After drinking two cups of coffee and taking a steaming hot bath, I venture out. I know how to say How much? and I don't speak Turkish, sorry. I also have the numbers one through five (bir, iki, üç, dört, beş) and my address written on a sheet of paper, just in case I get lost or get prices all mixed up. I know where the store is, and the now the bakery. I can see the entrance to the market. This will have to be enough to get me by.
Everything here is so beautiful. May I please stay here? I wish I understood more of the scenes around me though. I know, for instance, that people are talking to me and about me. I know people are trying to tell me where their melons come from. I know they're trying to tell me about their lives and their businesses and their families. I miss all of it. I listen and smile, half-heartedly, and repeat the same line a thousand times: I don't speak Turkish, sorry. And suddenly they smile - big toothy grins, and say - I promise - Duetsch?, and point to me.
No, no, American, I say. English.
And they grin again and say, Ah, American. New York?
And again I laugh and say, as hickish as I can, Texas.
And they smile back and say, Ah, Texas.
Everyone knows Texas. Even in Istanbul.
As I buy my tomatoes and pomegranates, they launch back into their floods of gnarled-sounding words and fluid gestures. And I stand there with 5 Turkish Lyra in my hands, waiting for a good time to motion for my bag and repeat, Ne kadar? How much?
The man selling the eggs was the worst but I loved his booth. He had hazelnuts and walnuts and pistachios and cracked one of each for me, holding the nut meats out to me in a dirty, weathered palm. I feared he was about to crack open one of his eggs, too, so I blurted out, beş! (I'll take five!) It was the highest number I could remember. So I bought walnuts and hazelnuts and five eggs. The eggs got their own bag and I cradled them in among the walnuts and wandered around, laughing about the Texan buying FIVE EGGS IN ISTANBUL, until I found a booth of daisies with their roots still on. Then my five eggs, walnuts, pomegranate, tomatoes, apples and daisies and I were on our way to the bakery. It was 1 PM and I was ready for something to eat.
Inside the bakery, I decided on a simit and a round, golden loaf that I thought had cheese in it. (I don't have a sense of smell. Have I ever told y'all that? I can't smell anything and never have. So unless I can taste it, I have no clue what unfamiliar food is.) Anyway, the cheese turned out to be orange rind, but I didn't know that until I sat everything down along a low wall just off the street and settled back against an iron gate to enjoy my lunch.
And as it turned out, I had company. She tried to pretend she was interested in traffic and birds, but she wasn't.
I threw her part of my orange bread and said every Turkish word I knew to her in a really sweet voice. Eventually she came close enough to sit awhile and have lunch with me, there just off the street in Istanbul.
I crumbled the rest of the bread and trailed it around for the cat and her bird friends to have later. And I have to admit, it was one of the best lunches I've had in awhile.
I think we may even have to do it all again tomorrow. Same time, same place.