Lucy Jensen
Lucy Jensen

I told you I’d come back, and I did. I did not say that I would keep coming back. I miss you being here, translating for me. I miss you laying down the law and providing the guidelines over here. I miss you. Period.

I waited and your old friend didn’t come. “Why didn’t you give me notice?” she asked me later. Notice? That is not the Turkish way. You just fly by the seat of your pants and go-go, rush-rush, stop-stop, go-go again. I had forgotten all about that madness. So completely exhausting.

I left and got lost all over again, trying to find my way home. I had traveled that route many times, but never driving myself and I got myself into a right mess. Ultimately, Ali made me drive home with the video camera, chiding me for all my wrong turns. Sister, you would have howled with laughter. Lost in translation. A lot. His English has gone downhill in the six years since you left. Our comprehension level is not where it was. I’m not sure if I can ever come again. If I do, it will most definitely not be alone. The weight of memory is too much to carry. A burden of sadness has climbed back onto my shoulders. I’m lonely here without you.

We went to see the attorney. Well over six years ago, you won the case against the crooks who stole from you and your family. You were determined to win, and you did. Though the property has yet to be sold, I feel you still fighting from afar. There may not be much to be done, the Turkish lira has fallen ridiculously in value, but the principal remains the same. You won. And because of you, others also won against these tyrants, one of whom was your former love.

I was so sad seeing your names on the gravestone again, which was covered in lavender and bees. My tears welled and I couldn’t stop them. I know you are not there; your body is but ashes-to-ashes, dust-to-dust, but the irrational ache remains. I was choked and choking for hours, tears randomly dripping down my cheeks like fat raindrops.

“I would have thought it should have been long enough,” my father remarked later. I did not respond. A lifetime is not long enough for me. Still robbed, still ripped off. I’ll no doubt always feel that way. “He doesn’t do well without her,” I tell my daughter about Ali. “None of us do,” she replies. That kid is astute; she’s my old soul.

I go to a proper Turkish hammam. I can’t believe you never took me to one, then I would know all I needed to. I was laughing so hard inside. No one spoke English, no one showed me the way. I sat naked in a baby towel in this steam room waiting for someone, anyone to come and show me the ropes. An old lady in a black negligée finally comes in and starts pouring water on herself. Since it was all humid and steamy in there, that made sense.

I figured that was the start of the process. Still, no one comes. Hmm. I watch the lady without seeming to watch her. I felt like a creeper. Finally, another lady appears in a black bra and underwear and gestures that I should lie on the marble slab like a sacrificial lamb. She scrubs my skin as I have never been scrubbed before, pouring oil on me and buckets of water and then scrubbing me as if her life depended on it. If I wasn’t drowning, then maybe I was simply dying. I was definitely dying of laughter inside.

Madame Dominatrix sits on my naked, scrubbed bottom and begins to karate chop on my back and shoulders. There was no escape now. She could have her wicked way with me in the Turkish baths and no one would ever know. And then she massages my feet. Now, with the foot massage, I’ve got some rhythm going and I’m beginning to like this Turkish hammam lark. No, don’t stop now! But it’s over too quickly, she pulls me up and gives me a dry baby towel for my drippy, naked self. As I’m dressing, my skin is all soft and I wonder at what point you are supposed to go in the sauna part. How did I miss that? Oh, I laughed so hard, sister, on the way back to the apartment and I didn’t even get lost.

Later it was escape to the sea time. I had the whole beach at Finike to myself. It was fairly shallow water, but fine for kicking around with my mini weights. Wait, is that a seal? Two, four, eight, 10, 12 of them? These large heads were popping up all over the places like prehistoric Labs, as if to say, as you always did, “’Ello, sistaaaa!” I was surrounded by giant sea turtles, playing in the water around me. “Sister!” I called out to the universe. “Thank you, sister!” As the turtles whooshed past me underwater, did a U-turn and then whooshed back, I realized that they were playing with me. Then they’d stop and pop their heads back up. I had to think that was one of the most magical things I had ever witnessed. And it was for my eyes only. And obviously yours.

Later we had dinner with your old English friends, and we talked and laughed about you so fondly, as you can six years after departure of a loved one to another planet — finally without weeping. Six years away in body, but right here in spirit. It was so nice to see all of them again. I felt comfortable and in your element. I was happy I came to that party.

For some reason I thought it might be interesting to go with Ali and his lady to his village up in the mountains the following day. He talks about the village where he is from, but I had never been up there. They were attending a feast that occurs one year after the death of a person in Turkish culture and he was friends with the family, so it was appropriate that he go.

After the first 30 minutes of windy, curving roads with lots of braking and acceleration, my enthusiasm was waning, but it was too late. Oh well, I had better buckle up, sit back and go with the flow. It was going to be a very long day.

(Part III of “A Letter to My Sister” will be published next week.)

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Soledad columnist Lucy Jensen may be reached at [email protected].


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