“So, do you want to go this way?” he asks, pointing right, to a direction we have already taken so many times – a walk along busy alleys between blocks of flats, nothing spectacular or even remotely pleasant. “Or that way, to the nature park?” he decides to offer another option – a 15 minute walk to the nature park close by (a former waste ground, now a protected area in a concrete enclosed space that was supposed to become a lake in communist times).
We’re finally out on our daily walk, having fed and changed the baby several times today already and successfully dressed him and placed him in the carrying system. It’s a windy day, colder than the previous one, cloudy and dark. Winter is coming, as everyone so famously and predictably says these days.
“That way…” I reply sighing and I cannot help thinking about my journey this time last year, a week on my own in Turkey – Istanbul, Konya and Cappadocia. Each day was an adventure I wrote extensively on my blog about. A single woman, travelling in Turkey on her birthday, right after a bike crash that left her face badly bruised and scars on her left hand and right knee that are still visible today.
“Turkey looks so clean and cold, hard, shiny and dangerous like the freshly polished pipe of a loaded hunting weapon being held by the big, strong hands of a psychopath with the sharp mind of a genius. Its people are still wearing golden rags of former glory, busy making ends meet and shattering distances at any costs. No one is alone here. Ever. Pain is hidden under the hijab or crushed in clenched fists, stuffed with sugar, smoked, washed down with cay or coffee and, secretly, alcohol. See, nothing separates us. We are all the same. Fear is no more than a virus we get while navigating news channels, never while traveling the world. ” I used to write during my coach ride from Konya to Cappadocia – Settling karma and travelling to Goreme.
Or my last day in Konya before returning to Bucharest, when social media was down due to political trouble and tension in the street was leaking like blood from a fresh corpse dropped in the ocean, sending its scent to hungry sharks swimming miles away:
“I picked a bad time to be a writer in Turkey. I quickly evaluate my situation: I have just upset an influential hotel owner in Goreme who used to be a cop in Istanbul and brags about owning a gun and doing cocaine, informed me he has a copy of my passport and my fingerprints, along with perfectly valid DNA samples and threatened to stage a crime for me so that I won’t be able to leave Turkey; all with a smile on his face. (Did I decide to solve all my karmic issues by the end of this year, by the way? I wonder…) Let’s go on now, that was not everything: I am a single woman traveling alone in Konya, the most religious and traditionalist city of Turkey, where almost nobody speaks English. But let’s not get paranoid, shall we? I made an unfortunate choice of European clothes. Otherwise I look Turkish enough. Though I am not sure that is so good now, either… And can say ‘hello’, ‘goodbye, ‘thank you’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘honey’. That should do. So I hide my map in my pocket, put my leather purse in my backpack and head to Rumi. This is a holiday, after all.” (My last day in Konya and Turkey goes crazy again)
Today my whole universe is in this two room apartment and the surrounding area where I take daily walks. My small, domestic universe is populated by only two people – two very special boys that I love. Still, the scarcity of the population around here makes every disappointment a tragedy. If this time last year every day brought new people and new adventures to write about, now breastfeeding takes up most of my time and the most breathtaking adventures are adjusting the baby in the carrying system, clipping his nails while he’s sleeping, feeding him at night while fighting sleep, backache and frustration, bathing him and watching his beautiful face all the time.
The first two weeks were like a honeymoon. Never before had I been so happy. Well, a sort of a honeymoon… Since, well… How are we to survive these first few weeks of change and adjustment without sex? My midwives were amazed at the tonus of my perineum (no tearing despite the prolonged expulsion and a very good condition right after birth and in the following days). Well, ladies, to be perfectly honest, it’s sex. Sex has contributed greatly to its good shape. It’s true Kegel exercises have been part of my life for years now. Best done, you guessed it, mostly during sex. It’s already been a week since I feel I cannot wait any longer. It’s too long…
Anger one day was soon followed by sadness the next day. No reason. Well, except for the huge changes and the domestic confinement that’s totally new and hard to bear for someone who’s saved only for plane tickets for the past two years.
“Yes, but we’re going to travel again”, says my life partner, travel companion and the father of my baby.
“Yes, eventually…”, I reply feeling more confident than it sounds.
“And breastfeeding is also temporary, it’s going to end too…” he adds more hesitantly.
“Of course it will… In about two years or so…”, I answer trying unsuccessfully to make it sound light and funny. Don’t get me wrong, I do love it and would not give it up, it’s just that it seems to take up so much time and on such long term…
“We’re here for you”, he continues, holding my shoulders and planting warm kisses on my face. “And look how cute he is, really”, he adds pointing his head at the baby, still naked and all wet from the bath, wrapped up in towels and cuddled in my arms, sucking on my right nipple.
And he’s right. But that only seems to add to the sadness at this point. Caressing his soft thigh, I’m thinking he was inside me, he grew from such a small cell, my body fed him, my flesh made his. And here he is now, so grown in my arms. And he’ll continue to grow and will gradually become independent and start his own life, away from us. And he’ll outlive us. And I love him so much. And yet I still don’t really know him very well. He’s so wonderful, so luminous, so perfect. How will I ever be able to let go?
“Over 85% of women go through some form of postpartum emotional imbalance”, my notes from the Lamaze course remind me. I’m lucky I have this rational part that’s always awake and alert (well, it did make labor longer, but in general it tends to keep me safe). I do a quick self evaluation and decide it’s not depression, but a mild case of baby blues. All normal. Just relax, I tell myself and the lump in my throat gets heavier. I go through my essential oil basket and find something that should help and then I also find a homeopathic remedy that seems to fit the symptoms. I’m pulling myself out.
Still, before going to bed I browse through my T-shirt stash and find the one I got in Thailand, at the Royal Chapel of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok. A very ugly white T-shirt with a colorful print of the royal palace. Last year in February. I am standing in line to visit the chapel, surrounded by a loud crowd of Chinese tourists pointing their cameras everywhere and stretching out their selfie sticks to take one more photo of their faces projected over the whole world cut to pieces.
One of the security guards, wearing military clothes and waving his gun left and right, comes to me barking some order in Thai. Since I don’t understand a word, he uses firm gestures and a wave of his gun to get me out of the line. I am wearing a sleeveless shirt and my huge blue shawl wrapped around my shoulders doesn’t fool the guard’s vigilance. It’s over 40 degrees Celsius. This is how I end up with the ugly T-shirt from the gift shop in the palace garden. It’s the only choice. I pay for it, turn my back to the crowd, facing a dirty wall behind the counter, take off my sleeveless shirt and put on the ugly new Thailand T-shirt. I find it disturbing that it doesn’t match my trousers at all, but end up wearing it inside one of the most amazing places I’ve ever visited. I leave my sandals by the door, in the big pile of shoes resting there, covered in sweat and dust, and wonder if I’m going to still find them there when I get out, but decide it’s worth walking barefoot the rest of the journey to Cambodia if necessary.
The feeling is overwhelming and once I get in front of the emerald statue covered in golden raiment, my knees bend of their own accord and my eyes close. I don’t know how long I spend kneeling on the cold marble floor, surrounded by the loud crowd, before stepping outside into the heat of the sun again. So tonight I’m going to bed wearing this ugly white T-shirt which the emerald Buddha saw me wearing that day in Bangkok. So yes, I do miss being on the road.
PS The title of this post is from a ‘dialogue’ I had with Shams at his tomb in Konya – The day I leave Konya Shams does some magic.
PPS At the end of my post about my home birth – 35th birthday journey of initiation: the story of my home birth – you can find a list of links to all my posts about my last year’s birthday journey in Turkey.