Prosecards from the Edge (of a Continent)

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

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Tales from the Road - Lycia, Day 5 (Friday)

It is definitely time to go, I decide upon awakening. I cannot bear, even one more time, to run the gauntlet of yes, please, hello, I love you, where are you from? that is de rigeur when I leave my hotel. I still have no idea where or how M. is, and the waiting to hear from him is making me cranky. I want out.


The bus to Fethiye is insanely, ridiculously small. It is not so much the bus itself that is small, although there's that, too, but the seats seem to have been made for children. I am sure that I am narrower than your average Turkish village woman, but even so, my hips spill over the edge of my seat and it is impossible to fit my knees into the space provided unless I hoist them up and shoehorn them in against the seat in front of me. There is a ridiculous little pillow that appears to be covered with a home-knitted tea cozy that serves to take up what little space remains, and the faux-silk draperies that line the window flap in my face, the tie that should hold them having come loose. My seatmeat, as bad luck would have it, is a hefty middle-aged woman who definitely takes up more than one seat. Our hips meld together in this tiny space, and I know these next few hours must be an exercise in disassociation of mind from body if I hope to survive. I take a deep breath.


Although I had expected the trip to Fethiye to follow the coast road, just as I had come, it seems that this time I have wound up on the yayla route through the mountains. Yaylas are the high mountain pastures to which villagers who dwell on the coast in the winter months move in the summer to escape the heat. After the lights and hustle and myriad foreign languages and topless sunbathers of Alanya, seeing these high, lonely places is a shock. Suddenly, a short distance outside of Alanya, I am plunged into the heart of Anatolia. The mini-bus fills with local villagers, suncreased, gap-toothed, dressed traditionally in layers of clothing that the foreign tourists would find incomprehensible in the summer heat. There is much chatter and eating on the bus as we chug ever so slowly up the mountains. I wonder what life is like for people it hard to make enough money to sustain themselves? How many of them have seen the flashiness of the city below? What do they make of it? Are they able to make anything at all of it, or is it altogether incomprehensible to these people who live more or less the same lives of villagers since time immemorial?


My seatmate is a chatty sort who fills my ear with her son's tale-of-woe-turned-happy-ending: the son worked in a jewlery shop, where a beautiful young Polish woman later came to be employed. They fell in love, got married, but then she fell in love with their boss and left him. The son is now, however, happily married to a 'decent,' very beautiful, Ukrainian woman who speaks excellent Turkish. I detect the pride in the woman's voice at her son's having successfully (this time) snagged a foreigner. It is an interesting phenomenon that I have observed a number times in Turkey: although there is a certain mistrust of foreigners and sense that 'they'll never be one of us,' it seems to be a point of pride among many families if someone manages to acquire a foreign (by which I mean European or North American) bride. I wonder, is this because a foreign bride connotes 'Westernness', a value that many Turks are keen to embrace? Or is an economic status symbol, like buying a Mercedes? Foreign women tend to be viewed as possessors, or at least representatives of wealth; therefore a Turk who gets a foreign woman may be presumed to have a high level of education and/or income, or possess other fine qualities marketable enough to net them a foreigner. Hmm.


Many bum-aching, neck-cramping hours later, we reach Fethiye. From the otogar, I head to my usual pansiyon with its fabulous view of the bay. It's seriously run down at the heels, and the prices are far too high for what you get; still, I know the place, I know the people, so there I go.


B. is a tall, lanky young man with long, greasy black hair pulled back in a ponytail. He is perpetually wearing sunglasses because of his fondness for a good smoke (of the non-legal variety). I regale him with tales of the boat adventure and all the annoyances of Alanya, topped off with the lingering worry/sadness/irritation that three days following my ejection from the boat, there is still no word of any kind from M. How can the man not realize that I am worrying?? I am trying to leave him his space, of which he seems to need vast quantities, but three days? Why has it not occurred to him to let me know?? B. offers me a joint, on the grounds that I need it after what I've been through, but I pass, knowing it won't help.


Now and then I get a phone call from someone whom I've saved in my mobile phone's address book as 'Mehmet bağlama' (bağlama is a Turkish musical instrument). I never answer, just let it ring while staring at the name and trying hard to remember who this person is. So far, the penny hasn't dropped.

I'm sitting there in my divey pension, pondering the view and what to do next, when the phone rings and I see 'Mehmet bağlama' on the display. What the hell, I think. It's not like I have anything better to do than talk to someone I don't know.

Surprise, surprise, he turns out to be a musician I met once in Fethiye at a folk music place while out with M. I still can't for the life of me remember him, picture his face, or figure out why I would have given him my number, particularly if I was out with a boyfriend at the time. It must have had something to do with music lessons, probably...

So the man is living in Fethiye, playing at a place on the beach, and wants me to come listen. Why not? My week of sailing by M.'s side having been cut extremely short, and not having any further word from him, I am utterly free to do as I wish. Still, I am beginning to seriously agitate inside. Why hasn't he called??? Why????!!!! I feel like throwing something. Instead, I break down and send a text message, oh so casual: Hi dear, how are you doing? Haven't heard from you and hope everything is okay. Some time later, the response comes: Hi dear, I'm fine; how are you doing? Hope you're well, kisses...

As if a dangerous chemical reaction has been set in motion, something starts writhing and boiling inside me; anger mounts, rage and frustration at how this goes, how it has always gone since the beginning, how there is never enough, never anything for me, no apologies or explanations, how I am left to wonder and worry, how I seem to want and need more, how he is so warm yet so aloof, how this intrigues me and I wish it didn't because it makes me sick with wanting and anger and frustration inside. All this anger and sorrow and no outlet for it...I swallow it and get ready to go out.


A long taxi ride -- the tourist loop. I am overcharged. About to pay, the phone rings. It is M. Although I had been having calm and relatively cheerful conversation with the driver up to that point, when I see the caller ID, I crack. Answering the phone, I ask a few tentative questions --- are you all right? (yes) Where are you? (on the boat) Oh, so you're still working? (yes) And then the dam breaks, and I begin shouting in Turkish, a flash flood of words that cannot be held back: What the hell kind of person are you? Where have you been? Do you have any idea how I've been worrying about you? How I hung out in Alanya putting up with all kinds of shit just because I thought you might be coming to join me, just because I was waiting to hear what would happen? Did it EVER occur to you to think that I might be wondering about you? That I was upset for you because you'd lost your job? And you tell me now that you're FINE????!!! I don't think you have the faintest idea what it means to care about someone; you are the most incredibly selfish person I have ever met in my life...did it ever cross your mind to wonder how I was doing? Did it????!!!

I think he is taken aback by my rant. There are a few feeble apologies, then he is back on an even keel, remonstrating me to hang up and talk later when I've gotten a grip. Fine, I steam, anyway I'm going out now with a man I met in Fethiye. Yes, a man. How do you like them apples?


Hours pass at the restaurant. I am sitting in front, the waiters are treating me like a princess: cushions are proffered, fruit plates, raki, roses. I still do not recognize the man playing. I am still upset from my telephone conversation earlier, and every ten minutes or so I break into quiet tears, upon which Mehmet (the musician) smiles at me and starts singing love songs, inserting my name into them, which only makes me cry harder and wish I were somewhere else.

On a break, he comes and sits with me. He is a short, portly, balding man whose breath smells like cabbage. I feel suddenly ill when I realize he has more than a platonic interest in me. Arm around my shoulders, he expresses his great joy at our long-awaited reunuion. I cannot bear to see the happiness in his face, as if he were truly reuniting with his beloved. I shrink away from the hand on my shoulder. The tears come again, predictably, and it makes him crazy -- let me hold you! My dear, don't cry! Please! He pulls me close and I pull away, wanting to run, not knowing where to go, not sure even where the taxi has brought me.


We wind up drinking raki until the wee hours, not because I love his company, but because I feel an intense need to not be sober, and I don't feel like drinking alone, and anyway if I go back to the hotel now all I'll do is stay awake and cry into my pillow until daybreak. The alternative is the wearisome night we wind up spending: he spends his time convincing me that we are soulmates, that I should forget the other guy; I may not love him now but I will learn to. For my own part, I spend the night brooding over my own issues as well as chafing at the fact that this man is making me incredibly uncomfortable. A good thing does come out of the evening -- he shows me some technique on the bağlama -- but in the end there are too many pulls at my arm, taps on my shoulder, too much leaning in. I can't bear it, snap, bat his hand away, rise to leave. He insists on walking me back to the hotel, and it is a long and tedious journey as this same dynamic continues. Stopping, going, tugging, pleading, rebuffing. Repeat. It is 4:00 a.m. as we pass the marina, and there is a breathtakingly beautiful sunrise on the make. Blocking out the present company, I look with longing out to the bay beyond, thinking of M. and wishing to God he didn't have this undoing effect on me, wishing I were there, not here, and then, a moment later....feeling done with it all -- just wanting to be away from everything and everyone and have some peace, finally.

To my surprise, my escort is decent enough to say goodnight and leave when we reach the hotel. Once inside, I quickly lock myself in my room, hurl myself onto the bed fully dressed, and crash into a dreamless sleep.


At 12:09 AM, Blogger pisipati said...

Hello Kate,I have couple of things to say about this foreign brides subject.Most Turks don't want foreign brides or grooms because of tradition,religion etc.,and again most Turks despise east European or Russian brides.This lady must be a low class lady.Believe me I'm not a classist but most of the time,this is the case.And Polish or Russian or Ukrainian women don't represent the things you've described for most of us.They have a pretty bad image in Turkey.I know a family that is well educeted and rich,and their son is married to a Russian,they did everything to make him give up on her but they failed,and the father and mother still hates her.Also even if this braagging happens for a North American bride,this is totally a low class attitude.

At 8:18 PM, Blogger 日月神教-向左使 said...

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