You Are Merely Part of This

You see the German woman again today. You’ve seen her almost every day, going to and from the gardens. Some days you catch her staring at you. Once, you thought she was walking right up to you. She stopped about five feet away at the dondurma stand, where she ordered ice cream. As she ate her ice cream, you caught her glancing at you out of the corner of her eye. You wonder if she works around here too.

“Do you know her?” you ask Reçep.

He follows your finger to where she is, making her way across the square to the gates of Topkapı. The tips of the cypress are bent over the top of the wall. As she walks, she holds her hair bunched up against the top of her head. A pamphlet flutters by your ankles. Reçep smiles. You shouldn’t have said anything. You want this man to know little, nothing about you.

“Ah, fıstık,” he says, appraising you rather than her. “You want her, eh?”

“I just thought I recognized her.”

Reçep isn’t listening. The sun skates over his sunglasses as he turns. A middle-aged couple is walking toward you. “Folks?” he calls out, his voice suddenly affectless, American. Indeed, he could almost be American—tan, potbellied, his black hair moussed and gleaming like his teeth, his accent barely detectable. It stirs behind his words without changing them.

“I’m sorry,” he says to the couple. “They’ve closed this way for construction.”

Flocks of brick-colored pigeons bob across cobbles between sandaled feet. A child runs screaming and the pigeons scatter, flying toward the domes of Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Tourists drift past, guidebooks open, cell phones out for Facebook pictures.

“You want to see something?” Reçep says. The middle-aged couple walks quickly away. Reçep waves at a woman passing by. She stops, looking uncertain. He waves again and she comes over slowly.

“You look lost,” Reçep says.

She smiles and shakes her head. She has no English. Reçep gives you a grin and then speaks a language that might be Russian. The girl’s face shifts from perplexity to recognition. She has shining black hair, the bangs cut straight across. The wind frays the edge. A strand of hair keeps getting caught in her mouth, and she pulls it out with an unconscious gesture as she listens. Her eyes move to you and you know he’s talking about you.

Reçep turns to you. “Do you want her?”

“What do you mean?”

“I can get her for you.”

“What did you say to her?”

She’s staring at you.

“There’s an English expression about looking at the mouth of a horse,” Reçep says. “No,” you say.

He shrugs. He returns to talking to her, low, quick. You turn to look for the German woman but she’s gone. There’s a guard at the gates to the Topkapı Palace gardens. The middle-aged couple is arguing in front of him. You look, between two minarets of Hagia Sophia, at a ship inching its way out toward the horizon.

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