Sunday, September 25, 2016

Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover

This morning as I lay in bed zoning out to music on my iPod, I felt a tremor that lasted about a minute. Later, I looked up “Earthquakes in Istanbul” on my phone, only to discover there was no earthquake. Now I’m wondering if what I felt was some type of inner earthquake, something that occurs when unpleasant emotions piggyback on each other all week until it becomes too much. Then the negative energy purges itself, not in crying and condemning people who’ve done me wrong, but in a peaceful ceremony, one that feels like an emotionally-healing yoga pose: my own private earthquake.

A friend told me yesterday that living in Istanbul is like being in an abusive relationship. “He beats you up. You swear you’re going to leave him. He comes back all sweet and apologetic. You remember how much you love him and you agree to stay. The cycle repeats itself.” Trying on this analogy, I admitted that I’ve just suffered a week full of abuse. If all weeks were as bad as this past one, I wouldn’t and couldn’t stay in this city. I would go home to the land of banjos and used books, challah bread and movie theaters with beer on tap.

Luckily, I have my own disaster response team. Its members are red wine, sketchbook and drawing pencils. I also have lovely friends. While talking on the phone today, a friend insisted we go on a long walk and get some fresh air. We walked to Kuzguncuk and stared out at the water and breathed in the Bosphorus air. Then we walked to an outdoor café with a lovely view. I drank apple tea and she had green tea. We felt relaxed but then a man in a navy blue suit who was presumably the manager of the café slapped a waiter, who appeared to have a mental handicap. The waiter walked away, rubbing his sore cheek. My friend glared at the manager, but to no effect. We left and I pondered how this act of aggression fits into the culture and how it relates to my crappy week.

Without going into too much detail, I’ll just say that someone lied to me. This was the sort of lie that could be forgiven by Turks because its purpose was to spare my feelings. The end result was much worse than hurt feelings. It was humiliation. When I sought the truth, the lie was never addressed. I can’t call it a lie. It’s a “misunderstanding,” and thus the damage it caused doesn’t need to be addressed either. I suppose it’s tantamount to Turks giving bad directions because they don’t want to admit they don’t know the way. This isn’t a lie either. This is just saving face and making the person asking for directions more lost.

The final blow came when someone I often describe as “the nicest guy in the world” told me he was going to kill me. He said this with a smile on his face, but that made no difference to me. I wondered if I had sung his praises too early. I live in a city where a young woman riding a bus was recently beaten up by a man, who yelled, “You’re the devil!” and “You should die!” Why? Because she was wearing shorts. I don’t take a man saying he’s going to kill me lightly. I don’t take any aggression lightly.

At least I can say that this kind of aggression and disrespect is so uncharacteristic of my day-to-day life that when it does come along and ruin a whole week, I have the self-respect to reject it. Some people, like the waiter at the café my friend and I visited, are probably used to getting slapped. They just rub their sore faces and get back to work. And the cycle repeats itself.

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