A Bitcoin Affair
By James Tressler
She bought some bitcoins some years back, back before almost no one knew what a bitcoin was.
It was pure luck, an accident. A colleague at work, this tech-geek friend, had been going on and on about it, while they were out having cigarette breaks on the terrace. He’d offered to buy some for her, and since she’d only been half-listening, she said sure, why not?
Much later, of course, came the wild stories in the press, on social media, about the remarkable rise of this marvelous little cryptocurrency. Suddenly it was all anybody could talk about.
Istanbullites are especially prone to such phenomenon. For years, people had accumulated dollars and euro, stashing them for the next rainy day. Then, too, was the urban superstition that if one of the city’s countless sea birds passes its droppings on to you, you should take it as a good omen and go and buy a daily lottery ticket right then and there.
Hulya and her husband, Enes, had bought into these theories as well. Now, they had these bitcoins. All told, they were valued at about one hundred thousand dollars. With the exchange rate, it was four times that in Turkish lira.
Talk about kısmet, fate, luck: Hulya, a rather subdued, private woman, was suddenly the envy of her colleagues and friends. Her husband, much more gregarious, bragged about it at his work. Being in the finance sector, Enes embellished the story, making it sound to his jealous colleagues as if the purchase had been the result of his own shrewd prescience, not his wife’s random luck. In fact, when the company prepared for its annual conference in Beijing that year, Enes found himself among the select few chosen to attend. (Usually this conference is reserved for the top performers, but the story of the bitcoins evidently had made the rounds upstairs.)
As for Hulya, her civil service job offered few, if any, such rewards. There had been massive layoffs in the public sector in recent years, thanks to the failed coup attempt in 2016. Most of her colleagues were content to still be working. They kept a low profile, walking on eggshells, fearful of gossip. Still, they occasionally would meet together for coffee or a few drinks on Fridays after work, and on these occasions, Hulya was inevitably called upon to recount the legend of the famous bitcoins.
“And listen to this part!” her colleagues would say, their eyes lighting up.
Hulya would tell the part about not knowing anything about bitcoins, and how she had only agreed because she was smoking and hadn’t really been listening.
“You hear that! Allah! Allah!” they would say, elbowing each other, shaking their heads wistfully.
“It’s not fair!” they said. “Why didn’t I know anything about it?” Fists were clenched, clutching at untold lost virtual fortunes. Sighs expelled from downturned lips, with disappointment in their owners’ lack of foresight.
What were they going to do with the money?
Everyone had their own opinions, advice. Some were suspicious, for good reason. “Are you sure it’s actually real money?” “I read on the Internet yesterday that it was going to crash.” “I was talking with my friend Savaş, and hesays –“
Suddenly everyone, it seemed, was an expert in the emerging field of cryptocurrency, just as before they had been virtual traders in dollars and euros, monitoring the daily rises and falls; just as before they’d roamed the skies on the lookout for the next passing seagull.
The husband, Enes, was inclined to be hard-nosed about it. During their suppers in the living room in their little Üsküdar apartment, Enes would scarcely touch the food, preferring to read articles about various investment opportunities. He was fascinated with the idea of Bitcoin ATMs, and longed to cash out, to have the money in his hands. Then, they could take this actual money, deposit in their bank account, and truly feel and taste the benefits of being rich. (“rich” for them anyway).
Hulya shared her husband’s fascination. They were a young couple, childless, and like all young couples felt the pressures of Istanbul’s long days, long commutes, its mistress-like moods and demands. They dreamed of purchasing property – a flat, a house – of being rid of the penury of landlords.
Actually, it was Hulya who wanted these things. Enes gave them lip service, but Hulya knew that in his heart, Enes had different ideas. He dreamed of being a pesivenk – a big businessman like his boss at the company in Gebze. Enes insisted on wearing expensive suits to work, and was fastidious about ironing his shirts, shining his shoes each day. Usually it was Hulya who did these chores, not that it bothered her – she understood his need to look successful among his peers, and even looked at him admiringly in the mornings when he left for work.
At any rate, the bitcoins came into their lives and now there was this constant question hovering about what to do with them.
It was Hulya’s general inclination to just let the issue settle itself. There was no rush really; coming from central Anatolia, her nature was more reserved and practical than her husband’s. But especially as news reports came showing some rather alarming dips, Enes grew more edgy. He downloaded an app on his phone that allows for buying and selling bitcoins.
Over the course of several days, dealing in cautious sums, Enes sold the coins, transferring them to their shared bank account. It was quiet easy, actually. The transactions completed, Enes joyfully showed Hulya their updated account balance:
"Are we rich, canim?" he asked.
"I still don't believe it!" his ever-skeptical wife responded.
Now what, reader?
Perhaps you have found yourself in their position, are at this moment the proud possessor of a few bitcoins. If so, salud! Happy is the one to whom the gods present with such unexpected windfalls. Or perhaps it was not so unexpected for you. Perhaps you are the classic early adopter, and were smugly using email back in 1992 or thereabouts. You were probably the one who sat in the back at university, whenever you bothered to show up at all.
So then, Early Adopter, you probably have already foretold the end of this story, have even lived it yourself.
But save your smug breath, for those of us, like our dear Hulya and Enes, who are not as farseeing as thou art. You may secretly nodding your head in favor of Enes’ strong approach. Yes, invest it! That’s it! You’ll have them running in circles, Enes my boy!
Personally (maybe marriage does it), I’m inclined to side with Hulya’s caution. Women tend to be the smarter sex, after all.
Well, let’s see what happens.
Enes went on the trip to Beijing for the two-day conference. He flew from Istanbul direct, along with his manager and two colleagues. The days were spent in long meetings, touring some factories, and in the conference itself. We shouldn’t say too much about the evenings, except to say that married men abroad tend to abide by the ancient wisdom that “what happens abroad stays abroad.”
When he returned from the trip, he seemed different. He raved about Beijing (except the food, for course; like a true Turkish man, he could not abide anything being superior to his İskender kebab). He went on about the endless industry, the opportunities, the hospitality of his hosts.
He began to spend more time in the evenings at their flat not researching bitcoin, but rather looking at videos on Beijing, on Shanghai and Gangzhou. He even amused Hulya one evening by practicing elementary Chinese aloud, thanks to a YouTube teacher.
Hulya might have dismissed these Orient roamings, if not for something else. She noticed that Enes began turning off his phone in the evenings, something he hadn’t done before. She knew his password, so one night she turned it on. There were some text messages, in so-so English, obviously posted by a woman. There were these hearts, smiley faces and other emoticons. Hulya herself despised emoticons (so high school!). Was her husband dating a teen-ager?
“Who are these text messages from?” she inquired, presenting her husband with the phone.
Enes looked up from the laptop, where he had been browsing a video on the Forbidden City.
Clearly startled, his voice shaking, Enes said the texts were not his. They belonged, rather, to a colleague, one of the guys who had gone to China for the conference.
“Why are they on your phone then?” his wife demanded. It was a reasonable question.
I will spare the reader Enes’ feeble attempts at explanation.
Poor men: we so often imagine ourselves rather good at deceit. We forget the wise words of the great Turkish comedian Cem Yilmaz, who observed that women are so good at spotting lies in men because as women, they have been lying their whole lives. They, not we, are the professionals. For example, think of the young girl who wants to go out with a certain boy, and she tells her parents she is merely going out to meet a friend. Ah, lads, we praised her for her cleverness, didn’t we? Remember?
Yet we seem to forget this remarkable facility once we have married.
At any rate, Hulya destroyed her husband’s weak alibi in seconds, simply by offering to call the colleague and confirm whether or not the text were his.
Caught in a corner, Enes became angry. He said his wife didn’t respect him. She was invading his privacy. Who was she to spy on him? It was an outrage!
“Keep your voice down!” Hulya whispered. The neighbours.
But Enes would not keep his voice down. He wanted all of Istanbul, the world, to know of this massive transgression against his rights in a democracy, his rights as a man. He cursed; he used invective, threats –
And it happened in an instant. Hulya, who was slow to anger, suddenly rushed at him. He struck her, her eyes grew wide with surprise and hurt.
“Enes!” she cried, choking back a sob. He struck her again, and she fell back against the wall, knocking over one of the house-plants.
They had been eating dinner in the living room before the quarrel broke out. The dirty plates and silverware were still on the coffee table. When Enes went to hit her again, Hulya ducked swiftly under him. She had the Central Anatolian strength and resourcefulness of her family. Surprising Enes, she pushed him back against the wall, and just Enes came off the wall enraged, Hulya reached for a steak knife and buried it in his heart.
As her husband fell to the floor, dead instantly, Hulya stood for a horrible moment, dazed. On the laptop, the video of the Forbidden City was still playing.
Good Lord, reader. What the hell happened? We started with some bitcoins and next thing you know, we’ve got a dead Enes lying on the floor with a steak knife sticking out of his chest. And he’d been going to the gym too of late, so it was a nice, well-toned chest.
You can’t blame the bitcoins. Can’t blame cryptocurrencies. Can’t blame China, even if that seems to be the fashionable thing these days. Hell, you can’t even blame gun laws, since the knife, an elegant weapon from a bygone age, was employed.
So what happens next?
Well, I’ve noted the strength and resilience of our Hulya. Would it surprise you to observe that she calmly took the knife out of her deceased husband’s chest. She went to the kitchen and grabbed a whole bunch of plastıc grocery bags (remember to recycle, folks: you might need them for just such an occasion). A strong woman, she soon had lifted the corpse and dragged it to the bathroom. In the shower, she undressed it. In the kitchen she fetched a cleaver and a saw from the utility area under the sink …
Out of consideration for my dear, sensitive readers, I think I can skip over the grisly details of the operation.
Several hours later, Hulya left the flat. She went downstairs and out to a nearby park. By night it was home to a pack of roaming city dogs. She led the dogs some distance to a small forest, where she proceeded to dump the bags, leaving the dogs to fight over the bits (excuse me) and pieces.
“Afiyet olsun,” she said, wishing the dogs a good appetite.
She stood there a long time, at the cold edge of the park, the stark trees shivering in the winter night air, stood watching the dogs as they finished their meal.
Well, that wasn’t your typical Sunday morning read now, was it?
Was the last part too bloody? Too kitsch? Should I have provided some kind of dessert?
Did your sympathy for the wife abruptly vanish; turn to disgust there at the end? Should I have included an appropriately dark musical score (or an ironic light, happy one?) to heighten the emotional impact? Would you like a moral: He who buys in early cashes in early? Our Enes certainly did.
What about the bitcoin money at least?
We never settled that.
Does Hulya get caught? Does she get arrested? Does she plead self-defence? What about the presumably illegal disposal of the corpse?
What will happen tomorrow when Enes’ work calls? Or his mother? Etc. Etc. Dear reader, I have no idea. You’ll have to ask Hulya’s attorney, who as of this writing has asked that this case not be tried in some online journal.
Who knows? Maybe the bitcoin money can make all these questions go away. You never know! Money has always had amazing powers. With these new cryptocurrencies, maybe they possess galactic forces – enormous benefits, as well as equal consequences, the likes of which we have never seen.
James Tressler is the author of Conversations in Prague and The Trumpet Fisherman, and was a journalist for the Times-Standard in Eureka, California. He currently is living in Istanbul.