Bodies (12)

At one moment, we turn left and jolt down the bumpy trail that leads to the tree house settlement. After a few metres, the car’s headlamps shine on a pair of faded tracksuit pants, a naked, male chest, a familiar face. I recognize the lazy smile: it’s the young, Turkish guy who has welcomed us to his community of leftover hippies a few hours ago.
Hazim steps on the brakes, stops the engine and lets the car roll behind a bush.
When we get out, the young guy hasn’t moved.
“What are we doing here?” I whisper into the darkness.
“Sessiz tutun!” the guy whispers back. I discern his vague contours, the movements suggest he’s putting a finger on his lips.
Then he switches on a little torch and leads us downhill. I can hardly make out where I put my feet; more than once, I stumble. Yet I don’t complain. I feel beyond complaining, beyond anything. Once intangibility has swallowed you, there’s nothing left. Only blind obedience. I hope the guys around me know what they’re doing. Because I bloody don’t.
Slow steps crunch on dry earth and gravel. I hear odd whistling and rustling. Strange insects and animals must be haunting the dark lands. I can’t see them, but I sense their presence. I feel their preying eyes on me. Eyes of beings that don’t care about me, that don’t want to know who I am, what I am doing, who just wait for me to get the hell out of here, the faster, the better. This is not my place.
And reality slips one stride further.
When we get closer to the settlement, I hear other noises: a crackling campfire, people chatting, a David Bowie-song echoing through the night like the thread of a dream. “Man is an obstacle, sad as the clown—Oh by jingo—so hold on to nothing, and he won’t let you down—Oh by jingo…” A melancholy and muted voice, a softly strumming guitar.
All of a sudden, my chest feels heavy. It’s one of those moments where I’d like to lie down on the ground, stretch out my limbs and let myself fall up into the sky. One last, noiseless explosion, and my atoms could scatter and become invisible dust…
A dream. This must be a dream. A bad dream, a nightmare, whatever. All I have to do is follow the flow. Until I’ll wake up. One always does. Eventually.
We slow down, we turn left. On tiptoes around the settlement, in a large semi-circle, careful now, you must not step on a dry branch, the cracking would give you away, move on, move on, there you are, that’s the forest. Inscrutable and opaque, inarticulate, but I welcome the darkness like a blanket.
At last, we reach the beach. Inky waves come rolling in, gentle but mournful, attacking the shore with dogged determination.
A dinghy is lying on the pebbles. We take off our shoes and heave the dinghy into the water. The young Turk pulls out two oars from the bottom and starts to paddle around the high and glistening rock to our right. This is how it must be. Any other action, any other progression is impossible.
Fifteen minutes later, we approach a little fishing boat with a cabin at the bow, the broad silhouette of a man at the stern. When the dinghy bumps against the broadside, the silhouette leans over to help me up. Hazim follows me. He exchanges a few mumbled words with the sailor, who disappears in the cabin to start the engine.
“Hazim!” I whisper. “Where are you taking me?” I have to ask this question. There will be no answer, I know it. But I’m playing a role in this play, after all. Only as an extra, but even extras are given lines if they behave.
“Let’s go down, first. We must not be seen.” Hazim grabs my elbow and drags me into the cabin. I’d like to wave goodbye to our young Turkish friend, but when I turn back, I discover that he’s already returning to the beach.
The sailor nods at us and opens a small trapdoor next to the rudder. A fishy smell drifts up to my nostrils. “Come on!” Hazim pushes me down. “You go first.”


Bodies (11)

I’ve seen this road before, in broad daylight. Has it only been a couple of hours ago? I guess so. But it feels far away, like a childhood tale that comes back to torment you once you’re grown up and defenceless.
It’s a night for hunters, out there. Clouds have drifted in from the sea, enclosing the coastline in stale moistness. I’m searching for the moon, a lonesome star, the comforting sign of something immortal, but I only detect a twinkling light in the distance, probably an oil lamp someone has lit in a mountain hut. It flickers like a ghostly eye.
The fuzzy light cones of the car’s dipped headlamps move over the roadside, a flurry of pale white pine-trees and insubstantial shrub leaning into our scant field of view. Their branches, gnarled demons with branches like menacing arms, slap on the old Twingo’s metallic structure. The road goes on and on, curls and coils like a snake trying to bite its own tail.
I don’t know how fast we go. And I’ve lost all notion of time. Both clock and speedometer don’t work. But it must be late. And we’re going fast. Way too fast, given the conditions. The tires screech, the brakes squeak, we take the bends more or less by guesswork, my stomach is knotted, my muscles start to ache with the effort to remain on my seat.
It’s as if Hazim didn’t want us to reach our destination. Wherever that is, anyway.
A dark and desolate place, no doubt.
The present has become a twisted situation, a glided pitch. And there’s nothing to save me from the gliding feeling. Everything looks different and warped.
We look different, too, Hazim and I. When he came back to my room, he was wearing a set of ridiculous clothes, and he brought me a similar outfit. I had to undress, then disguise. And now, we resemble two retarded teenagers, clad in tight, flashy tees and boardshorts. I particularly resent the baseball cap he forced me to don. But I know better than to protest.
I can’t ask any questions either. Just my luck. Because for once, I’d have a lot of questions. And for once, I’d like to get answers to them.
But Hazim remains tight-lipped, withdrawn and uncommunicative. When we left Hiçbiryerde, he gave somebody a ring. They spoke in Turkish, all I understood was here a “Hayır”, there “Evet”, and “Teşekkürler! Hoşça kal!” at the end.
He hasn’t said a word ever since, ignoring me.
Where are we going? I’ve recognized this road, so I know we don’t head for the airport. But why? Why are we on this particular road again? If I’m in danger, as he said, why does Hazim prevent me from hopping into the first available plane and leave this country as fast as possible? What is the danger he’s been talking about, anyway? Why didn’t he allow me to take anything but my cash and my passport? Why didn’t he want me to look for my credit card? Why has he made me switch off my mobile? Why that ghastly scene in the hooker bar? Why did he think those guys were out to get me?
All my questions lead to the most tantalizing, the most worrying one, the Queen of questions: what the fuck is going on?
“Whose car is this?” I finally ask. It seems the most innocent question; the one that could help me break the ice and initialize some kind of dialogue. I’m feeling too lonely right now to bear with silence.
But I get no answer. All I get is the eerie night around us, with its spectral trees, the silhouettes of the mountains standing dark and unfriendly against the dark sky, the sea shimmering like a silver plate down below. And that ever-changing, yet ever-same, narrow piece of greyish asphalt rolling through the headlamps’ light and disappearing under the car.
Me asking questions, Hazim not answering… it’s all so déjà vu! I sigh and mumble, “There we go again…”
Which decides Hazim to finally talk. “It’s a car Murat’s wife uses when she wants to roam the region without anybody noticing,” he says. “And we’re wearing some spare clothes that belong to one of Murat’s sons. I didn’t want us to be recognized.”
“Oh. Murat has a wife. And sons,” I murmur.
“You didn’t know it?”
I shake my head.
“You do know who he is, at least? Murat, I mean…”
“Well, he’s that rich guy from Turkey. Do I have to know more?”
Incredulous, Hazim peers at me. Then he grips the wheel harder. “I don’t get it,” he says, his voice toneless. “Aren’t you interested in people at all? Even if it’s a basic security rule to know who you’re dealing with…?”
“I didn’t have to worry about my security until now,” I snap. “And don’t you go all judgemental on me again! Who gives you the right—!”
“Do me a favour and shut up! Just shut the fuck up, okay!” Hazim interrupts me. His voice is flat and devoid of anger.
I flinch and lean away from him. I find it easier to study the void darkness outside. Easier to remain in my lonesome exile.
I should’ve known. Others never give you answers. They only give you more questions.


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.


Bodies (5)

“Oh, that’s beautiful! Who sings this?” I ask, leaning forward to increase the volume of the music.
The narrow, dusty road is winding through the hinterland with its scrub, its holm oaks, strawberry trees, japes, junipers, buckthorns and pine trees. To our right, craggy peaks and rugged rocks cut into the light, transparent sky. To the left, the sea shimmers in silvery reflections, but far below us. I let my arm hang out through the open car window, trying to catch some of the cool mountain air with my fingers.
Murat has kept his promise, providing not only a car, but also someone to drive me around. I don’t know if it’s a random decision or if Murat has noticed his bodyguard’s timid smile, yesterday. A smile I might only have imagined, to be honest.
But whatever. My personal tourist guide today is the young, lean, melancholic Hazim.
Half an hour ago, he knocked on my door as I was finishing my solitary breakfast on the balcony. I was rather surprised to see him when I opened. When I offered coffee and orange juice, he declined with a mute sign of his head. When I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth, he didn’t even want to sit down.
And he hasn’t said much ever since. His face an unreadable mask of polite neutrality, he led me through the hotel park in silence, then across the parking lot. He opened the back door of a black Audi, but I ignored him, walked around the car and sat down on the passenger seat.
“Where you want to go?” was the only thing he muttered without looking at me when he started the engine.
“Choose a place. I don’t care,” I answered.
And that was it. End of our thrilling conversation.
He switched on the car audio system and inserted a CD as soon as we left the hotel premises, though.
And now there’s this woman singing. A strange melody that all those florid Turkish vowels and consonants render almost surreal. She’s got a rich and throaty voice, the voice of an old woman who’s seen it all. Yet I’m pretty sure she’s only in her twenties or thirties. Turkish female singers all seem to have a rare quality: to put a whole lifetime of experiences, pleasant and unpleasant, into their voices. Even those who’ve barely entered adulthood.
“Hazim! The singer—what’s her name?” I repeat, noticing that my voice is harsher than planned. But I’m thrown off by his behaviour. It doesn’t feel hostile, but wary, as if he didn’t want an invisible barrier to disappear between us.
Despite my irritated tone, he keeps staring at the road, blocking me out. I start to wonder—is he deaf? Or doesn’t he speak English?
Finally, when I’ve given up hope to get an answer, Hazim clears his voice and says, “Burcu Güneş. Her name is Burcu Güneş.”
“Oh, you do have a tongue, then,” I comment drily, drumming my fingers on the door.
We listen to the song for a while. When I can stand it no longer, I say, “I don’t understand what’s going on. Are you, I don’t know, mad at me for something? I would’ve thought that having a day off was nicer than walking through Antalya at your boss’s side. Even if it means you are forced to spend the day with me.”
Another silence. Then he replies, “It’s not that bad.” He shoots me an odd glance.
“Then talk, for God’s sake!”
“I have nothing to say.”
“That may be so, but you barely answer my questions! I can’t stop you from sulking, but to be honest, if I had known that I would spend the day in broody silence, I would’ve stayed all alone. I do have a driving licence, after all. I don’t need a chauffeur.”
“I’m sorry, my English is not good.”
“Cut it out, your English is good enough! I don’t ask you to explain the complexity of the universe, I merely ask for some superficial small talk.”
He mulls this over. Then he surprises me by saying, “You notice we both wear black clothes?” Which, indeed, has nothing to do with the complexity of the universe.
“Hey, I guess you’re right! What a coincidence!”, I coo in a mocking tone.
“You always wear black clothes. I have noticed, in Istanbul, last time I saw you. I only wear black clothes, too.”
“Great. We have something in common then.”
“You look good in black, sir.”
“You do, too. And don’t ‘sir’ me, please. My name’s Marc.”
The song is over, another one starts.
“You want me to play the song again, um… Marc?” Hazim asks.
“Oh. Yes, please. If you don’t mind.”
The woman, Burcu Güneş, starts again. “Bülbülüm gel de dile…”, she sings.
“What’s she singing about?” I want to know.
“Difficult. I don’t know if I can translate.”
“Give it a try, come on.”
“She sings ‘My song-bird, start talking… even sing with me… make your voice heard to strangers… Sorrow, oh my sorrow bird…’ It’s a traditional Turkish song called ‘Çile bülbülüm’.”
“Beautiful,” I say, trying out the sound of the song titel. “Çile bülbülüm. My sorrow bird. Really beautiful.” I look at Hazim. “Thank you.”
“What for?”
“For the translation. And for, you know, making an effort.”
He gazes back and seems about to answer something. Yet he doesn’t. Just closes down his invisible shutters and drives on.
I wonder what I’ve said that makes him brood again.


Bodies (4)

“Could you please switch on the bedside lamp?” Murat asks when we’ve finished.
“This one?” I ask back, pointing at the small lamp at my side of the bed.
“If you could be so kind, yes, please,” he says.
I obey. A discreet “Click”, and shy light chases the darkness that has been surrounding us for the last half hour. Each time we make love, Murat requires a complete blackout. I don’t know if he’s prudish or troubled by the fact that I’m a guy. It’s probably a blend of both. We rarely act for precise reasons.
“Thank you very much,” Murat says. He’s always polite. Exquisitely so. I gather it’s for the same, imprecise reasons.
“Could you hand me the cigarettes, please?” he asks. “If you don’t mind me smoking in your room, that is…”
“Not at all,” I say and bend over to pick up Murat’s silver cigarette case, the lighter, and the ashtray he’s put on my bedside table.
“Thank you very much”, Murat says again as I hand them over. His English is perfect, sometimes a bit outdated, almost antiquated. A side-effect of his polite behaviour.
He has a bass’s voice and an imposing stature. That doesn’t mean he’s fat, but his body is massive, square, with large shoulders, muscular legs and arms; the built of a rugby player or, more appropriately, the built of a Turkish wrestler. Of course, since I first saw him, he has become podgier. But for a man in his fifties, he’s still a looker. He knows he’s impressive, physically I mean; he knows about his crushing presence. That’s why he speaks so softly and warm-heartedly.
With me, that is. I don’t know how he talks to his fellow-countrymen; I don’t speak Turkish. After what I’ve witnessed so far, however, he doesn’t seem to be as tender as he is with me. Maybe because most of them have a social status far below his.
He sits up in bed and winces. The tough treatment he asks from me takes its toll. Then he lights a cigarette, closes his eyes and inhales.
The acrid smell of smoke makes my nostrils tingle. I turn around and observe him. His chest lifts as he breathes in; it’s hairless, most certainly depilated; the two nipples stand out, red and long and swollen from the clamps; the skin of his massive neck shows the first signs of chubbiness, it starts to hang down in certain places, betraying his age; the lower part of his face is getting dark with stubble even though I’m sure he has shaved before joining me in my room; above his upper lip, the thick moustache, the huge nose…
Sensing my gaze, Murat opens his eyes and asks, “Do you happen to know where I’ve left my under-wear?”
“On the sofa, I think. Do you want me to go and get it for you?”
“I’d be very grateful.”
I get up, still naked, and walk across the room. Without looking, I know that Murat is averting his gaze, probably fixing the curtains on the other side, so as not to see my nudity. I slip into my boxers before picking up his slip, tank-top, shirt, socks, and trousers. “There you are, Murat,” I say as I hand them over.
“How very nice of you!” He stubs out his cigarette and starts to dress. “I hope you had a pleasant flight?” he says, fumbling with the socks. “We haven’t had time to talk about it yet.”
“It was okay,” I answer. “Long and nerve-wracking, if you want to know the truth. But okay, I guess. I survived.”
“Long? And nerve-wracking?” He turns around at last, blinking nervously when he notices I haven’t covered my bare chest. “Is that so? I don’t understand—would you mind explaining to me?”
I put on a t-shirt while telling him the story of my never-ending wait in Rome.
He seems sorry. “Dear Marc, what can I say? Poor you! I feel guilty, to be honest…”
“You shouldn’t, you know.”
“But I do! It’s my fault, after all. I have asked you to come here. It goes without saying that I’ll compensate you for your hardship.”
I try to protest, but he lifts his hand: “Say no more! It’s decided. You weren’t meant to spend a whole night at Fiumicino airport.”
“Well, thanks, then,” I say and stand up. “Are you thirsty? There must be plenty of beverages in my little fridge, so if you want a drink…”
“No, thank you, Marc. I’m alright. Anyway…,” he slaps on his thighs, “…I think I should be going back to my room.” He buttons up his shirt, fetches his tie and jacket, slips into his shoes. “You need to sleep.”
“Will I see you tomorrow?”
“Hard to say. Most probably not. I have meetings in Antalya and a business dinner with… someone. Why don’t you check out the local sites? There are some splendid places to see in the vicinity, or so I’ve been told. I’ll ask one of my men to drive you. And don’t hesitate to ask for touristic information at the reception. The staff has been instructed to help you in every possible manner.”
Thinking of the insufferable receptionist, I simply nod. Words would betray me.
“Yes, take the day off.” Murat sounds pleased with his idea. “I owe you for that inconvenience in Rome. Let’s meet the day after tomorrow. You know we have to discuss that… special matter I’ve hinted at in my email. It’s not urgent, but it has to be talked over nonetheless.” He stands up, trying hard not to look at what is lying on the carpet on my side of the bed. “Shall I—uhm, shall I send someone to clean up that… you know, that…?” He drifts off.
I shove the little heap of tools under the bed to spare him any further embarrassment. “No, I’ll do it myself.”
“Are you sure?” He sounds genuinely bothered.
“Alright then.” He sighs. “Good night, Marc.”
“Good night, Murat.”
As he opens the door, the automatic strip lighting in the corridor flares up.
At the far end where the stairs lead to the ground floor, I notice a quick movement. I know we’re safe in this hotel. Yet, without thinking, I pull Murat back inside the room and move in front of him.
“What’s the matter?” he asks, nonplussed.
“I think I saw something…” I’m surprised to hear the fright in my voice.
The movement in the corridor transforms into a shadow, the shadow transforms into a man clad in black. I realize it’s Murat’s bodyguard. A young and lean man with melancholic eyes, fair skin, dark, short hair. I’ve already seen him in Istanbul the last time I’ve come to meet Murat. What’s his name? Habib? Hasan? Hazim? I don’t remember.
“Oh… it’s only Hazim,” Murat says. He peers at me. “You should really get some sleep, Marc.”
The young bodyguard doesn’t react when he hears his name. But before they leave, he turns around and smiles at me. A feeble, sad smile, barely perceptible.
Then they walk briskly down the corridor and disappear in the staircase.
The light goes out. I’m alone again.