Lucy Jensen
Lucy Jensen

“Darling, darling, we have to stop! This is my cousin’s house!” Car comes to a screeching halt, dust flying. We unload, remove our shoes at the door. Everyone sits in the family room. Boiling hot chai tea is produced in tiny glass cups with no handles (never have understood that). We must have stopped at 10 different houses and every time, you must remove your shoes and drink chai. I think I met 99 out of 100 of Ali’s cousins. Some were obviously confused about where this white woman had sprung from and was she going to be the next wife? Fortunately, his lady was also with us, but I did take note of some strange looks from the occupants of the houses we visited.

Finally, we made it to the village celebration of life that was well under way by the time we arrived. (Turkish time apparently means that you can show up whenever you feel like it!) An enormous, covered barn with tables for about 500 filled the central area of the village. Plates of meat, rice and salad, along with a sweet halva, kept being distributed to the masses. Everyone seemed to know each other. I “chatted” to a young teenager who liked my jewelry and wanted to take selfies. The young are the same everywhere. Jewelry, smiles, selfies.

On the way back, we stopped at another auntie’s house — surprise, surprise. She wanted to bake bread for us to take home. Bake bread? How long are we staying? We went off to see another relative up the hill before returning to collect the bread. We consumed warm hunks of fresh gorgeousness on our way back down the mountain.

“We have to go and see Mama!” I was still in my bathing suit, damp from the sea. “Right now?” Yes, right now. I put on a cover up and off we went. I was salty and sticky from the sun block. These people are nuts. After all that, Mama did not remember me. Dementia had taken a hold of her since I last saw her. She fixed her blue-grey eyes on me with a steely gaze and asked Ali, “Where is your wife?” (Guderin had not come along with us this time — she was at a basket weaving class.) Ali retrieved the painting that sister had done of Mama many moons ago. “Rosie hablam!” he said. (Hablam is “sister” in Turkish.) She told him to take away the picture. She has not been able to talk about Rosie since she died. And here I was, sitting on her nicest furniture with my damp bottom, drinking chai — a complete stranger to this woman. I felt you with us, sister. Laughing.

I loved your apartment at Finike. I could have happily spent some quality time there. I remember driving past it with you, but we didn’t go inside. “That’s where Ali will live when I go,” you said breezily. It was so much easier to be there without you than your house in the mountains. I adored the enormous terrace overlooking the bay and, naturally, the easy access to the beach. I was not such a fan of swimming off the harbor — (“He’s trying to kill me!” I commented to Francoise when I told her about swimming from the harbor wall with waves smashing against the rocks). But Ali was very fussy about the dust in the apartment (“The dirt from Africa is coming inside!” I told him that had to be a First World problem from within his penthouse apartment), and he wanted the sliding door to the beautiful outside closed. He tetched when I padded any dust into the flat from the terrace, and I felt ill at ease, as if I was being a bit of an inconvenience at this point.

I had not imagined I would feel this way, but I see now that people move on in life and I should not have stayed with them the whole week — I had overstayed my welcome. You would love Guderin though — she is very calm and lovely. Clever and creative too! A bit like you without the edges, ha ha. Oh wait, you met her years ago. Funny old life with its curves and craters.

I borrowed Ali’s car the next day to go and visit Birgie in Adrasan — we had made a date finally and I would meet up with the folks later in Cirali. I successfully navigated putting gas into the car and paying for it. (I had been a little anxious about what would happen if my debit card wouldn’t work in Kumluca, Turkey, and I had dollars on hand, just in case, for full-on foreigner negotiation!) Birgie was busy making bourek for her German guests when I arrived (bourek is a type of delicious cheese pastry). She told me this would be their last season. The Street Café closing? Another end of an era. “We could meet in Germany!” she said. I told her I would like that very much. “I never see Ali these days,” she tells me. “He has a different life now.” And that is all just fine and how it should be.

I checked in at Tunay’s Pansion after stopping in the village of Cirali to buy a few gifts to take home. Such a lovely spot. One of your favorites. The place where you got married and where we spent many happy days. I wandered across the familiar sands to the sea. It was a bit choppy but lovely all the same. I enjoyed the familiar views for well over an hour and then it was time for a shower. As I walked back to the Pansion, I realized I had made my peace. You were still there for sure — your spirit evident in so many places of your adopted home, but more than that; I know for sure that I take you wherever I go inside of myself. I don’t have to go to Turkey to find you.

Guderin was lying in the hammock when I got back and we drank some beers together, using Google Translate for the tricky bits, talking about our lives. Ali had gone climbing and came back late for the most delicious dinner at Tunays’. I could see the depths of their friendship. They had met when Ali’s daughter Didem and Tunay’s sister had both been dying of cancer in hospital in Antalya. That type of profound experience can seal a friendship for life. It was my last night in Turkey, and I was OK with that.

The next day, I played all your favorite songs, as I left for the airport. A few fat tears slid down my brown cheeks, but I was calm and peaceful. I told you I would come back, and I did.

I spent two days decompressing alone in my hotel room after my solo adventure in foreign lands. When I got home, a red dragonfly flitted across my pond, as if to say, “Welcome home, sister! I knew I’d find you here!

“Ah, there you are,” I observed out loud. “Yep, here I am.” You said and left until the next time.

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


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