Istanbul: A persistently lonely and desperate feline screech sneaks beyond the feeble barrier of my window pane. It disturbs my slumber and I groan, turn over. It's 6:30 PM and still I can't pull myself out of bed. I get so disappointed at moments like these, but on the bright side, I tell myself, when I move back to the other side of the world maybe I'll be a naturally early riser. Maybe I'll exercise more, I certainly could use the endorphin kick... thinking this, I hear myself grunt at the preposterous notion of running through these torn and crumbling streets.
Three months is a long time.
I like this place. It's got all the decadent charm of the ghetto. I like my house mates. They are a Turkish electronic musician who aspires to be the next Hot Chip and his moody Polish girlfriend. We're all completely broke, just managing, subsisting mostly on the nutrition of beer and Cha Cha -- a fire water moonshine from Georgia, the country, that will disinfect your intestines as it burns a hole right through them. Our neighbors are two ladies who have become good friends of mine, a Turkish visual artist who goes by Sparky and a sharp-witted Jewish pansexual writer from San Francisco. Our neighborhood, despite being as terrifying as it is with dog fights, drug dealers, and open crime, it's home, and whether or not I should, I feel comfortable. All in all, I'm happy that I moved out of Sweetie's.
One night a bunch of guys were sitting around, drinking beer, asking of each other the greater questions in life.
"So, when you use the bidet, do you ever, you know... finger your asshole a little?"
"I dunno man, sometimes it just slips in there."
"Yeah, I mean... It's good to be extra clean. In that area especially."
Sweetie came over to check on me in my new surroundings and was hardly amused.
"What the fuck are these guys?"
"Chello, I am here too, don't forget," said Moody Poland. Her tiny arms were crossed over her chest as she stared at him disapprovingly. She usually has a focused, intense, crazed look about her that makes me wonder if they cannibalize where she comes from (my experience of Eastern Europeans is that they are insane), and this moment was no exception.
As a dark skinned man and a business owner in a country quickly developing beyond its means, Sweetie is no stranger to hostile energy and so he chose to ignore her. Though there is a side of him comfortable with dealing with aggressors, incurring violence, and making death threats, he put on his syrupy sweet voice for me: "Tatlim, come home with me and drink tea and let me sleep on your knees..."
Given the way we had broken up, I didn't feel that I owed him anything. "I'm happy here. Why don't you stay and have some Cha Cha?"
He reluctantly accepted the shot Hot Chip's forceful hospitality pressured him into then left without saying a word.
After the slam of the door, Moody Poland tsk'd three times. "Such dramatic. You're better without it, honestly."
All the same, I was sad to see him go like that. His smell and the kiss lingering on my neck were a heady perfume and a burning souvenir. A few shots of Cha Cha, however, and my senses faded.
Those of us remaining, a band of misfits, fueled ourselves with this numbing, burning firewater and took to the streets. Hot Chip was armed with a trumpet and a bare minimum understanding of how to play it, Curious Bidet took up his spray paints and self-congratulating notions of guerilla art, and a goofy German accepted his mission to shove snow balls in the mouths of the unwilling. Moody Poland and I brought up the rear as baby sitters, body guards, and blood thirsty cats.
We noisily cavorted from Istiklal to Tünel. Usually a crowded pedestrian thoroughfare, in the dead of that unseasonably frigid night we may as well have been ghosts. Goofy German presented me with a clump of flowers he had dug up from a landscape feature along the way. In the moment I thought he had done this as if to show that life can persist outside of its predetermined, potentially oppressive captivity as long as roots are intact, but in retrospect maybe he just wanted to hand me something beautiful. Having felt that I had gotten the point, I re-gifted the blossoming dirt clod to a security guard who looked nearly comatose with boredom. He accepted the ridiculous offering with a curious "Sağ olun." / "Thank you (with respect)."
Later, Goofy German and I did some drugs and fucked each other wildly, still looking to grasp something beautiful (but I don't think we succeeded).
In that same week I stayed up all night at the neighbors', enjoying the delicacy of female group sex. Males were actually present, however given the amount and nature of intoxicants involved, they opted to participate in respectfully supporting roles, which I felt was appropriate.
In addition to these extra-curriculars, I had run my vibrator out of it's charge. Twice. But despite my numerous and varied efforts, I came to a sinking realization. Since leaving Sweetie, I could not reach orgasm. Yes, intoxicants were sometimes involved, but not always. It wasn't that. But what then? I wasn't so depressed that we had parted. He had reacted to an instance of his own infuriation by vehemently throwing me away -- after this I didn't feel like looking back. In fact I found his subsequent groveling for my return to be pathetic. And yet... I ached deeply.
Our bodies' healing in the time we spent apart was quickly reversed as we fucked each other raw. My body naturally responded to his hand and I finally was able to release.
As we laid down to sleep, he held me gently from behind and whispered very softly in his syrupy voice:
"I will not never leave you.
"You are mine."
I can't help but take this as a curse, a promise, and a threat.
It's common for Turkish men to feel extreme territorial ownership over a woman he's been with sexually. According to Hot Chip, this is why natural-female prostitutes on the streets are a rarity. Once a man feels a certain attachment for a woman, he keeps her greedily for himself -- even if she is a professional.
When it had first happened, I told Hot Chip about my break up with Sweetie. I owed him an explanation -- once I had called him in the middle of the night, able to communicate only in sobs that wouldn't be choked.
I told him about my previous Turkish boyfriend, too. He was a Macedonian-Turk accordion player I had been with for a while last year who spoke no English. We had had a pregnancy scare, but when the test came out negative, he was crushed. He sunk to his knees, grabbed my hips, and wailed to Allah in grief:
"YAVRUM!" / "MY CHILD!"
Hot Chip patiently listened to these sad, pointless stories. When they were through, he responded with a little laugh and some advice:
"I think you should aim higher."
Who the hell is Sweetie? Meet him HERE.
For related unadulterated tales of sexual compulsion, check out Snapshots, The Golden Cage, and Pets.