By Nora Byrne
From here you can’t hear the motorcycles moving the wrong way down the street or whose heartbeat is whose. The door opens and you hear the click of a lock that doesn’t turn from the inside.
It rains hot and cold in May. Months move slowly before the year wakes them up, then they start to run. You’ve been caught somewhere in the space between newborn and ghost, erring alternately romantic and nihilistic, daydreaming in stunted conversations and marching orders backed by makeshift drums that beat from kitchen windows. Weigh this call to arms against the chance to stop at every blossom, cite age-old wisdom to quiet your conscience. Stay there, stoic, statuesque, then snap back; back to hands on hands back to back to buttons between your teeth, back to one step below scandalous.
It’s the last year of some meaningless deadline, one more self-imposed spring gazing bored at glowing screens that collect on the walls, the streets, the sides of skyscrapers and in your pockets. Watch the sun set to stall, give in and press the button one more time, that same fucking bottom middle button that betrays you for basic and only ever shows you the time. You’re drifting in and out of past present and continuous, from the positive to the negative of what you use or used to do, with or without the d. Snap back to writing sideways, to sheer silks, back to if, no, when you’re having children, back to back when, when you used to pull and push to fake and flirt, to when you never used to freeze.
This city waits for you – it doesn’t care when or if you grow older since there’s nothing to do but sink into the strata. Ageless, reach to the sky, caress the ceiling beams with all the confidence of the crowd, wander among carefully curated walls with whiskey in hand, crying Mary Shelley’s name to the gods or no one - find yourself a beautiful boy to hold court in your girlfriend’s sitting room. Her friends comment fondly on a bookcase that speaks selectively in three languages. Yours stand gracelessly on her couch wearing mismatched socks.
Layering one month on another while the weeks compress, grasp at straws, at shopping bags and bottle caps, at the plastic coating on the inside of paper cups, at every chance to drink tea from a curvy glass destined to crumble at the bottom of the recycling bin that you’re not even sure will go anywhere. Feed anxiety facts like these, gorge it on political drama, on excessively long articles born from the substandard journalism of the Information age, on acceptable dichotomies that drown in gray areas. Starve the same on wine and light rain, starve it on eyes across the room and dancing until morning. Grip the railing with your toes, perch above the street beers and call through the smaller hours. You’re pulling at strings now, slowing waking nerve by twitching nerve.
Summer glimmers at the turn of the sea, waits in green and warm grays; it sings ballads, laments and karaoke classics. Half-frozen, catch your breath to move detached and distrustful. It’s the promise of going to be if you’ve the will, of approaching each other with heads cocked to one side. Hold with arrows nocked behind walls for a signal that never comes, step outside just for a moment to find yourself edgy and undecided, ranging among reliance and rivalry.
It’s a first reminder, implied reoccurrence, a hand on each shoulder or a bee by your nose. Pull grass from the ground to lips velvet-soft and only vaguely interested, climb roads that point toward trash since you know it’s all treasure, half naked in a pile of receipts, pastry bags and fliers that some young man pushed on you at a street corner on the one warm spring day you were too hopeful and too shy to say no. Say no when you wish but be prepared to say it again, three times, with feeling, with your whole mind, both eyes, full body.
If you say it once and they listen, listen. The door’s locked, but they’ll let you out in a few hours. You have what you need; seagulls scream at the satellites while the mouse in the ceiling wanders from corner to corner.
Nora is an artist, writer and educator who has lived in Istanbul for two years. She began writing creative nonfiction after moving abroad, as a response to new and familiar elements of the urban experience.