My Serendipitous Afternoon With A Stranger From Istanbul

Carlos ZGZ
Carlos ZGZ

I am not sure if it was a good idea to send postcards on the last day, but I couldn’t find a post office earlier. Besides that, all the other participants of the festival went home before me, and now, when I was alone, a short walk to the post office seemed like a serious job. Anyway I had no other obligations that day. The office was near the Museum of Innocence, and I was wondering, how come I haven’t seen it three days ago. But at that point I wasn’t looking for post office, but for the museum. This happens when you are focused only on the object of your search. All other things become invisible except the object of your interest.

As soon as I sat on the terrace of a small bar that smelled like toilet detergent, I spread the postcards all over the table. I never send postcards randomly. While I was buying the postcards, I tried to match them with the personalities of their future owners: so, for my father I picked one with a motif of a prayer from Quran in the shape of a dervish, for my editor in chief I picked the one with a lighthouse, for my friend the one with a fat cat, and so on. Some of them I bought at the antique fair, those were the ones that were especially interesting. They reflected the atmosphere of this city, but yet again nothing on them reminded me of happiness.

It was early in the morning and I was the only guest in the bar. Sidewalks were not dry yet, so people jumped over little puddles. There were those that were not paying attention, but, after splashing and getting their trousers wet, started to curse. One man stepped on the terrace. He seemed to hesitate. He was wearing ivory pants and a plaid shirt. He carried his jacket over his hand, as it was that time of late autumn that is followed by long and dry sunny days in which the spiders from the family of Linyphiidae scatter their strings through the air; that time when old ladies can still warm up their hair under the sunlight. I thought that man was someone I knew, the Arabian professor that I’ve met at the festival, the one that I told about this quiet little place where he can find cheaper beer. I called him “Hey!”, and added “Good morning, professor”, and I am convinced that I also giggled, it’s what I usually do when I like someone, and I liked him. When the man, while placing bags with expensive logos next to him, turned his head and looked at me from underneath his glasses, I realized that he was someone else. “I am so sorry” I said “I thought you were someone else” and shrugged my shoulders, smiling again. The man just nodded. That was the signal that all is fine. I smeared my lips with red lipstick and kept on printing my kisses on the backs of the postcards, and next to them I wrote Istanbul sends you kisses. Only my father got the selam instead. When I kissed the last one lipstick was smudged over my swollen lips.

I stood in front of the window with traditional sweets. In the mirror, among green pies made of pistachios, nuts, and similar trinkets, I saw the man from the bar. This is no coincidence, I thought to myself, but I didn’t turn, and I did not talk to him again. He was looking into my eyes in the mirror reflection, but then he took off his glasses and reached with his hand into his pocket, and I kept heading toward the post office. After couple of moments he went after me. In a hurry, it seemed. Later on, that turned out to be wrong. As I found the street where the post office was, I already forgot my weird feeling. There was a small queue, couple of old people. The woman in the post office told me to come. I understood that because she waved at me, since my knowledge of Turkish is based on “yes, yes” and “thank you, thank you”. A coin fell out of my wallet. I rose my head and there stood the mystery man. Now I had no doubt that he was following me. He came improperly close. He was not a particularly beautiful man. His face had some indistinctive expression, so I could not decide if he was unfortunate and if that is why he was looking for some pastime. His beard was gray, but he seemed to be much younger than his beard. I could sense my hair swallowing his wild breath, felt his bags falling from his hands. Boring morning turned into amaryllis.

I went out, and sat on the stairs. He crossed the street and lit up his cigarette. I tried to look as if I had not seen him, but I was aware that he knew that I noticed him, and this filled me up with some vehemence. I felt the screams of his lust, or maybe that was my screech. There was nothing kinky about it, since nothing happened. But I knew that this part of town was full of hookers. Someone mentioned that to me, so the first thing that crossed my mind was how that man thought I was one of them. “Some Middle Eastern men are the kind that think they are entitled to court you if you just look at them…” – I remembered my friend saying that once. I don’t remember what I told her at the time, but now I would tell her that the feeling is very exciting. What woman doesn’t want to be seduced? – I wrote down in my notebook. Even when they are aware of their power of seduction, because they use it often, women are dying to experience love. Of course not all women, and not always. I am sure that my friend wouldn’t, because there are smart women in this world too, even though we never consider them. Ergo, the women that won’t let themselves be dragged into the cave – to love without fucking. I took out a wet wipe and cleaned traces of drops on my ballet shoes. Then I fixed the wrinkles on my tights, fixed a ribbon on my bit too short skirt… I did that on purpose.

Then I suddenly decided to go back to the antique fair.

At first I stood next to the photo stand. With his fingers the man crossed over one that portrays soldiers ready to fire. Then I went to see old typewriters that were lined up on the sheet that was spread all over grass. The man typed a letter on imaginary paper. Who did he wrote to, I was wondering. My attention was drawn by the mass around the table at the end of the stand line, wooden tables covered with plastic tablecloths. I came near and saw a table stuffed with old jewels and other cheap trinkets. I took one in the shape of a key. The head was in the shape of the heart. “How much is this?”, I asked, but before the salesman got to say anything the man in the plaid shirt put his hand on the key whispered “Allow me madam…”. Quickly, I took the key from his hand and said “No, no, no! Out of the question!”. I sure was not one of those woman who let men buy them presents, as a matter of fact I couldn’t remember that any man ever offered to buy my something, but maybe, secretly, I wanted to be that way. I wanted to return the key to the salesman, but I changed my mind. Key of Istanbul was in my hands. I only needed to find out what is it that I wanted to unlock. TC mark

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