It’s my very last day in Goreme, Cappadocia and I decide to take a morning walk in the village, after having breakfast on the sunny terrace of my hotel. I go down the stone steps, cross the small paved yard, get out into the alley, turn left and then right at the first corner, into the narrow street, looking at shop windows on the way. My eyes are hurting from the strong sun and I decide I need a new pair of sunglasses, since I left mine at home – the pair I got in February form the night market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
So I stop at this corner shop and check out the sunglasses displayed outside, but they seem to have survived every rain here since spring, covered in layer upon layer of white and red dust turned to mud by the rain, dried by the sun, wiped by the wind and so on, again and again. So I think they must be fairly cheap. I am running out of money, but my eyes are not happy at all, so I’m looking for a pair I can afford.
When the shop keeper comes, a dark haired man, mustache, black leather jacket, hands stuffed in his pockets, he hits me with the 20 lira price. And I am too polite to turn my back and just walk away. And my eyes hurt. So I manage to choose a pair and ask him to wash them so I can get a better idea of their real condition.
When we get into the shop, he sprays window cleaner on them and starts rubbing them with a soft cloth. I cringe at the sight and look around the shop, trying to feel more comfortable.
“I think they should be washed, really… And I think 10 lira would be enough. I mean, they are dirty and scratched. And it’s winter…”
“Maybe I would make it 15 lira, but not if you say like that”, he replies giving me his most expert puppy eyes look.
I smile, giving him my most penetrating look, stripping him naked of all the pretense.
“I’m sorry”, I continue. “I mean no offence. Really, look at them. I am just stating the obvious. And it’s off season. No one buys sunglasses anymore.”
“It’s all right”, he answers smugly, “I’ll sell them next year.”
“In this condition? OK…” I answer and let him continue rubbing them as I continue looking around the selves.
“You have a really nice shop.”
“Thank you.” he replies and I feel him softening up.
“Have you had it for long?” I insist.
“The building? Forty-five years. Family business.”
“Wow, a long time. That’s nice.”
He then hands me the sunglasses, proud of his work. I pick them up, turning them in my hands unsatisfied with the result.
“Can I?” I ask picking up the cloth myself.
“Of course.” he replies with a frown.
I wipe them again and carefully check them for scratches.
“They’re still dirty. And scratched”, I land the verdict on the glass counter between us.
He moves away from the counter, sighing and picking up a carton box from the lower shelf on the right, places it in front of me and starts shuffling through pairs of brand new sunglasses, clean in their thin plastic covers.
“Oh, the secret stash”, I giggle.
He hands me a pair and then my hands find their own way into the box and I try on several pairs, some just for fun, asking him for his opinion and making him laugh.
Eventually, I narrow it down to two pairs.
“Hmm… Which one should I get? What do you think?”
“This one”, he says, pointing to the pair I’d actually choose.
I decide to play a little longer and try both on alternatively a few times, complaining it’s so hard to decide. When I see him rolling his eyes, I say I am sorry, forcing him to encourage me to take my time and keep going. Eventually, when I get bored, I choose the ones we both like and hand him 15 lira.
“Do you want tea?” he asks.
“Actually, yes. Why not?” I reply, although I wasn’t planning to.
And I let him lead me to this other room in the shop, where a hot chimney is burning, inviting me to take off my coat and pretend not to notice the satisfaction on his face.
“How nice! I love your chimney!”
He smiles and points to a chair next to the window and I sit down. He pulls a white plastic chair and joins me after pouring tea into a small tulip-shaped glass and handing it to me on a matching square shaped plate.
“Are you travelling alone?” he asks.
“I like travelling alone. I can write. I can sit down with you over a glass of tea and talk, I can do whatever I want. And it was my birthday. So this trip is a gift I’m making myself.”
“Oh, really? Happy birthday!”
There is a short silence between us as I’m looking around, getting more familiar with my surroundings.
“You have nice things. I like your shop”, I add honestly. “And your notebooks are really nice.”
“You can choose one. I’ll make it a birthday gift for you.”
“Oh, really? That’s so kind. I will.” I was not expecting that and I’m feeling very grateful.
We are drinking tea and smiling and I tell him which notebook I like, so he picks it up, wraps it and adds a card with his number and a happy birthday message. So I decide I should also be generous.
“Do you have Facebook?”
“Yes, he says, handing me his phone. So I type in my name, tap ‘add friend’, then take out my own phone. He takes it from my hand when I ask about WiFi (it’s a Turkish thing, I guess), he keys in the password and I accept his friend request on the spot. We then shake hands and he pulls me closer, kissing my cheeks. We have the Turkish ‘double hug’ which I love.
“Come again”, he says.
And I do. After the scary episode that follows with the owner of my hotel (unpublished at the time I’m posting this), I return a few hours later, still trembling inside, to say goodbye before going to the bus station. When I get to the shop, it’s empty and the sunglasses I tried on earlier are still resting on the glass counter, the chimney is burning, the tea kettle is boiling and his phone is charging in the shop window. I call his name and there is no answer, so I take a few photos of the shop before walking from one shop to the next, as several of them are connected, and find these two older men chatting, surrounded by carpets.
“Merhaba. Furkan?” I say when they finally notice me.
One of them stands up and starts calling Furkan. He offers a seat and tea while I wait, but I carefully refuse, smiling politely and asking questions about the shop. And by now I know it has become a defense strategy and I am no more willing to make any new friends in this place at this point.
When Furkan comes, he looks so happy to see me and, at the same time, a French couple come into the shop, trying to choose some lamps. I tell them in French that they are very beautiful and the only problem in choosing. I show them the model I have at home, from Istanbul, and tell them I keep it on the kitchen counter and light it almost every night when I get home. They seem a bit more determined now, so I let them choose.
I turn to Furkan and he looks so proud of me now, as if he’s raised me himself to be a good seller or I’ve got contaminated by the talent just by being around him for a glass of tea earlier this morning. I smile and offer him one of the nice, ripe quinces that the psycho hotel owner picked for me on our trip in the forest in the middle of nowhere in the nightmare I’ve just survived.
“Did you see how we arranged the carpets today?” he asks taking me into this hidden yard at the back of the shop – a carpet paradise. He is so proud of his work and so affectionate of his carpets and I do believe it looks impressive.
“It looks beautiful!” I tell him.
“Like you.” he quickly replies, smiling and giving me his warmest look.
We go back in and he brings me a water bottle for the road, telling me he saw my picture on Facebook, wearing the new pair of sunglasses. We both laugh at the new memory we have in common and I hug him before I leave, taking in his warmth and that soothing smell of a good man, like warm bread when I’m starving.
PS If you travel to Goreme, pay Furkan a visit at the Ikman Gift Shop and please give him my warmest regards.