The stress falls on the “a”, while the “n” is dipped in melted chocolate, so it is softened and slippery, like the way people in the central region of Romania pronounce it (only they usually prefer to smear it in pork fat; the smoked kind, with a crushed garlic crust).
Konya is very clean and well kept, well organized and somehow seems to have a clear head. (Though the strict rules about sexual activity often seem to make people a bit frustrated, confused or even obsessed. By the way, how come two of the most open minded and free people ever are buried in the strictest city in Turkey? Isn’t it ironic?) Anyway, she is nothing like Istanbul. So that makes me think Istanbul is not typical for Turkey, just like London is not like the rest of the U.K. and Bucharest is a different world than the rest of the country.
I leave home late today because posting from my phone and tablet takes forever. But when I get out, I can finally smell the winter air. That is one more thing: it is colder and windier than Bucharest. And it’s got hills!
I get to the train station and I ask the security guy about getting to the city center. Although I got good instructions from a smart Turk back home, I ask for confirmation about the direction. Of course he speaks absolutely no English whatsoever. But he takes me to this girl and leaves me in her care. She doesn’t speak English either, except for a few words.
I start thinking whether here it is considered a form of betrayal of your own culture to learn foreign languages or what. I guess if I moved here and worked as an English teacher, I would either get filthy rich or go bankrupt.
The girl makes room on the bench where she is sitting and, with a determined gesture of her hand, has me sit down next to her. I realize I have been very submissive since I arrived and I am comfortable following orders and being looked after. That is something new, and I carefully study the phenomenon.
So when the train comes, she signals I should follow her and I do. Once on he train, she gives me another signal and I follow her to the route map, so she shows me where we are at and where my destination is. I tell her I want to get to the Mevlana museum.
“Mev’laa’ana”, she repeats as if rolling a spoonful of whipped cream on her tongue and then on the roof of her mouth, like a cotton candy cloud getting stuck up there for a fraction of a second.
She then points to a seat and makes me sit down, takes out a piece of paper and her phone and, a minute later, she hands me the paper with my question translated into Turkish, showing me the screen of her phone at the same time – it is on google translate and it reads “show to authorities”. I am impressed by the effort and I thank her, happy that not every kind gesture in Turkey hides a sexual frustration, as I have been warned and refused to believe.
She then starts talking Turkish to this girl I am sitting next to and I understand she is saying her phone battery is almost empty. I am not sure I should pay attention to them, but I love listening to their conversation and, for the first time ever in my life, Turkish sounds so beautiful and precious, like a necklace of small, natural pearls, irregular, sensitive and expensive, being polished by a the lips, tongues and teeth of an entire nation.
The girl next to me lends her phone to her. She makes a call and hands me the phone. I am surprised at the gesture and put it to my ear.
“Hello! How can o help you?” A male voice greets me. “Mev’laa’ana”, he repeats, rolling it on his tongue and then pushing it down between his teeth and cheeks, like a hamster gathering food for later.
I get to Rumi’s museum about an hour later and I am struck my the smell of roses and I postpone walking to his tomb as much as I can (just like I usually postpone gratification in any form, to enjoy the pleasure surrounding the special moment). I sense where it is, but I don’t look, either. I just feel. And listen on the audio guide to the expalanations about other exhibits.
When I finally let my feet take me to him, my eyes start stinging from the light. I mimic the receiving gesture of the hands I see at he people around me and close my eyes. My chest becomes hot and my head sends out a prayer, pausing after each line, allowing it to wash me like a warm sea, wave after wave:
Let Your light flood my eyes
Let Your wisdom guide my thoughts
Let Your words fill my mouth
Let Your music come out of my throat
Let Your love laugh in my heart
Let Your kindness rest in my hands
Let Your courage inspire my deeds
Let Your road stretch under my feet
Let me become your home
And, as the muezzin is performing the adhan, I get goosebumps and I almost run to Shams’ tomb, which is in another mosque, not far from Rumi’s. The rush makes me realize it is him that I have actually come here for.
When I enter the mosque, having taken off my shoes and put the hood of my coat over my head, I can feel the same smell of roses again and I want to run directly to the tomb and throw myself on my knees in front of it. But I barely catch a glimpse of it before this kind man in his mid fifties approaches me and gently leads me to the women’s section upstairs, on the right.
I submit again and, although it still hurts, I get down on my knees and, hidden under my hood, tears start rolling down my cheeks and onto my blue shawl. I cannot contain them anymore.
My love, I miss you. It is you I search for in everyone I meet. I long to be looked upon by your piercing eyes. I long to be burnt by your look. I long to be made ashes. I long for the touch of your voice, my love. It is your absence that leads me everywhere I go, like a wondering Jew, all the time looking only for you.
And I feel everything I am or used to be gradually leaving me, as I let my tears wash your absence off my face. And I kneel before you naked. Do what you will. I am not my own anymore. Nor do I wish to be.
When the prayer is over, I go down the stairs and spend a few minutes in front of the tomb, which is placed in this elevated, enclosed area, like a miniature room with windows and a clock measuring the time without you. Come back, my love. I am here. Find me.
I then sit on the carpet behind a column and write everything in my notebook before saying one more prayer and leaving, promising never to be a stranger and to come back. Always.