“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 His English is perfect, sometimes a bit outdated, almost antiquated.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.
Available on amazon