A single exposed fluorescent bulb hangs 20 feet from the center of a large rectangular atrium. The bulb is not illuminated, as it is four forty-five in the afternoon and the sun’s rays pour in through the open doorway. Several horseflies purposely circle the light; their buzzing waxing and waning in intensity as they loop closer in my direction then continue their never-ending circle. They seem unfazed by the bulb’s lack of electricity; instead, they act like stock cars, roaring around each turn at terminal velocity with no end in sight.
Lower to the ground, a soccer ball is blasted around the room by a small boy. Playing by himself, the air is punctuated by each echoing kick and the ricocheting sounds that quickly accompany it. Two old men lazily eye the boy’s movements, but like a stronger magnet, their gaze is drawn to the television in the center of the room. Turkish music videos fill the screen. A female vocalist seductively dances, but her body is constrained by flowing clothes. It is a love story in the ultra-compressed timeframe of her three-and-a-half minute song.
Frustrated that everyone in the room is paying more attention to the television than him, the young boy squares up and aims a kick toward the TV set. The force would have been enough to knock the television over, but his power overtook his aim and the kick goes wide. One of the old men jumps to his feet and berates the child. Yet, he sees the entertainment in the situation and gingerly releases the boy to continue to play.
More minutes pass, and the boy shyly makes his way over to me. Speaking in Turkish, he clearly wants me to play with him, or maybe give him money, or toss him around the room. For a split second, I mentally rotate through the languages I know how to say “I can’t speak your language” in. Since Turkish is not one of them, I blankly stare back. He continues to talk. I continue to stare. Clearly, he is hoping I am not as dumb as I look. As the boy’s hopefulness withers, his interest in soccer becomes renewed and he bounds off to pass to imaginary teammates and score on invisible goalies.
Sweat beads on my body, slowly at first, and then after combining together forms small rivers that collect in a pool just above my stomach. I stare at the ever-growing ocean before dabbing it with the towel that I had swaddling my head. My wife should be finished at any minute from her hamam experience, so I suppose I should wrap up here, I thought. Yet, the battered couch that embraced me was unwilling to give up its grip on my body, and since I did not see her hovering outside the entrance, I figured I had a few minutes longer to wait. Continue reading