It says “Taksi” on the cabs that drive past my building. I just arrived in one, here in the Cihangir neighborhood of Istanbul. I shared the taxi with a woman from Chicago, whom I met in the customs line. This seemed like a good omen to me—kismet, as the Turks would say—that I had already made a friend in town. I stand on my tiny terrace, big enough to fit me, my friends in a few days, and a computer just perfectly. I still haven’t purchased that little journal that I know should be practicing my stellar penmanship on, that I’d jot down notes in as I meander through Istanbul’s streets. Or that I’ll write lengthy passages in while sitting in a café, sipping tea and smoking Turkish cigarettes. That’s not likely to happen … but makes for an inspired image. For now, the unromantic laptop on the terrace shall do. It’s chilly, but no colder than Boston. Maybe even warmer. It’s quarter of three in the morning, and I slept, Advil PM induced, for maybe 3 hours last night.
My host brought me a bottle of wine as a welcome gift, sharing a glass as she showed me how to use the television and where to put the garbage. I continue to drink from the bottle after she leaves, and it certainly contributes to my lack of interest in going to sleep. I use Face Time, the Mac application, and talk to my sister. My computer and I tour her through the apartment. She’s glad I’ve made it here.
I have unpacked, my clothes are in the closet and socks in the drawer. This apartment has the tiniest kitchen one has ever seen. The bathroom doubles its size easily. But there’s a washer in there, so I shall not leave this apartment without clean clothes. A café table sits in a windowed alcove, perfect for watching the neighbors pass.
The buildings around me look old and new, at the same time. They are old, they must be, but they look updated. They have clean plaster and well cared-for windows and panes. My street is lined with unidentifiable trees, but one I swear must be a type of citrus. The street lamps hang across the road, from building to building, alighting the entire street in a warm glow. There’s a cat walking nonchalantly down the road.
The sidewalks are demarcated with special tiles to show where outdoor seating exists during the warmer months. As promised, I see restaurants and coffee shops lining my road. I see five men, all conspicuously wearing the same black leather jacket and cool guy jeans, just now locking up the coffee shop for the night. Who drinks coffee at this hour? Probably not them.
My apartment is perfectly suited. It is comfortably decorated, full of pillows and wine glasses, and subscribes to the IKEA design aesthetic with a few antiques and a bit of quirkiness thrown in. There is a table, an old, uneven cut of wood, perched atop two industrial coffee grinders. And out on the terrace, I swear, even in this darkness, that the Bosphorus is what I see glimmering to the left, less than two houses from my own. The morning, should I wake to see it, will show me what this already perfect neighborhood is truly offering. But for now, I’ll put myself to bed, smiling too much to sleep.