I’m missing Istanbul something fierce tonight. One minute I’m making a carb-heavy dinner in prep for football game tomorrow morning, and the next I’m messaging monikers for the city back and forth with Chris and trying not to feel all heavy inside like a rock’s sinking through my middle.
Chris: I miss the surprisingly intelligent packs of stray dogs.
Me: I loved when they waited at the median to cross the street.
Chris: Exactly! I wanted to write a story called: “ISTANBUL or The Dogs Know When to Cross”
Me: Istanbul or You’ll Drink çay Five Times a Day and Never Get Sick of It.
Chris: Istanbul or That One Time You Realized There Were Hundreds of Dead Jellyfish in the Bosporus.
Me: Istanbul or That Time You Stayed Up to Watch the Sun Rise and Then Woke Up Four Hours Later to Explore Mosques.
Chris: Istanbul or That Time You Don’t Remember Getting Home From Taksim Square at 4 AM.
Oh watching the sunrise definitely worth it.
Me: So worth it. One of my favorite memories.
Istanbul or That One Time You Got Almost Lost in a Massive Forest.
Chris: The Magic Reappearing Lake!
Istanbul or Never Beating a Turk at Tavla.
Me: Istanbul or Becoming a Temporary Locational Smoker.
Chris: Istanbul or How I Came To Love Efes.
Me: Istanbul or Finding Out Traveling By Not Knowing What Will Come Next is the Best Way to Travel.
Chris: These are all great titles. Istanbul or How to Climb on Ancient Ruins.
Me: Istanbul or How to Get Lost.
Chris: Istanbul or How To Haggle, How to Drink Raki, How to Eat Things You Never Thought You’d Eat
Istanbul, I miss you. I miss you like I’ve missed people, probably more than I’ve missed a lot of people. With your rough streets and hills and alleyways that swing around packed with apartments like sardines. The sounds of cars and buses and cats and people and markets and talking and water boiling for çay and lighters clicking flames open for cigarettes and taxis yelling to each other and the call to prayer echoing through windows, over water, down roofs, and into cafes for forever. Yes, Chicago’s still in my heart. I’d be obligated to love her even if I had no reason to, though, true to form, she’s given me more than enough reasons. But Istanbul, you were the first city I really fell for.
We didn’t always mesh. Turkish verbs never quite stuck in my head, and I never would have been able to navigate my bicycle through your traffic, nor would I have felt brave enough to try. Who knows if we would have been able to make it long-term? I don’t know what would have happened, I don’t know how messy our break up would have been, or if we would have broken up ever, but I can tell you that for the five months I spent in Umut and Claudia’s flat, I loved you something fierce. I didn’t say it till the last night, when, over my second to last Bomonti with Kelsey and James, James chuckled at me and said, “Katie, you’re in love with a city.” And I was.
I almost cried in my 3am taxi ride to Atatürk Havalimanı, till the driver and I started talking, making the best of my stunted Turkish to exchange where we were from, where we were going, what were we doing, and finally, looking one last time towards the lights of the old city, eski şehir, how beautiful Istanbul was. I can’t communicate really to anyone how much I miss it. How much I miss the friends I made there. Luckily some of them were American, so now when I feel a pang for any of the million things I miss, or maybe all of the things I miss, or maybe just the city itself, I can text, “I miss Istanbul.” And I know I’ll get the same sort of quiet reply of, “Yeah. Me too.” Much like real love, person to person love, I’ll be comparing all my new cities to you, analyzing how I feel there compared to Istanbul, whether it resonates the same way, whether I get the thrill of walking down the streets, of making fractured conversation with locals. Istanbul will never really let me go, nor will I really let it go. Let’s be honest, I don’t want to. Right now, I can imagine cities more perfect, but none that I would love more than Istanbul. I’ll see you again eventually, honey, save me an Efes.