Monday, February 08, 2010

For the Cat

Winter has come to Istanbul. Before you see it you can smell it- in the plumes of roasted chestnut-pricked smoke that whirl down Istiklal Street and float into the blue-black sky.

You can taste it in the hot helva melted into sweet kebabs which are rolled up for easy access as you hunch over with hood on, munching through the January rains.

You can hear it in the howls of my feline neighbours, who moan at each other and the world as the snow keeps falling.

And you can feel it in the tips of your fingers and toes as the cold creeps in.

But as I sit here, peering out at my damp, dark garden, I know that cold or no cold, returning to Turkey was an easy choice; I chose to live life as it should be. Or at least try to. I’m now lost in a world of words… editing, writing, teaching words in a crazy, chaotic city which pulses with endless energy and torments.

Not long ago I witnessed a cat in its death throes: hit by a car and flinching its last bloodied flinches in the most undignified and horrifying way. I was on a bus, heading home after a long and draining day, full of equally drained workers on their way to collapse into an armchair and make a brief peace with their sushi-train lives.

But something sparked in that bus and as we passed the almost-corpse of the cat I felt a nauseated gasp shiver through. The whole street had paused; gruff looking mechanics paced up and down in helpless horror and teenagers glanced numbly at their feet.

So next time someone asks me why I moved back to Turkey, maybe I'll say, "for the cat."

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