Walking into a revolution

It’s 10pm and we’ve just finished our mehane dinner off a side street of Istiklal, the retail-crazed pedestrian strip that butts up to Taksim Square. The honeydew was delectable tonight, so was the white wine, muhamarra, olives, and green bean mezes. It was ladies night…the four of us on a Friday night date. Nora was waiting for us at the dinner table, us the the tourist trio fresh off our river cruise. We’d hardly sat down at the table before she briefed us on the day’s happenings: the sit-in at Gezi Park had escalated and was met with a police force that afternoon. They’d already started firing tear gas and she felt it was only the beginning. I heard her words but had no idea what they amounted to. We wandered off to a rooftop bar after dinner for a dessert of raki, Turkey’s licorice-flavored liquor. It was accompanied by a plate of unripened green plums and cherries. So much sweetness tonight and yet it wasn’t until we crossed Istiklal on our way home did it sink in. Throngs of people roamed the street, no different than any other night, save for the hospital-style white masks over their face, scarves tied round noses and mouths, protest signs hanging from building facades, lemon peels strewn about, and burnt rubbish in the street.

Hannah’s eyes raged with a fevered adrenaline. She urged us onward toward Taksim. As I looked further down where the street met the square I saw the big white barricade separating us from it, some sort of wall to control the crowd. My heart beat a bit faster, eyes alert with a mix of bewilderment and intrigue. People seemed spirited yet easy-going. There was a definitive sense of camaraderie in the air. And then…BOOM. The same white barricade I’d just seen suddenly started to dissipate into the air as a new cloud of white gas rose from the street. This was no barricade. It was tear gas, and it was moving towards us.

Date night was over. We hustled home, a short five minute walk from the square. With each step we encountered more masked protesters. As I climbed the stairs up to our flat, I felt my nasal cavity begin to burn. My eyes were watering. I saw our resident kitty resting in the windowsill. Somehow, this little cat drove the message home. Who was really suffering here? Who has a voice in this? I’d never felt affection for cats until this very moment; this little guy, our stairwell resident, had managed to change my entire perspective.

We closed the windows of the flat for protection, to only reopen them hours later with pot and pan in hand to play our song of solidarity. The only certainty we had at that precise moment was to try and keep the beat.

Day 10 of 30; Postcards from Turkey

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~ by maureenmoore on July 18, 2013.

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