On Friday I got all dressed up in that red dress with the white piping- the one I like so much from Double Dutch– to go out with my lady friends, and somehow, between when I hopped on the bus and when I skipped off it 40 minutes later, all the plans had fallen apart. I was wearing my favorite summer dress. I had carefully layered powder eyeliner over pencil, and pulled off the trick where I wear my hair curly but don’t look like a poodle. I had painted my nails to go with my dress. The weather was perfect. I was NOT about to let the night die. So I wandered off to see what kind of trouble I could get into by myself.
A few beers, and one shot of tequilla later, I bade farewell to my new friends, who were headed off to go clubbing. It was almost 12, then. “Come clubbing!” One of them whined. “Gotta teach tomorrow,” I said. “Eight hours.” That thought suddenly depressed me. But not for long- My belly was nicely warm with booze, I had spent the night chit-chatting (which is my favorite thing to do), the air was perfect, and I still looked cute. I was in a pretty good mood when I headed home.
In Mecediyeköy I remembered that the only thing I’d had for dinner was potates, so I stopped at one of the awesome food trucks that pop up at night and grabbed a kofte sandvich, which was SO perfectly greasy and delicious.
“Where are you from?” a fella asked. “England?” I looked up at him, a bit of pickle hanging fro my mouth, and said, “America.” “Oh,” he looked impressed, as Turks always do for some reason, like American citizenship comes with a freebie Nobel Prize or something, and said, “I’ve always wanted to go to America.”
This is a conversation I’ve had so many times in transit stations I can say my lines in my sleep. I was talking to this man, but I was thinking of something else.
:Oh yeah? Where in America?” (He said New York or possibly Los Angeles.) “Oh, that’s a great place. I hope you get to go.” He asked me what I was doing in Istanbul. “I teach.” Where. “Taksim.” And where did I live. “Şişli.” I finished every last shred of meat and pickle flavored bread and said goodnight and wandered down to the metrobus platform. Between the sandwich and the tequilla I was really starting to feel very, very sleepy. I was staring at nothing in particular in the middle distance when he came up quietly and stood next to me. He asked me what was in my bag. “Diet Coke.” All Americans like diet coke. “So true.” The bus came, and he held my elbow as I boarded, which I did not particularly like, but lots of Turkish men do this 1940’s style chivalry thing, like lighting ladies’ cigarettes and putting them into taxis, and my mind was on my bed- the softness of my pillow, the smoothness of the sheets, what I’d watch on my laptop as I fell asleep- and my alarm bells simply failed to go off. They didn’t go off when he asked me which station was mine. They didn’t go off when he followed me off the bus at said station. I started to think something was weird when I stumbled while walking up the stairs and he grabbed my elbow (again) and said, “I will help you.”
“I’m good,” I said.
“No no. I will help you.”
“No, I’m good.”
“I will help you.”
“You will not help me. You need to stand over there, got it? There. Bu. Git. Now.”
We were just out of sight of the platform at that moment, on a quiet stretch of road. There was no one around. I felt genuinely frightened for the first time.
He grabbed my arm hard enough to leave bruises, and lent down, (he was very tall) and kissed me all sloppy and fiddled with the snaps and straps of my top. I wriggled away a step and slapped him. He reeled, is face twisted up and he punched me in the jaw. I stopped being frightened and got really, really, really mad, then. I punched him as hard as I could in the face and started screaming at him. He ran away, back the way we’d come, and I stood there for a moment, still full of fight, and then ran after him. I don’t know where the shit that was coming out of my mouth was coming from- maybe all the Breaking Bad I’ve been watching recently- but as he ran away I screamed the most ridiculous things at him-
“I know you can understand me- I know you speak English! I will find you! I will find your family! I will find your mother! I will find your sisters! And I WILL KILL THEM ALL!!!!!”
Anyway, one thing you should know about Istanbul Polis, ladies, is they aren’t very helpful. The security guard looked perplexed and didn’t move when he saw a man running as fast as he could away from an angry, howling woman. “I thought he was your boyfriend.” Ahh. Of course. Half a dozen or so cops were there withina few minutes and they found one who spoke English to talk to me. I told him what had happened. He didn’t write any of it down. I handed him my passport. He looked at it politely and handed it back to me, and offered me a ride home. I kept rubbing my punching hand in the car- it was starting to swell and it hurt like a bitch, and before I got out he said, “If you have a friend at home, she should take you to the hospital.”
Oh. Thank you.
Inside, I fell apart. I paced around. I had an unnecessary glass of wine. I called America. I cried some. Or a lot.
“Sarah, you need to wake up your roommate and have her take you to the hospital,” Lou said.
“I can’t wake her up,” I said. “It’s three in the morning!”
“Wake her up. Go to the hospital.”
There was a lump on my hand the size of a large egg, now, and I could feel the bones grinding.
“Maybe I should go to the hospital,” I said, dreamily, in the manner of someone who has just had a completely original thought rather than been arguing against it for twenty solid minutes. Lou, bless im, never shows his irritation when I do this.
“Thata girl. Call me when you get back, okay?”
Next… the hospital!