Bodies (10)

When we reach the landing in the first floor, I immediately spot the half-open door.
Hazim notices it, too. “Get behind me!” he hisses.
I obey.
To my surprise and horror, Hazim pulls out a small gun from under his belt, holding it before him as we cover the last metres on tiptoes. He slams the door open, makes a circular movement with his outstretched arms, just like they do in the movies.
Even in the dark, we can see that no one’s there. I sigh with relief.
Until I switch on the ceiling light and discover what’s left of my room. A gasp of despair escapes me. The cupboard doors are wide open, all my clothes lie on the floor. The sheets and blankets have been torn apart, the pillows and the mattress cut into pieces, fluffy white feathers cover everything. The TV set has been smashed in, the rest of the furniture chopped up with an axe.
“What the fuck…!” I whisper, leaning onto Hazim’s muscular frame for reassurance.
“Collect your things!” he whispers back, pushing me away. “Come on!”
“Huh? What? My things? But… we should call the reception! The police! Or Murat!” I try to remain level-headed, but panic makes my voice crack.
“You listen to me or what? Murat cannot help you anymore! You’re in danger!”
I don’t want to believe it. There must be an easy way out of this! An explanation. Something rational. I’m sure, I’m so sure, so fucking sure; because my certainty is the only thing that keeps me sane and whole. “That’s ridiculous. Why should I be in danger? And why shouldn’t Murat be able to help? He’s got money and power. That sorts out everything, in no matter which country!”
Hazim rolls his eyes. “Don’t be so stupid! You think this—“ he points his gun at the mess around us“—would be possible without Murat knowing?”
“What you’re talking about? Why would he know of this? I mean, a break-in can happen just about anywhere, right?”
“Anywhere. But not here. Not in Hiçbiryerde, even less in this hotel. Look around —this is not just a break-in, you idiot! If we had time to check, you would realize nothing is missing.” He shoves his gun back under his belt.
Stunned, I fix my clothes. Sure enough, I see one of Murat’s gifts, a massive, golden chain bracelet, peep out under one of my black shirts. A burglar wouldn’t have left without taking it. It’s worth a good amount of bucks.
So… if nothing has been stolen, why would anyone do this…?
“I need a drink,” I murmur and turn toward the small fridge in the corner.
“Don’t!” Hazim intercedes.
“Why not?”
“Because I think that…” He doesn’t finish his sentence, opens the fridge instead and takes out a can of soda and a little bottle of Whiskey. “Yes, just as I thought,” he says after inspecting them.
“What is it now?” I want to know, irritated.
“Look here.” He shows me the cap of the Whiskey bottle, then the can.
There’s a little hole in each. As if someone had introduced a syringe.
“My God… someone tries to poison me?” A nervous laugh escapes me. I notice how pathetic I sound.
“I guess they injected GHB into all the beverages,” Hazim states.
“The rape drug?” The seriousness of the situation sinks in at last. My legs get weak, I have to sit down.
Put Hazim jerks me up again. “We don’t have time. Take your passport, your ID card, your money, all the important stuff. And then let’s get out of here!”
“What about my clothes? Do I have time to pack?”
“No.” He pats me on the shoulder. “You have ten minutes until my return.”
I try to hold him back, but he has already left the room.


Bodies (9)

Once we’ve reached the relative safety of the hotel compound and the wan lights of the pool bar, I need to sit down on a deckchair. My heart is racing, my head spinning, my breath comes in raspy pants. The filtering system of the pool gurgles, the turquoise water sloshes against the edges, the night air whispers of serenity.
Hazim stops, too; he walks back to where I’m trying to recover and stares down on me, his face expressionless.
“Thank you,” I gasp.
He shrugs. Then he asks, “What were you doing in that bar?”
“Make an educated guess,” I reply tartly.
He continues to stare at me.
“I just wanted to have a drink,” I say after a minute.
He sighs. “Why that bar?” he asks. “It’s a place with prostitutes. A bar that attracts dangerous men.”
“You don’t say!” I answer. “Anyway, how could I know it was a hooker bar?”
“The thick curtains before the windows? The dim, red light? The people in there?” He starts to loose patience.
“I didn’t pay attention, to be honest…”
“You never do, I think. That’s one of your main defects.”
Now it’s my turn to get edgy. “Did I ask you to sit in judgment of me, huh? Did I? I think not! I’m grateful that you rescued me, but don’t overstep the mark, okay? And tell me: what were you doing in that bar? Have you been following me?”
“And what for?”
“Murat asked me to watch over you.”
I can’t believe it. “Did he? Why so, pray tell?”
“He thought things might get out of control. As they did.”
“Oh, that…” I shake my head. “Just some hot-headed bullies. Shit happens, you know.”
“Hot-headed bullies, you say?” Hazim leans down and hisses, “I can tell you one thing: those weren’t mere bullies. Nor pimps. Those were hit men. Everybody knows them in the region!”
“Oh come on!” I try to laugh, but don’t succeed. An icy shiver crawls up my spine.
“Believe me,” Hazim says flatly. “Or don’t. Doesn’t make a damn difference. They were out to get you.”
“Please—why would they?” Is he pulling my leg, or is he serious? He looks serious enough, for sure.
“Intimidation? A warning? Maybe they were paid to hurt you. I don’t know exactly.”
“But—who are they? Who hired them?”
“How should I know?” Hazim’s voice gets steelier every minute. “It’s your business, not mine. So you should tell me who and why!”
“I don’t know. Honestly. I have no idea.”
Hazim doesn’t reply. His attitude shows what he’s thinking, though. That this is another of my defects.
Abruptly, I stand up and walk away. But after a few steps, I hear him behind me. Spinning around, I snap, “Leave me alone, you tight-assed jerk!”
My words hit him like a slap. When he regains his composure, he only says, “I will bring you to your room, sir. That’s what I’m paid for.” His voice is weary and sad.


Bodies (8)

After that, it’s a smooth afternoon of waves lapping the beach, pebbles rolling with a mineral sort of click-clack against each other, and chitchat. Nothing personal, just an exchange of banalities, in fact. And we don’t look too much at each other, alright. But still. It’s better than having to deal with unexplained grumpiness.
The ride back to the hotel is just as smooth. Our frequent silences seem to connect us more than they separate us.
I can’t explain why I feel so glad about it. I guess it has to do with my tendency to want people to love me. A penchant I’m unable to overcome. It’s as if I wanted others to prove me that my vision of myself is wrong, perhaps. Whatever. That is a slippery line of thought; one I’m not eager to pursue.
Therefore, I pick up the first unrelated thing that comes to mind. “Tell me, Hazim,” I say. “I’ve been wondering…”
Hazim shoots me a sideways glance. “About what?”
“Don’t take it wrong, please. But we both know that… Murat simply can’t resist the temptation of a handsome young lad.”
He nods, tensing up again.
“Listen, forget it,” I say. “I don’t want to spoil everything with my stupid questioning.”
“No, it’s alright. Go on. What is it you want to know?”
“Well, I find it odd that he’s never tried to… bed you.”
Hazim turns off the car engine and just sits there, still and unreadable. Then he replies in a low voice, “There’s nothing odd to it.”
“So he really never tried to…?”
“No. Never”.
“Well, uh… okay. I just wonder why.”
He turns to look at me. “If you must know it: because he’s my uncle. Sort of.”
“Oh. Your… uncle. Oops. I didn’t mean to…”
“It’s okay.”
I was hoping that he’d have dinner with me. Maybe even show me the nightlife of Hiçbiryerde or something. Just to stop me from being lonely.
I think I can forget that now.

I go through the next motions like an automat. Take a cold shower, check my mobile. There are no new messages, which I take for a good sign. I watch the news on BBC. Apparently, the French IMF-director has been caught forcing a cleaning lady to give him a blowjob in a hotel in New York. Or so they say. The man’s in prison now.
That story is so pathetic that I switch off the TV, disgusted. We are governed by dicks, I’m thinking. Because, apparently, we don’t deserve better.
I get dressed, black and Armani; I apply perfume. Then I order dinner to be brought to my room. I eat it on the balcony, surrounded by the balmy, still night. Minutes drip by like solitary blobs of treacle, sticky and thick, while I’m floating down boredom alley again.
At half past nine, I decide it’s time to do something. To leave this lonely place, go out and see people.
I walk through the empty hotel park, heading for to the swimming pool area. The pool bar, bathed in a sallow, apathetic light, is dozing. Unnoticed, I slip out through the little door and follow the narrow lane.
When I reach the main street, I’m surprised. The hotel area was so empty that I’d thought the whole little town would be, too. But no. Cars drive by, people stroll around, looking purposeful and satisfied. I make out a few tourists near the souvenir shops, but most of the night walkers are locals who have finished their work and are looking for entertainment before going to bed.
I choose the loudest bar, a few steps down the road. Blaring music will drown the blues in my head.
The bar is rather crowded, but I seem to be the only tourist. Everybody turns and stares at me as I enter. Well, they’ll get over my unexpected presence. Eventually. I walk over to the main bar and sit down on a stool. “Gin-Tonic, please”, I tell the barman.
Then I look around. The crowd is mostly male, with a few young women in alluring clothes who seem to be very friendly with the customers. Four scantily dressed chicks wiggle it on the dance-floor. The girls, faking to ignore the hungry look they provoke, are professionals; the way they gyrate their hips, strike lascivious poses, lick their lips leaves no doubt. Three are blonde, with high cheek-bones, false smiles, cold and calculating stares.
The fourth rather stands out. She keeps to one of the concrete columns, around which she evolves, holding on to it with one hand. It’s supposed to be some sort of pole dance, I reckon. She has dark, wavy hair, the short, black dress looks far too large for her bony body, she seems to have a hard time remaining on her feet, wavering and stumbling along with the music. Her eyes are wide and all black pupils. I don’t know what she has gobbled or injected, but it must’ve been strong stuff.
Despite her out-of-it condition, she notices me watching her. Trade radar, I guess. She puckers up her lips in a broad, silly grin and winks at me, almost loosing her balance.
A big, square guy with a beasty face steps closer to her and prevents her from falling. He clutches her shoulders and says something. She nods like an obedient doll and answers, her head wobbling vaguely in my direction.
The guy leers at me before strolling over just as I’m served my drink. Close up, his face looks even fouler, his sneer so dirty and suggestive that he makes me want to slap it off his face. He leans forward, enfolding me in his cheap, strong cologne, and shouts in my ear, “American?”
I shake my head, sensing trouble ahead.
“Deutsch? Du deutsch?”
“I’m French,” I shout back between gritted teeth. Then I take a sip.
“Ah—Français! French! Good, good,” he shouts. Then he points out his drugged-up tart. “You wanna company? You pay my lady a drink?”
I shake my head again. “No, thanks, I’d rather be alone.”
“She good woman! You pay me, you can fuck her.”
The situation is so ridiculous that I’m about to laugh out loud. I don’t pay for sex, that’s what I’d like to tell that ugly lad; I usually get paid for it. Yet I doubt he has a great sense of humour so I swallow my answer, preferring to shake my head a third time.
The barman glances at us, then quickly looks away.
“What, you no want my girl?” the ugly dude shouts, moving closer still. He isn’t smiling anymore; if anything, his face is contorted in a threatening, brutal way.
“Listen—,” I lay a hand on his broad chest to keep him from invading my private space any further, “—I’ve just come here to enjoy some music and a drink. So please leave me alone!”
He whips my hand away, his eyes dangerous slits, and shouts, “You a sissy boy? You not want my girl, you a sissy boy?”
My God, why are they all so obsessed with gays, today?
From the corner of my eye, I notice three other guys stare at us, ready to come and help their comrade. One of them stands up and lifts his chin as if to challenge me. I decide that a prudent retreat will be the best idea. “No,” I say loudly, “no, I’m not gay. I just usually don’t pay for sex, okay?” While talking, I get up from the bar stool and move backwards toward the exit.
But the guy follows me. “You not a sissyboy, you pay my girl a drink!” he hollers, his face red with anger. His three friends are moving toward me, too.
I’m not a coward—at least, I think I’m not—, but the violence hanging in the damp air right now almost makes me sick. The situation leaves no room for discussion or negotiations. I have to get out of here, the faster the better! It seems to be a question not only of physical integrity but of life and death.
My back collides with something—the wall, I guess, or one of those darn columns—, and I know I’m trapped. The guy comes closer, his hands clenched into fists, there’s no escape…
That’s when someone snatches me by the collar, slams several dollar bills on the table at my side, then drags me outside, almost suffocating me.
“What the fuck…?” I croak and tear at the strong hand holding my collar from behind.
“Shut the fuck up, and follow me! Quick!”
I recognize Hazim’s voice. Relief floods through me. As soon as he releases the collar, I turn around, see him running ahead of me, and chase after him.
There are loud voices and angry screams in my back.
I don’t care to look what it is all about. I just leg it.


Bodies (7)

I’m a bit high when we leave the tree house. We enter the thick forest on the other side of the settlement. Careful not to stumble on the narrow path, I follow my broad-shouldered guide. My feet tread on moist earth while I look out for treacherous holes and roots, lifting my head from time to time to enjoy the change of sunlight and shadows. Here and there, I sight the ruins of mystical sarcophagi, most of them fallen into decay and overgrown with grass and weed and bushes.
A low breeze whispers through the ancient trees. Hidden in the lush vegetation, a rivulet gurgles; birds chirp and flutter when they take off, disturbed by our approach.
At last, we step out of the forest. A wide bay opens up before us. The pebble beach is empty but for a small group far away. To our right rises a sharp, high and scrubby rock. The odd pine tree stands out, askew, like an untamed flick of hair. On top of the rock, I discover the massive remains of an ancient stronghold made of blackened, mossy stones. I’m thinking Middle Ages, bold knights, crusades, battles against the Saracens, the Genoese, the Venetians. How the owners of the castle must have thought they had found paradise here!
“I hope you put on your bathing trunks,” Hazim says.
His speaking shakes me out of my cotton daydreams. “Um, in fact, no, I haven’t”, I reply. “I didn’t know you would take me to the beach.”
“Sorry.” Hazim looks at his feet, a sheepish expression on his face. “Do you want to go somewhere else?”
“Not at all.” I slip out of my loafers, take off my tank top and reach down to open the zip of my trousers. “I reckon in this country nudism is frowned upon on public beaches, but…”
Hazim steps back, aghast. “You won’t…!”
I can’t help but giggle. “No, don’t worry, I won’t.” The linen slides down to my ankles. “I’m wearing boxer shorts, see?”
He glimpses at my underwear, his face turns crimson. “Uh, okay.”
“Get out of this,” I say and tug at his shirt.
He makes a hasty movement to fight off my hand. Then he unbuttons his shirt and undresses, turning his back on me. I watch his muscles work, stare at the firm buttocks under the synthetic fabric of his black bathing slip.
Sensing my gaze, Hazim spins around and glares at me. “Stop that! I’m not… I’m not like that!” His voice trembles.
I roll my eyes before replying, “Oh Jesus! Whatever. I think I’ll take a dip.”

After a long swim, I’m back on the beach. Hazim is still splashing around; I guess he dreads being with me. It’s a pity, really, since we seemed to get along quite nicely in the tree house.
Ah, the heck with it! I won’t apologize for being who I am. Right now, I’d like to remove my wet boxer shorts. They cling to my skin, and it’s not a pleasant sensation. But I know better than to act upon that immediate desire. The situation’s complicated enough as it is.
Hazim joins me a minute later, looking at anything but me. His hard nipples stand out from a bush of black chest hair that narrows to a thin line on his ripped abs. His legs are muscular and hairy, too. He looks good in clothes, but he’s outright stunning without, I have to admit.
He sits down at my side, keeping a careful distance between us, still not looking at me. His legs jiggle nervously. That’s the only thing that bothers me with him: his uneasiness around me. For God’s sake, will he ever be able to relax? I decide to clear the air. This is 2011, and we’re adults, after all. “Do you think I want to seduce you, Hazim?” I ask, closing my eyes to signal how innocuous I am. “Is that what you’re afraid of? That I lay my dirty faggot’s fingers on your precious, straight body and spoil it?”
He doesn’t look at me, just mumbles, “Don’t speak like that, sir.”
“I’ve told you not to call me sir! How… uptight can you get, huh? My name is Marc, and I ask you for the last time to call me Marc. Anyway,” I shrug, “I thought Turkish boys always had same-sex experiences in their teenage years. Like everybody else.”
Again, he turns crimson. “I don’t want to talk about… that.”
I clap in my hands. “Alright. Let me just inform you, in the most polite words I can find, that I have no intention whatsoever to force you into any… sexual act. I’m here to enjoy the day. To enjoy this.” I make a gesture that encompasses the beach, the flat Mediterranean, the rock, the castle. “I’m not very keen on gay sex, anyway.”
He glances at me, then stares at the sea again. “You come to Turkey to see Murat. And always for the same reason.”
“Yes I do. And you know what the reason is? He pays me, okay? I earn money with… sex. Sex with women, sex with men. You think you can get over it one day? Or will I have to bear your… prudish behaviour for the rest of my stay?” How tired I am of explaining myself over and over and over! The persons I’m talking to change, the sceneries change, but in the end, it all turns out so predictably similar.
“It’s just that…”
“Well, I can understand how my… way of living might hurt your beliefs, your moral system, whatever. I guess you bash up gay boys on a daily basis, just to prove what a man’s man you are. But you’ll have to accept one day that some people are different, whether you like it or not. Anyway, I’m not one of them. The gay men, I mean. I sell my body to those who can afford to pay. That’s all.”
He shakes his head. “I do not… bash up… homosexuals.” He leaves it at that.
“Okay,” I say. “Do you think you can forget about my job for the rest of the day? Treat me like, I don’t know, one of your friends? Or, if that’s too much to ask, like just some guy you happen to drive around because your boss asked you to.”
“Okay.” His voice is croaky. “I have one question, … Marc.”
“If you are not a… a homosexual man, then why do you… look at me like that?”
“How do I look at you?”
“Like you want… you know.”
I shrug. “I guess I’ve learned to appreciate nice-looking… things when I see them. You have a handsome face. A good body. I find it more pleasant to look at you than to look at some ugly dude. That’s all. No hidden agenda. Just, well, a strong aesthetical sense.”
“Ah. Okay.” He doesn’t seem to understand.
“Any other guy would’ve said ‘Thank you’. That was a compliment, after all,” I inform him in a light tone.
“Oh. Thank you.” Now he looks even more bewildered than before.
“Okay, let’s change the subject.” I lay back, the warm pebbles poking into my skin. “Tell me about Istanbul.”


Bodies (6)

After some miles, Hazim leaves the main road and drives toward the still and sparkling sea below. It’s a bumpy ride down a narrow path that cuts through the lush vegetation. Low branches glide over the car’s metal. Dust and sand are billowing around us, drifting in through the open windows, making my eyes burn. I switch off the music, and for a while, the whizzing song of the cicadas and the scrunching of tires on dry earth are the only sounds I hear.
Even though Hazim drives carefully, trying to avoid the deepest potholes, my shoulder collides with his more than once. Each time, he flinches as if I was contagious or something.
I’m glad when our rough excursion comes to an end. We reach a valley with a settlement of some sort, hidden in the midst of nowhere and scrub. An empty parking space, little wooden huts, and quaint houses nestled in the trees. As we get out of the car, stretching our stiff members, I have to admit that I’m surprised. I expected Hazim would show me a typical mountain village, or another non-descript and ritzy tourist resort, or at least an archaeological site.
But no. He brought me here. To this odd flower-powery kind of place. What bewilders me most is the sense of peace and carelessness it gives off. It doesn’t feel like Turkey, it doesn’t reek of mass tourism, it doesn’t even feel to be of this world, to be honest.
Hazim talks rapidly to a young, Turkish guy who has come to greet us and who is wearing nothing but faded tracksuit pants. The guy lays a hand on Hazim’s shoulder, smiles a lazy smile at me, and leads us to one of the tree houses.
I ogle the young people who stroll around without any discernible purpose and listen to their joyful chitchat. There are suntanned Australian girls with dreadlocks, and chubby, red-faced English boys carrying packs of bottled water to one of the huts, and chummy girls from Chicago in ample dresses, and blonde, bare-chested Swedish boys with unnaturally white teeth. It’s already quite hot, the cicadas fill the deep blue day with their chants. Green vegetation and brown, dry earth surround us, the endless sky above smells of summer and freedom.
The tree house is round, with a high, wooden ceiling, and only holds a low table and a round bench covered with dusty carpets. The young, Turkish guy seats Hazim and me side by side on the bench, then disappears, still smiling to himself. A minute later, a girl in a bikini top and pareo brings Efes beer and köfte and bread.
We start to eat and drink in silence.
When we’ve finished, Hazim reaches into the breast pocket of his black shirt and takes out cigarettes and a small plastic bag with weed. Without saying a word, he rolls a joint, lights it, takes a puff, hands it over, closes his eyes.
I don’t smoke but decide to make an exception. I take a drag and look around. The landscape I see through the door of the tree house is bleached by the heat, whitewashed. The present becomes blurry at the edges. Reality a wish, a possibility.
And suddenly, from somewhere behind the tree house where I guess the kitchens are, comes the sound of music. At first it’s just a regular bass booming seven monotonous notes, then an eighth, one note higher. The hollow bass notes are repeated, joined by discreet percussion. I recognize Massive Attack. “Angels”. Unnatural, sublime, falling out of nowhere, coating the trees and flowers and houses and the dirt and the sand and the sky with sadness and regret.
Then the male singer starts to sing in his strange, high-pitched voice that he somehow manages to keep calm, longing, loving. “Yooooooouuuuuuuuuuu…,” he sings. “Are my angel… Come from way above… To bring me love…” The bass shifts slowly from hollow to sharp.
I take another drag and hand the joint back to Hazim, who has opened his eyes when the music has started. He sinks his gaze into mine, smokes, a tiny, sad smile creeping up on his face. Then the first climax is reached with the anguishingly vague “I love you love you love you love you…”. The electric guitar chimes in, and I feel the hairs on my arms stand up.
“This is…” I whisper. ‘… happiness at last’ is what I want to say.
Hazim lifts a finger to his lips and closes his eyes again.
Alright, he prefers to suffer my presence in silence.
And yet, I’m not so sure anymore that he suffers. He seems quite content. Yes, I’m positive: he is smiling. And his bare arm touches mine. It feels hot and sweaty and alive. I can even guess Hazim’s pulse.