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The Walkers A novel by Yağmur Kuşkan


Yağmur Kuşkan To Smyrna: I can see your pain and poverty—constant pain, dire poverty—but I also see your wealth. --Revelations 2:9

Red The scene was fairly painful to watch. The waiter was becoming frustrated trying to get the Englishman’s order. The waiter pointed to the various pictures of different entrées on the menu in a vain attempt to see what he wanted, assuming the young Englishman didn’t know enough Turkish to order. The waiter was half-right. The Englishman clearly didn’t know much Turkish, but he knew enough to order a simple meal in a restaurant. And that was the problem; the Englishman had already ordered his meal. But now this second waiter was here and the Englishman didn’t know how to say that he’d already ordered. “What do you want?” Groaned the waiter. “Kebab? Kofte? Pide?” “Uh, no. No.” Was all the Englishman could reply. “No? You don’t want food? You want something to drink? Tea, ayran, cola…” “No, no” “What do you want?!” Finally Ela could take it no more. “He’s saying ‘no’ because he already ordered. The other waiter already took his order.” She blurted out. “He already ordered?” “Yes.” She confirmed. The young English man looked with uncertainty at Ela and the waiter, trying to figure out what was being said. “Ok then.” And the waiter walked off without an apology or a hint of embarrassment. The Englishman seemed to be embarrassed enough for both of them. “Thank you.” He said to Ela. “You’re welcome, but you should really learn to speak Turkish.” Realizing that she spoke English seemed to embarrass the Englishman all over again. “You’re right.” He admitted “I should. However here’s the thing. Before I came here I spent a year living in Japan. I took Japanese classes at the community center, I studied online, and I practiced with my coworkers. After a year you know how much Japanese I could speak? Next to nothing. I could understand how much money a cashier was asking for and if people were commenting on my height and that was about it. So I’m kind of turned off language learning.” “Turkish isn’t Japanese, it’s much easier.” Ela replied. “Here is Turkey; the waiters are only going to speak English in rip-off places for tourists.” “You’re still right. And I still don’t want to. I managed to order my meal ok; I only had trouble when that second waiter came by. That sort of thing wouldn’t happen in America, each waiter has assigned tables, makes things easier.” Now that he said it, it seemed obvious that he was American, not English, Ela simply tended to assume that any white foreigner was English and she was usually right. Ela gave her 2


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opinion on the matter “Ordering in Turkey is so much easier than in America, there you have to pick out your side dishes and if you want soup or salad with that and what kind of dressing. Breakfast is the worst. How do you want your eggs cooked? Do you want real eggs or the heart-smart ones? Sausage or bacon? Waffles or toast? White or whole wheat? They just keep asking questions!” “You’ve been to America then?” He asked. “I have. I studied there for one semester.” Ela confirmed “One time I was so confused in an American restaurant. I was with a group of friends at a tavern. I had just heard five other people order medium burgers. I wasn’t that hungry so I ordered a small burger. And the waiter says ‘We only have one size.’ And I didn’t know what to say, because here all my friends were ordering medium size but the waiter tells me that they only have one size. So one of my friends says ‘Just bring her a medium.’ And I was angry because I didn’t want to waste food. I didn’t find out until the next day that they were ordering their burgers medium cooked.” The American chuckled at this. “I hadn’t thought of it that way before. Say…” he hesitated. “Do you mind if I join you?” Ela shrugged “Sure, why not?” The American got up and extended a hand to her “Nice to meet you…” “Ela.” “Nice to meet you Ela. I am Laszlo de Vicherny, Duke of Parma and private alchemist to the House of Bourbon.” He sat down across from her. “What?” “Sorry, I just always wanted to say that. Call me Red.” “Red.” Ela repeated with a small shutter, another color. “But you don’t have red hair.” “Neither do you.” Red replied matter-of-factly. “Right…” Ela responded, somewhat confused “But my name’s not Red.” “That makes sense.” Red conceded and moved on. “So what does your name mean? Turks always have these very literal names.” “Ela is a kind of color.” “What color?” “You don’t have a name for it in English; it’s the color of my eyes.” Red looked into her eyes. She was right; there wasn’t a name for it in English. “How long have you been in Izmir?” “Just a couple of weeks. I’m not sure how long I’ll stay, probably at least a year.” “And why did you come to Izmir?” “To look for magic.” He replied nonchalantly. Ela was starting to wonder if it was a good idea to let him come over to her table. Red had a long body and a longer face. His largish nose formed an almost perfect right triangle. His most striking feature was his pearlescent blue eyes which sat beneath a mop of wild brown hair. He wore a crisp long sleeve shirt and jeans in spite of the summer heat. He didn’t notice her examining him as he was more interested in his arriving food, an Adana kebab. “Do you mind if I start?” He asked. “No, go ahead, I’m just having tea. So you’re a kind of magician then?” “Hmmmm? Oh, no. I didn’t mean that kind of magic, I don’t do card tricks or saw women in half. I mean I actually can do card tricks, but that’s not why I’m here.” He wrapped a piece of the kebab in some flat bread along with onions and grilled tomato. “I’m talking about 3


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looking for mystical powers. Sorcery. Dark secrets of the void. Delving into the occult.” He took a bite and chewed. Ela stared at him like he was mad, which didn’t seem to bother him. “You know” he swallowed “The Adana kebab is supposed to be spicier that the Urfa kebab, but it doesn’t seem that spicy to me.” After a long pause, where Red merrily ate his kebab, Ela finally shot back “You must be joking.” “No, I’m not.” He replied “I can hardly tell the difference between the Adana and Urfa kebabs at most restaurants.” “I’m not talking about kebabs!” Ela snapped. “I’m talking about magic. Why did you make up such a crazy story?” “I’m not making it up.” Red had seemed so flustered before when talking to the waiter but now he seemed to be in his element, talking about magic. “I think the Izmir area is going to be a great place to look for magic. And I don’t mean like a sunset or a mother’s love, I’m talking about real power.” “How can you find magic?” Ela indulged him. “Well, that’s a difficult question to answer. It’s not as simple as ordering a wand from a Wiccan website, I can tell you that much. Magic is kind of like… uranium.” “Uranium?” “There are actually little bits of uranium everywhere. Go to any vacant lot and there’ll be trace amounts of uranium there. On the other hand to find a useful amount of uranium is far more difficult. And even after you’ve found it a lot of work is needed to refine it into something useful.” Ela had to laugh, it was the only way she could handle him “What you’re looking for then is enough magic to build a warhead?” “A reactor. I mean, I’m not going to build a magical power plant. Just that I plan on using it for benevolent reasons.” “Of course, you’re a good magician. A white wizard.” Ela said with a grin. “But why are you in Izmir? Why not Istanbul?” “Bah, Istanbul, there are too many people already looking there. Besides Izmir has tighter, sharper contrast. The new is newer, the old is older.” It was true that Izmir’s precursor, Smyrna, existed thousands of years before Istanbul’s precursor, Constantinople, did. However that did little explain why Red was here. “Contrast?” “Magic isn’t going to work sitting in a dusty box. It needs a vibrant place where things are going in all directions. Here rows of apartment blocks stand adjacent to wild forest. Ancient ruins lay between the streets. Rich and poor neighborhoods rub up against each other. The city is very Turkish yet there’s a huge international presence here. This wild mixing and clashing creates the perfect place for magic to thrive.” He took a deep breath. “Or that’s theory anyway.” “You’re not sure?” “If I was sure, I’d already have the magic.” Red admitted. Ela shook her head. What an odd fellow. “All of this is very interesting…” “Isn’t it?” Red agreed. “But I need to get going, there’s someone I need to meet.” Ela took a few liras out of her purse to pay. 4


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“Oh, alright.” Red replied, disappointed. “Let me pay for your tea though. As a thank you for humoring me and my rant about finding magic. “No, you don’t have to do that.” She put her money down on the table. “Of course I don’t have to do it, I want to.” Red pushed her lira away as he pulled out a few of his own. “No, really…” Ela pushed her money back. When she did so their fingers touched a static shock struck them both. Ela recoiled in surprise “Sorry.” Red’s eyes went wide, his mouth agape. “You’ve got a connection on the other side.” “Ok… now I really need to go.” Ela stood. “No wait.” Red also stood. Out of their chairs Red towered over Ela. “You’ve been there.” “Been where? You keep talking nonsense. I need to go.” She walked for the door, Red followed. “Somewhere with magic. I felt it lingering on you. I need to see you again please.” “I don’t think so. You felt nothing more than a static shock.” “It was more, it was more!” He pleaded “We can meet again on any terms you like. Bring a friend if you like.” They reached the door. Ela looked at Red. Her rational mind told her that he was probably mad and even if he wasn’t that no good could come of seeing him again. But even with his considerable size, compared to her anyway, he didn’t seem threating. Rather he seemed terrified at the possibility that she would refuse him. Moreover part of her was curious as to see what he was looking for. She gave a sigh. “Come here again at this time next week. Maybe I’ll meet you.” “Yes. Great, here.” He seemed ecstatic. “If I ever get the impression that you’re stalking me or that your intentions questionable, then we have no deal.” She stated firmly, you needed to lay out rules for men. “Now go finish your lunch.” She walked out the door. Red stood there, watching her through the glass; she could tell he wanted to follow her. She waved him away and he reluctantly walked back to the table, trying to keep an eye on her as he did so.

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Black After leaving the restaurant Ela went back to her apartment. Several times she looked over her shoulder to see if Red was following her but she never saw him. She’d had a stalker before and it was experience she didn’t want to repeat. Even though she didn’t see him she took an indirect route home. Once there Ela called to order a taxi and lugged a couple suitcases to the curb. On her way back she could take the metro, but it was too much trouble now with these heavy bags. The taxi arrived and she negotiated a price, 25 lira, to take her from Bornova to Alsancak. In the back of the cab the seat belt had long been lost between the seat cushions. Ela tried to fish for it to no avail. When she gave up they were already a third of the way there. She told herself it wasn’t a big deal, but in the back of her mind she morbidly thought of a small story in the back of tomorrow’s edition of Yeni Asır—“Passenger dead in taxi accident; was not buckled.” In the end they made it alive to Alsancak. She had the driver drop her off in front of Sevinç café. From there it was a short walk down Kɪbrɪs Şehitleri Street to Black’s. Kɪbrɪs Şehitleri was one of the most vibrant streets in the city. Down it was every type of store and restaurant, foreign and Turkish. Down every side street attached to it were dozens of bars, many of which seemed to have an evening gloom even in the middle of the afternoon. The street was restricted to pedestrians, but that didn’t stop scooters from recklessly zipping through the crowd to make deliveries. When Ela got to Black’s she stopped for a moment to admire the sign that hung above the store. She had designed it herself. It was, for all practical purposes, the only thing she had actually used her degree in graphic design for. In university she’d had an English teacher who one day mentioned that his own degree was in political science. The class was scandalized; what was he doing teaching English when he had studied politics? The teacher laughed. “You all are so young.” He condescendingly explained “You think what you get your degree in determines who you are for the rest of your life. You’ll see how it is when you graduate.” Ela entered Black’s. It was a haberdashery that sold hair dyes, perfume and suntan lotion. The real draw of the store though was the contents of Ela’s suitcases. Three years prior Black was at an impromptu party at an acquaintance’s home. There a woman who had just returned from a trip from Munich held the other ladies rapt attention in relating what she had done in Germany. Not about seeing Nymphenburg Castle or gothic churches, but about buying Vichy face wash. That and other items like anti-wrinkle eyelid lifting cream and Clinique youth surge age decelerating moisturizer. The other ladies were all envious at her finds while the men were at a loss as to how paying 30 liras for a half ounce bottle of lotion could be a bargain. Except Black. He didn’t much care whether there was any true value to these tiny bottles, he saw an opportunity. His plan was simple: go to Germany, load up on cosmetics and creams, come back and sell them. It was not entirely clear why women in Turkey, a less well-off country, were being asked to pay more than twice as much, but Black didn’t much care. It was also not entirely clear why Black was denied a German visa, this he did care about. He’d already paid the first month’s rent on the retail space on Kɪbrɪs Şehitleri and begun renovating it when he found out that he’d been rejected. He suspected that the cosmetics companies had found out about his plan to undercut their market segmentation and blocked his application. He shared this theory 6


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often, only his mother suggested another possibility—that it was due to an old assault charge that Black had against him. Black completely ignored this theory, preferring to stick with his own ideas about an international conspiracy against him. When Black explained this sinister plot to the young designer he’d hired to make his sign, without much thought, she replied that she had a Schengen visa which allowed her to go to any European Union country. For Black the matter was instantly settled, Ela would go in his place. This would be even better, he could stay in Izmir and focus on running the store and she would have a better perspective on what women in Turkey wanted. Ela agreed to go once to Germany. If she didn’t then she risked losing her first client and she’d never been to Germany. A month later, when a second client had failed to materialize and Black called her, asking her to make another trip, she agreed. Now Ela had lost track of the number of times she’d been to Munich. It was the only German city with direct flights to Izmir, going somewhere else would cut into their profit margins. While not as risky as smuggling hashish their operation was definitely illegal. Ela never declared any of the commercial goods that she carried through the airport and Black sold all the items she brought back off the books. He only reported the low end items that he obtained in Turkey to the government. The risk involved, never a major point of concern, was now mostly forgotten about. Black was hardly the only tax dodger in Turkey. Moments after entering the store Black came out of his back office to meet her. Unlike Red, Black fully embraced his name. He dyed his already dark hair a perfect jet black. He wore black shirts with black suits. He had a gold ring with a prominent black onyx jewel. He put his three shop girls in black tank-tops, black miniskirts and black pumps. “Ela come on back.” Black normally gave overly warm greetings but when Ela arrived with the goods he was straight to business. So much of his well-being rode on the contents of her suitcases; he didn’t have time for pleasantries. They stepped into his little back office. Like on his store floor, the walls and fixtures of Black’s office were white, which made his darkness stand out even more. Ela was a burst of color in the monotone room. “You were successful then?” He asked. “Of course.” Ela opened one suitcase to reveal clear bags full of pricey little lotions and cosmetics. Black’s mood instantly lifted upon seeing them. Ela had already told him on the phone that she had them, but Black never quite believed her until he saw the goods himself. “Wonderful dear, wonderful.” He gave Ela an air kiss to each cheek, a delayed traditional greeting. “Let’s have a drink to our success.” Black poured them both some whiskey from a bottle he kept in his desk. They clinked their glasses together “Şerefe.” Black drank more deeply than Ela. “There’s something else I wanted to talk to you about.” He stated “The shop is doing well, thanks to you. So I’d like you to start working here in between trips. You’d earn a wage here in addition to your… commission for bringing in these goods.” Ela made no attempt to soften what she thought of this idea “Be one of your little shop assistants, have the men asking me to get something off the top shelf so they can see up my tiny skirt? I don’t think so.” “You wouldn’t have to be a shop assistant.” Black defended “I’d make you floor manager. We’d get you a nice black pantsuit.” 7


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Ela still wasn’t impressed. “Why would you want me here anyway? I take enough of your money as it is.” “I’m running a store that sells beauty goods here. Beauty. I need beautiful people working here.” “Stick your head out of your store; you’ll see plenty of cute girls walking down the street. I’m sure you can find one that will work for less than me.” “Cute sure, there are cute girls everywhere. That’s why I need true beauties in my store. And you, you look like a model, you’re perfect.” “You need to get your eyes checked.” Ela snickered. “Models are always tall; I’m as short as they come.” “Ah, they’re not as tall as you think, everyone looks taller on TV. Height doesn’t matter, what matters is that you have this.” Black grabbed Ela’s ass and gave it a shake. In a swift fluid motion Ela pulled a can of mace out of her purse and sprayed Black in the eyes. He recoiled, he howled in pain. He doubled over, braced himself and pounded on his desk. “What the hell? You know that I’m gay!” Ela did know that he was gay; she had met several of his boyfriends. They were always half his age and gorgeous looking; she never understood what Black’s appeal to them would be. She had also seen him abuse his shop assistants in the same manner that he had just abused her. She theorized that the groping was more about power than sex. She could also imagine him ejaculating in the mouth of one his assistants and reassuring her that it was OK because he was gay. The pepper spray in the air was making Ela’s eyes water but she managed to keep her composure. “No one has the right to touch me like that without my permission. No one.” “Get out of here you crazy bitch! We’re through! I never want to see you again.” “Oh don’t be so dramatic, you need me. Come on, I’ll help you wash your eyes out.” Ela took an arm to guide him. “No, get away from me. Get the fuck out of here!” They went back and forth like this several times before Black relented and allowed Ela to take him to the bathroom to wash out the mace. Afterwards a still red-eyed Black grudgingly opened his safe to pay Ela in cash. In three days she earned what her peers earned in a month. She put the smaller suitcase inside the bigger one and made her exit. “Never do that again.” Black stated as she walked out the door. “Never give me a reason to.” Ela replied as she closed the door. Once Ela had left she considered going to the Kordon for a drink but decided that she’d was ready to go home. She walked several blocks to Çankaya metro station. At the station there were several heads of ancient columns on display. They had been found while tunnels for the metro were being dug. They were believed to be Roman, 2nd century CE. In most countries something like that would be in a museum, but the museums in Turkey already had more classical stone work than they knew what to do with. The column heads had been there for years, but Red’s rant about the contrasts in Izmir made Ela give them new notice.

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Green Ela trudged up the steps of Green’s apartment building. It was five stories tall, just about the maximum that a builder of a residential property could construct without putting in an elevator. Green lived on the top floor. Buildings in Turkey were generally constructed without any real insulation and the top floor would be hit by the weather the hardest; hotter in the summer, colder in the winter. Green maintained that he liked being on the top floor since the act of coming home would force him to do a bit of exercise and he wouldn’t have to hear the footsteps of people on the floor above him. Ela suspected it was simply the best he could find in his price range. She knocked on his door. It quickly swung open, Green was there with a furious look on his face “If you…” he started but then stopped himself. “If I what?” Ela asked. “Nothing, nothing. I’m sorry Ela; I thought you were somebody else. Come on in.” Ela stepped inside his little foyer. She removed her shoes and put on a pair of slippers he had for guests. They were several sizes too big but good enough. “Who did you think I was?” “I’ve had a hell of a day.” Was Green’s nonresponse. They went into his living room. It was a mishmash of furniture that Green had acquired second hand from “spot shops.” Green appeared to be in the process of doing some ironing. A large pile of wrinkled shirts sat on the couch, a couple of ironed ones on the armchair. Green’s iron was an old clunker that poured out steam, almost enough to turn the room into a hamam. “Please sit down, do you want a cup of tea?” Ela sat down next to the pile of clothes on the couch, Green picked up his ancient iron to resume his work. “No tea for me.” Ela looked out the window. The sun was setting over the rooftops of other apartment buildings. The buildings were like Green’s furniture. They were all different ages, some with clear signs of wear even from a distance, and no connection or compatibility in style; in a word, ugly. Yet with the sun at their backs the apartment blocks probably looked their best. Even though it was slowly getting dark outside Green hadn’t turned on the lights; Turks tended to be highly conscientious of their electricity bills. “Who did you think I was?” Ela asked again. “I’ve had a hell of a day.” Green repeated. He didn’t look at Ela as he spoke; he was too focused on his ironing. “So this morning I had this village girl come by to clean the place up.” Ela knew that Green probably didn’t actually have a village girl but someone from a poor neighborhood who dressed like a villager. “She did a good job, you should have seen it in here before.” Ela supposed that aside from the pile of shirts the apartment was neat and tidy. “Here’s the thing though, she got a little carried away on some points, particularly my front door. To get the thing really clean she actually took it off its hinges. Can you believe that? That’s how seriously she took her work. But here’s the thing, she couldn’t get it back on properly! I can’t get the door to lock; you could have just walked in here if you wanted. I’ve called a locksmith about three times asking him to come over, he says he will but here I stand with a busted door.” “So you thought I was going to be the locksmith then?” Ela asked.

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“I wish that was it, unfortunately I thought you were someone less welcome than the locksmith.” Green shook his head as he ironed. “There’s this guy, says he wants to write a book about me.” “Interesting.” “No, it’s not interesting. It’s psycho. I can’t get rid of him. I thought it was bad when I saw him on the street. Now he’s coming into my apartment. Just walks right through the busted door. When I tell him to get out he claims he has ‘rights of biographer’ whatever that’s supposed to mean.” “Why don’t you give him an interview?” Ela suggested “That might satisfy his curiosity.” “I’m not giving him anything. He’s not a real author and it doesn’t make any sense to want to write a book about me. I’m not famous or anything.” “Umm Green, is there someone out on your balcony?” At this Green looked up from his ironing “What?” “I thought I just saw someone out on the balcony, peaking inside.” Ela explained. Green put down his iron and went out to the balcony door. He stepped outside and exclaimed “You!” Ela could not see who he had found. Green bent down, when he stood back up Ela could see that he was gripping a disheveled man. The man had bad bed hair, a mismatched suit and was tightly gripping a notebook and pen. “I’ve warned you about coming in here!” “Green!” The disheveled man exclaimed “Green, Green, Green, Green.” His intonation fluctuated each time he said Green’s name. It was as if he was trying to explain his presence but the only word he could get out was “Green.” Green was not amused. He punched the disheveled man in the nose. The man touched his nose; a small bit of blood had trickled out. “Green?” He said which seemed to have the meaning of “How could you do this to me?” Green gave him three more quick punches to the nose. Ela had seen Green angry before, but she had never seen him driven to this level of violence. Green dragged the man through his apartment to the front door. “You see that iron over there?” Green pointed to his old clunker. “The next time I catch you in here I’m going to smash that into your face.” With that said Green opened the door, punched the man’s broken nose one more time and threw him out. Ela had remained seated this entire time, not wanted to get involved in their dispute. An exasperated Green walked back over to resume his ironing. “That was your would be biographer then?” Ela asked. The disheveled man poked his head back in the apartment “I have the rights of biographer!” He exclaimed. Green held up his iron in the most menacing possible manner. The disheveled man quickly went back out. “Does that answer your question?” Green said to Ela. He went over to his door to close it again. It wouldn’t close. Green tried pushing the door as hard as possible into the frame; it just swung open the moment he let up the pressure. “Oh, great. First it won’t lock, now it won’t even shut.” He gave up on the door and went back to his ironing. “The guy is a nut right?” He asked Ela. “I mean have you ever heard of such a thing as the rights of biographer?” “No, I haven’t” Ela admitted. “Look Green, you’ve obviously got a lot going on right now, so I don’t want to take up much of your time. You said that you had something you wanted to tell me?” “Oh right that.” Green recalled “Listen it’s about the new color…” 10


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“Oh Green, Green please don’t be so cruel!” Exclaimed a woman that had just walked through the busted front door. There were two heavy set women; they looked to be a mother and daughter. “Don’t be so cruel Green!” The mother cried. She wore a headscarf and a trench coat. The coat wasn’t worn because of the weather but out of modesty—designed to cover her womanly form male eyes, though Ela couldn’t imagine who want to see her form. What the mother had in modesty the daughter completely lacked. She wore a slinky backless cream dress that she was too heavy to pull off. “Aww, now what? Get out of here, this is a private apartment.” Green ordered them. They ignored him and walked right in and squeezed in on the couch next to Ela. “Please” the mother sobbed “Give my boy Kutay back to me please.” “I don’t know any Kutay. I don’t know what you’re talking about. Get out.” “My boy Kutay, he wants write a book about you. But you’re so cruel to him. Please give him back to me.” Green collapsed into the armchair on top of his freshly ironed shirts. “Your son is that nut who thinks he’s my biographer? Lady you can have him.” “You’re being so cruel!” The mother cried. “I want my Kutay back.” “You’re not listening to me. You can have your Kutay. Please take him home and tell him not to come here anymore.” Green replied. The mother just sobbed. “Perhaps I should explain.” Offered the younger woman “I’m Kutay’s girlfriend.” Ela had assumed they were mother and daughter because of their ages and weights but now Ela realized that the two women sharing the couch with her actually looked nothing alike. “He’s determined to write a book about you. What did you do to Kutay to make him want to write this book?” Green seemed angrier now than he did when he found Kutay on the balcony. “What? I didn’t do anything. He’s nuts.” The girlfriend stood up and positioned herself directly in front of Green. “Oh please Evergreen.” She bemoaned. Ela blinked, she’d never heard him called “Evergreen” before. The girlfriend reached back and pulled loose a knot behind her neck, her dress fluttered to the floor. She stood before Green wearing just a skimpy pair of panties. Kutay’s girlfriend was about the same height as Ela but she looked to be a good 15 kilograms heavier. Ela supposed that the girlfriend carried the weight well though; she was all tits and ass. The girlfriend kneeled on top of Green, who no longer seemed angry. Now Green seemed very unsure of what was going on but he was no longer agitating to be rid of them. Kutay’s mother just kept sobbing; she didn’t seem to notice what was going on in front of her. Kutay’s so-called girlfriend leaned in close, her massive breasts pressing against Green’s chest, and into his ear she said: O most noble Evergreen you who take root in the sun And who shine in radiant tranquility on the wheel Whom no Earthly excellence surpasses You are enfolded in the embraces of divine mysteries You glow like the dawn and burn in the flame of the sun

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Ela had heard that poem before, but she couldn’t place it at the moment. Green seemed to enjoy hearing it, or to be enjoying her presence on his lap anyway, he was firmly gripping her fleshy ass with both hands. The girlfriend nuzzled his head. “Alright, I think I’m going leave, let you all work out whatever this is.” Ela said as she stood. Everyone ignored her. Kutay’s mother went on crying. Kutay’s girlfriend went on nuzzling against Green. Green went on grabbing the girlfriend’s ass. Ela went over and put her shoes on; she was just about to go out through the busted door when the self-declared biographer Kutay barged in again. This time he wasn’t alone though, he was struggling with another man. “Where is he? Where’s my little brother?” Kutay yelled as he shook the other man. They seemed equally matched and Kutay’s opponent wasn’t speaking. Then suddenly Green was there, delivering his signature move, rapid punches to the nose. Except he wasn’t punching Kutay, he was punching the third man. “Answer him!” Green demanded. “Where is he?” The third man reluctantly pointed to Green’s kitchen door. Kutay and Green looked at each other; there was an unspoken agreement about what to do next. Kutay went through the kitchen door while Green held on to the third man. Moments later Kutay came back through the door with a young boy. “I had to go through a football pitch in the middle of a game, but I got him back.” Kutay stated. Kutay’s mother and girlfriend came up and embraced him and his little brother. Kutay’s girlfriend was still in the process of getting her dress on straight when she came over. “What is going on?” Ela asked. “Did you just help your least favorite person?” “As much as I hate him, I know he would never just attack someone. You saw earlier, he didn’t fight back at all when I was pummeling him. So when I saw him fighting with that other man, I knew he had to have a good reason.” Ela was too tired to argue with Green’s odd logic. “OK, whatever. Green I came over here because you said you had something to tell me.” Green thought for a moment “Right I do. About the new color…” “Thank you Evergreen.” Interrupted Kutay’s chubby girlfriend. She gave him a thank you kiss. It wasn’t a quick peck; it was a long deep kiss with plenty of saliva exchanged. Green didn’t seem to mind, nor did Kutay. Ela gave a loud fake cough. The kissers pulled apart “Bye” the chubby girl simply said and the Kutay clan all happily left upon their own accord. The third man was long gone. “That was something else, hun?” “Yeah.” Ela was rather annoyed by now. “You had something to tell me. About a new color?” “Right.” Green confirmed. “There’s a new color in your life. You can’t see him again. If you see him again eventually you’ll have to kill him.” “I’ll have to do what?” Ela had heard him; she just didn’t believe what she had heard. There was a knock on the door. “Hey do you hear that?” Green asked “Someone actually bothered to knock on my busted door rather than just barging in.”

12


The Walkers

Blue “Where were you?” Blue asked “I’ve been out here knocking for five minutes” “Sorry,” Ela apologized “I was taking a nap, I didn’t hear you. Come in.” Blue entered Ela’s home. It was a 19th century Levantine house, not a mansion but rather grand for a 24 year old on her own. Most 24 year olds in Izmir were still living with their parents. Ela had inherited it from her grandfather when he passed away. Her father was annoyed in principle at being passed over but he didn’t really want the house. It was a wreck. Ela’s great-grandmother had died unexpectedly and left no will. This set off a squabble among her five children over what do about the Levantine house. They might have reached an agreement to sell it if not for the return of Ela’s long absent great-grandfather, who wished to live in the home himself. The house was already in need of serious repairs at that time and nobody wanted to put any money into it while its status was uncertain. The end result being that the house went unused and neglected for decades. To say that Ela inherited a house would be generous actually—she inherited a shell. Even the inheritance of that shell was incomplete. While Ela’s grandfather had no living siblings at the time of his death there were plenty of uncles, aunts, cousins and second cousins who still could lay at least a partial claim to the home. Ela considered going around and buying them all out. However she knew she could never get everyone to accept a fair price for their fraction of the claim. The payoff would be small from being bought out but if they held on there was always a chance they could have the whole house to themselves one day. Or the plot of land the wreck stood on anyway. Faced with an irreconcilable dispute Ela decided the best course of action would be to simply ignore the competing claims. She set about having the wreck restored to livable conditions on her own. There was some grumbling among the family but with no one else able to come up with an alternative solution to the house problem Ela was largely allowed to go about handling it as she liked. Certainly no one else wanted to pay for the extensive renovation. Along the way of repairing the place Ela acquired piles of official papers listing her as the sole owner and resident while no one else had any documentation related to the house worth mentioning. Since it would have been almost as expensive to build a new house as restoring the Levantine house, Ela needed to take out a loan to get the work done. With her only source of income being smuggling cosmetics for Black, no bank would ever give her a loan. Luckily Ela was able to find a co-signer, Blue. Blue was a big as a door. Tall and at 50 years old he still retained much of his strength from his rugby days. It was clear where his name came from: his eyes. If Ela’s new acquaintance Red had eyes the color of the sky then Blue had eyes the color of the sea. He was an Irish man who had come to Izmir 15 years ago to set up a private language school with his newly wed Turkish wife. The language school became a great success and its reputation allowed Blue to charge a premium price. The marriage meanwhile had not gone as well; they were now entering the ninth year of seemingly never ending divorce process. “Were you able to get it?” Blue asked. “Do you mean this?” Ela asked with a smile. She pulled a premium bottle of whiskey out of a duty free shopping bag. It was several grades above what Black drank and Black drank a fine whiskey. At the beginning of their agreement Blue was annoyed at Ela being frequently unavailable due to her trips to Germany. His attitude softened when he realized she could get 13


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items for him as well. Besides whiskey she also brought him pork products which were hard to find in Turkey. “Excellent.” Blue commented. Ela poured them each a glass, straight. She had once put a single ice cube in her own glass but Blue was offended at the corruption of the drink. “To your return.” Blue raised his glass. They always toasted her in one way or another. Ela clinked her glass against his and they drank. When they first started their arrangement Ela would respond to Blue’s toast to her with a toast to him. He told her not to do this anymore. He felt there should only be one toast per drink—adding more toasts diluted the significance of the original. Blue sat down on the overstuffed couch. “Now, have you learned anything new for me?” “I have.” Ela sat her drink down. “Give me a moment and I’ll return to tell you.” Ela scampered to her bedroom. Ela came back just two minutes later with her make up fixed up and wearing a long silken blue robe. Ela stood before Blue and pronounced “This is O Amazing Love.” And then she began to spin around in circles. The bottom of her robe lifted to reveal legs as smooth as the robe itself. She held out her arms and looked as though she might take flight. As she spun Ela cried out: O amazing love let me sing of your wonders with these words. Let me open a door into the light. If you can’t wrap this love around you like a cloak at midnight, don’t put on something else, go back to bed. Let this love run spinning through your brain. It’s what holds everything together, and it’s the everything too! Without a little dancing, there is no disappearing. Love so vast, love the sky cannot contain. How does all this fit inside my heart? With the last line she collapsed with a flourish at Blue’s feet and buried her head in his lap. It was partly showmanship and partly genuine dizziness. Blue reached down and with a single finger tilted her chin up. “Would you like me to recite another piece?” She asked breathlessly. 14


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“No,” Blue answered “I want this.” With that Blue stood, picked her up and carried her to the bedroom. It was less a romantic gesture than it was a show of domination. Once there he yanked off her robe to reveal her petite bronze body. She performed oral sex on him, he did not reciprocate. He never did, they were not there for her pleasure. Then he entered her. Because he was so much greater in size than she he could easily move her around to any position he desired; he used her like a doll. Though Blue never did anything specifically to enhance Ela’s own enjoyment of their sexual encounter he was so committed to fully enjoying himself that Ela tended to be brought to orgasm anyway. The idea that she liked being used only turned Blue on more. When he came he did so inside of her and without warning; you don’t ask a doll for permission. They laid there in bed until the earth came back under their feet. Ela went make them coffee. When she came back Blue was getting dressed. “You don’t have to go, you know.” Ela offered. “I could make us dinner.” Blue quickly drank his coffee. “That sounds great, but I don’t have time today. A lot of work do, we’re creating new ads to put up around town before the school year starts.” “If you’re looking for someone who can design your ads, you found her.” Blue looked at her confused for a moment, then his face darkened. “Oh, um, no. Don’t take this wrong way, I know you’ve got training doing that sort of thing, and I’m sure you could do a great job. However I think that might complicate our relationship.” “You could tell your employees you met me at the gym,” Ela said with a grin “isn’t that where you say you are going when you come here?” “Please, drop it.” Blue requested. So she did. Ela walked Blue to the door, she remained undressed. She gave him a goodbye kiss before he left. Blue didn’t do anything as crude as leaving money on the nightstand. The monthly mortgage payment on the Levantine house would automatically be withdrawn from his bank account.

15


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Red After seeing Red, Black, Green and Blue all in one day Ela had almost no contact with anyone for a week. Each day she alternated between doing yoga or pilates. She memorized another Rumi poem for when she saw Blue again. Her method for memorizing poetry was to post the poem in the bathroom and then repeat it each time she was in there. Most of her time was spent painting. Her current project was a depiction of the tiny garden behind her home. The garden itself was nothing much, Ela made sure it was presentable looking but she couldn’t be bothered to spend much effort on it. It was walled in and the claustrophobic nature of it made it a good subject for a painting. When she was in high school Ela wanted to be a painter when she grew up. Her parents were relentless in their message that painting was not a realistic career path; they were unequivocal that they would not pay for art school. Studying graphic design was to be a compromise that would give her a chance to be artistic while placing her within a commercially viable field. She was able to take one painting class in college and that was the extent of her training. When a week had passed she set out to meet Red at the same restaurant, Fatih Pide & Kebap. There were probably a dozen places in town named Fatih, not that there was any connection between them. Though she had only told him that she might meet him, there had been little doubt in her mind that she would. From the moment he said his name she knew she would see him again. Her life seemed to be centered around men with colors for names. Sure enough he was standing outside Fatih waiting for her. “You came.” Red said, with only a slight hint of surprise. “I did.” Confirmed Ela. “So where should we go to find some magic?” Red gave broad grin. “That is a question for the ages. If I could give a simple answer to that question I’d probably be a rich man.” “Only probably?” Red gave a shrug “Use of the magic could come at a heavy price. It’s hard to know how finding it would turn out since so little has ever been found.” “Ok, so where should we start our quest then?” “You seem to have rubbed up against magic at some point. I was hoping you could show me what you might do on a typical day out.” “Let’s see… I suppose I might go to Forum Bornova.” “Forum Bornova. Great, let’s go.” So they did. From the restaurant it would take almost half an hour to walk there, but the weather was nice and neither one of them was in a hurry. “So what do you do in your quest for magic?” Ela asked. She half asked it because she thought it was so funny that he would take such a silly question seriously, but she was also curious to hear his answer. “I spend a lot of time reading. I try making myself knowledgeable about a wide range of topics.” “Reading? I thought you spent most your time looking under rocks for magic.” “I do that too.” Red responded, either not noticing or not rising to her jibe. “However it’s important to have wisdom if you’re going to find magic. Otherwise you could walk right past it without knowing it. These days everyone knows more about less.” 16


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“I don’t know what that means.” “We’re very specialized. In classical times you didn’t have specialists in any area, you just had intellectual men. Aristotle is remembered today as philosopher, yet only to view him as someone who sat around thinking about the nature of knowledge would be a terrible misunderstanding. To the Greeks the term ‘philosopher’ meant someone seeks truth and loves knowledge, all knowledge. Aristotle created a biological system for classifying animals that was used for thousands of years. His book Poetics is still used in screen writing courses. He wrote about physics, government, ethics… the list goes on and on. While he was one of the most famous examples this type of work across fields was common.” “You think that we should be like Aristotle then and be knowledgeable about all of these things?” “Well it’s impossible today. We’ve accumulated too much information to become an expert in everything. Being an intellectual eventually diverged into being an artist or a scientist. Being a scientist next diverged into being a biologist, an astronomer, a physicist and so on. If we follow the thread of becoming a physicist you then have to decide if you are to be theoretical or experimental, and then choose to specialize as a nuclear, matter, atomic, or astrophysicist. Probably some more subfields after that. Everyone knows more about their given field and less about the whole.” “However you aim to at least has some familiarity with all subjects across the board.” “I’m not even sure if that’s possible, but I at least want to avoid being locked into seeing the world through one paradigm.” “What have you learned in your studies today?” “According to Hippocrates a nose bleed is a good thing when the menstrual period is suppressed.” Ela stopped walking. “Is that right?” “No.” Ela burst out into laughter. “What could possibly be the benefit of learning something like that?” “I have no idea.” Red admitted. “But having no known benefit is not the same thing has having no benefit.” They continued walking. “A nose bleed is a good thing when the menstrual period is suppressed.” Ela repeated with a chuckle. Red and Ela passed by the Bornova metro station then cut through the Ege University campus to get to Forum Bornova. Forum was a stylish outdoor mall; its flagship store was an Ikea. When Red saw it he was quite surprised. “Izmir has an Ikea? My hometown in America doesn’t even have an Ikea.” “What is your hometown?” “St. Louis.” “I don’t know this city.” “Well most St. Louisans have never heard of Izmir. Anyway can we go in Ikea?” “Do you think it’ll be a good place to look for magic?” “Probably not.” Red stated. “I generally don’t consider shopping malls good places to look, malls are so… interchangeable. I’ve never seen an Ikea before though. And ease up on all the magic talk will you? It’s not something that you can force to happen.” Ela blushed a little. 17


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Red had seemed impervious to her attempts to tease him but now he was clearly becoming annoyed. They went into Ikea. After walking around the bedroom displays they ate at the Ikea restaurant, Red had the meatballs, Ela the salmon. Red bought a towel and a couple of kitchen tools. They walked around the rest of the mall, Ela bought a blouse, Red bought an English version of an Orhan Pamuk book against Ela’s advice. As they left Forum Bornova Ela suggested he try a place for a drink. They walked back across the Ege university campus and past the metro to a street with tightly packed bars and cafes. “This is Küçük Park, it’s an area popular with university students.” Explained Ela “Little park?” Responded Red. “There’s not a hint of greenery here, why would this be called a park?” “I don’t know,” Ela put a strong emphasis on the I. “That’s just the name. Come on, I want you to try this place.” Most of the cafes had red booths; they sat in the only one with orange booths. After a glance at the menu Red looked disappointed. “When you said ‘go for a drink’ I assumed you meant alcohol.” “You need to experience this; this place has the greatest hot chocolate in the world.” “It’s August.” “The sun is setting, it’s cooling off. Besides here is Turkey, we drink hot drinks no matter what the weather.” It was a common occurrence to see people sitting in the sun, sweating and drinking hot tea. The orange booth café had a range of hot chocolate drinks with different fruit and nut flavorings. Red got a strawberry flavor, Ela got a caramel. The hot chocolate might actually be better described as a soup than a drink since it was so thick and rich. After one sip Red simply said “whoa.” “It’s good right?” “It’s amazing.” “Would you say that it’s…magical?” “That’s not a word I like to throw around lightly.” Ela gave a little pout in response to this. “However yes, it’s magical.” They drank their chocolate soup, which was delicious though not quite magical. It was a kind of sweet liquid calmness. When they had finished Red asked “Why are they doing that?” He indicated a restaurant across the street that was putting up a tarp in the front of their patio. “They’re doing it so people can’t stand outside and watch the football match for free. I think Fenerbahçe is playing tonight. “What, people would just stand in the street all night rather than buying one beer so they could sit down?” “Yes. Look at that restaurant next door.” The second restaurant had not put up any tarps, there were several loiters standing outside looking in to see the game for free. “What an odd and wonderful country I’ve come to.” “Yes, well I’m afraid you’ll have to continue enjoying on your own, I need to be going.” “Before you go,” Red put on his most charming face “have I been behaved well enough to get your phone number?” 18


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Ela smiled “Give me yours.” So he did. They stepped outside. “So where are you going now?” Ela asked. “Oh I think I’m going to take the metro back home. I hope to see again soon.” “But the metro? Where do you live?” “Karşıyaka.” Red turned and started to walk away. Karşıyaka literally meant ‘the other side’ as in the other side of the bay. It was quite a ways from Bornova. “If you live in Karşıyaka then what were you doing in that little restaurant out here in Bornova when we first met?” “I was there to see you.” “But you didn’t even know me!” Red turned but continued to walk away, backwards, as he responded “Well obviously I didn’t know that’s why I was there at the time, but that’s the only reason I could have been there.” He turned again and continued to walk towards the metro.

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Black Ela was somewhat concerned about the future of her professional relationship with Black after she had maced him, though she did not regret the act in itself. She was not overly worried about it, her agreement with Blue covered her mortgage and she had enough savings to cover her other expenses until she could find another job. Still working with Black was lucrative and all else equal she preferred to not give up her cosmetics smuggling. So it came as a relief when, the day after she met with Red, one of Black’s shop assistants called and asked her to come out to meet with Black. Ela went out to Black’s shop that afternoon. He came out of his back office and gave her two air kisses to each cheek, but today it seemed stiff and forced. She came back to his office and had a seat; he did not offer her a drink. “So why did you want to see me? You can’t need to be resupplied already.” “No.” Black confirmed. “I’m alright on that front for now. There’s something else I want you to do for me. Do know bell curves?” “Sure, line graphs that have the shape of bells. Shows a big swell of… whatever in the middle, for example income, and tapering out at either end.” “Right, but less well known is the reverse bell curve, where you have two peaks and a trough in the middle. It’s my personal observation that the prices on art seems to follow a reverse bell curve. You have a lot of prints that are available cheap and then original pieces of art which tend to be fabulously expensive. In the middle there’s just a bit of crap, small pieces by mediocre artists.” Ela didn’t really agree with Black, as far as she could tell there was art available at almost every imaginable price. She supposed he meant that the art he wanted was at prices he didn’t wish to pay. However she decided to humor him to see where he was going with this. “I see, you may have a point there.” “I do, don’t I?” Black agreed with her agreeing with him. “So I thought to myself, what’s the best way to get a decent piece of art without paying through the nose for it? And it eventually came to me—I need to buy directly from a young undiscovered artist.” There was silence for a moment before Ela responded “Oh, you mean me?” “Yes, well, I don’t personally know any other young undiscovered artist, do you?” “No I don’t.” Ela lied. Many of her old classmates were would be artists. “And you do more than signs, don’t you?” “Yes I do. You should have told me that you wanted to buy a painting before though, I could have brought some out with me today.” “Do you have any pieces that are as big as a door?” “Er, no I don’t.” “Then your existing works wouldn’t do. That’s what I want.” Ela blinked “But what do you want the painting to be of?” Black looked at her as though she’d asked him a very strange question. “That’s not important. Paint what you like as long as it’s big.” Ela squinted at Black; he seemed to be an unapologetic philistine when it came to art. He wanted a big original painting to hang on his wall, but he didn’t care what it was as long as he didn’t have to pay too much for it. “Do you know what happens when you tell a creative person that they can do whatever they want?” 20


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“What?” “Nothing happens. We are overwhelmed by the infinite possibilities. You need to give me some boundaries to work in.” Black gave a little sigh, as though Ela was putting a terrible burden on him with this request. “What are my options then?” “Let’s see… I could do a portrait. You’re the obvious choice for the subject though I could do someone else if you like.” Black thought this over for a minute. “Part of me likes the idea, but I think if people that I had a giant painting of myself made they’d think me an egomaniac.” Correctly Ela thought silently. “And I don’t really want a painting of someone else on my wall.” “I could do a still life. Could be interesting since you rarely see a great big still life painting.” “What’s a still life?” “A painting of a bowl of fruit or a glass of wine, that sort of thing.” “No, no that doesn’t sound interesting at all. That sounds rather boring.” “How about a landscape painting then?” “Well that might be nice, though it’s a bit cliché.” “Could be a city landscape. Could be the street your shop is on.” “No, then were back to making me look like an egomaniac.” Ela was starting to get annoyed. For someone who didn’t care what their painting was of he was dismissing broad swathes of possibilities. “Do you have an idea of what you would like then?” “It should have action.” Black said without hesitation. “There should be something happening in the painting. Not just a static picture of some fruit or a mountain.” “Action. I can do that.” Ela stood; she didn’t really want to plan any further than that at the moment. “I’ll go then and start sketching ideas. Before I do though, we must agree on my fee for the painting. I think standard rate for me doing a job would be fair.” Black took a moment to process this. “You mean the same as you would get for bringing back cosmetics? You’ve never sold a painting before, you can’t ask that much.” “Alright then, go back to the galleries and see if you can find a painting as big as a door for less.” Black squinted. “Fine. It better look good. I don’t want people to think I bought art from a shopping mall.” With the terms agreed on Ela left the store though she didn’t get very far before one of Black’s shop girls came running after her as fast as she could go on her high heel shoes. “Ela, Ela!” She called out frantically. “I have to ask if it’s true that you sprayed Black with mace after he grabbed you.” Ela looked at the girl whose name she didn’t know. “Yes, it’s true.” The girl gave a giggle of delight. “That’s awesome. He’s such an ass, he totally deserved it. You know he used to grab at us but he hasn’t touched anyone since you sprayed him.” “Did he ever do anything more than grab your butt?” “Like what?” “I don’t know, something more.” 21


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The girl looked confused. “No. Don’t you know he’s gay? He just thought it was funny to grab our butts. I have to get back.” She hustled back to the store as fast as her heels would allow. Ela walked down the street possibilities for a painting flowing through her head. She stopped when she saw an advertisement on the side of a bus stop. It was a new ad for English Accelerated, Blue’s language school. There was a pretty teenage girl apparently having the time of her life learning some new grammatical point. Standing next to her was a smiling, egger to help teacher. The teacher was Red.

22


The Walkers

Green Ela walked down the spiral staircase. The stairwell was ancient, stone and claustrophobic. Each step was at a different height, each a different width. They were all rutted and had perilously smooth edges. It was impossible to get any kind of rhythm going as every step needed individual consideration. The white washed walls were so tight that Ela could touch one side with her right shoulder and the other with her left elbow. There was enough headroom for her but anyone a bit taller would have to duck. Ela desperately hoped that she did not encounter anyone trying to come up the stairs. After going down five stories Ela did encounter another person. It was a withered janitor, not going up but slowly going down, mopping the floors as he went. He was small enough that Ela could get by him easily enough if they both stood sideways though the wet floors added another element requiring attention. The withered janitor looked at her footprint in his newly clean floors and said to her “I do this because it makes sense for me to do it. I make more than professors make.” He said this right as Ela was trying to squeeze past him and their faces were mere centimeters apart. Ela felt a look of disgust come across her face against her will. That he was a janitor meant little to her, that he felt the need to explain his life to a stranger was pathetic. Shortly after getting past the janitor the stairwell opened up to be a nice wide stairwell with perfect flat steps. Ela walked down one more floor then out the glass doors and on to the street. She was immediately set-upon by a TV news crew. “Excuse me madam, we’re doing a man on the street piece, getting people’s opinions.” The reporter explained. “What do you think of the situation in the country… the one boarding Turkey…they’ve been having all the problems lately…” “Syria?” Ela suggested. The reported snapped his fingers to confirm she was right. “Syria. What do you think of the situation in Syria? Because there are all of the… the people coming from there because their homes were destroyed or they’re afraid of the war… what do you call those people?” “Refuges.” The reporter snapped his fingers again. “Refuges. So there’s all these refuges coming in and there was this statement by this guy… he’s really important… you see him on TV all the time…” “Is this a joke?” Ela asked. The reporter seemed offended by this accusation. “The situation in Syria is plainly not a joke. It’s very serious.” Ela was at a loss for words. At that moment she heard a honk and looked over to see Green leaning out the window of his old Tofaş. “Ela! Come on, let’s go.” He called. “I’m sorry, I need to go.” Ela told the reporter, though she didn’t sound very sorry. “Wait!” Cried the reporter “We’re almost finished, if you leave now all that work will be for nothing!” Ela ignored him and got into Green’s Tofaş. Green hit the gas and they sped away from the bumbling newsman. “Good timing Green, that guy was…oh!” Ela was interrupted by a small dog that had just jumped from the backseat into her lap. It had shaggy white fur that was tipped with dried mud. It wagged its tail with the unbridled enthusiasm that only dogs possessed. Ela scratched him behind the ears. “Who is this little guy?” 23


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“I just rescued him off the street last night; I’ve been calling him Dirty.” “Well that is a fitting name. However I don’t think he’s a street dog, he has a collar.” “No, I don’t mean that I rescued him from a life on the streets. I mean that I actually rescued him from these two old ladies who were trying to kill him.” Green glanced over at the dog. “They were going to make him their Kurban Bayramɪ sacrifice.” “What?” Ela proclaimed in disbelief. “No one sacrifices a dog for Kurban. Turks keep dogs as pets, they don’t eat them. Besides it’s not even Kurban Bayramɪ.” “I know all that.” Green snapped. “I don’t think these ladies were all there in the head anymore. I was getting into my car last night and this old broad comes up to me and asks if I’ve seen her little white dog. I tell her no, but I’ll keep my eye open. I get in my car and drive around the corner and there’s Dirty. I figured I’d help them out so I stop try and get the dog. And then I hear the one old lady yelling to the other ‘We have to find that dog! I’ve made a Kurban sacrifice every year for 73 years and I’m not missing this year!’ Then the other old lady comes around the corner, sees Dirty and yells to me ‘Catch that dog and hold it! I’ve got the knife!’ And she had a big old knife and she seemed egger to use it.” “No way!” Ela protested “You’re making this up.” “I haven’t even got to the best part. So then I just yell out ‘Dirty dog! Quick, get in the car!’ And he does! Dirty jumped in my car and we drove off with both the old ladies running behind us waving big knives around.” Green reached over to scratch Dirty. “Can you believe that someone would want to hurt this little guy?” “No. No I don’t believe that happened.” “Believe it or don’t. It happened.” “Well what are you going to do with him now? He belongs to someone.” “I can’t return him to those crazy ladies. I think I’ll keep him, he’s very sweet.” Ela set aside her disbelief in the story for a moment. “He probably belongs to someone else. Probably one of their neighbors.” “Even if that’s so, he wouldn’t be safe around those ladies.” Green clearly didn’t want to give up the dog. “Let’s see what his tag says.” Ela suggested, she looked at the tag and read it aloud. “Ağaç Ana.” “There you go” Green grinned “the dog belongs to the mother tree.” Ela turned the tag over and read the reverse side. “If found please love.” “I think that settles it then,” decided Green “the universe wants me to have this dog. You’re with me from now on Dirty.” Ela looked at the dog, he was adorable. It wasn’t hard to see why Green would want to keep him, despite his filth. “Do what you want, get him cleaned up at least though.” Ela took a deep breath. “I wanted to ask you about what you said the last time we met though. About the new color.” Green looked upwards for a moment in thought. When he looked down he said “I don’t recall.” Ela squinted in annoyance. “It was a pretty dramatic statement, not one that you’d soon forget.” Green shrugged “Yet here we are.” “You said that if I saw the new color again I’d eventually have to kill him.” “Ohhhhhhh.” Green recalled. “Right, that. What about it?” 24


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“Well what did you mean by it?” “I meant just what I said. There was really no hidden or deeper meaning to the statement. If you see him again you’ll have to kill him one day. But you’ve already seen him again haven’t you? Well you probably won’t have to kill him if you cut it off now, but another meeting and you’ll have sealed his fate and yours.” “How would I kill him? Accidently or murder? “How should I know? Does it look like I have a crystal ball?” Dirty seemed to notice Ela’s rising anger, he playfully rubbed his head against her in an effort to cheer her up. “How about why would I kill him?” Green shrugged again. “Can’t be sure of that either. Yet I think you already have a hint as to why. He hasn’t been honest with you about who he is.” Green stopped at a light. “Hey look at that” He pointed straight ahead “They finally finished the metro extension.”

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Blue The day after seeing Black Ela received a message from Blue announcing that he would pay her a visit that afternoon. This time Ela made a point to be ready for him. She put on a crisp white shirt and a plaid skirt. It wasn’t a school girl outfit per se, but the style was instantly recognizable. Ela had never played a role for Black before but she felt that the school girl was a fairly safe bet. With her hair up in pig-tails and ruby red lipstick on her lips Ela had the unmistakable look of youthful innocence that begged to be corrupted. There were reasons for the put on. While for Blue she would play the school girl, for herself she would play the role of the honey pot. The irresistible femme-fatal who seduces the enemy to gleam information during pillow chat. Of course Ela already had sex with Blue on a regular basis—hence the need to get creative. Blue showed up shortly after lunch time. While he didn’t say anything about her outfit the lust on his face told her that she had chosen well. Ela poured them both a straight whiskey. Blue raised his glass “May all your troubles be little ones.” They drank, Blue sat down on the couch, Ela sat down on Blue’s lap. She slowly ran her finger over his collar and pronounced: A soul which is not clothed with the inner garments of love should be ashamed of its existence. Be drunk with love, for love is all that exists. Where is intimacy found if not in the give and take of love? With the last line said Ela purposely let a drop of her whiskey splash onto Blue. He looked at her and in a rather serious tone said “That is not a whiskey you spill.” “You’re right, I shouldn’t have done that.” Ela replied with pseudo-horror on her face. “What are you going to do to me?” I didn’t take Blue long to realize the opportunity that was being placed before him. He picked her up and laid her face down across his lap. He hiked up her skirt, pulled down her panties and spanked her bare butt. Part of Ela was disappointed that the crude fantasy of spanking a school girl was apparently exactly what Blue wanted. A larger part of her though was happy that her plan was going well. And there was another part of her, one that surprised herself, that quietly wanted him to smack her ass harder. After Blue had turned her bottom red they had sex right there on the couch. He was fairly excited so he didn’t last long. However he apparently wasn’t done after one go, he carried her into the bedroom where they had a much longer session. Ela’s plaid skirt remained on the entire time. Ela didn’t wait long until after they’d finished to start prying for information, she wanted to get at him while he still had a bit of a sex high. “I saw your ads around town.” “Yeah?” Blue murmured. “They look good.” She complimented. “Who are those people in the picture?” “Just a teacher and a student at English Accelerated.” “What are their names?” 26


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“The teacher’s name is Red; I don’t even know the girl’s name. We thought she’d look good on the posters.” “The teacher’s name is Red? So you have Blue and Red working together?” Blue rolled his eyes “I know, it sounds like we’re working with code names.” “How long has Red been working for you?” “I don’t know, about a month.” “Is he a good teacher?” “I suppose. My director of studies mostly handles what goes on in the classroom.” Blue paused, and then asked with a hint of suspicion “Why do you want to know?” His sex high was over and he realized he was bringing work into Ela’s house which he didn’t like to do. “Just curious” Ela responded with a shrug. “I’ll go make us some coffee.” She did that and Blue got dressed. She offered to cook for him again but her offer was disingenuous this time. She walked him to the door and gave him a particularly passionate goodbye kiss—she wanted him to leave on a good note. She placed his hand on her bare breast and told him “Come back soon.” Blue gave a little moan that seemed to hint that he could go back to the bedroom right then if other matters did not call for his attention.

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Red A week after she had agreed to do a painting for Black Ela still had no idea what she would do. It had to be something with action, but that still left a huge range of possibilities. Additionally Black had sent her several messages requesting specifics about what the painting would look like. Perhaps he too had realized that ‘something with action’ was a rather vague parameter to work in. Luckily Ela had an idea of who she should turn to for inspiration. Red picked up on the first ring. “Hello.” “Hello Red, it’s Ela.” “Ela, Ela… no I don’t know any Ela’s.” “Well I know you. Your face is on every bus stop in town.” Red groaned. “I know; how embarrassing is that? I have to ride the bus. I stand at the stop and I see people looking back and forth between the ad and me.” Ela giggled. “You never mentioned that you were working as an English teacher.” “You never asked what I do.” Ela paused, she realized this was true. She also realized that he had never asked her what she did for a living, something she had become adept at lying about. “I just thought you were a full-time magic hunter.” “That would be the dream, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately I must finance my quest by more traditional means of employment.” “Well, I hope you can go pro one day. Anyway, I was calling to ask if you know much about art.” “I know less than I’d like.” Ela imagined Red could give that answer when asked about any subject. “Well what’s a painting with a lot of action in it?” “The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch” Red replied without hesitation. “Lots of people doing things, every person has a story. Fantastic painting.” “Thanks. I’ll look it up online.” “Don’t do that.” Red snapped. “Why not?” “Painting is an inherently slow medium while the internet is an inherently fast one. Scrolling through a collection of condensed jpg’s is about the worst way to experience art.” “What do you suggest then?” “Go to the museum and see the original painting.” “Where is that?” “Madrid.” Ela shook her head, not that Red could see that. “Thanks anyway.” “Hey, are you free on Tuesday?” Red asked. “I suppose so.” “Great. Take the 169 bus to the last stop. Come prepared for hiking and bathing.” Hiking and bathing… an odd combination. Ela decided to just go with it. She did have one more question though. “What’s something you’ve learned today?” “I learned the concept of face value.” “What’s that?” 28


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“It means that sometimes a test has value because it looks like a test.� And then Red hung up.

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Black After talking to Red Ela immediately disregarded his advice and went and looked up The Garden of Earthly Delights online. He was certainly right that there was a lot of action in the painting. It had three panels. The first panel didn’t have much going on; it was just three people standing in a garden with a lot of animals milling about. The second and biggest panel had so much going on it was hard to make sense of it all. Hundreds of lithe nudes danced, swam and played with mythical beasts. Mad, impossible structures soared in the background. Ela realized that when Red called it a “Fantastic Painting” he didn’t just mean that it was great; he meant that it showed a fantasy. The third panel was the most interesting and the most horrific. There were nudes and mythical beasts again however now the beasts seemed to be tormenting the humans. Musical instruments became instruments of torture. People had blades in their side and dice on their head. It was utterly bizarre and disturbing. It inspired Ela in a sideways manner. Ela decided that she too wanted to have a painting that showed a lot of people doing things. However she didn’t want to have an enormous, anonymous cast. She would have a limited number of people who showed up repeatedly. Ela also wanted to have a world that was a bit of an escapist fantasy without going all the way to dancing with mythical creatures. Hers would be a modern setting, but not too modern. She started making some sketches. *** The next day Ela went to Black’s to show him some ideas that she had. Seated in his little back office, she pulled out the first sketch. “So in this one” Ela explained “the centerpiece of the painting will be a beautiful tailor made suit. It will stand above and in sharp contrast to the surroundings. The suit will be in a squalid little work shop run by a withered old couple. The old man will be trying to sell the suit to a well to do businessman while the old woman labors on creating the next piece.” Black made a face at this idea. “I don’t know, that sounds kind of like a piece of socialist propaganda.” “Propaganda isn’t the word I would use. It shows the struggle of the proletariat.” “The idea it’s kind of a depressing, I don’t really want that on my walls. What other ideas do you have?” Ela pulled out another sketch. “Alright so maybe you’ll like this one more, it’s a bit more fun. So here at the bottom we see Peter Graves holding a sub-machine gun and if we follow the action up to the top we see that he’s pointing his gun at a giant killer grasshopper.” “I’m not sure if I understand that idea.” “It’s a tribute to the classic film The Beginning of the End.” Black looked unhappy. “I’ve never heard of this film. Do you have any other ideas?” Ela did have another idea, it was the only idea she actually wanted to do. Those first two were only presented so that Black could reject them. “I do have one other idea.” Ela pulled out another sketch. “This one will be a story that happens in a tower. The hero will be a detective looking for a jewel stolen from a museum. Everything will be in the tower, the police station, the museum, the suspects, everything. On each floor we’ll see the detective in a stage of the investigation. However the floors won’t be in any kind of order. Therefore how the story turns out depends on the viewer’s interpretation. Different people will have different ideas about which floor he goes to first, second, third, and so on.” 30


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This idea had Blue’s attention “How many floors will the tower have?” Ela shrugged. “I’m not sure yet. I’d have to think about possible directions a detective story could go.” “This idea seems better than the other ones. Did you have any other suggestions though?” “Oh umm, I don’t have a sketch of it, but I did have another idea about two giant… cocks. And one of the cocks would be really withered and grey and sad looking…” “No, no.” Black cut her off. “Let’s do the idea about the tower.” “I think that’s going to make a great painting.” “I hope so. I’ll need it ready in one month.” Ela’s eyes widened at this. “A month? A large complex painting like this could take quite a while to do.” Black furrowed his brow. “So you better get started then. It has to be ready in a month. If I don’t have by then I’ll be forced to pick something out of a gallery instead.” Ela didn’t like the demands he was placing her. At the same time though she had never sold a painting before and she wanted to rise to meet this challenge. “I’ll need to be off then.” “Fine. Oh and I’ll need you to take care of this as well.” Black handed Ela a list of cosmetics to be bought in Germany, as though she didn’t have enough to do already.

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Green Ela was in the Asansör. ‘Asansör’ literally meant ‘elevator’ in Turkish. However this wasn’t just an asansör, it was the Asansör. It was a red brick tower built into the side of a hill that consisted solely of two elevators. There were two stops, zero and one, both of which were on a ground floor. As a plaque on the tower explained: One of the historical places Izmir, Asansör Tower has been built in the year 1907 by a jewish philanthropist; Nesim Levi Bayraklıoğlu to render the difficulty for the elders, children and pregnant women to climb the stairs due to the altitude differences between Mithatpaşa Street and Halil Rıfat Quarter. Ela tried to not give much thought as to why Mr. Bayraklıoğlu would want to render things more difficult for the elderly. She also tried not to pay much attention to the wailing songs of Dario Moreno that played in the elevator, but this was harder to do. Ela stepped out of the Asansör at the top (floor 1). That placed her in the middle of the Asansör Restaurant patio where Green was seated with Dirty by his side. “Ela!” Green called out “Glad you could make it, come have a seat.” Ela pulled up a chair and gave Dirty a pat on the head. “Green, you haven’t washed this poor dog yet?” “I’ve washed him twice.” Green defended himself. “He just rolls in the mud the moment you let him outside. He wants to stay true to his name.” Ela looked down at Dirty, Dirty seemed to look back up at her, though it was hard to be sure since his shaggy hair covered so much of his face. A waiter brought them both glasses of blended scotch and a plate with moss covered rocks on it. Green picked up one of the rocks and eyed it suspiciously. “Anything else?” The waiter asked. Green dropped the rock back on the plate. “No, that’s all thanks.” When the waiter walked away Ela asked “Why did he bring us these rocks?” “Who knows? It’s probably trendy at the moment to have some mossy rocks on the table.” Green picked up his drink. “He brought us what’s important.” They had a drink. “So why did you want to see me?” Ela enquired. “I thought it’d be a nice day out, beautiful weather today. I was already coming here with my photography club; I thought you’d like to come out as well.” “Photography club? Where are they?” “Most of them are over there at Yaşar Aksoy Park. You can get a good shot of the Asansör Tower from there. Ah, but here comes one of our members now, Esen.” Esen was a woman of about 30 years of age. She would be beautiful if it were not for the rather serious scowl on her face. “Hey Esen, how’s it going?” Esen looked at Green and said “When anger surges through thy heart, let not thy foolish tongue take part.” Then Esen took one of the mossy stones from the table, turned and marched off. “What’s with her?” Ela enquired. “Oh the whole photo club is in a bit off a tiff. It was my turn to pick out a location to go to and they think my choice to be unoriginal. But it’s a great place for photos, you have the 32


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tower, a great view of the bay and we have Dirty, he a makes a great subject.” Green pointed over to Yaşar Aksoy Park where several people taking photos of the tower with expensive looking cameras “They complained but it hasn’t stopped them from taking plenty of photos.” The two of them sat there silently for a while. A steady stream of people walked through the restaurant patio to get to the elevator. Asansör Tower was a tourist attraction but locals also relied on it to get up and down the hill. At the foot of the tower a photographer unconnected to Green’s club took shots of a wedding party. After a while the waiter returned, after a quick glance at the plate of stones he proclaimed “You took one of our stones!” “One of my friends took it.” Green explained. “I’ll get her to return it.” “No! You stole it! You’re trying to steal our stones!” “It’s just a little rock, relax, I’ll get it back.” The waiter was now red in the face. “You stole our stone!” He grabbed Green and demanded “Give back the stone.” Green had remained calm until the waiter touched him, then he delivered a punch to the waiter’s nose that sent him sprawling across the floor. The other patrons at the restaurant gave them horrified looks. “I think we should go.” Suggested Ela. “Agreed.” Green threw some lira on the table, more than necessary, and they went out. They walked in the direction of Yaşar Aksoy Park. As they walked by Green called out “Esen, they want that rock back, please return it. I’ve got to go, see you all at the next meeting.” Everyone but Esen said goodbye and wished him well, if somewhat insincerely. Once the Asansör Restaurant was out of sight Ela said to Green “So there’s nothing you wanted to tell me?” “There’s nothing really left to tell. You’ve made your decision and now you’ll have to live with it.” “I’m not going to kill Red.” Green ignored her proclamation. He suddenly had bigger concerns. “We forgot Dirty!” He cried out. Green spun around, Dirty was right there, following behind them. Relieved, Green reached down to pet his dog. “Dirty, Dirty, Dirty. You make me want to think like a mountain.”

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Blue Ela wanted to have something more refined for Blue’s next visit. She had allowed things to become too tawdry last time. She had told herself it was because she wanted to get information about Red, but that was at least partly an excuse. She had done it to mix things up, his visits had become a bit of a bore. It felt like they were just going through the motions. Blue had never expressed any dissatisfaction though in Ela’s mind if she thought this way, it would only be a matter of time before he felt similarly. She needed to engage him, after all Ela was not supposed to be just a whore, she was his concubine. Blue and Ela had first met on an airplane. She was returning from Munich with supplies for Black. It was a connecting flight for Blue, he was returning from a visit to Ireland. Neither one of them were normally in the habit of talking to strangers on an airplane. However Blue had a book that caught Ela’s attention. It was about restoring old houses. Blue had just bought an old rundown Greek house in the North Aegean town of Ayvalık. Ela had inherited the Levantine house almost a year prior. She had decided by then that she wanted to restore it with or without the consent of the rest of her family. However she was still working on how to pay for it all. She asked Blue what he knew about restoring homes. Blue usually didn’t like to talk to strangers on planes but he didn’t mind a pretty young girl wanting to talk to him. After the flight they were about to go their separate ways when Blue stopped Ela. To her he said “I’m usually not this forward, but I thought I’d go ahead and take a chance. I’m currently in a rather lengthy divorce process and I’m looking for something to meet my… personal needs. Basically I’m looking for a concubine. I’m hoping you might fill that role. I know it’s a strange request, don’t answer now, think about it. I could really help out with restoring your home. Call me when you’re ready.” He handed her his card and walked away. As it happened Ela couldn’t have answered him right then even if she wanted to. She didn’t know what a concubine was. When she got home she looked the word up. Con·cu·bine: (noun) A woman who cohabits with a man to whom she is not legally married, especially one regarded as socially or sexually subservient; mistress. At first she was quite shocked, that quickly turned into anger. She was stuck on anger for a while, seething that a man that had seemed so polite would ask her to do such a thing. The words ‘sexually subservient’ particularly stuck in her mind. While Blue was decent looking enough he was far too old for her to consider a relationship with him. If he had asked her out on a date that would have been easy enough to respond to—no. This though, being asked to be a concubine, she had no idea how to begin to respond. Part of her wanted to call him to scream abuse at him. For a long time though she simply didn’t respond at all. Weeks went by like this. After a while, when her anger and disgust had time to cool, Ela wondered why she had had such a strong emotional reaction at all. He had made an offer, she wasn’t interested. Why get worked up about it? Ela had nothing against other women working as prostitutes if that was what they wanted to do. Outlawing prostitution seemed like the move of moralists trying to control women’s bodies. Indecently prostitution was legal in Turkey. The largest brothel in Europe was said to be in Basmane district. Blue wasn’t even asking her to open her legs to anyone who came along, just to him. 34


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A couple other things happened in those weeks. One was that Ela had the sinking realization that it would take her at least a decade to restore the Levantine house on her own. In the meantime she would have to continue living with her parents. If she wanted to get her own apartment the cost of rent would mean she would never have enough money to restore the house. Ela had lived in student housing while in university, she found it stifling to be back under her parent’s roof. The other thing that happened was that she wanted sex. Well, she had wanted sex before that but now the desire was getting harder to ignore. She had a boyfriend back in university but they went their separate ways upon graduation. Since then she had not found any boyfriend worthy material and had remained celibate. The idea of picking up a one night stand didn’t interest her, it might fulfill her for a moment but she knew she’d just be left feeling emptier the next day. Ela went back and did more research on concubines. The term had wide ranging meanings across different cultures. Sometimes a concubine could be a kind of second wife whose children had a legal claim to an inheritance. Sometimes they were simply slaves. The dominate person in the relationship was always a man though the concubine could be a woman or a man, in some cultures anyway. The country with the most complicated relationship with concubines appeared to be Turkey. Under the Ottoman Empire the sultan would have a whole harem full of concubines. Muslim women weren’t allowed to be concubines so women from other lands, often prisoners of war, were taken to fulfill the role. They lived in unrivaled opulence in the palace. Yet they were definitely still prisoners, unable to leave the palace, guarded by eunuchs that ensured no man but the sultan touched or even saw them. Their children could go on to become sultans themselves, if they could survive the ambitions of rival claimants in the harem. Of course all of that was in the past, under the Turkish Republic the sultan’s palace was a tourist attraction. Still it fascinated Ela, particularly the idea that concubines were not just there for sexual use but to provide higher forms of entertainment for their men. So it was that Ela decided to kill two birds with one stone, by fulfilling her own sexual needs she would get her house restored. Now Ela sought to ensure the continuation of the relationship that had benefited her so well. When Blue came to the door she opened it wearing a shimmery red evening gown that made her modest breasts look incredible. The highest of heels tightened her caves and raised her ass. Carefully done makeup make up left no flaw and accentuated every highlight. Before she could even say “Hello” she could tell that Blue was displeased. Blue entered and shut the door behind him. “Ela, I don’t know what you’ve got in your mind lately, but I want you to stop.” was the first thing he said to her. Despite what he had said to her on the first day they had met, about usually not being so forward, Ela generally found him to have few reservations about speaking his mind. “Last time I came here you were doing this whole naughty school girl routine, which I admittedly went for at the moment but I left feeling like a dirty old man. Today you look like we’re going to a ballroom dance.” The hurt on Ela’s face must have shown because next he said “I’m not angry with you. It’s just… I want this to be a place where I can be honest about what I want. I’ll tell you if I want to do some role play, which is unlikely. You don’t need to play a part to make me happy, because I’m going to tell you what I want.” 35


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Ela tried not to pout when she said “So what do you want?” Blue tilled his head sideways then upright again before saying “Your dress. Take it off.” Ela reached back, unzipped herself, and pushed the dress to the ground. “Now, just stay there.” So Ela stood while Blue walked over to her dry bar and poured just one glass of whiskey. He then walked over to the couch, sat down and sipped his drink. “Your bra and panties. Take them off.” Ela obliged, she was about to take off her heels as well but Blue said “No. No, leave those on.” Then Blue just looked at her as he slowly finished his drink. As Ela stood there in nothing but heels she felt a bit cold in the warm room. Even though Blue said he wasn’t interested in playing roles he seemed to be reasserting himself in the role of master to her concubine. When he was good and ready Blue invited her to sit alongside him. He put one arm around her, Ela gave a gasp when he reached down with his other hand and pressed two fingers into her love box. “Now, do you have a poem for me?” Ela looked at him in disbelief, he had never asked her to recite poetry under such conditions. She seemed unable to clear her mind yet the words came tumbling out of her breathless mouth. I swear, since seeing your face, The whole world is fraud and fantasy. The garden is bewildered as to what is leaf Or blossom. The distracted birds Can’t distinguish the birdseed from the snare. A house of love with no limits, A presence more beautiful than Venus or the moon, A beauty whose image fills the mirror of the heart. “Very nice.” Blue complemented, picking up the tempo with which he moved his hand “How about another poem?” Ela couldn’t even remember the last time Blue had requested more than one poem. She wasn’t prepared to do another; nevertheless whimpered words passed her lips. Passion makes the old medicine new: Passion lops off the bough of weariness. Passion is the elixir that renews: How can there be weariness When passion is present? Oh, don’t sigh heavily from fatigue: Seek passion, seek passion, passion! Blue gave a devilish smile as he felt the quivering ecstasy of her body. “Passion indeed.” Was all he said before standing up and having her perform oral sex on him till he came in her mouth. This surprised Ela; he’d never done that before. Contrary to what is depicted in pornographic films, women generally do not like getting a load of semen in their mouth and Ela was no exception. However she was well paid to be in a position of sexual subservience, so she 36


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obligingly swallowed. Blue then went over and poured one more whiskey and gave this one to Ela. “I think you earned this.” Ela gulped the drink down; it had never tasted so good before. “Now” Blue said as he sat beside her “why don’t you tell me about that gigantic canvas over there?”

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Red Come Tuesday morning Ela got up early to ride the 169 bus out to the last stop. She had been on the 169 numerous times but she didn’t actually know what the last stop was, she’d always got off in Üçkuyular. It turned out to make its last stop in front of the gates for Balçova Thermal. Red was standing there waiting for her. “Ela!” He called out. “Glad you could make it.” “Well, how could I say no to hiking and bathing?” “It’s great. First you work up a sweat, then you get clean and relaxed.” He didn’t seem to pick up that she was making a joke. Red took them through the gates and down a green parkway. Balçova Thermal was a large complex with pools, tennis courts, a hotel, a space for weddings and even water slides. Red ignored all that and turned down what looked like a service road behind one of the less impressive buildings. Ela began to wonder if he knew where he was leading them but then she saw a sign that displayed different trail routes. “How did you find this place?” Ela had been living in Izmir most of her life and she had no idea there were trails here. “Same way I found you. I flung myself out into the city and wandered around until I got lucky. It’s a method that can result in many afternoons that go nowhere, but occasionally pays off quite well.” They walked a bit further and Red pointed out another sign that amused him. It was in Turkish, English, German, and Swedish. The English read: To the attention of our dear Guests The route is a landslide area. Its dangerous for your life safety. “A lot of people don’t take precautions when it comes to life safety.” Red chuckled. The possibility of landslide struck Ela more than the grammar. “Could there really be a landslide though?” Red looked at her as though she had said something very strange. “Nah, we’re going to be walking in the woods, not beside a cliff. We’ll be fine.” They walked a little further and then went off the paved road. Soon it no longer looked like they were in the city; it looked as though they had entered a small village. There were ramshackle homes amid nectarine and olive groves. There were the remains of a stone house, perhaps 200 years old, not old enough to be considered an antique in Turkey. Most oddly there was the Ali San Vadi Dojo. The Dojo appeared to be the only business in the area aside from tables offering jars of honey to passing hikers. The tables were unmanned but someone working in the fruit groves could probably assist if you wanted to buy a jar. Red soon led them off the dirt road and onto a narrow path. Ela didn’t know if she had actually ever been to a proper wood before. The path was all uphill. They seemed to have it all to themselves though an occasional piece of litter showed that other people had to be using the trail as well. Litter was ubiquitous in the city but it annoyed Ela more to see it out here in the forest. “What’s something you’ve learned today then?” Ela asked through labored breaths. “Do you know how many flavors of Pringles there are?” Red asked in response. Ela shrugged. “I don’t know. Five?” “Try more like 25. Plus that number doesn’t even include regional flavors.” 38


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Ela looked slightly disappointed “That’s what you learned? The number of Pringle flavors?” “That’s only an example of the implications of what I learned. The real question is why there are so many flavors.” Ela shrugged again “Because people want them?” “Yes, but why do people want all these flavors?” Ela only shook her head in response to this. “Because,” Red explained “Plato’s theory of forms is wrong.” Ela giggled, this was more of the esoteric proclamation that she was expecting. “How do multiple chip flavors make Plato wrong?” “For the reason that there is no one ideal, perfect chip that resides in the realm of forms that we only make shadowy imitations of. Individuals have different tastes and desires. This matters far beyond crisps.” Crisps, Red must be picking up some British vocabulary from his coworkers. “You’re wasting your time trying to create perfection because there is no such thing, not universally anyway.” Ela laughed again. “I don’t see how learning something like that can possibly help on your quest to find magic.” “It’s probable that it won’t.” Red admitted. “But philosophy is not disconnected from the world we live in. Why just this week I went on a day trip to Miletus which I found more meaningful since I’ve studied the ideas of Thales.” “Who?” “Thales of Miletus. The grandfather of philosophy.” Red explained. Ela just shook her head to show she didn’t know what he was talking about, which clearly annoyed Red. “Thales was the first philosopher that we know about. His best known idea was a theory that everything is made of water.” Ela blinked. “How is that even a philosophical theory?” “Because it was attempt to explain the world in a rational way rather than a supernatural way. Thales thought that at the base of every element in the universe must be a common factor. This had to be something that could change, that existed in different forms and was essential to life. Water was the most logical answer.” “But he was wrong.” “Of course he was wrong.” Red snapped. “That’s not the point. In science it’s OK to be wrong as long as you’re willing to admit that you were wrong and move forward. Thales lived 2,500 years ago and we’ve obviously moved forward a lot since then. The point is that Thales was using reasoning rather than just saying the world was created by the gods. Considering how many people today still turn to religion for an explanation of how the world works I think Thales was a groundbreaking thinker.” Ela stopped walking. “Wait. Are you saying that you’re an atheist?” Red turned around “Yes. Be careful, you don’t want me to start a rant about religion.” “But you believe in magic?” “Yes.” He laconically replied. Ela let this apparent contradiction slosh around in her head for a while before Red said. “Keep walking.” “My legs are short.” Ela declared with a stomp. Red hadn’t seemed to notice that she had to take two steps for every step he took. So they rested for a bit before continuing on the trail. As they huffed up the hill they encountered a middle aged man with a giant bag of roots 39


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on his back that ran right past them. Eventually they reached a fire road. Red said if they continued up the hill on the fire road there was a great view of a reservoir and supposedly an old monastery though he’d never seen it himself. Ela opted to take the fire road downhill instead. By the time they got back to Balçova Thermal they had walked about 8 kilometers of hills, which Red described as “Less than I normally do, but not bad.” They then headed towards the building that had the thermal baths. “Now,” Red explained “I normally get one of the private rooms for a bath, which have two tubs each, but since there’s the both of us today I thought we could do the thermal pool instead.” “No,” Ela said with a smile “I was told there would be bathing, I came prepared for that. I haven’t carried a backpack full of toiletries all over these hills only to not use them because we decided to go to the pool instead.” “Alright, just as long as you understand that in the private room there’ll be no…er…changing area.” Red nervously stammered the last part out. “I think that will be OK with me. Will that be OK with you?” “Um, yeah, why not? No problem.” “We’re not going to have sex.” Ela thought it was best to be straight on this point. “No, no of course not.” Red replied with a mixture of embarrassment and disappointment. They went into the bathhouse, Red asked for a private room. The girl at the desk asked to see their IDs. Without much thought Red and Ela handed them over. After a glance the girl said in Turkish “You’ll have to have separate rooms.” Red, who couldn’t understand just looked blankly between the girl and Ela. “Why?” Ela asked. “Because you’re not married. Single men and women must have separate rooms.” This shocked Ela. She had heard of hotels out east doing things like this in the past but she wasn’t expecting this kind of prudish morality in present day Izmir. “What does it matter to you if we’re married?” “Those are the rules.” “I want to see a manager.” Ela demanded. The girl grudgingly picked up a phone and called her manager. “What’s going on?” A perplexed Red asked. “I’ve never had any trouble here before.” “Have you ever tried to bring a girl with you into the baths before?” “Well, no.” The manager came out; it was a girl who didn’t look much older than the one at the desk. “What seems to be the problem?” The manager asked. “She won’t give us a room together because she said we’re not married.” “That is our policy.” “But we are married. My husband is American. In modern American marriages the girl doesn’t change her last name.” The manager looked at Red who stood there clueless as to what was going on. “Give them a room together.” She instructed the receptionist. Ela got the impression that the manager didn’t really believe her but had decided that it wasn’t worth a fight. Red and Ela went to their private room. There were two large marble tubs each with two old faucets like you found in traditional hamams. Between the tubs was a shower; in the 40


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corner was a two tiered bench like you found in a sauna. Red started filling the both the baths. “This will feel nice. Though the shower is a must, after being on that trail you’ll turn the bath water black if you go straight in.” “Alright.” Ela politely responded. He was clearly a bit nervous about having her there. They undressed. Red tried not to stare at her as she removed her clothes but it was painfully obvious that he wanted to see her disrobe. Red also tried to turn so she wouldn’t see, but it was hard not to notice that he had a massive erection. It was all Ela could do not to laugh. If there was one thing Ela knew about men it was that they didn’t want women laughing at their manhood. Ela decide that while she was going to stay true to her word and not have sex with him she wouldn’t make him suffer. “Sit down here.” Ela instructed. “I’ll wash you.” Red silently obeyed, sitting by the side of a tub. He put his hands over his penis. The first thing Ela decided to wash was his arms, forcing him to uncover himself. She scrubbed his shoulders and chest for a bit before reaching down and gripping his dick. He bit his lip and reached up to grab her breasts. Ela slapped his hand away. “No. Men aren’t allowed to wash women. I am only washing you.” Ela jerked her hand up and down. “And here is very dirty.” It wasn’t long before Red face had the unmistakable look of a man in orgasm. His legs uncontrollably thrashed and he gripped Ela’s thigh as though he was holding on for his life. Yet he didn’t come. Ela kept going but after a while her hand was becoming tired. She decided that this required a more drastic step. She reached down with her left hand and pressed a finger against his sphincter. “Ooo, here is dirty too.” She cooed. Sure enough that did the trick; Red sent a load flying across the room. He was now more breathless than he had been at any point on the hike. “That… was incredible.” Ela playfully sprayed him in the face with the shower head. “Your bath is ready. Get in.” Again he silently obeyed and slipped into his bath. Ela showered herself off then got into her bath. Red had been right, after exerting herself on the trail the hot mineral water felt great on her muscles. She was so relaxed that a good half hour had passed before she realized that Red looked like he was stoned and his face had turned the color of his name. “Red? Are you OK?” “I am a-maz-ing.” He stressed every syllable as he slowly responded. “I went from the city to the forest and challenged myself on the hills. Then I went from filth to pristine cleanliness before being taken to the heights of ecstasy. Now the water, I can feel it pushing my mind somewhere else. All this changing, all these states, I feel like I’m so close to the possibility of magic.” Ela eyed him suspiciously; he was slurring his speech a bit. She got out of her bath and stuck a hand in his bath; it was far hotter than her own had been. “Oh my, Red I think you need to get out.” “No… I’m so there...” “Red get out or I won’t help you look for magic anymore.” Red gave a frown before standing up, stepping out of the tub, slipping and falling to the floor. “Red!” Ela exclaimed. He seemed not to hear her or be bothered by his fall. Something else had grabbed his attention. “What’s that?” He asked. He crawled across the floor to the two tiered wooden bench. “Red don’t, you just got clean.” He ignored her and reached under the bench to pull out a coin. 41


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“Look at this. I think I may have just found a piece of solid magic.” “It’s just a coin.” “No it’s not, look at it.” Ela did. It wasn’t a current coin by a long shot. She couldn’t read anything it said since was in Ottoman script rather than the modified Latin alphabet used in Turkey since 1929. “This is not something that just falls out of your pocket.” Red commented. Ela silently agreed; it was quite an unusual find. After Red stopped staring at his new coin long enough to get dressed they left the bath house. They walked back out towards the bus stop. Ela realized that she had almost forgotten to ask an important question to Red. “Hey, how would you like to go to Germany for me?” Red looked at her, then he looked at his old coin. A smile crept across his face. “Magic.”

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Ela Red was the perfect person to go in Ela’s place to buy cosmetics in Germany. As an American he didn’t need a visa to go to the European Union. Just having his airfare and hotel paid for were enough for him; he was excited to have a chance to visit Munich. In fact Ela couldn’t convince him that she was planning to make this offer even if he hadn’t found his ‘magic coin.’ Additionally he was happy to get out of Izmir for a while; apparently his job had taken a stressful turn. He had a new student in one of his classes that was incredibly disruptive—Blue’s niece. What Ela knew, which she did not say, was that Blue didn’t have any nieces. Not in Turkey anyway. Actually Ela was fairly sure that this alleged niece was a new lover of Blue’s. Early on in their relationship Blue had offered free classes at his school if she wanted them. “I’ll just tell my accountant that you’re my niece.” Is what Blue said would be his response if anyone asked why she wasn’t paying for lessons. The revelation that Blue had a new “niece” was a painful sting for Ela. She tried her best not to show it but Red could tell that something was wrong, even if he didn’t have a clue what that was. After going their separate ways Ela returned home. She wondered what this so-called niece looked like, how old she was, her height, the color of her hair. She wondered if there was a way that she could confront Blue without revealing her relationship with Red. Most of all she wondered how she could dispose of her rival. It was a futile exercise in hate. Ela decided that for now the best course of action would be to do nothing. She was not Blue’s wife, only his concubine. He was free to see other people if he wished just as she was. This did not stop Ela from occasionally thinking about say, going to English Accelerated and meeting this alleged niece, but each time she pushed it back as a bad idea. The last thing Blue would want would be two of his mistresses making a scene at his business. Instead Ela channeled her energies towards working on the tower painting for Black. The task seemed so daunting that she did know where to start. So she had delayed starting on it for five days now, only making the situation worse. Her primary excuse was that she was unsure how many floors the tower would have. Ideas for different floors stopped flowing easily out of her head at seven, the ideas stopped completely at twelve. This was insufficient, the tower needed to have at least twenty floors, twelve simply wasn’t enough. Ela needed to get started though. She took her brush to canvas. The first thing she painted was an outline of the building. It would be twenty-one stories high. By planning it as such she forced herself to come up with ideas for additional floors—that was the logic anyway. Ela painted. She immersed herself into the hard-boiled world of her own creation. She ate her meals in front of the painting, wondering what kind of food her various characters would eat. She neglected her regular exercise routine, yoga was not something that people in her noir world would do so nor would she. She laid awake in bed at night thinking about details she could add. One morning she awoke with the vague memory that she had had a brilliant revelation the night before but could not recall what that was. After that she kept a notebook on her bedside table. The next morning when she looked at her notebook, sometimes she’d find a good idea for another floor in the tower. Sometimes she’d find incoherent ramblings. One note said “A store where you could get cash if you picked the right ticket but only cash you’d deposited.” Another said “Broccoli smoothie/alley –in Korea?” She had no idea what this meant. 43


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Red went to Germany and came back. In other circumstances she might have arranged to meet in a café to hand off the goods but Ela didn’t want to be away from her painting for so long. She gave Red directions to her home and hoped that in the future he wouldn’t show up at inappropriate times. When asked if he had bought anything for himself Red admitted to buying some German pornography. He said that he had never actually bought porn before but the internet was censored in Turkey and his imagination was running low. Red wanted to go out to have something to eat. Ela responded no, that she had just had lunch. Red blinked at this “I meant to have some dinner. It’s 7pm.” Ela realized that she had been working for hours since her last meal when it had only felt like minutes. Still she begged off, she explained that she was in the middle of a big project and they would meet again as soon as it was finished. Red asked for details about this project but she refused him this as well. She tried to go straight back to work but it was as if Red had awoken her from a long trance. She realized that she needed to eat, to use the bathroom, to clean herself. She did these things and then picked up her brush again. She painted through the night and into the next day. She obsessively stared at a crack in the wall of her house so that she might get a crack in the wall of her painting just right. Then she woke up naked on the floor. There was a blanked over her and a pillow under her head so she couldn’t have just collapsed there. But why would she have chosen to sleep on the floor, without her nightgown? Only after she had made herself some tea did Ela realize that Blue had come over. He had wanted to go to the bedroom but she insisted on having sex there in front of her unfinished painting. She had stared at it the entire time and was unsure of the true origin of the ecstasy that she’d felt. She must have collapsed into sleep immediately after they’d finished and Blue must have covered her with a blanket rather than carry her to the bedroom away from her painting. She looked at a clock; it was just past 3pm. She didn’t know exactly when Blue had come over but she knew it had been the day before. The month passed like this. Ela would get lost in her painting until something snapped her back to reality and she’d realize that she’d gone too long without food or sleep. She found that it was no use to try and go to bed until she was completely exhausted anyway, otherwise she’d lie awake in bed thinking about additional details she could add. Red called a few times but she pushed him away. Blue came by a couple times a week, she could not refuse him. She had stopped memorizing poems for him and soon found that she couldn’t even remember old ones that she’d learned. Blue didn’t seem to mind though; he was fascinated by her mad frenzy to get the painting done just so. Once when she thought she was alone she turned to see him sitting in a chair watching her. “Goddamn it.” She exclaimed in a rare use of profanity. “How long have you been sitting there?” Blue looked at his watch. “Almost an hour.” “Well don’t sneak up on me like that.” She scolded him. “I didn’t sneak.” Blue responded. “I knocked on the door. You didn’t answer. The door was unlocked, I came in. I called out your name, I found you in this room. I said ‘Ela, didn’t you hear me knocking? Didn’t you hear me calling you?’ You didn’t respond. You just kept painting. I pulled up a chair and watched you work.” 44


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Ela made a face, she found it hard to believe that she wouldn’t have noticed him calling out her name. She shook her head as to wake herself up. “Whatever. Let’s just have sex so I can get back to painting.” This made Blue laugh a little. “How about this,” Blue offered “I won’t even steal that time from you. However I think you should work like this.” He reached up and grabbed her tshirt. It was an old thread bare thing that easily tore off her. Ela quickly took off the rest of her clothes before he could damage them as well. Blue sat back down, Ela returned to her painting. She was more conscientious of his eyes being on her brush strokes than of them being on her ass. She soon forgot that he was there at all though. Day had turned into night when she realized that he was no longer there. Had he announced that he was leaving or had he quietly slipped out? Ela had no idea. She went to the shower to wash the paint off her breasts. A few more days passed, or possibly a few more weeks passed. Black showed up at her door. This surprised her as she didn’t think Black knew where she lived. She scowled at him “What are you doing here?” “This is the date we agreed on. You said you’d be ready today.” Ela searched her memories; she couldn’t recall agreeing to this date. On the other hand she had no idea what the date was. “No.” She shot back. “It can’t be.” “It is.” Black pushed his way in before she could argue anymore. “Where is it?” Ela mutely lead him the way to the canvas which was taller than either of them. Ela had been so engrossed in painting the thing right up until the moment Black got there that she hadn’t even realized that it was done. A 21 story story. The narrative focused on characters that had no real names but Ela had dubbed Red, Black, Green, Gold and Blue. They bore no resemblance the real people she knew with the same names. Their hair matched their names, unlike most of their real life counterparts. The floors off the tower were as follows: On the ground floor was a greasy spoon dinner. Perched on stool by the counter was a tired looking man in a trench coat. Black. There were other people in the dinner, customers, waitresses, cooks. But they all had the same faces, the same white hair. These whiteheads were obviously not as important as Black. The next floor up had dingy, sad looking studio flats. Black had a little notepad out, he seemed to be asking questions to someone in the hallway. In one of the apartments two of the whiteheads were having sex though clearly only one of them was enjoying it. A market. It had the resemblance of an outdoor street bazaar. Black was running through the market knocking people over as he went. He seemed to be chasing someone though it wasn’t clear who it was. There was a curious foot in one of the door ways. It was perhaps who Black was chasing. A storage room. A dark cluttered place where you didn’t leave something for when you needed it later but rather you left it to be forgotten. In the shadows there were two figures meeting. One was an attractive woman with a short skirt and long hair. Green. The other was a woman who was not old but older. She wore a pant suit and kept her hair cropped short. Blue.

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A workshop. There were rows of sewing machines but they sat idle in the dark. The only people there were Green and Black. Green was pointing a gun at Black. Black stood there as calm as a man could be staring down the barrel of a gun. A utility room. Filled with pipes, circuit boards, mops and buckets. Black was there, on the floor, being kicked by two beefy whiteheads. A fourth person was there, one who had clearly ordered the beating. A woman who wore a man’s suit and tie. Despite her attire, there was no mistaking her gender, the cut of the suit showed off her hourglass figure. Gold. A police bullpen. Whitehead officers typed reports with two fingers, drank coffee and questioned whitehead suspects. Black was seated at his desk, he looked hung over. Blue was throwing a file on his desk, she looked displeased. Offices. Some appeared to be for police, others for lawyers. In Blue’s office she was screaming abuse at Black. Black stood there stoically, unbothered. A museum. It mostly housed Greco-Roman statues. In the center was an empty, smashed display case. Green was there and seemed very upset, Black was taking notes on what she said. An art gallery. Or part of the same museum? On the walls were works by Fahrelnissa Zeid. Seated on a bench were Black and Gold. Black seemed annoyed while Gold had a sly grin on her face. Apartments. Some of the apartments had piles of books or fancy looking exercise equipment, but all of the residents sat in their couches watching TV. Green was in her apartment with the TV on but she didn’t seem to really be watching. Drug paraphernalia laid out on her coffee table. Black was out in the hallway pounding on Green’s door. More Apartments. Black was in one that was larger than the rest but also sparsely furnished. Or rather Black was out on the balcony of this apartment, shirtless and drinking coffee. It wasn’t clear if the apartment belonged to Black or the striking young man that laid nude in the bed. Red. A control center. Monitors showed scenes from other parts of the building. A sole whitehead was on the floor watching the screens. A hospital. Black was laid out in a bed unconscious. Red stood by his bed with a neutral expression on his face. A shopping mall. Filled with upscale boutiques. Red was browsing through a clothes store. Nearby Black peaked out from behind a newspaper. A kitchen. Whitehead cooks did their work. A flame burst out of one pan. Over in a corner Red and Green were speaking. Green looked to be on the edge of tears. Red gripped her shoulders, he seemed angry with her.

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A library. Black was at a reading table. One of the books he had was The National Gemstone Collection. From behind a bookshelf Red looked out at Black. A theater. Red was on stage belting out a song, a comely whitehead girl kneeled before him. Green, Gold and Blue were in the audience though not together. Black stood outside the theater in the lobby. A ballroom. Regally dressed whiteheads danced with each other. Gold and Red danced together. It was the only floor where Gold wore a dress rather than a suit, yet it seemed that she was the one leading in the dance. Black was clearly an uninvited guest to the event. A penthouse. Amid the gold-leaf trim and fine furnishing stood Gold, holding a knife under Red’s throat. She was not cutting it but rather making a point clearly understood. An attic. A dusty empty space with a low celling. Green stood on a ledge, poised to jump. Black was at the window, begging her to come back in. “Interesting.” Commented Black. Ela was unsure what that meant, interesting was not the same as good. “Tell me the story that takes place here.” “I can’t.” “What do you mean you can’t?” Black snapped. “I’m paying you well for the painting. I want to know what the story is.” Ela’s hands shook uncontrollably. They shook from anger, from exhaustion, from the inability to explain the painting in a way that would satisfy herself and Black. “I can’t tell you the story because I don’t know the story.” “You created it. How can you not know?” “I mean, I have my own ideas about the story would go. But if I say that then it limits the possibilities. Someone else might come up with a superior version of the story to my own. It’s meant to be interpreted in different possible ways.” This did not appease Black. “Let other people have their versions. I want to have the artist’s.” Ela squinted at Black. “I can tell you that I think it either ends in the basement or on the roof.” The basement of the tower was a car park. Black laid on the floor in a pool of his own blood. The roof had a radio tower on it. At the top of the tower there was a green gem. Black was on the roof. His bruised faced starred up at the gem. “Hmm, I like that.” Commented Black. “You can either have a happy ending with the detective finding the museum’s missing gem or a sad ending with him dead.” “No.” Replied Ela. “Both of the scenes happen but neither one of them are necessarily at the end. Black doesn’t necessarily die in the basement and he doesn’t necessarily live on the roof. Additionally there is a possible ending on or beginning on every floor, that the basement or the roof is the end is only my interpretation.” 47


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“Fine.” Black had had enough arguing about the matter. “Help me carry it out then will you?” “No. You can’t take it. I’m not done with it.” “Ela it looks splendid and I have to have it for tomorrow. Besides,” he looked down at her shaking hands “you don’t look like you’re in any condition to do more painting.” Ela glance down at her hands then back up at Black. “You’re doing this to me. I was fine before you got here. If you need tomorrow, come back tomorrow and I’ll have it ready. ” “No, I think I’ll take it now.” Ela dashed between Black and her painting. “The fuck you will. You can have it tomorrow or not at all. I can find another buyer.” Black glowered at Ela. “Tomorrow then. No excuses.” Then he left.

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Green Ela rode down the airport escalator. On the wall in front of her was a massive painting. It showed three versions of CN-235 transport plane. The first showed a bare airframe of the plane. Various parts were labeled with an illegible scrawl. The next showed what the airframe would look like if had muscles attached to it. The final version showed what it would look like with skin added on. It had a terrifying look, like a dinosaur that had not quite evolved into a bird. The painting was as if a medieval scholar had somehow found the wreckage of a modern airplane, mistook it for bones, and tried to reconstruct what the beast plane would have looked like alive. As the escalator took Ela down and out of sight of the painting she wished that she had the imagination to think of such an idea. At the bottom of the escalator she was surprised to find Green and shocked to find him in a wheelchair. “Green! What happened to you?” She bent over to examine him though she could not find any visible signs of injury. “Oh this? Don’t worry about it.” Green replied with a shrug. “Don’t worry about it? What’s going on?” Before Green could reply a dumpy middle aged woman walked up and yelled out at Ela “What are you doing? Don’t seduce your uncle.” Ela stood up and replied “Don’t worry, I’m responsible. I’d have an abortion.” This got the reaction Ela was going for and the woman stormed off in a huff. “Wow.” Green commented. “Where did that come from?” Ela started pushing Green’s wheelchair. “Where did that come from? Where did she come from? Do you know her?” “No.” “Yeah, who is she to just walk up and assume that a) you’re my uncle and b) I’m trying to seduce you. What kind of sick mind does she have?” “I don’t know about the uncle part. The seduce part may have been related to the awesome amount of cleavage you showed when you bent over.” “Awesome amount.” Ela repeated drolly. “You’re welcome. Never mind her though. Why are you in a wheelchair?” “Don’t worry about it. I’m not hurt.” Green then whispered “I’m actually doing a bit of smuggling.” Ela stopped pushing. “You’re using the wheelchair to hide illegal goods?” “No, I’m smuggling the wheelchair.” “Wha… Why would you smuggle a wheelchair?” “The same reason anybody smuggles anything, for the money.” Ela caught her response in her throat and forced it back down. This conversation was too silly to be having. Ela walked away “You can move your own illicit wheelchair.” Green tried to catch up with her but she walked at a brisk pace and he wasn’t used to the chair. “Hey come on, this thing isn’t easy to use. Wait up, there’s something I wanted to tell you.” Ela stopped and turned around. “What? What is it?” “It’s new. It’s good. You’ll want to hear it.” Green promised. “So tell me.” Ela curtly replied. “I will. But there’s something I wanted to do first that requires two people.” 49


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They had to go through a security check to get to what Green wanted even though they had already been through one check. Ela was already annoyed by the security and more annoyed when Green directed them towards an advertisement for Vestel appliances. “This is what you wanted to show me? An ad for white goods?” “Not just show, do. It’s interactive.” It was TV large enough to show an anthropomorphic washing machine and refrigerator in life size. The screen showed the area of the airport directly in front of it, the appliances invited people to stand on a spot in front of them. Everyone else in the airport ignored their invitation but Green was fascinated by it. “Go on, stand there.” Green instructed. With a roll of her eyes Ela obliged. She found it unsettling to see herself on the screen standing next to two robots that weren’t actually there. The android appliances scanned Ela then asked for one more person to come forward. Green got out of his chair and stood on the spot. Other people in the airport were too busy getting to their planes to notice the man in the wheel chair walking around. Green was scanned as well, and then the screen flashed white. The TV now showed Green and Ela seated at a table in a dark kitchen. Or at least it looked like Green and Ela, when they moved they looked stiff and unnatural. Huddled over in a corner were a mother, a father and a baby. The parents looked terrified, the baby screamed uncontrollably. A cop came up between Green and Ela; he looked like a poor man’s Al Pacino. “You two had better start telling me the truth about what happened!” Hollered not-Pacino. The video Green and Ela exchanged terrified looks, not-Pacino slapped Ela. Watching this Ela recoiled as though she’d actually been slapped. “Start talking! You don’t want to talk hun? Well how about this then? If you don’t talk than you can just go in here!” Not-Pacino grabbed them both and threw them into the refrigerator. “You’re not coming out of there till I want you to, that’s a Vestel fridge!” Yelled not-Pacino, apparently he was incapable of speaking in a normal volume. “Maybe you’re a little too comfortable in that fridge! Maybe you need some more incentive to speak!” Not-Pacino grabbed the father and rolled him up in a rug. The mother moved to help her husband but not-Pacino easily knocked her away. He leaned the rug up against the fridge and set it on fire. “You feel that heat in there? That’s a fire and your daddy is going to get all burnt up! Just tell me the truth and you can come out of that Vestel and save him!” The screen froze on that shot and the Vestel icon came up. “Vestel—friendly technology.” An announcer proclaimed. After that the TV when back to showing the anthropomorphic washing machine and refrigerator inviting people to stand on the spot in front of them. “What the…” Before Ela could finish that thought Green cut her off “That was amazing.” He proclaimed. Ela looked at him as though he was insane. “Amazing? I think the adjectives I might use would be ‘weird’ or ‘disturbing’ or ‘something to haunt you in your dreams.” Green shrugged “I guess it’s not for everyone.” He started to wheel away. “Well I better get going; I still have to go through security.” “We’ve already been through security twice.” Ela retorted. “Right, but I’m going on one of those new lake planes.” Green responded, as though that explained anything. “What were you going to tell me though?” 50


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“I did have something to tell you,” Green snapped his fingers trying to recall. “I know, it was that you have to make a switch.” “Switch what?” “How should I know what you should switch? I should never have switched from scotch to martinis.”

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The Party When Ela woke up at first she thought it was almost morning. In fact she had only been asleep for twenty minutes. That didn’t matter though, she felt rested enough and she had painting to do. She picked up her brush and went to it. By the time she was finished it was midmorning and the twenty minutes of sleep she’d had no longer felt nearly sufficient. She crawled into bed and passed out. When she woke up in the late afternoon the painting was gone. The stack of cash on her desk made her feel more like a whore than she’d ever felt with Blue. There was also a note from Black “Thank you for all your hard work, I’m pleased with the results. I’ve left the agreed amount here. I’m having a get together and I’d love to have the artist present…” Ela tore up the note without reading the rest. She had poured so much of herself into the painting that she felt empty now that it was gone. If she saw it again she might try to steal it back. Ela picked up the phone and called Red. “She lives.” was how he answered the phone. “Hi Red.” “Does this phone call mean that you can spare your precious time for the likes of me again?” He was hurt, or annoyed at least, by Ela blowing him off for the last month. He was not the only one hurting though; he’d have to get over it. Ela wanted to move forward, not talk about the last month. “Do you want to get together tonight?” “I’ll meet you tonight. But I need you to do something for me.” “What’s that?” “If you get another project that’s so important that you can’t give me a minute of your time again, don’t bother calling me when you’re done. I’m not a toy you can just put away and take out when you feel like it.” “Fine. Fine. Can we meet tonight then? I really need to get out of this house.” “We can meet. Let’s meet at the Karşıyaka station at 8pm.” After hanging up Ela was annoyed for a while at Red. However she realized that perhaps he did have a point, she had been self centered this month to the exclusion of everyone else around her. It had been a passionate labor that had absorbed so much of her energy that other parts of her life had suffered. Around 7:30 Ela went to the Bornova metro. She rode it out to the Halkapınar station then transferred to the İzban line which took her to Karşıyaka where Red was waiting. The annoyance he’d had on the phone was gone. Now he was happy to see her. They hugged. “It’s good to see you again. I mean, you kind of look like crap but it’s still good to see you.” “You really know how to talk to a woman.” Red smiled. “Come on, we need to get a taxi dolmuş.” Ela and Red got into a white sedan with two strangers. The shared ride made it much cheaper than a regular taxi. “Where are we going?” “Mavişehir.”

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Ela wasn’t expecting a trip to Mavişehir. It was mostly newish apartment towers far from the center of town. Her father said that neighborhood was for people with money but not style. “Why are we going to Mavişehir?” “We’re going to a party.” “The party isn’t being thrown by a guy named Black, is it?” “Black? I don’t know anyone named Black.” Relieved, Ela relaxed for the rest of the ride. “Tell me something you’ve learned today.” “I learned about a concept called the burden of knowledge.” “What’s that?” “Ideas accumulate over time. Hence to start your career in whatever field you choose you are required to learn more than the generation that preceded you. It means that my quest for knowledge will never be complete.” Ela thought of what he’d said. It had a kind of beautiful sadness to it. Red would never arrive at his destination but he’d always have someplace to go. Their destination that evening was a twenty four story block of flats with identical buildings on either side. They went in and up to the twelfth floor. When they knocked on an apartment door it was Black who answered. “Ela! I didn’t think you were going to make it. Please come in.” Black turned to address the other guests. “Everyone, this is the artist I’ve been telling you about.” When Black turned away Ela whispered to Red “I thought you said you didn’t know Black.” “I don’t.” Red whispered back. “Is he Black?” “Yes. If you don’t know him then who invited you to this party?” “Him.” Red pointed across the room. The man he pointed at was Blue. *** The party was an international affair; there were as many foreigners as there were Turks. Brits, Americans, Canadians and one New Zealander, mostly employees from English Accelerated. The shop girls from Black’s cosmetic store had been made to play waitresses for the party. None of them spoke any English but that did not diminish their appeal to the foreigners. At first several people had questions they wanted to ask about the painting, mostly to see if their interpretation of different scenes was correct. That died down when they realized Ela was not going to give them satisfactory answers. Ela didn’t like talking about the painting herself, but she enjoyed eavesdropping on other people discussing it. “Look see there, Blue and Green talking. I think Blue is corrupt, she’s setting up Red to fail.” “They could be talking about the case; it doesn’t mean she’s corrupt.” “…Red is defiantly dead at the end, there.” “I don’t think so, he got hurt, but then he went to the hospital there.” “No he went to the hospital after he was beaten up by Gold’s goons there.” “No, no, no. After he got beat up he went to the roof, you can see the bruises on him there.” “But if he found the gem on the roof then why did he end up dead in the basement?” “…Are you blind? Red and Black definitely just had sex there.” “But Black is with Gold.” 53


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“He’s just her trophy husband, he doesn’t love her.” “…I think Green stole the gem, for drug money.” “You’re close but no, Green owed money to Gold for drugs and Gold took the gem to settle the debt.” “You’re both wrong. Gold is a red herring; she’s got nothing to do with the case. It was Blue who stole it and Green found out about it.” “Then why is Gold having Red beat up?” “For making moves on her man Black.” “What if it was actually Black who stole the gem?” “Ooo… and Red would be investigating and he’d suspect different people and only at the end would he find out it was his lover.” “What if it’s not about the theft of a gem at all?” Black sat down next to Ela. “Why did you change the hair? Making the detective a red head and giving the other guy black hair?” Ela gave a shrug. “Something told me that I needed to make a switch. Are you unhappy with the change?” “I was at first. I liked the hero having black hair.” Black ran his hand through his own jet black locks. “However there is the basement level, where the detective is lying dead, I found that part somewhat disturbing. I think I’d rather not have an image of a man known as Black laying dead on my wall.” Ela gave a nod of agreement. “I thought you might feel that way. Red needed to be the one I killed, not Black.” “Ah, so detective Red does die in the end.” “That is one possibility.” Black gave her a look, as though he was trying to look through her skin and see what was in her brain. “I need another drink.” He declared and walked away. Ela stepped out onto the balcony to get some air. The day had been hot but the night had a cool breeze. The view of the bay was good as long as you didn’t look down at the littered vacant lots that would most likely be the future site of more apartment blocks. She heard the door behind her open. Ela turned to see Blue stepping out onto the balcony. “I don’t believe we’ve met. My name is Ela.” She extended her hand. “We most definitely have not met before. I’m Blue.” He shut the door and shook her hand. “How do you know Black?” “We first met when he hired me to design a sign for him. Now I’ve move up to paintings. How do you know Black?” “We’re business associates. He bought out my ex-wife’s share of English Accelerated.” “Ex-wife? Does that mean the divorce is final?” “Only in my dreams.” He leaned against the railing. “So, you’re with Red then?” “Kind of. It’s complicated.” “Why?” “Why? I don’t know, how about for starters because I’m your concubine.” “You don’t have to be if you don’t want to.” “Would you still pay my mortgage if I wasn’t?” 54


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“You can’t have it both ways Ela.” Ela swallowed and decided to broach a subject she’d been avoiding since the day of the hike and bath. “And this isn’t just you trying to get rid of me because you’ve got a new ‘niece’?” Blue looked at her with his piercing blue eyes “Red told you about her?” “He did. He hates her, she disrupts his lessons.” This made Blue smile “Well Red is in luck because I’m getting tired of her too. There’ll be someone else though. There have always been other girls.” “You pay for the homes of other girls?” “No. I’m not so successful that I can pay for the roof of every girl who catches my fancy. The others are just passing amusements. You, you’re something special. I saw that in this last month more than ever. You don’t have to worry about my support. The person who ends our special relationship is going to be you. And you will end it. There’s more than ten years left on your mortgage, you’re not going to want to keep inviting me inside your home that whole time. Even if things don’t work out with you and Red there’ll be another man or something. You need to think of an exit strategy.” There was so much there to digest that Ela didn’t know how to feel about it. “You wouldn’t mind though if I dated Red while remaining your concubine?” “Why should I mind? You’re not my wife. I’m free to see other people and so are you. I want you to be yourself completely.” “You’re not going to tell him are you?” “Me? Of course I’m not going to tell him. You are. Something like this, he’ll figure it out eventually. You need to end it with me or end with him or tell him the truth. If the truth comes from you then he might accept it. If he discovers the truth on his own he’ll hate you forever.” “If I tell him the truth he might still hate me.” “He might. That would be his loss though. Plus your situation wouldn’t be complicated anymore.” Ela wanted to hit Blue but she found herself laughing instead. “No, that would be simple then.” Blue smiled. “Do you have a new poem for me?” Between talking to Red on the phone and coming to the party Ela had picked out a new poem to learn for Blue. She hadn’t made any effort to memorize it yet she found she knew it already. Don’t hide your heart but reveal it, So that might be revealed, And I might accept what I am capable of. “Splendid.” Blue commented. “See you inside.” Blue started to go back inside but he turned to Ela again. “One more thing. A couple weeks ago Red was supposed to be on call, to be available to substitute in case another teacher was ill. Except he went to Germany. If he does something like that again he’s fired. Try to keep your boyfriend in line.” Then he went back to the party. The word boyfriend ran through Ela’s mind. It had been a long time since she’d called anyone her boyfriend. 55


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Ela wasn’t alone long on the balcony. “Is it my turn with the artist now?” She turned to see Red. “Yes, it’s your turn.” Ela answered in the most serious tone she could muster. “That painting was what you’ve been working on then?” Ela simply nodded her head in reply. “And Black invited you to an unveiling of your work of art but you declined. Instead you accompanied me to a party for English Accelerated staff, which just happened to be the same party.” “So it would seem.” “Small world.” “Small city.” From where they were standing Izmir went as far as the eye could see. If you could see over the hills in the distance you’d see it keep on going. Yet in some ways it felt like a much smaller place. “I had two comments about the painting. The first was that it vaguely reminded me of a Hieronymus Bosch painting.” “In a sideways kind of manner?” “Yes, exactly. The second was that you killed Red.” “He might have lived.” “No, I don’t think so. He’s dead.” “Maybe. Does that bother you?” “It doesn’t bother me as long as you restrict your murdering to the canvas.” Ela pretended like she was considering his request. “I suppose I could do that.” She teased. Red stepped closer to Ela and placed something in her hand. When she opened her hand she saw that it was the old Ottoman coin he’d found in Balçova Thermal. “Your magic coin?” “I want you to have it.” “I can’t take this. You’ve been looking for so long for a piece of magic.” “I found a stronger magic.” “What?” “You really need to ask?” No, Ela didn’t need to ask. “Red I… there are things about me…” “I know.” Ela looked at him with uncertainty “What do you know?” “I know we need to have a talk. To share secrets. You have things you’ve held back, that’s clear. I have things I’ve kept to myself as well.” “You have secrets?” Ela said somewhat incredulously. It was hardly possible for him to have secrets on the same level as she did. “I’m not the open book you believe me to be. We’ll both share, not tonight though, not here. Tonight you are the celebrated artist and I am the man that every other man in the party wishes he could be.” With that said he leaned in and kissed her. The kiss made things simpler. She wasn’t just helping him find magic; she wasn’t just his friend or someone who had once given him a total body massage. She was his girlfriend. When she broke off the kiss she looked through the glass balcony door and it seemed to her that every eye in the party was on them. She also felt that Red was right, every man wanted to be where he was in that moment. She kissed him again. 56


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Gold As Red walked down the ramp of the parking garage he made a mental note to buy bread on the way home. The little bakery he went to had two employees, both knew to get him a loaf of bread made of cornmeal without asking. One of the employees always asked if he wanted the bread sliced, which he always did. The other employee always asked how many loaves he wanted, he only ever wanted one. Red found it odd that both of them knew what kind of bread he wanted but could not remember these other points. Down in the underground parking structure Red found a photo shoot going on. There were six people involved. Three of them were models. One was a young photographer. Another was his assistant who was adjusting the lights. The last was a stylist who was fixing a model’s hair. The models had positioned themselves around a car, one laid in front of it, one on the hood and another stood beside it. It was an odd looking photo shoot. The car was an anonymous sedan, the kind of car you wouldn’t look twice at when you saw it on the road. The models were wearing full body covering flannel pajamas. One of them held a large teddy bear. It was hard to imagine what they were taking photos for. When the girl on the hood saw Red she jumped off and ran over to talk to him. “Hey where are you going? We’re in the middle of a shoot!” The photographer demanded. “She’s been getting her hair just right for the last twenty minutes.” Gold snapped at him. “Call me when you’re actually ready to shoot.” Then she turned her back to him. “What’s going on here?” Red asked Gold. “A friend of a friend asked me to be in this photo shoot. I thought ‘sure it sounds fun.’ Then I got here and I saw the car he wanted to use. I said there had to be able find a better looking car than that. There are places where you can rent a Ferrari or a Lamborghini. It wouldn’t even have to be a top end car, almost anything would be better. He wouldn’t hear of it though. The only thing he’d tell me was ‘this is the car.’ Every time I opened my mouth he’d just respond ‘this is the car, this is the car.’ I thought the car was bad, and then I saw what he wanted us to wear.” “You look like you’re at a junior high sleepover.” “I know! When I was asked to a photo shoot on a car with two other girls I thought he’d want us looking sexy. Instead he asked us to wear these dumpy outfits. I brought some swimsuits of my own that I offered to wear. Mr. Photographer got all offended at that. Said he was creating art, not doing a cover shoot for Lowrider Magazine.” “Well… maybe your image will be on a museum wall one day.” “Not bloody likely.” “Why not? You’re already part of one painting.” Gold face showed displeasure at this comment. “You mean that painting that Ela did? That doesn’t look at all like me.” “It totally does.” “Doesn’t. How could she make a painting that looks like me? We’ve never met. Besides the Gold in that painting was with a man, that’s pretty unlike me.” 57


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“I wouldn’t read too much into that. Gender roles were all over the place in Ela’s painting.” Gold got annoyed “Any resemblance to me is impossible. She doesn’t even know I exist. She just made up a character with golden hair to fill out her cast just like she made up a character with green hair.” “I can’t explain it.” Red admitted. “I’m just telling you what I saw. Your presence wasn’t even the most important thing. In the painting, she killed me.” “Yeah, a sign of things to come.” “No, no it’s not. You were right when you warned me that if I kept seeing her she’d kill me. Just in the painting though, not in real life.” “Assuming that you’re in the clear is going to put your life in danger. Are you sure you want to take a risk like that?” “Sure? What does ‘sure’ mean? A person who is ‘sure’ about things is a fool. I’m not even sure if the sun will come up tomorrow. However I am going to take a risk with Ela, even though I’m not sure what the consequences will be. I’m going to start telling her the truth.” “The truth? Tell her the truth about what?” “I’ll start with telling her the truth about the Ottoman coin.” Gold groaned at this “Why would you tell her that? It worked so perfectly. It never even occurred to her that you didn’t really just find that coin, that you’d planted it there.” “So she thinks the coin might actually have some magical powers.” “Exactly. Then when gave it to her and said you’d found a stronger magic, oh it was perfect. She completely melted in your arms. If we just keep…” “No.” Red cut her off. “I’m going down the wrong path. I’ll never find true magic by faking it. Ela has been kissed by magic. My only chance is to be honest with her. After I tell her about the coin I’m going to tell her about my past. About who I really was before I came to Izmir.” If the idea of telling Ela the truth about the coin upset Gold, the idea of telling Ela the truth about Red’s past infuriated her. “Have you gone mad? You can’t tell anyone about your past. You’ll destroy all the work we did to bury it. Ela wants a nice guy, if she finds out the things you’ve done she’ll run away from you screaming. We’ll have to go on the run again, set up a whole new identity again. That’s assuming we get away in time.” Red took a deep breath before he replied “Everything you’ve warned me of and worse is possible. This could very well be my undoing. I’m going to do it anyway. Magic is out there. It’s just waiting to be found, to have its potential realized. I can find it, but not alone. I need the support of someone I can trust. I can’t trust someone who doesn’t actually know who I am. If the truth comes from me then she might accept it. If she discovers the truth on her own she’ll hate me forever. I’ll give her my secrets, not for free; the price will be her secrets. If we can stand the sight of each other afterwards then we might just be unstoppable.”

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On additional contributors All of the poems in the Blue chapters are by the mystic Rumi. Additionally in the Green chapters there are poems, quotes, philosophical statements and last words by Hildegard of Bingen, Sappho, Aldo Leopold and Humphrey Bogart.

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