Run, Forrest, run!


A teenage boy wearing thick glasses, no jacket over a thin white blouse and flip flops over his grey socks is feeding bread from a plastic bag to the seagulls on the river bank. He tears big pieces of the soft loaf and throws them in the air, pausing from time to time to take hungry bites himself.  When both the boy and the birds finish their lunch together, he folds the plastic bag and hides it in his fist before shoving it in his trousers pocket and crossing the street, disappearing among the old houses on the other side of the road. My baby is sound asleep against my chest, tucked in the elastic wrap and I can feel his warm breath against my skin. I stop in my walk to watch the scene. I know it’s one of those moments that are going to turn into lasting memories and stick with me for a long while.

Just like my midwife’s coffee scented breath in the wee hours of the morning as she’s blowing softly on my face during labor, while I’m feeling my baby’s head with my fingertips before he finally comes out later.

Or his heart pounding like a racing horse’s under that pink flowered tree in the park, as he pulled me closer and closer, giving me long kisses before allowing a short distance between our mouths and resting his eyes on my lips while uttering the question he’d been rehearsing so many times. It was a cool evening after a rainy day this spring and I felt like peeing.

Or seeing that second line on the pink test at 4 am on March 8, sitting on the toilet in his bathroom and trying to live through the next day as if everything hadn’t completely changed forever.

Or his warmth when I cuddled in his arms on our first night together and my chest exploding from the incredible heat as he so full of himself assured me: “Relax, I am here for you.” Back in Harmony street, early December…

Or sitting in my seat on the bus taking me from Konya to Cappadochia, my dark red fingernails matching the fresh bruises on my face, and the whiteness of the skin on my neck reflected in the clean window. November 1, last year.

Or landing in Cambodia in such perfect darkness that night in February last year, my 85 year old Swiss friend sitting beside me, a long saliva string with sparkling beads hanging from the corner of his mouth all the way down to his shirt, while I’m struggling with such a strong combination of anxiousness, curiosity and fear.

Or that rainy evening in March last year, landing in Istanbul to meet a beloved friend on her birthday after a delayed flight. Looking for flowers and cake in the airport and ending up with a huge lolly pop in my hand as I’m walking up to her in that impressive crowd in the Ataturk airport to surprise her from behind. Her smile and her tight hug bringing back old feelings of guilt.

Or coming out of the shower, wrapped up in that white towel, water still dripping from my hair down my bare shoulders, and seeing that silver mist fill up that shabby candle lit hotel room in Istanbul where I stayed for a whole week a month later. “My happy time”, as my Syrian friend called it. “You’re happy, Dana”, he explained, “that’s why you see this fog in the room. It’s called happiness.”

Or crossing that bridge lined with flower pots somewhere in Cluj in the summer of 2015, construction noise filling up the area and dust sticking to the skin on my feet, my sandals getting sweaty on the hot asphalt.

Or a particular evening in August two years ago while carrying stuff on my bike from my former home when I moved in Harmony street and I heard this little girl say: “Look, mom, the lady is going on holiday!” and I felt she was making such an accurate description of my situation in spite of the distance between us.

Or that morning back in my former home, probably in the spring of 2015, folding laundry and sprinkling it with warm, fresh tears on the stretched out couch in the living room where I’d just spent my first night alone, out of the bedroom. “This is so damn hard”, I told him, “Help me”. “Do you want me to help you stay or help you leave?” he asked picking up a T-shirt, tears rolling from his eyes down his cheeks and crossing paths on his chin, making it shiver uncontrollably.

Or that narrow road in Crete about ten years ago, after dinner in that beach tavern where those Greeks suddenly spoke no English at all when they brought us our overcharged bill. The day was losing strength as night was closing in, and so was I losing respect for the man driving next to me.

Or that creepy studio I lived in for a few months when I finished university, with its dirty armchair by the balcony door, where he sat, legs spread, arms resting in his lap, lowered chin and faint voice. That “I don’t love you anymore” that threw me out of my own life like a dog kicked out of a yard when its people are tired of it.

Or that “I love you!” spoken to me as if it were a huge and painful problem, sitting at the desk in my room back in my home town, while I was still in high school. I didn’t know how to answer that, so I closed my eyes and hugged him and just copied a detached attitude I’d seen was successful and repeated what someone else had said to me not long before: “What am I going to do with you?”

And so many others, like a big box with a wide selection of pralines – different sizes, shapes and flavors. I wonder if Forrest Gump had a similar perception when he remembered “My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

PS Yeah, that’s me in the photo.

Settling karma and travelling to Goreme

I wake up after about four hours of sleep and I am greeted by the golden light of the sunrise. There’s this sharp pain in the middle of my back, as if I’ve got ‘stabbed’ again. Since I am on holiday and quite far from my current city of residence, it comes as a bit of a surprise. Still, I remember last night had a very special part about getting even (a settlement of accounts between lovers from a previous lifetime).

 I am grateful for it and giggle as I am putting the pieces together and the complicated scenario that was so carefully orchestrated behind my back, casting me as a special guest star, seemingly in the very last minute, is stripped of all its secrets. And my crystal clear mind sucks all the charm out of it at the same time, too. (Just like I do with the creamy white foam on top when I have my latte on Thursdays, getting white, sticky, sweet milk drops on my lips, only to let the tip of my tongue remove them skowly. By the way.)

Former pride and old karma are so blissfully replaced by amusement, inshallah. And everything right after Rumi and Shams. By the looks of it, we agree we are even now and happy with the new settlement, so we can move on. You know those Mastercard commercials? Plane tickets checked etc, etc, etc. The newly conquered freedom… priceless! So another perfectly good former lover is free to become a good friend, if he will. (I did warn you about my special talent.) No hard feelings. No hard  anything else anymore, for that matter. Tesekkur, canim, yok benim. 

I take a cold shower (literally because I need to wash even if there is no warm water and metaphorically because I am a writer and I need a more or less clear perspective on the facts), do my nails, apply makeup and admire the unique combination of purple, yellow and pink surrounding my right eye – a signature blend that has my name on it. A friend says it matches the golden Konyan sunrise, so I like it even more. My left cheekbone is wearing blush. My right one doesn’t need to.

I take my luggage, leave my host’s key downstairs, on the doorman’s reception desk, and go to the otogar to catch my bus to Goreme, where I will be staying till the day after tomorrow, when I am coming back to Konya right on my mother’a birthday. I get on my bus and feel satisfied about the comfort level, so I relax. The new trip fills me with a sense of contentment and I start feeling the stillness that accompanies the newly created space to be conquered by fresh experiences.

“Oh, I want to travel” says Nari this morning, as she’s getting ready to go to work and I am watching the sunrise through the glass wall of the room downstairs in her apartment, where I spent two quiet, pleasant and safe nights. “You have so much energy when you travel, you have a fresh perspective on things, your senses are awake, you pay attention to everything… When you just work, work, work every day, you get tired and sleepy and lost in the routine. Why do people have to work?!” 

The bus starts and, as it leaves the clean neighbourhoods, with their new apartment buildings of Konya behind, the view gradually changes dramatically and I start thinking of Syria. I feel so close to her now. I have not been to Syria in this lifetime, but the scenery on the way reminds me of her somehow and I take a few pictures, wondering if Syria can ever be a travel destination for me. I take out my tablet and write, but then the air becomes so hot I think I am going to die and I cannot keep my eyes open anymore, so I take a nap and am awaken by the painful sound of my phone landing between my feet and, when I look up, I see we are in Aksaray. Here I have my luch on the go: chocolate candies and plain water. 

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. 

All of a sudden, the view outside the bus window tells me I am in Cappadocia and in a few minutes the bus stops and I am told to get off. I am the only traveller getting off here and I am so surprised at the amazing view that I take small steps, to be able to take in the whole beauty and not change anything by making sudden moves or taking too deep breaths. 

It is my first stay in a cave house hotel and my hotel room is also much better than I taught myself to expect for fear of being disappointed. A nice surprise. On the other hand, the first contact with the people here tells me they work a lot and are underpaid and seem less friendly that their brothers in Konya. That gives me a little bit more understanding for my own brothers and sisters back home. 

And so my first day in Goreme, Cappadocia, can now officially begin. Since absolutely nothing on my trip so far has gone according to plan, I now have no plan and will just let life take it from here. So here we go!