The world has gotten all strange–gone messy, like a child’s first attempt at a meat pie. The meat in question was Turkey, Istanbul–a business trip, paid.
I’m here to meet A.N. Prado’s product manager, I’ve met him before, don’t like him; he has one of those tongues. The night before I decide to take a stroll down Istiklal.
The whole of it is littered with heavy machinery huddled around torn up concrete. I find a bar. Just one, then home. The night is hot, sticky.
A man passing by stops.
“Do you have a lighter?” he asks.
I nod, holding it out to him.
“Where are you from?”
“America,” I tell him.
“Oh?” he motions to the seat across from me. I nod my approval and he sits down. He smiles. His head is tanned, more stubble than skin.
“What are you doing here in Istanbul?”
I shrug, “just here for two days on business.”
“Me too–well, just the one, have to head to Dubai tomorrow.”
Dubai is nice, I think.
“Dubai is nice,” I tell him.
“It is a jewel,” he nods, “a jewel hidden deep in the world’s most expensive turd.”
I laugh. He orders a beer. He points to my empty glass. I shrug. He orders another beer, Effes.
“How old are you?” he asks, “If you don’t mind me asking?” he asks.
“Not at all, twenty-eight.”
His dark eyes go a little wide. “You look younger.”
“It’s the hair,” I tell him. I’ve been needing a haircut.
He smiles, “I thought you were Turkish with all that hair. What about me, how old do you think I am?”
“Mid-thirties,” I say, politely. He chuckles.
“Thank you–no, no forty-two.” He pats his belly, “won’t be looking much younger if I keep it up with this beer.”
I laugh. “I suppose not.”
He picks another cigarette out of his pack, I do the same. He frowns at my pack and flips it over.
“Ek, I hate that name!” he spits.
I frown at my pack, “Camel?”
“Yes. I hate it.” He glares at the pack. He leans back and smokes his Marlboro. “Do you want to know why?” he asks.
He leans in. “Well, when I was a kid I grew up in a small village– I was the biggest boy. You know there were many children, but I was the biggest. So, all of the other kids would follow me. They’d follow me and my grandfather would call after me and say, look at the camel, carrying all the little ones, bad camel–you will lead them to trouble.”
I laugh, “and did you?”
He smiles, “Often, often I would go to the river with my friends, to jump–you know, and my brother he was small and he would always follow. I told him if he follows, I will drown him in the river. So, he went and told my grandfather. My grandfather calls me over, “Bad Camel,” he’d say, and he’d beat me. And so I’d beat my brother, but still he always followed,” the man ends on a laugh.
I find myself laughing, too. It was a good story and he has the kind of laugh that’s easy to catch. We catch our breath.
“Watch it,” he smiles.
“Okay, okay. so what do you do?”
He smiles, “I work for a big furniture company, selling in bulk to hotels and the like–lots of business in Russia and Dubai and Germany.”
“Oh? I worked out of Russia for a while.”
“Do you speak Russian?” he asks, in Russian.
“A little.” I tell him.
He smirks, “Russian women are very beautiful,” he says in Russian. Then, switching to English he adds, “my wife is Russian.”
I smile, “oh very nice, mine too.”
He high fives me.
“Oh boy,” he smiles. “You know, would you like to go somewhere else? I have this night free–I mean, I love my family, but I really am happy to have a night away, no work, no kids, should we have fun?”
I finish my beer and shrug. “My meeting is in the afternoon so I’ll have one more with you at least,” I tell him, feeling good.
He claps his hands together, “great. Here, let me.”
TO BE CONTINUED…
**PART 1 of 2.