Turkey—one cannot begin with sequences of time. Writing is a sequence—it has beginnings and endings—but life is complex. Writing about life in Turkey requires another framework—one without beginning or end. My beginning is on this page. At the moment of this writing I am in a Turkish bath in Bursa, a Turkish town not far from Istanbul. I came by boat and then by bus to be in this small cubicle with a massage table and hooks for clothes. A door leads to another room with a long marble bath and a seat. There are two faucets: one steaming hot, one cold. I take off my clothes and soap myself, sitting with my feet in warm water. Around me the sounds of Turkey, sounds both universal and particular—a baby crying. The bathhouse is enclosed by a wall. Outside, a garden with tables and a small bar selling soft drinks—Turkish coca cola.
I cannot separate the observer from the observed. Turkey is me. I am Turkey. What I see—the only things I can see—are what I am and will be.
The language rolls over me like a sea. To understand everything is to leave it behind. Tomorrow where will Turkey be?
Before dawn the muezzin calls to prayer—but now I sleep right through it. A record is broadcast, repeated all over the city.
Turkish sugar tastes as if it were made of honey.
The Black Sea—where it meets the Sea of Marmara. Where did Byron swim? Portugal is more beautiful—Turkey is older. The countryside around Bursa is like California.
Istanbul—surrounded by a different world! Last night moonlight at the end of a dark Turkish alley—men like cats moving about the street. In the restaurant fat restaurant owners beaming at customers, shooing away the ragged men who poke their heads in the door. How terrible to be a restaurant owner in a poor country! The poor are like flies—a bother to others. The poor—men, dogs, cats—cling to life, are allowed to survive. Oh god only knows why his creatures must suffer so!
Man creates beauty—why must he also create so much ugliness, so much pollution.
Istanbul must be defined by centuries, by thousands of ciphers. I know only myself. How many ages am I and why do I remember nothing? Perhaps to learn everything over and over, always from a new facet—but what does it add up to? My character?
I must learn to feel—why did I feel so much and now I am like the memory of a flame—where is the flame itself? Are we constantly dying in this life? So many questions and I still have no answers except one—that life is always opening in two directions—to complexity and to simplicity. I must, like Janus, face both.