All alone on the restaurant terrace, I take a late lunch. Then I spent the afternoon slouching on a deckchair, watching the swimming pool scintillate in turquoise, in green, in blue.
It’s still muggy and hot. I try not to move, whishing for a fresh breeze to sweep away the stillness and bring in some air. In vain.
I’m the only person to use the deckchairs, too. When I arrived near the pool, the German couple was still there, still serious, still reading. As I took a little while to choose the right place, I didn’t pay attention. And when I finally settled down, I realized they had slipped away like two embarrassed parents who do not want to witness their son snogging.
At five o’clock, unnecessary hours have passed by in a flurry. I get up, dizzy, as though waking from a bad dream.
There’s a little door behind the pool bar. I decide to check out what’s behind; it’s the only option if I want to avoid the sleek receptionist.
A narrow lane zigzags between the hotel enclosures to the left and right. Flowers and lush leaves hang from the high walls: white and violet lilac, wisteria, passion flowers. Their fragrances permeate the air, an overpowering, syrupy, heavy mixture, with just a hint of salty moistness.
After walking for a little while, I reach the beach area. Hiçbiryerde is a tourist resort situated on the shores of a bay that forms a perfect semicircle bordered by rugged mountains with razor-cut rocks and crags. While my taxi was driving me to the hotel, I didn’t see any traditional infrastructure. No old, crooked houses, no photogenic stone bridges, no folklore. Everything looked new, modern, built for entertainment and vacation purposes.
From where I’m standing now, I’m able to decipher the overall idea of the real estate developers. The hotels follow the smooth curb of the bay without disturbing the natural harmony of the place. No higher than the trees surrounding them, they’ve been built behind a line of vast pinewoods, shadowy gardens, and parks. Several restaurants, bars, and mock-rustic beach stands form the front line. Deck-chairs, most of them empty, and beach umbrellas cover the area from one end to the other.
I take off my loafers and walk toward the sea, the white, warm sand caressing my bare feet. When I feel the water lick my ankles, I hesitate, looking left, looking right. Where shall I go now? Does it make any difference?
The answer, ridiculous as always, is no.
I return onto the dry sand and choose to follow the seafront to the far end, where sharp, black cliffs overhang the Mediterranean, to my left. With each step, the sand crunches and crumbles between my toes. Golden and shimmering, the beach sighs in the faint light while the day, exhausted, gives up and slowly dies. I taste iodine and metal on my tongue. The sea to my right-hand side is grey, still and flat like a mysterious mountain lake. The sky above, a low arch in grey and black, ends far away, where the glowing slit of the horizon lies on the waters, a yellow-orange line that reminds me of something I can’t define.
In the distance before me, two people are strolling away from me. My German couple? I only see their backs so it’s hard to be sure. They don’t talk, they don’t walk hand in hand; they just move on with regular, measured steps. They seem decided, but also withdrawn, partitioned, each one an isle of hazy loneliness.
There’s an old fisher boat that people have placed between the deckchairs like a show-off trophy. It looks out of place in this organized environment. As I go around it, I stumble upon a young man who’s building a sand castle with his two little sons. The kids are laughing and shrieking with joy while emptying the small plastic buckets they’ve filled with sand and water. Despite myself, I feel a smile creep up on my face. The young man smiles back and lifts his hand in greeting.
The late afternoon continues humming its melody, the melody of waves licking my bare feet, the hymn of pine trees whispering in the hot, damp breeze, all soaked with the primal fear that everything might last, that everything might end.
And I continue walking, words dripping, drop by drop, in my head. The half-silence of the beach becomes eternity, locks up my steps, locks up the grey and flat sea, the dying afternoon, the clouds, the stifling sky. It’s as though reality hesitated to show itself, as though I was floating in a surrogate latency, a strange in-between. Scalding truths linger, somewhere, behind a deckchair maybe, under the awning of a beach bar, behind a pine-tree, in the crack of one of these rugged mountains that rise like improbabilities around the village. My gums start to bleed all of a sudden, and I swallow my saliva, which has the metal taste of blood.
When I reach the end of the beach, where the black and sharp cliffs brave the sea, I settle down on the terrace of a restaurant. Little, neat tables; white plastic chairs. A woman sitting close to the edge, close to the water, is sipping tea. Two old men are playing at dominoes.
I order a bottle of water and a glass of raki. To rinse my mouth of iron and ash.
The yellow-orange slit of the horizon flares one last time, then gets smaller and smaller. The dim light turns even more diffused, grey, indifferent. I lean back. The end of this long afternoon shall taste of aniseed.
When I decide to order a second glass of raki, the waiter tells me in English, “You should go now. Mister Zenkin has arrived.” He catches me by surprise.
“What…? How…?”, I stutter while searching for my wallet.
The waiter seems to read my mind. He inclines his head, “You don’t have to pay. Everything’s been taken care of.”
“Oh. Well. If you need the name of my hotel, I’m booked in…”
“That’s not necessary, sir. We know.”
Dazed, I stumble back down onto the beach without looking back. “We know,” I whisper to myself. “We know.”
The waiter, the lonesome woman sipping tea, the two old men playing at dominoes stare at my retreating back. I can feel it. As I pass in front of the other beach bars, I get the same sensation: that everybody’s observing me. The beach and the low buildings nearby are empty, however. Completely empty.
And yet. Even the pine-trees seem to have staring eyes.
At one moment, after having walked on for I don’t know how long, I stumble upon the sandcastle again. Abandonned. The young father and his sons have gone, the waves are about to carry away their ephemeral construction.
At least, one thing that comforts me.
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