Prosecards from the Edge (of a Continent)

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

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tales from the Road -- Lycia, Day 1 (Monday)

It all began as a one-week thing. The plan: go see M. on the boat, spend most of a week swimming, relaxing and thinking, then have some light talks building up to a Serious Talk, close things up nice and neatly, leave and finally reunite with the man I have been grieving over ever since I insisted that our separation was the best idea back in July of 2008. To finally begin to live again was an idea I hungered after ever more intensely. I was seeking peace and clarity of one sort or another, and so I went south, on the night bus, to see M. He had been the catalyst – not the reason, but the needed excuse for something that had occurred to me too frequently in the latter years – for my breakup with L., but he had quite unexpectedly found a place in my heart, despite my being utterly incapable of dealing with such a possibility at the time.

A year later, I am stranded with divided feelings…there is this person who found a foothold in the heartland, but as a newcomer didn’t stand much of a chance against the six-year settlement that had been established by L. What to do? It might seem the obvious solution to evict the newcomer and stick with the long-time resident, but then, there must have been a reason the long-timer and I split in the first place (M. was, after all, but a catalyst); anyway, eviction has never been my specialty.

All these things whirl through my head on the night bus, on which I am totally unable to sleep. The sadness these days…it hits me from every angle; the pain of losing L., the incredible missing and sorrow over his pain, and the anguish of feeling I have to part from this other person, for whom I have great affection, dare I say love, and who has the same for me. In all situations, someone will cry, someone will hurt. Mostly it will be me, I guess…

Jesus, why am I thinking these things? There hasn’t been a day in the last 365+ days that I haven’t cried. That must be some kind of a record, right?? Tears, misery, the hermetic lifestyle (it’s not cool to cry in front of friends, so I basically avoid them), and anyway, nobody quite gets it, no matter how eloquently I try to express it…watching days that mean absolutely nothing slip by, fighting a sense of panic that I only get one life, that I need to get on with it and live, dammit, but somehow…can’t. Which is why I’m on the bus, why I find myself sliding out into the tiny, quiet station in Kas at 5:30 in the morning, exhausted and neck-cramped and hoping for a guiding vision of some sort or another.

Kaş at 5:30 a.m. A magical time to arrive in a magical place. I love the stillness of this tiny town at this time of the day, the only signs of human habitation as one walks from the otogar to the harbor a few taxi drivers chatting quietly, a restaurant worker hosing down the pavement, a few fishermen slumbering on benches facing a silk-smooth sea not yet touched by dawn's rosy fingers. I wait on a bench, facing the sea wall made of piled boulders, the lighthouse, the sea and mountains beyond. I have such a profound sense of peace from merely being here. It is already enough....leave me on this bench another hundred years and I will be fine, just fine. Ten minutes later, the distant sound of a motor; a few minutes later, a tiny launch comes into view. It is M., bundled in a windbreaker against the morning chill. I watch, for now with an undiluted happy heart as he pulls into the marina, ties up and comes out to greet me.

He is his usual reserved self: out of respect, there are no public displays of affection. There is a brief hug, the usual kiss on both cheeks that perhaps lingers a fraction of a second longer than usual; no more. But then there is an unmistakable glint of happiness in the eye that is nearly palpable, a gentle chuck on the chin, a wink, the barely audible ‘fıstık’ and I feel happy; it is enough. It occurs to me that the idea of 'spaces in our togetherness,' mentioned by the poet Rumi, is not such bad idea after all.


I may have been his invited guest, but upon waking after a few hours’ snooze and surveying the crowd on board with a wary eye, I concluded that I was certainly not theirs. A mixed group of hyphenated Frenchmen (Turkish-French, Moroccan-French, Tunisian-French), as well as a few non-hyphenated ones, they had rented the entire boat for the week and had not been alerted to my spontaneous, apparition-from-the-mist arrival. This was pointed out to me rather belatedly. Generally, boats are rented by the cabin, not as an entire boat; therefore one does not know the people one is sailing with, and one additional passenger makes pretty much no difference to anybody. But this was different: a group of old friends from university, they had chartered the boat, and the sudden appearance of an unexplained person was strange and unsettling to them, to say the least. Thus was the day spent in awkward silence, me trying to make myself as small as possible and simultaneously attempting to ingratiate myself through friendly eye contact. In quiet-but-nice Kate fashion, I attempted interaction: I laughed at their jokes (thank God for the degree in French!), nodded sympathetically where required, but still, the lingering feeling persisted that I was unexplained to them, and that behind those cautiously welcoming eyes was the burning question, “who in the hell is this woman??!”


The ice was broken over dinner, or rather dinner preparations. M. was grilling pirzola, köfte and chicken wings (yum! yum! yum!) for dinner, and I was sitting with him, offering encouragement to the meat. A few meters off, the passengers swilled rakı and chatted, yet still the eyes strayed our way, boring holes, asking questions I would have been happy to answer…had they been asked.

Several glasses of rakı later, two of the French girls wandered over to our spot under the bare lightbulb and wafting grillsmoke. Not too surprisingly (I reflected later in light of what happened next) these were two of the French-French girls, not the hybrids. Anaeis and Marion. Marion did the talking; Anaeis stood by to lend moral support. It all started off quite charmingly, a bit of small talk, some introductions, a few polite questions about my country of origin, etc. Then we got down to brass tacks: But he never told us you were coming…yes, but, well, it was spontaneous….yes, but he should have told us, he HAD to tell us!…well, I’m sorry, really, but it didn’t seem like such a bit deal…but he said NOTHING!! He has an obligation to the passengers, this is not okay, ce n’est pas correct!! (the French are very big on correctness). Just a moment, I say, allow me to translate…

I put it to M. in Turkish: the discomfort of the passengers, the overlooked (but obligatory) nicety of alerting them of my arrival, or, even better, asking if they minded. Of course, in typical Turkish Man fashion, he was unperturbed. I’m not asking for anyone’s permission, he says, nonchalantly flipping a lamb chop. What do they think, they own the boat? Well, actually, I say, they kind of do…for a week…that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? Agency said it’s fine, he grumbles, nearly hurling a chicken wing off the boat…they think I’m going to ask permission? From them?? I’ll put then off the boat first, no questions, no arguments. So this conversation goes in circles for a while, me attempting in vain to convince him that while no, he shouldn’t have to ask permission, pretending to do so would be a much, much savvier business move. There is no give, however, and it ends in this way: Marion straightens up, looks me directly in the eye, says stiffly, we shall be on the other side of the yacht, awaiting his apology. After which, I sincerely hope that we can all enjoy ourselves together. A turn on the heel and she’s gone. M. says nothing and chucks a meatball into the embers.


My experience in my three years of living here is that generally, pigs will fly before a Turkish person will say ‘I’m sorry, I made a mistake,’ at least in so many words. The culture is very Asian in this respect; loss of face is a big deal. Apologizing implies weakness, which is unwise to own up to in a Machiavellian world. This is not to say that apologies are not made: you simply need to be aware of when you are receiving one, for they can be subtle.

I felt a twinge of pity for Marion and the group, who seemed actually nice enough if a bit rigid, waiting there in the back of the boat for M. to appear and make a public admission of his gaffe. Never in a million years, I thought. But of course they don’t know that.

What followed was indeed an apology, although I wonder how many in the group recognized it as such. I suspect that the hyphenated Frenchmen, the ones with Eastern backgrounds, probably got it. Because at the end of it all, it seemed to me that the ones without the hyphens were still looking at me/us with traces of reserve and hurt in their eyes, whereas the others seemed to have accepted us.

M. served dinner, sans issuance of a mea culpa. While they ate, we had a beer and discussed the situation again. After dinner, to my surprise, he pulls out a large bottle of single malt scotch and offers it to all of the guests. (This is also a rather big deal because any imported liquor in Turkey is astronomically expensive.) One woman prefers coffee instead, and although generally drinks consumed outside of meal hours come with a charge, he quite enthusiastically insists that it is no trouble, no charge, and voila – it is ready in the blink of an eye. He fishes around in a trunk somewhere, and what to my wondering eyes should appear but tea lights…

He lights twenty or so and places them around the boat. The effect is lovely, out there on the water under the stars, tiny flames dancing in a hint of a breeze. Soft music plays, whisky flows. People begin to relax and smile and joke. For my part, never one to interact with whole groups, I start initiating conversations with people on an individual basis. One by one, I offer small apologies for not introducing myself sooner, and then we move on to other, more interesting topics. It is fun to alternate between English, French and Turkish. The conversations are fascinating, the people engaging. Later I confer with M. briefly on the status of things. We agree that everyone seems happy. Look at me, he mutters with a chuckle, am I one to light tea lights? Tea lights, for God’s sake… he shakes his head. M., classic lifelong sailor, not hotelier, poet or entertainer; for him, tea lights on a boat is like a sweater on a dog, silly and unnecessary. It is true – for him, he has gone above and beyond. I smile, too, thinking about it. All is good…we have been accepted, good faith has been restored. Finally, yawning, we bid them a happy good night.



At 8:18 PM, Blogger 日月神教-向左使 said...

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