Perhaps it’s this lazy Sunday afternoon that hushes Istanbul’s cacophonous din of traffic, pedestrians, and peddlers who honk less or else sheepishly sip cay in front of the few open cafes. Perhaps it’s the slow pace that people move down the crooked cobblestone sidewalks as the last of Turkey’s summer heat slowly burns out like coals blown red one last time before being snuffed by the welcome Autumn winds. Istanbul feels empty now and I don’t think it’s just because it’s Sunday. Jason is gone and somewhere a horn player is practicing some solemn song that seems to fit the mood just right, bad notes and all. I’ve been unsure how to write this post exactly, mostly because Jason was always pushing me to fill our blog with some content, any content even as I stubbornly protested that it still wasn’t good enough or exciting enough to share. I learned a lot in our five months of travel together. I learned not to worry so much about making mistakes, both in the tiny realm of our blog and in the much larger realm of sharing every moment, every hardship, and every single thing I owned (including pairs of smelly socks) with one person. There’s no greater test of friendship than learning to lean on one another.
The first few months of our trip were the most difficult. I already knew how to travel alone quite well, but tramping around Europe is different than riding trains around the States. There was so much I had to figure out (languages, road signs, currency, culture, wall sockets, etc.) all while struggling to accommodate someone else’s fears, hopes, and desires even as I learned to balance my own. We would grow frustrated with one another and we would argue like a bitter married couple, but we always found a way to resolve our differences by speaking openly and honestly. The big decisions were the easiest. Where do we go? How are we getting there? What do we eat? Where are we going to sleep? How are we going to afford to keep going? It was the little things that were the most trying. Who is going to make breakfast? Why do you hang your clothes to dry without shaking the wrinkles out? Why don’t you just pick a place to eat already? Why don’t you clean the dishes? But the hardest thing of all, at least for me, was learning to accept and work with not just the faults of another person, but accepting and learning to work with my own faults as well. In the end it wasn’t our arguments (we rarely had those anymore) and it wasn’t our faults that ended the duo, it was what we both knew would end the journey all along.
Istanbul became the turning point for both of us. We both found jobs and began working with the intention that it would help us further sustain our travel. I was thinking long term even as Jason was growing increasingly restless. He didn’t like Istanbul and he didn’t see a future in politics here either. He worked as a copy editor for a newspaper which afforded him a cornucopia of problems he as a yabancı could only read about and never fix. We flew to Greece and I hoped that that might quell Jason’s restlessness for at least a little while as I eagerly awaited school to start and the money to roll in. Athens was instead the place where Jason found a renewed sense of purpose somewhere between the scooter rides around Athens and the massive gathering in the streets as the Greeks celebrated their temporary “oxi” vote victory. It was there and then that he knew what he wanted to do and where he needed to be. For his own reasons, Jason had closed off a corridor of painful memories in his life. With it he also closed off politics. I suspect he had become disillusioned with anything that reminded him of what was behind one of those doors. It was a pain he carried with him throughout Europe and a pain that, day by day, I saw diminish. Athens put his hand on the handle and Turkey had twisted his wrist. With his political passion renewed Jason used his next pay check to buy a one way ticket back to Texas. We said goodbye early in the morning as Jason finished packing the last of his belonging.
“You’ll realize you forgot something important somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean,” I told him.
He was always forgetting something.
“You’re probably right,” he said.
We hugged each other awkwardly as I tried to fit my arms around his oversized back pack. He said something cheesy that sounded like it could be a deleted line of dialogue from the Rocketeer movie. I shook my head and we both feigned a smile. The last week had gone by too quick, still neither of us felt the need for dramatic goodbyes. The last I saw he was carrying his heavy back pack, probably sweating and complaining about the straps, the weight, and the way it sat on his back. I tried to go back to sleep, but I was afraid I might not hear him knocking on the door if he had suddenly decided to come back.
Istanbul feels different now that Jason is gone and although I’m sad that he left, I understood why he needed to go. He always was more clever than I. He found what he was looking for in Europe and brought it with him back him even as I still grope about in the alleyways and parks of a country that bridges Asia and Europe.
As some of you are probably aware, the current state of Turkey is a bit volatile. There’s been some bombings, some shootings, and a two front war being waged on the Eastern border. The U.S. embassy was also recently attacked. All of this has happened far from where I live and most of the violence is aimed at the police and military. Even still I’ve been more cautious than usual, avoiding large political gatherings rather than chasing after them like I might have if Jason was still here.
I’ll be starting school tomorrow where I’ll be teaching first graders and high schoolers at a private school. I’ll be looking for a more permanent living situation in October right around the same time I’ll be applying for residency. I’ve been dating a Turkish artist for the last three months and we are currently working on a children’s book together. She’s very talented and I don’t have the heart to tell her that she should probably find a better poet to actually write the book. She has made Jason’s absence so much easier to bear. I’ve spent my summer in between work visiting the beach, riding bikes, having picnics in the park, playing board games, and working on a novel and children’s story. I’ve been giving private lessons to all sorts of different people around the city. It’s been interesting work since I get to meet all sorts of unique people. I taught a first lieutenant in the Turkish military, a chemist, and now a well renown documentary maker. I spend far too much time preparing lessons that explain grammar rules, vocabulary tips, punctuation, and sentence structure. My students are much happier to just talk. We meet in cafes with beautiful views of the city and discuss whatever it is the student is interested in. My American sensibilities makes me feel a tinge of guilt because none of this feels like real work.
To my readers,
I’m sorry that it has been so long since my last post. I intend to continue this blog with the same web address, HoboandLefty.com, with the hope that one day Hobo and Lefty will reunite and pick up right where we left off. That’s what best friends are for.