Istanbul – Side Street on Istiklal

Small street
Loads of tables
Some topped with cheap formica
Others of marble with their edges chipped off
People playing board games
Blond women – pretty but not flirtatious
No wine but strong Vodka
Bald men
Turks bald early it seems


Young couple on other side of the street
In love
Smoking a Shesha
Looking into each other’s eyes
Frequent light kisses
Oblivious of the world
Youth – adolescence
Joy of life
I feel a softness
The softness of age
Of reconciliation with the reality of going away
I feel love and affection for what I see
I feel alone


Student couple
Having tea
Reading something together
He laughs
Throws back his head
She giggles
Her conical hand on her mouth
Small drops of rain
They lower the cover
Paris in Istanbul


Two new couples on the table next to me
All with transparent skins
Ordering a Shesha
Complications and discussions
On lighting it
Very intense – all four
No joy here – but concern


Waiter from Anatolia
Wife in the village with a small child
He speaks English
For he was a tourist guide
He misses his home
Wants his wife and child here
But he has no home in the city
Where will they stay?


My neighbour is twenty four
She works in a bank
Likes the present government
She does not know why
But she does not like the hijab
Her friend has no opinion
She wants the good life

We talk in English monosyllables
It starts to rain heavy
They discuss it in Turkish
I am scribbling in Urdu
Arabic alphabets
I ask them if they know something of it
They discuss among themselves
Two of them do not know that Turkish was written like this seventy years ago
I sense megalomania and paranoia
I think of the Taliban and their origins


Too much Vodka
But the waiter insists
Have one on me he says
I offer him one
We agree
We kiss each other when I leave
He wants me to come to his village
Meet his father
For he is like me
I want to meet your mother too I say
For you are her product
Of-course yes he says
She is your sister
Since I am now her brother
The meeting is legitimised


I like this street
I could sit here for years
Salim asks me where I stay
How much is it he asks
I do not know
“Its more than my salary for one night – I am sure”
He says

(Evening 15 October 2009)

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