Snakes of warm breeze slid around me, curiously disconnected from one another. I felt them swoosh up and down my arms, my palms flat on the table in front of me as if about to play a child’s slapping hand game. My demitasse coffee cup was upside-down on the saucer it belonged to. A smudge of muddiness marred the perfect flip-over, but I ignored it. My coffee bullet was wending its way through my bloodstream. Mrs. X. spoke the same words again…“Now,” Mrs. X. said, “I’ll tell you what I know, you tell me what you know.” She was referring to my boyfriend, M., her husband’s brother. We were to leave Bodrum tomorrow after a couple of weeks that ranged from relaxing and interesting to trying and confusing.
Khadijah shook her wax-papery head with all the grace that a Karagöz dancing puppet can, their loose limbs akimbo on a stick. “Here we go, the old ‘we’re all women argument,” she sighed, “usually I would buy right into that, but now, I feel the breeze snakes. You’ve got to watch for the breeze snakes. What does she want to know – or is her world that small?” The bullet of hot coffee had cleared my rakı fogginess – and I had to respond to Mrs. X., not to mention Hacivad, Karagöz, and all the other puppets waiting for my response.
“Does it really have to be about secrets?” I coughed the words, and they stumbled out of my mouth in between the breeze snakes. My mouth did not want to cooperate. The puppets all put their chins in the palms of their hand, waiting for more. “I mean,” I gulped, feeling the coffee grinds left in my teeth, “I mean why?” Leaning in, the breeze snakes transported Mrs. X.’s Turkish coffee espresso breath towards me faster than the gleam of her chemically whitened teeth through the dark night.
“You know, don’t you,” she spooned the words towards me softly, “you know he doesn’t want to have children?” Only Karagöz let out a little tiny whoop before covering his mouth again to see what would happen next. Delivering what she thought was new information, she lurched back into her armchair quickly, and watched for my response along with the chorus of dancing ladies, hands covering mouths in shock. I knew what they did not know, namely, we had already had the “what about children?” talk. I knew that M. loved kids, but felt so strongly about zero population growth that he did not feel good about having his own biological children. I didn’t know how I felt about that yet and it would be a while before I did. Did she want to hurt my feelings? Did she want to warn me? Did she think I would not already know? Would I ever understand her motivations? Probably not. I settled on her thoughts about wanting me to know.
I had grown up around my mother’s strong commitment to the zero population growth movement, thus the adoption of my sister, I suppose (or was it vice versa?). I was mixed on the idea myself, and although it was way to early in the relationship to be deciding about whether to have children together or not, I could already tell that the notion of zero population growth was not going to go down well in this family in Turkey. I felt the breeze snakes sliding back, as if in a tide, behind Mrs. X., as if ready to strike.
Taking the straightforward Yankee approach, I blurted out “Yes, I know about all of those views of his, we talk about it.” I didn’t know what else to do. Before I could get the words out of my mouth in their entirety, I felt the hurtling swath of breeze snakes hit me full force – “but it is your right to have children! This is not fair to you! I hate that he does this, it is wrong, what is wrong with him?” I could see that Mrs. X. and M. resided on different planets and that it would just always be that way. One oppositional and non-traditional to the extreme (even without wanting to be, sometimes) and one caught in the gerbil wheel of a wealthy lady’s expected life (wanting to be and something told me also not wanting to be).
Hacivad stepped forward to jump up on my shoulder, a friend in the storm of breeze snake tides. “M’lady, you just need to stay cool, calm and collected, you are facing a moment of cross-cultural conflict – your reality just cannot be computed in her reality. Kids are wanted – expected – she will not understand. Just let it be and focus on what is important.” Drawing on his zen-like calm, I channeled some inner wise woman with my final comment – some kind of wise woman that knows inside this woman in front of me, surrounded by breeze snakes, had her own crosses to bear. “I suppose we all have strange or difficult things to deal with in the men we choose, don’t we, Mrs. X.?”
Before she could answer, I felt the warm bounce breeze that surrounds M. swagger over my way. M. had broken free from the clutch of middle-aged male observers looking over the balcony at their sons, dancing with arms akimbo in the air. Swashbuckling up to me, M. galumphed into the seat next to me, throwing his arm around me. Only I knew that he had promised to leave me alone with Mrs. X. as little as possible after the obesity comments at what I referred to as “cement beach.” Watching the breeze snakes slither away, Mrs. X. touched the top of my coffee cup in defeat. “It is ready to read,” she said with the empty, deflated voice of a tired middle ager at midnight. I felt equally so.
Taking the cup into her right hand – the left one unduly occupied by a Marlboro cigarette covered in bright pink Chanel lipstick – she craned her neck to the side and peered into the bottom of the tiny cup. “I see mountains and a goat,” she said with question marks abounding “you will have many difficult mountains to climb, but the goat climbs them easily.” Laughing – she stood and bent over to kiss me on the forehead before walking to join her husband in watching their son dancing below.
Hacivad turned to me at the same time as M. with dually quizzical airs. “It sounds like the closest you will get to a blessing to me,” Hacivad whispered. M. just kissed me on the cheek and said “it’ll be good to get back on the road together.”
- To burqini or not to burqini: A sea change floats my way (slowly-by-slowly.com)
- Last night in Bodrum: Fish cheeks, rakı and coffee (slowly-by-slowly.com)
- Escaping the death star by dolmuş: Bodrum bound, Islam not found (slowly-by-slowly.com)
- After the storm: Karagöz puppets gone wild (slowly-by-slowly.com)
- Tea at breakfast: Sweltering in my smile with Hacivad and Karagöz (slowly-by-slowly.com)