Saturday, August 7, 2010

Not a travelogue

I had decided not to write a travelogue. But. First day in Istanbul. The men on the streets, vendors, strollers, with their sunken faces. Standing still, pensive, with a resigned expression of wonderment. The myriads of women, colorful, pretty, their attire in every degree of muslim dress code: burkhas, chadors, tank tops. Their fairy tale set: the city, with its minarets and islands raising out of the haze, old rickety wooden buildings with surprising majesty.

At sunset we take the 30 min boat ride back to Kadikoy where we're staying. On the horizon we see the other sections: Galata, Besiktas, Üsküdar. As in every new city I visit, I look for the center. Here it's right in the middle of the Bosphorus. Not the sweet gentle Mediterranean that licks the coasts of Marseilles or Barcelona. A rough sea that's throbbing with strong, unseen currents.

We exit the boat terminal in Kadikoy with a crowd of commuters. A bang. Like a shot. I look around to see which street stand balloon has exploded. People start running. Right at the entrance of the terminal hall a man is holding up a gun, he takes a shot at a young woman. I run, following my sister and our children, behind a shack.

The woman is dressed in silk clothes: white pants, a black shirt and a black and white head cover. She's slight and thin. Same built as most Turks, making them light on the lightning fast horses that swept through Europe many centuries ago. He's of the same build. They both have beautiful, miniature-like heads and features. He's wearing an impeccable silver suit which opens on his white shirt as he shoots. She's begging him, with gentle cries. He keeps on shooting, toward her legs. Unbelievably, she's unhurt. It's unreal. I'm terrified she's going to get killed. She falls to her knees and raises her square handbag, its patent leather shining like a talisman between her and the man's gun. At last she's clearly hurt, in her lower body or her legs. She screams as she collapses. The man comes away toward the esplanade. He raises both his arms up, as in triumph, holding the gun by its barrel. Men in the crowd run from behind him, masking her from view, and rush him to the floor.
I hurry to the children. My niece is in tears. My son upset. I run to my husband who is approaching after going for information, I whisper:
   -  If she died don't tell the kids.
   -  She'll be fine.
Our daughter is missing. I look for her, she's on the other side of the shack. She's got a blank expression on her face. Just like my face. Some people near us, older ladies, laugh. A young woman, sitting on a wedge, is shaking with sobs. I feel nothing. Except for the insane beauty of the scene. It looked like a film shot from my point of view. The man and the woman exactly positioned for best viewing. They were both so elegant. Even the gun, unlike American series' fat species, was long and stylish. It seems such an inadequate reaction. Grasping it as an esthetic tableau instead of a tragedy.

Not one cellphone held up in the air to record the act. I certainly didn't use mine.

We gather, trying to comfort the children. Later we talk of what happened. I still feel uneasy about my reaction, was  I just so relieved she was not killed? My sister says she saw a man carrying away the young woman in his arms. She had four red circles on her silky pants. My husband adds the gun probably jammed at first, he fears the man who took her away might have been a relative from the revenging family. We agree the gunman had it all planned, his best suit, his giving himself up, every move codified. I tell my sister that the man didn't really seem to want to kill the young woman. She didn't see any of it:
   -  I ran, I didn't want to see it. But you came behind the shack with us, how come you saw it all?

That's right, how come I saw it all? And I remember. I had forgotten I ran back, and I screamed and screamed stop stop stop stop. And I forced out my loud whistle between my fingers which so impresses my children. Futile. Looked around for something to throw at the man. I'm too far. I'm scared to go closer. It all happened so fast. A short few seconds in which to balance how much I will risk for another human being, how safe I want to stay, and act.

Published by  - -  Arabella Hutter