, to hear Sufi tell it, he's been doing pretty well by me.
Nope, says Sufi, the only way to do this work is to own your own boat. Eliminate the middle man. I may not be rich, he says, but my working hours are humane, and I actually get to keep the money I work for. Visions begin to dance in my head of the boat I wish I could buy for M., the life I wish I could offer him. Whether we are together or not -- I just so want to help the man.

I bid a reluctant goodbye to Sufi, having thoroughly enjoyed his company and our conversation, but needing to get on with the business of discovering the island. The boat taxi is leaving just as I arrive at the dock, and only the shouts of the ticket-seller on land bring the boatsman back to the wharf to pick me up. It's a long, flat wooden fishing boat that takes the motley collection of eight or so of us to the island. The distance can't be much -- the island sits smack in the center of Fethiye bay, which is not enormous; but the putt-putt two-stroke motor of the boat moves us at a glacial pace across the bay, making the distance seem vast.

Finally we are deposited at a shabby-looking concrete pier jutting out from an unkempt-looking beach and some not-terribly-pristine looking water. A hill rises up from just behind the beach, with a narrow concrete stairway breaking a path through the tall grass. I set off up the hill, thinking the water on the other side might be clearer and more suitable for swimming.

It's a funny place, this island. There is no real street to speak of -- not that one is necessary, given that the place is the size of a postage stamp and there ae no cars. There is only a well-trodden path through the grass down the backbone of the island, and one transecting the island's narrow breadth. This is the one I follow, hoping to get to the side that faces the open sea and the sunsets, wishing for clear waters and a view of the passing pleasure boats in the distance.

The beach I find is an interesting place. Half pebbles, half shells. The water clear and calm. There isn't a soul on the beach; the only signs of life I see are a group of travelers on a gulet who have stopped at this cove for a swim. I stand on the beach and strip off my clothes, wading into the clear water with the rocky, seashelly bottom in my water shoes. Putting on my goggles and swimming a slow circle of the cove, I am astounded by the quantity of shells I see. They are not such a common thing in Turkey, at least not in the areas I have swum, and here they are by the thousand...I start scooping up handfuls, collecting them until they start to float through my fingers. As always, I am fascinated looking at these various and intricate homes, marveling yet again at the marvelous diversity and beauty of the universe. Another plunge in, and this time my focus is on the fish. Amazing creatures! Not the tiny silver small fry one sees everywhere, but large, meal-sized fish, a few as long as my forearm, feeding on microorganisms at the bottom of the sea. I am mesmerized by one long, fat fish that sports a bright spattering of red polka-dots, interrupted by a red line, followed again by red poka-dots, all on a dull silver background. What beauty!

After swimming, there is time for a bask in the sun, lying on my stomach, warmed by beach pebbles, sifting through the rocks with my fingers as I wait for my suit to dry, feeling utterly relaxed and content.

Then it's exploration time. Throwing on the sarong over the bikini, I flip-flop up the small grassy path to the wider grassy path that runs the long way on the island. The place cannot be described as charming or idyllic. There is an aura of gradual neglect that pervades it, a subtle sense of sadness that I feel but whose source I cannot pinpoint. The few houses I see are the usual concrete blocks so sadly prevalent in Turkey. As in the rest of the country, people sit on balconies and sip tea, some chat peaceably and some argue just like everywhere else. Some part of me wonders, you could easily have made this your paradise...why on earth didn't you? I wander on down the path, passing increasingly opulent-looking houses to my right -- the right side, the sunset side, the view-of-the-open-sea side. I stop when an elderly man, out trimming his rhododendron hedge in a painfully miniscule Speedo, greets me in perfect English. It would be perfect, of course -- because the man turns out to be English. A brawny, wild-grey-haired, Speedo-wearing, clipper-wielding Brit, who is, it is immeditely obvious, randier than a sailor on three-day leave, but is nonetheless entertaining to listen to. Still, I have certain objectives. I have to, for example, get to the end of the island, the rocky cliff past which all the gulets glide on the home stretch, the point upon which I, like an impatient Penelope, would await my captain, perhaps waving a handkerchief to draw his eye up to the top of the cliff.

This particular journey takes approximately two minutes (The island itself is a paltry one kilometer long by .36 kilometers wide.) The path doesn't go quite to the edge where one can see the sea and the passing ships, and so,determined to get this view, I scramble around in the thorn thickets in bikini and flip-flops until I am successful. Scratched and bloodied, but successful.

On the return trip, having narrowly sidestepped a bees' nest and a nasty patch of thistles, I encounter the wild-haired British gardener, only this time he is wearing a decent pair of shorts. We chat for a while before I realize that this is not actually the same man -- I am at his neighbor's house! It only dawns on me when the first man -- the Brit -- appears from his house to deliver a bottle of wine to the man I am talking to.

The Brit -- let's call him Guy (since that's his name) -- seems horrified to see me chatting with his neighbor, who is now (if not before) officially 'The Enemy.' Encroaching on his territory. Talking to The Girl. There is an immediate mood shift. Guy turns sullen, muttering 'you still owe me for the last bottle of wine,' quickly handing it over and then facing me with charm turned up full blast: "I've got a great wine cellar in my basement. Would you care to come over and see it?" This is awkward. I have just been invited inside by my newest acquaintance, Hilmi, and although I don't owe any particular loyalty to either of them, on the other hand, I don't want to upset anyone, either. Gingerly I tell him that it would be lovely, time allowing, but that Hilmi has invited me to come in for wine and sunset and I've already agreed...(privately, I'm thinking that Hilmi seems like less of a potential pervert and wack job than Guy, anyway.) Acknowledging that he's lost this round, a crestfallen Guy turns and leaves the scene, throwing out one last appeal: "If you'd like to swim our side of the island, just come on over and use my stairs. I'll give you a towel and you can dive off of my private pier." (Note: there is a significant stretch of this tiny island to which access is limited to the people living there. This part of the island is effectly inaccessible cliffs -- the only access is via stairways descending from people's houses.) It sounds appealing, I have to admit, especially at this time of the day, when their side of the island is the sunny side. Thinking I can maybe appease both parties, I tell Hilmi that I'd really enjoy a dip prior to wine, and spend the next half hour bobbing in the dark blue water off of Guy's pier. I bring my own towel. No need for unnecessary complications!

The sun is hanging low in the sky as I climb out of the sea. It has been a beautiful day, and it seems that things are looking up for me on this trip. I sit on the pier for a while in the glow of the afternoon sun, drying myself and watching the boats come in from their day tours, like chickens to the roost.

Hilmi's house is gorgeous, all high ceilings and wood and terra-cotta, done shades of beige and cream. I use the shower to get the salt off (I don't know why this seems so comfortable -- perhaps I should be more cautious, but somehow it feels perfectly natural and safe.) Later we sit in the living room where Hilmi tells me about his work. He is, or was, a journalist. Now semi-retired, working on a comfortable two-piece per month agreement with a national newspaper, he covers topics like the Kurds and the religious right in Turkey. It is a delight to talk to him. Literate and well-spoken, he knows three languages and a great deal about the world. It has been a long time since I've been able to discuss important topics on a deep level in my own language. I dive in, and without my realizing it, the conversation stretches on and on. He shows me some of his writings, good by any account, but especially impressive since he writes in English and it is not his first language. Then, seeing that the sun is about to sink behind the island in front of us, he prepares some fresh fruit, pours cold glasses of white wine, and move to the balcony to better enjoy the view. They call the island Kiziladasi (Red Island) because of the particularly vibrant shade of red it takes on at sunset. Watch...

Sure enough, the sun is soon silhouetting the entire island in a fiery red that seems to grow increasingly more intense. I wonder what it would be like to witness this show of light and shadow every day at sunset. Would a person get bored? I have trouble imagining it. We continue our conversation with our gazes turned to the sun, talking mostly about his life experiences, about working as a journalist in Turkey. My imagination is sparked...what if? what if?? It is easy to fall into the belief that in order to live abroad, one has to teach English (unless, of course, one is sent somewhere by some multi-national corporation). It is something of an eye-opener to realize that there are other things one could do, that teaching is just one of many options. I do enjoy writing...maybe, I start to think, this journalism thing could be an option...?

We are interrupted by a voice from below us. A man is standing on his lawn, one house over, waving at us. Hilmi tells me that he is a wealthy Istanbul industrialist whose wife has just opened a modern art museum in Istanbul. Curiouser and curiouser, I think... Come on down, have a drink, the man urges. To Hilmi's inquiring what do you think? look, I reply in the enthusiastic affirmative. The theme of the day seems to be go with the flow and reap its rewards. How many more interesting people might I meet today? What other opportunities await?

I'm a little self-conscious about going over in a t-shirt, sarong and flip-flops, but then again, I think 'at least if they like me, it's for who I am, not what I look like.' And if they don't? Well, I'll probably never see them again, anyway. Mehmet Ali is a riot, cracking one joke after another, making me feel instantly at home. I can easily understand why he has been successful in the business world. He asks Hilmi and I what kind of cocktail we would like, and I suggest that he invent a 'cocktail du jour,' something really unique, and serve the same thing to everyone. He likes the idea, and disappears into the kitchen, coming back 10 minutes later with his first prototype for our testing: a fizzy mixture of truffle liqueur and champagne. Not bad at all! As we sip them on the revolving chaise lounges on the edge of the cliff over the sea, I think that I could maybe, possibly, get used to this lifestyle.

Mehmet Ali's wife, Şerife, appears on the scene along with the second cocktail. A robust and lively woman whose conversation sparkles with wit and humanity, I immediately like her. She opens her kitchen to Hilmi and me, offering us a range of gorgeous mezze, and encouraging us to stay for the main course, a whopping 9-kilogram Lagos fish that will be baked in the oven. Receiving this much unbridled hospitality is overwhelming. These people don't know the first thing about me, and yet they are opening their house to me, bringing me into their kitchen, feeding and engaging with me...

What makes the hospitality all the more marvelous is that at some point during the evening, the doorbell rings, and a well-dressed Turkish-American couple enter. I then learn that tonight is a special dinner party for the board members of Mehmet Ali's company, and that ultimately this is a business function. These people have flown in from all corners of the country, some perhaps even from out of the country. Even more amazing that they didn't look askance at my dropping by! As more and more guests arrive, I meet people of various nationalities in all ranges of work. It is again an eye-opener to see that there are foreigners living here in Turkey who are businessmen and women, journalists, lawyers, and many other things -- English teaching is not the only option.

I am happy, happier than I have felt in a long while. It seems as though my life is rich in good and interesting people from all walks of life. Doors of possibility that I had thought closed now appear wide open, requiring only my initiative to walk through them. I wish I could stay and talk to these people for hours, plumb their depths, remind myself of my own forgotten self -- but knowing when to say 'when' is important.

As the fish exits the oven and the guests -- including Hilmi and me -- are called to dinner, we make our polite excuses, expressing the wish that we will meet again. I really hope we do.

At this late hour, the taxi-boat service is no longer running. Come on, says Hilmi, I'll take you home in my boat. Better yet, you drive -- I'm tired. And so it is that we quietly motor back to the Fethiye harbor in the darkness, Hilmi asleep in the back, me at the helm. I am tired but elated by the whole wonderful, unexpected turn of events, convinced that I have made good on my promise to make the most of this day.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

To-Do List

  • buy ribbons, beads and wire from the bazaar for Christmas ornaments
  • Shop for some new work clothes
  • hike in the woods, reconnect with nature
  • finalize bayram plans
  • save the planet, or at least a small part of it
  • connect with friends -- enough hermitude
  • find a way to make life richer and more varied
  • laugh
  • appreciate every breath
  • plan for the future, at least a little
  • come to grips with mortality
  • learn to play an instrument
  • dance

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tales from the Road - Lycia,Day 9 (Tuesday)

It's the jackhammer in my head and a texture vaguely remniscent of a cotton wool ball in the mouth that wakes me up on Tuesday. Having gotten my evening off to such a promising start, how did I come to have this whopper of a hangover today?

It all started innocently enough. Dinner for one at a lovely restaurant of gardens and fountains, chit-chat with the charming, handsome waiter, then a stop off at the Deep Blue bar, which has been serving a bit like the Greek chorus to my Tragedy in Fethiye. Most nights have been punctuated by a visit here, some long, others perfunctory, but I have developed a camaraderie with the characters who work there, their quirky personalities, their nuggets of wisdom. The Deep Blue wasn't the problem. My friend Yasemin and I met there and caught up over a beer, and then she, having to work the following morning, took off. I stayed for another and chatted with Berat and Behiye and Cem, but finally the particularly atrocious flavor of hard rock they were playing finally drove me out of my seat and into the street.

Might as well go back to the hotel, I figure, despite still feeling cheerful and energized. What else am I going to do on my own? On the way to the hotel, I pass a restaurant where I'd stopped for coffee earlier in the day. I'd been talking with the manager, Tarik, about paragliding (I decided I'd finally worked up the nerve to do it) and I was picking his brain about the best companies to go with, and how to get a good price. Like every other person in Turkey whom you ask for information about something, he says he's got a friend in the business, he can hook me up for a good price, he'll just need to talk to his friend and get back to me.

So I'm strolling past the restaurant and see him there, decide to stop in to find out what was up with paragliding. Sit down, have a drink; what'll it be? Whatever you're having, I say, and a moment later a vodka Red Bull makes an appearance. No developments on the paragliding front, I soon find out. Whatever...

The speed with which the man can down a mixed drink leaves me dumbfounded. And then I make my first mistake -- I try to keep up, swigging a great gulp even though it's mostly vodka, I soon discover. Out on the blackness of the bay, there is an enormous, piratey-looking hulk of ship lit up in blue neon light, and there seems to be music playing. Curious, I ask Tarik what it is, for I haven't seen it before. Turns out it's a new disco -- on the water.

"Want to go see it?"
"Why not?"

And before I know it, we're piled into the motor boat and zooming through the cool night air out to the boat in the bay. It's an interesting concept: climbing up a steep ladder onto an old wooden ship in order to go dancing. I like it. The wait staff are all dressed as pirates, complete with eye patches, swords and sashes. The treatment he gets makes it obvious that my host is a VIP of sorts, which is quite all right with me. I can't honestly remember the last time a man took me out and bought me drinks, or dinner, or both...bring it on.

The drinking sprints continue, and I'm holding my own like a champ. I even get out on the dance floor with a gregarious group of Dutch people who are urging us on. Tarik wisely stays seated, while I practice spins that nearly send me flying off into the inkly blackness. (Tip: a downward sloping deck, combined with too many cocktails, is not the best place to attempt to rediscover one's dancing prowess.) Drunk or no drunk, I have a hilarious time, dancing like I haven't in years, liberated by the fact that no one here knows me.

I don't remember leaving, don't remember the cool wind on my face on the boat ride back. Have no idea how I got to the hotel room. How I undressed myself is no mystery -- I didn't! But at least I managed to get the shoes off.

So this morning is the usual litany of curses and self-beratement about the stupidity of drinking to excess, the why don't I ever learn self-flagellation, the oh my god I think I'd rather be hit by a bus than suffer this agony....

The day is pretty much a bust, dedicated as it is to surviving the hangover.

It's a quiet afternoon and evening in Fethiye, mostly spent wishing I weren't such a colossal idiot.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tales from the Road - Lycia, Day 8 (Monday)

When I awake, my spirits are languishing at the bottom of a deep, dark well. The somber thoughts that followed me into sleep the night before have festered into something dark and ugly overnight. This morning I am stupified by an overwhelming sense of futility and purposelessness in my life, by the sense that this earthly path is far too long, tedious and sorrowful. The feeling is debilitating and terrifying. What the hell am I doing here in this hotel room? In Turkey? In my life, for that matter? How many years have dripped away while I obsessed about the things that really didn't matter; what do I have to show for any of it, except for a growing list of ex-boyfriends and some really nice photographs? I can feel Depression take my arm and gently but firmly begin to pull me down, down, down the old path, whispering to me in its familiar seductive tones. Gritting my teeth, I practice the drill I have grown so familiar with over the years, the emergency-brake self-talk in a desperate attempt to stop the further downward descent...but I feel so precarious, my grip on the sunlit world so very tenuous. Long minutes go by where I bury my face in the pillow and breathe deeply and try to stop the crash...I don't want to even move...and it is finally only the conscious calling on memories of triumph over adversity in my life -- marathons, mountain climbs, honors classes, public speaking -- that I can finally feel the strength and perseverence that lies buried somewhere in my soul. Holding tight to that, I get up.

The courage doesn't last long. When I emerge into the breakfast room, E., the manager of the pension, whom I'd met before and didn't like much, takes a long look at me and says, "You look old."

(....!) A long pause while I try to control the sudden white-hot rage that boils up from my spleen and makes we want to scratch this man's eyes out.

"Excuse me?"

"You look old," he repeats. Oh my god. Suddenly in my head it's a cacophany of racing ER doctors and defibrillators and shouts of "She's crashing!!" Forget the marathons and the mountain climbs and the honors classes! I mean, that was all about accomplishing a specific goal.... The analogy doesn't fit! I cheered myself up under false pretenses!! We're talking about life here, babe, which you can't 'accomplish;' it's a different sort of game altogether, you can do it well or badly...and oh my god mine is slip-sliding away, and I suspect I may be doing it very badly indeed...and what's more, I look OLD. Might as well go hurl myself off a cliff now.

"Ah. Thank you so kindly. You are indeed a gentleman."

"I just mean, like, you like you haven't been taking care of yourself."

"Once again, thank you so much."

"Hey, come on, I'm your friend, you want me to lie to you?"

To my surprise, tears have sprung to my eyes. "Didn't your mother ever tell you 'if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all'? And for the record, you are not my friend," I add, with more vehemence than I had expected.

And then, not knowing what to do with this sudden impotent rage born from grief (when I lived in San Francisco, a co-worker told me once, "baby, you got the existential blues") that has surfaced out of nowhere, I march up to the counter, wiping the corners of my eyes, and ask for the bill. I want to check out. I want to get out of this hotel, out of this town, out of my own life if possible.

The man is shocked by my reaction -- I had told him that I planned to stay a while. His friend, B., tries to console me, look, he didn't mean anything's just a language problem. Really, he's a good guy. And you look great, by the way.

The words fall on deaf ears. I want out. I don't need to put up with this f*cker, not today, not ever. Nor anyone else who makes me look at my life and hate it, for that matter. I pay and leave, having not even breakfasted.

It is time to get out of Dodge. My one thought as I trudge down the street with my duffle slung over one shoulder is to get to the bus station, get to Izmir, get to bed and sleep for about a week, to sleep until I can wake up and manage to find something to smile at.

On the way to the bus station, I pass a hotel that I've passed a zillion times before, and it occurs to me to wonder why I've always chosen to stay at the crappy pension on the hill with its overinflated prices and managers who like to insult their customers. I wonder what prices elsewhere are like...and so just out of sheer, idle curiosity, I pop into this hotel, where the staff is gracious and smiling, and, it turns out, the rooms are 10 YTL cheaper, and have sea views, balconies and air can I resist? Before I have a chance to overanalyze it, I say I'll take it, and once again, my homeward-bound intentions are derailed. Miraculously, too, the combination of the smiles, great prices and views act like a vaporizer on my black mood until all that's left are a few scattered little puffy gray clouds.

It is sometimes a beautiful thing to be a grown-up, with a steady job and paycheck. This big white bed, the lovely harbor view, the heavenly A/C...I realize suddenly that if I want, I can have this until the end of the holiday, when I REALLY have to get back to earn more money. I stretch out on the crisp, blindingly white sheet, the sea-light pouring in through the balcony doors and the A/C whispering sweet, cool nothings into my ear...I will sleep today, I will thoroughly justify the rent of this room, I will spread on lotions and mud masks and paint my toes and read books and wear lingerie and I will, goddammit, I WILL feel good.

Amazingly, I succeed. The day is a delicious cycle of intermittant dozing, book-reading, lotion-applying, sauntering out onto the balcony in my lingerie, feeling totally happy. Totally. Happy. Unusual for me. But not altogether unpleasant. Welcome to my bi-polar life.

I also take the opportunity to do a little thinking, which is pretty much impossible to do fruitfully when in the grips of depression. M. is a yacht captain. Perhaps that's one of the reasons I'm drawn to him. There's something incredibly appealing in the idea of man as captain -- the man who is in charge, who knows where he's going and makes decisions with cool expertise and authority. Captaining, obviously, is a skill that I admire, and yet it occurs to me, sprawled out on my cool white bed, that perhaps I have never quite donned the captain's cap in my own life. Certainly I have traveled and taken certain career risks, but at the same time, it seems that I have always depended upon the idea of the MAN who would rescue me, make it all so that even if it all went KABLOOEY in my face, I'd still have the safety net: the MAN, the man who loved me, the man who would take care of me. And it was always, which man? This one, or the other one, or the one I haven't met yet? Where will they take me? Did I ever stop to think about where I wanted to take myself? Or did I unwittingly buy into the fairy tale every little girl knows by heart from the age of four, where the prince on the white horse comes and saves her from a life of hardship? What we (or I, anyway) failed to ask was, where did he take her? What did her life look like then? The story tells us she was happy -- but what made her so? Her rich and varied life? We are given no such details, and therefore it is dangerously easy to make the unconscious assumption that handome man + money (he was a prince, after all) + white horse (or yacht) = happiness. Oh my god, was I that much of a sucker?

Lying under the heaven of the A/C, thinking these thoughts, an entirely new feeling begins to come over me: here I am, in a hotel room paid for with my own money, thinking of two men but belonging to none, and suddenly, strangely, I am okay with that. Happy in my own skin and glad that I am alive, that I am here, and that I have a good job that enables me to finance all of this. Good stuff. I could go outside now and talk to anybody; I could go out and salsa dance, dive from great heights into aquamarine sea, sit and drink a beer, alone, and watch the sun in its marvelous trajectory across the sky, and be quite content throughout it all. Wow... is this what it means to be a grown-up, I suddenly wonder? Being comfortable in your own skin? Acknowledging that you alone are in the driver's seat?

That evening, as I wander about the restaurants, bars and beaches, I enjoy this new sensation that is the gentle weight of the captain's cap on my head. I'm in charge of this life, more than anyone else on this planet. And hey, I'm kind of starting to like that idea.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tales from the Road - Lycia, Day 7 (Sunday)

He is gone in the wee hours, as I am only half-awake. There are hazy goodbyes, but fortunately I am too groggy to feel the pang of separation...I awake mid-morning, alone in my hotel room. Slowly sitting up, I say good morning to Loneliness for the umpteenth time. And then I begin to ponder what to do with myself today.

It's been a week. I could, and probably should, go back to Izmir. Then again, why should I, really? Because simply hanging out in various towns and hotels with no particular agenda reeks of irresponsibility? Because my American soul that finds virtue in work and sin in idleness (yes, I've tried to escape this particular paradigm but the vestiges linger) won't allow for plain ol' hanging out with no particular objective? I decide to banish these voices to a basement in my mind. Life is short. I am here, in good health, with about as few commitments to anything or anyone as I am ever likely to have...why not stay until I'm good and ready to return?

To be honest, it takes a little psyching up to get myself to this point. I've been hanging around in Fethiye waiting for The Man, and he finally shows, only to disappear again...what now? Another week of waiting? The town, full of tourists and the people who cater to them, feels empty now without him. It is very tempting to stay in bed, to wrap myself up in the blanket of melchancholy that has become so worn and so familiar to me, and doze in its folds for a while...but this time I elect not to. I will get dressed. I will go out, make some new friends and have new adventures; break the cycle.


The lagoon at Ölüdeniz, on the far side of the peninsula on which Fethiye is located, is probably the most photographed stretch of coastline in all of Turkey. A long, white pebble beach borders clear turquoise waters, and the backdrop is of majestic pine-covered mountains that rise abruptly and dramatically from the coastline. This is also the paragliding center of Turkey, and at any given time, you can look up and see dozens of floating black specks in the air, curving, twirling, gradually descending until they take on the contours of a parachute and human form. It looks both exhilarating and terrifying. Perhaps someday I will do it...looking up at those marvelous soaring figures, I can't help but see a metaphor for my own life, thinking how just as I am too afraid to paraglide, so am I shying from the really big, and (if they don't kill you, in which case you won't know any better) exhilharating risks in life...but enough, already.

Despite having been warned that it will be horrendously crowded, I decide to spend the day in Ölüdeniz. It is simply the most spectacular setting for a swim and a nap that you could possibly envision. Upon arriving and paying the 3 lira to get into the National Park where the beach is located, I discover that the people I talked to were right: nearly every inch of beach is covered with lounge chairs and umbrellas...this is not the place to go for peaceful meditation. All the better. I am in a high-risk mood right now, and could easily fall off some crumbling emotional precipice. It's best not to leave too much room for sitting and thinking all alone. I need people.

The day is spent pleasurably sunbathing, swimming, reading, sleeping. The beach boy who rents me my lounge chair and umbrella is curious about me, and because I am alone, and because I can speak Turkish, he comes over frequently to chat. I don't mind, so I am feeling open and mellow, and I know that it will do me good to meet new people, however temporary the connection.

His name is Hasan, and he comes from a little village near Antalya. He perches on the edge of the neighboring lounge chair, looking down at me with a handsome, suntanned, impossibly youthful face. The conversation is pleasurable: he is curious about my culture, I am interested his origins, what it means for him to have grown up in this country. When I leave in the late afternoon, he suggests that we meet that evening in Fethiye and go out on the town. It's a deal, I say.


When we meet in Fethiye that evening, I am surprised by his height, or rather lack thereof. I tend to be taller than the majority of Turks, but this case is ridiculous: I am probably close to a foot taller, and although this is not a 'date', I still feel supremely self-conscious with him, experiencing an odd sense of guilt, as if I am taking my young son out bar-hopping. Probably I am more self-conscious because I'm pretty sure that he isn't looking at me as a mother figure.


Ahh, the burden of youth. Much though I sometimes curse the aging process, I would not for one minute voluntarily turn back the clock and relive that particular uncertainty, insecurity and inability to express -- or even know -- what I really want that characterizes so much of the younger years. We spend part of the evening at a bar I don't really like, too loud for real conversation, the look on his face making it clear that although he doesn't really like it, either, he thinks I do. Not an alcohol drinker, he drinks because I do, just to go along...and keeps asking me if I am having a good time, what I want to do next...everything hangs upon my whim, he has no wishes or opinions of his own, but is entirely pliable to ME...a fact that I find entirely disconcerting.

There is a critical moment where he needs to get the last bus back to Ölüdeniz, where he lives, or be stuck in Fethiye for the night. He tentatively posits that if, by chance, I were to want to keep our conversation going, he would be willing to spend the night in Fethiye, even if it meant having to sleep on a bench somewhere. I put my hand on his shoulder, look him dead in the eye, and lay it all out. Our conversation is great. I am happy to continue it, but absolutely nothing is going to happen between us. Furthermore, if he elects to stay in Fethiye, he must know that he may NOT stay in my room at the hotel. No problem, he says...for the chance to talk longer, I will sleep outside if need be...

At the hotel it is somewhat of a different story (anybody surprised??). He balks at the cushioned kiosks outside the hotel that I point out as possible places to lay a weary head. Wheedles that if I let him come in, nothing will happen, I swear, I won't even touch you, we'll just share a bed...I lose my temper rapidly and say look, you knew the terms of the deal when you accepted it, please don't piss me off. You are NOT sharing my bed. This, I must admit, is hard for me. Being a hard-ass, insisting that some poor soul sleep outside without so much as a blanket (there isn't even one in my room to give him); I have always verged towards being overly tender-hearted; always had trouble toeing the hard line, generally wind up giving in when I shouldn't. But this is the new Me. This time, much as it pains me, I will not budge. I will NOT be manipulated by someone who knew the score going in. Wishing him a good night, I go to my hotel room. I lock the door behind me and sink onto the bed, relief coursing through every synapse that I am alone...or at least, alone, as in not-with-him. Memory of my recent reconnection with M. suddenly comes rushing back, and I curl up clutching a pillow, reliving that almost dream-like memory, so fleeting and surreal, dreamy, romantic, intense, that I wonder briefly whether it really happened at all...just as I am drifting off to sleep with that in my head, my phone beeps with text message from Hasan:

I never got the chance to share your bed, or kiss your flower-scented skin, but nevertheless I am happy to have spent the evening with you. Sweet dreams...

Suddenly the whole cycle of love/lust/infatuation/longing whirls before my mind's eye, and I feel supremely tired, like Sysyphus pushing the same damn rock uphill for the gazillionth time. When it comes to relationships, isn't one always wanting more than the other? It is a constant Push-Me-Pull-You of wanting and retreating, desiring and escaping. Do we ever really arrive at a point where we both want each other equally? If so, how long can we expect it to last?

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Tales from the Road - Lycia, Day 6 (Saturday)

Most of Saturday is sleep. I rise late, leave my hotel, meander past the marina on a quest for coffee. Then my heart skips a beat: above the trees that separate the road from the marina, the wind ruffles an Austrian flag off the stern of a gulet. His is the only boat in the marina that does not fly the Turkish flag. He's back! The urge to run straight there is nearly irresistable; I know somehow that if I can just stand there, facing him, look him in the eye, everything will be fine. But from somewhere in my pathetic, groveling soul, I manage to dig up a shred of self-esteem...and I walk on by. There have been no phone calls, no hey, I'm here, come by..., and so I will not go. I will not go.

I don't go too far, though. Plopping down on a bench in a nearby shady park, I begin to write furiously, hoping to review and process all that's happened on this trip. Maybe half an hour goes by. A child's cry causes me to look up, and by sheer, stupid happenstance, at that moment I see Hasan, M.'s nephew (who also works on the boat) walking directly past me. He does not see me, but I feel obliged to greet him. The customary how are you's and how's it goings, then a Why aren't you at the boat with M.? and a muttered Well if he wants to, he can call me...

Hassan leaves, and I suppose must tell M. that he's met me, for fifteen minutes later my phone rings -- it's M., and he sounds genuinely glad that I'm there in Fethiye. Don't go anywhere, he says, I'm coming...wait. And so I wait. And wait. And wait. An hour goes by. I get tired of the flies that bite and the splintery bench that scratches my legs, and decide to move to a nearby restaurant to sit and drink beer, and write...and wait. Finally, close to two hours later, I see him. And it's just like the beginning all over again...the sight of him, the silly flip-flop of my heart, the jello feeling in the knees that makes me glad I'm sitting down, the stupid, instant forgiveness for everything that against my better judgment I seem to keep giving....

Spotting me, he walks straight up and enfolds me in a bear hug that seems to last for hours. I'm sorry, he breathes into my hair. And with those words, the last of my peevishness dissolves, and I am simply happy that he's there, sitting next to me.

We talk for a long, long time. Mostly about what's happened to him since I saw him, all the craziness that constitutes his job, especially so with this week's events, and the state of his health (not good). After I left, he had orders from the agency to dock at Kaş and disembark; a new captain was being sent, and he was being relieved of his duties. However, the night before, the passengers caught him packing his bags, and when they got wind of what was happening, were irate. They phoned the agency, declaring If he goes, so do we. And so the agency was left with no choice but to have him stay. In the end, the passengers were all happy with the trip, so what could the company really say? He continues to be employed...a fact that I am delighted by, but still, I cannot help but remind him, he SHOULD have told me.

We walk together a long way down the wharf. It is pleasant, walking together, and easy to forget the reason that I came here six days ago -- to separate from him. It feels so good and so easy in his presence, in spite of the fact that all my logic cells are buzzing irately that this is an impractical, impossible, untenable relationship, based on pure, chemical, pheremonal infatuation, and destined to end badly.

We stop to enjoy a laugh over some domesticated pelicans that squat on the wharf before a restaurant whose benevolent manager keeps them sedated with fish. Then we sit down to a magnificent supper, and probably some of the best fish I've ever had. There is a gypsy woman with roses; he buys the whole bunch for me. This is NOT the time to say look, you and I, we just aren't going to work..., nor do I have the inclination to...the closest I get is to say, hey, if you want to break up, just say so. DO you want to break up? (Equal parts hoping and fearing that he'll say yes.) He looks at me long and steadily, with that bottomless stillness I have always loved, big brown eyes looking deep into my own. He lights a cigarette and smokes it in that way I love to watch; in through the mouth, out through the nostrils in two graceful tendrils, gazing steadily at me all the while. There is an eternity, an abyss of silence. My hands are shaking, I can't bear it. And finally, just when I am about to speak again...Let's drop this 'breakup' topic, all right? This is an inaccurate Turkish, the meaning was more 'let's put an end to this topic,' a delightfully, maddeningly enigmatic way to say 'let's not break up,' but not in so many words, exactly. An expression more of a desire not to break up than to stay together...tell me, someone, why, oh why, do I so enjoy difficult people?? :-(

We return to the hotel, sated, happy. There is wonderful reconnection, and I realize again that I have been thrown off the track of my initial intentions; namely, to simplify my life. But for the moment, I really don't care.