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 much...today 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:
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?