Feeling faintly present during our last night in the gated compound near Bodrum, guests of Mr. X and family, I made my way through it all pleasantly enough. The puppets were really nowhere to be found, not that I looked all that hard. My brain hurt and I had given into the confusion. I was allowing myself to sink into the background, much like I imagine Virginia Woolf did in a way vis-a-vis her yellow wallpaper. Who says detachment from reality isn’t functional sometimes? See the previous few posts if you are wondering why I was detached on this night. Let’s say that on this night, I did not refuse the rakı (rah-kuh, the Turkish version of ouzo).
I am sure the grilled fish, smoky and light, was, as usual, spectacular, but all I remember about that dinner is the honor of receiving the fish cheeks, served by Mr. X. himself. Fish cheeks, quite soft, tender and tasty, are a delicacy for those not in the know. Mr. X.’s children sniggered a bit at this old fashioned sign of respect from Mr. X. before they wolfed down their food in haste to get out of the house and down to hang out with friends, as teenagers are wont to do. I vaguely remember feeling very middle aged in that moment. I heard a mocking snore from Karagöz at this point, somewhere in the haze. I took another swig of rakı, the instant burn a comfort to my hurting mind. One of the dancing ladies called out from the purse, reminding me that ladies traditionally did *not* engage in the pursuit of rakı consumption.
Deciding on the plans for the evening, Mr. X. waived Kalinka’s offer of tea off, and pronounced that we would walk down to the cafe by the water to see how the kids were getting on at the dance party, the evidence of which was wafting it’s way up the hill in bass form. In our late evening amble down to the cafe by the water, I remember letting myself get lost in the lovely, enveloping warmth of the Aegean evening. I am sure that I even enjoyed some of the sweet mellowness of the Cuban cigar smoke from Mr. X.’s side of the table, and do have a faint recollection of his wife’s commentary on what to do and what not to do in Selcuk the next night (it was along the lines of “there are no decent 4 star hotels, but you will live”). My detachment was pierced, ever so slightly, by the throwing up of hands amongst the little lady dancing chorus over in my purse. The eye rolls were evident, though I couldn’t see them. I just kept sipping my rakı.
Down at the cafe, the chatter flowed out of my mouth as if I was not myself. I just went with the flow, trying to focus on the positives around me as opposed to the sea of confusion and rakı my brain was floating in. Hacivad asked me “What’s not to love about a late night drink by the Aegean with a new love?” but it fell on somewhat deaf ears, so to speak. At one point, we went over to the balcony to catch a glimpse of the kids dancing, without their shock and disapproval at the horror of the presence of their adults in parent form. Standing to the side of Mr. X. and his wife as they spoke with their friends engaged in the same observation, M. and I watched Mr. X.’s son dance to arabesque music, hands up, in Turkish man dancing style. He cut a dashing figure at 13 years old (going on 30 if you asked me given his behavior, but that I
shall share on another occasion) and even from our distance to the dance floor, we could see the girls swooning from the sidelines, all eyes on him, though he was surrounded by other young men. Turning to M., I asked “Did you ever dance like that?” before I realized that a joke response would ensue – which it did in the form of a spastic goat on it’s last dancing legs before slaughter emerged before me. Karagöz squealed in approval – “what a joker, with him, his dance is better than a coker!”
Mr. X.’s wife swooped me up and saved me (whether I wanted saving or not) from my flailing boyfriend who was grinning from ear to ear. She took me by the crook of the arm to go and watch – in the way that only a mother enamored of the beauty exhibited by the very being of her newly adolescent son can do, “he has not,” she snorted, “obtained the terrible dancing genes of our men, the bad dancing gene dies with them! Let’s go find some hot guys to dance with to make our men jealous!” (Side note, for an hysterical recounting of an actual played out version of this story in another part of Bodrum with other characters, see Perking the Pansies blog post here).
How I extricated myself from that pseudo-teenaged dare I do not recall, likely as a result of the cumulative impact of my rakı consumption, but I do recall ending up at a table with Mrs. X.’s wife who was not, apparently, the same person who shunned my slightly pudgy self at the beach now – I was her friend from America, a potential gelin (bride) for the family – who needed schooling in the art of reading coffee grinds. Absent since the afternoon’s tumbleweed melee between Hacivad and Karagöz, the dancing lady chorus cooed happily from my purse. “Yes, m’lady, you do need schooling in this regard. The closest to coffee grinds you get is something along the lines of a green tea latte, whatever that is.”
After downing the aromatic warm bullet of coffee in one fell swoop, Mrs. X. placed the lid of the demitasse set on top of the cup, circle indent side down. With great dexterity, she flipped the cup over, and set her fragile and precariously positioned cargo down. “Now, you wait for it to cool, you must do the same. Now we chat.” Karagöz chimed in at this moment “now you wait for her to heat up, or run up the hill like a goat in a bleat-up.” Hoping that the strong coffee would counteract the fog of rakı around me so that I could walk up the hill to bed, I complied with her order. There are many different approaches to this folk tradition, but I didn’t notice more than what is written here due to my tipsy state at the time. You can read more about coffee fortune telling in Turkey here).
Hacivad, freshly re-cut from waxy paper after getting a bit frayed this past afternoon was exhibiting his usual composure. “Just listen and learn, don’t reveal too much, just take it all in like an anthropologist in New Guinea in the 1800s.”
“Now,” Mrs. X. said, “I’ll tell you what I know, you tell me what you know.” Khadijah spoke out from the purse “it’s always something with this one.” Shifting in her chair a bit, Mrs. X. leaned in to me, snaking her arm around the cooling coffee cup to take my hand in hers. “We women,” she said with an air of mystery, or at least I thought that’s what she thought, “we women need to stick together in this life. So, you tell me what you know about M. and I will tell you what I know of M.” All of a sudden, my rakı fogginess was gone and I was wide awake, or maybe it was the jolt of caffeine running through my veins. Hacivad, Karagöz, Khadijah and all the other puppets leaned in from their various positions around me, wondering what I might do. Turning towards the now-dark sea, I sighed.
To be continued.
- After the storm: Karagöz puppets gone wild (slowly-by-slowly.com)
- Escaping the death star by dolmuş: Bodrum bound, Islam not found (slowly-by-slowly.com)