Franny GoldenFranny Golden ~ Artist

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FG: First Person
l0 October l992
Leaving Istanbul #1
Leaving Istanbul #1

The last ferry boat from Karakoy to Kadikoy departs at twenty-four hours. I am utterly exhausted from three non-stop days of visitors and school and pondering paintings I can't paint because there aren't enough hours in the day. If I sleep any less I'll evaporate.

How many of Istanbul's twelve million have pushed and shoved their ways through this waiting station, I wonder. At twenty-four hours it smells of rancid coal, stale cigarettes and old dirt. I am the only woman in this vast space and give up hope of finding another abla to sit next to. (Around here women sit next to one another.) Thankfully, I spy a seat next to an old Muslim man, and there I shift to a silhouette, covering myself with the Cumhuriyet newspaper I'd purchased. Conspicuous enough, I am terrified of being caught reading an English language-anything. (The Saratoga incident has incensed everyone and I have again taken to identifying myself as Canadian.)

Where I collapse I doze, occasionally startling awake to squint through heavy eyelids: cliques of men-- swarthy, smoking, surreptitiously eying me. When the boat finally arrives I negotiate the rickety plank, my eyes fixed to the ground so I won't have to confront the shadow stares from shadow faces . (Sit down, you fool, I scold myself, then spy a window seat.)

There I glue my knees together (like a good Muslim woman) and defend my body with the Cumhuriyet. This is crazy, I feel myself shaking my head in disbelief; what am I doing here! I know, I know: building character. (At fifty, I don't need any more character.)

When I awake--fifteen minutes later--sweat has sucked my left temple to the window. Outside, on deck, yellow light exaggerates the grotesque profile of a tall man whose visage is identical to those on the ancient Standard of Ur : his tiny, flat occipital Sumerian bone distorted by huge ears and a large beak nose. His entire being rages against two men who have pinned him against my window. I am terrified. I caution my eyeballs, managing a periphery: and when I stretch my optic muscles along this, the port side of the ship, I discern another man struggling against the weight of three who have shoved him against the guard railing.

The Sumerian at my window struggles with his captors, sliding easily along my face. The buttons on his sport jacket tinkle and dot the surface of the double-pane glass. His back stops on my forehead and I cringe. My neck and shoulders go stiff.

Surely, this is an hallucination, and I stretch my eyes wide, noting my fellow passengers placidly blinking in my direction, colored tabloid newspapers suspended in their grips. Approaching Haydarpasa, the hollow churning of the ferry's engines holds the frightful stillness. Two swarms of men move in-mass in the murky light, their deranged faces convulsing--like the distorted, mute images in a Bacon painting.

The tall Sumerian breaks from his captors and lunges for the man at the railing. Inside, all eyes oscillate in sync with the erratic jerks of the jaundiced figures on the other side of my window.

This is an unspeakable nightmare. My eyes burn, riveted to the swarms as they dart up and down the narrow port side lane. Gestures fly. Violence muffles. At my window the wild Sumerian rears up, stepping back up on to the bench. The crooks of his knees press my nose and I gag. Carefully, slowly, he reaches back into a hip picket and lifts out a long switchblade.

Sumerian crouches, and a synthetic gray elbow strikes at my temple with a sickening thud, then thrusts itself forward. He bolts. A commotion of shiny gray and brown suits tumble. At last I pull my wet forehead from the window; in time to observe the flash of a man's body fly backward. Overboard. Overboard in the dumb yellow light and the waxing moon.

I jump to my feet, leaning into the window, the Cumhuriyet sweat-stuck to my skirt. I swallow hard; the murky men outside are staring at me. I drop to my seat and focus on the linoleum. In my peripheral periscope, though, arms and shoulders drag the Sumerian along the bench towards the boat's midsection. And within seconds we jerk to a stop at Haydarpasa, where I remain in the cabin with a hand-full of men who have resumed reading their four-color tabloids, covered with photos of naked women.

And in this way we complete the remaining ten minutes of our voyage to Kadikoy

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