Cab Rides From Istanbul

Cab Rides from Istanbul

After Alysia Harris, by Siya Gwaan

As I sit in a yellow cab on my way home, I look up and admire the sparkling white stars. The tar-like background for all the white dust scattered about it. I adore the way the constellations are named after Greek Heroes like Cepheus and Hercules. It reminds me they were mortals and they had their vices too. These thoughts about heroes merge into thoughts about Gods which merges into an alarming reminder of how easily I let go of my conviction. For two whole weeks the inside of my bible did not see my face. I was too lost forgetting everything my faith instilled in me.

I arrive home that night with the smell of Istanbul still on my suitcase—the salty mist of the black sea and the gray subtropical fog. I bring my baggage to my room and take a look at myself in the mirror. I greet my reflection like I’m staring at a criminal in a line-up, like a guilty stranger. With pink eyes and clear tears flowing down my face, I take the electric shaver and remove my hair until I’m standing in all my barefoot and glistening, brown-headed glory.

I remember my nights on vacation, too caught up in the clubs and the lights and the music to say a simple prayer. I planned to be a sinner those nights. I mean, I could have been anything else, but my red dress made me look too damn good to be anything Christian. I was speaking to three different men, in three different languages, all in different locations in the enclosed, sweaty room. My black curls bouncing about me as my hips found the beat and I tried to melt the pants off every man and receive rising ovations. I told the one with the stubble and the chest chiseled enough to cut glass with, “Buy me a drink and, maybe, you’ll find out”, the one with the too bright shirt and the contrasting dull eyes, “Belki, ama bunun için çalışmak”, and the one with long locks down his back and a shirt buttoned all the way up to the collar, “Tu es tan hermoso. Quiero dar gracias a Dios por la bendición de tu cara’’. He lightly pushed me away from his ear, glanced down at my rosary piece then back up to my eyes like a disappointed father. He responded, “Tu cree en Dios, pero hacer cosas malas” You believe in God, but you do bad things. I stood rooted to the spot even as he walked away from me. I looked around the room at all the people, at all the bodies gyrating, the faint sound of glasses clinking all around me. I stared at my body, surrounded by bits of red fabric and turquoise jewelry, as if staring at someone I’ve never seen before. I was lost and few simple words made me realize how easily I can lose sight of what’s right without my religion. With a few simple words, a man told me all this truth by only knowing me for a few moments and, way too suddenly, everything came crashing down around me. Way too suddenly, it came tumbling down, pulsing at the rhythmic base off all his house music in a place where it didn’t feel anything like home. And this base brought my eardrums to the very audible and barely recognizable line between having a good time and simply wasting it. I was deception herself, with a smile and a cup of warm gin in hand. I knew nobody’s name but somehow I was everyone’s friend. In my heels that took me six feet off the ground but made me feel six feet below it. The same heels I paid too much for to be hurting my feet as much as they did.

If a man who didn’t know me could figure me out so well, I had to admit the truth to myself that night. And the truth is, though I still hold a life time of abstinence, I don’t hold the innocence. I just don’t want to feel this fire kindle between my thighs anymore. I’m tired of burning, I just want to glow and glow hard like a dim star. One dim star on a, otherwise, starless night that shines as bright as possible just to prove its fidelity. Like the star of the North leading wise men and women to a place of holy.  And I know what you must think of me, what a hypocrite, who speaks of God and sexuality in the same breath. But I don’t want to bow down before my Lord reeking of treachery. I don’t want him to smell another man on my skin nor do I want to confuse a Ménage à trios for the Trinity. As a young girl, God kept me sane and as an adult I want the same. So thank God all these heroic stars don’t judge us for the offenses we commit beneath them. Thank God they don’t bare witness to all the heinous acts we commit under their names.

My roommate comes into the washroom smiling with tired eyes and sees me sitting in a cluster of my hair. His face quickly transforms from excitement to concern as he kneels down next to me.  He wants to know what’s wrong and what has happened but my tears are no longer from sadness. I tell him that I’ve had a revelation and I’m so much better than I was before. He wipes my face and holds me until I tell him I’m fine and that I would like to be left alone. After he’s assured that I’m okay and leaves, I thank God for friends who know more than just your bra size. Friends who, maybe can’t handle you at your worst but, stick around anyways.  

Tonight, I’m going to strip away the blinding spotlight and I won’t fall asleep to Frank Ocean’s beautifully flowing voice. Tonight, I’m going to remove the make-up and the jewellery and the clothes and I’m going to peel back my crisp white sheets and sleep naked. Not in an attempt to be sexy, but just tying to be one hundred percent me. Just a girl with a shaved head, deep brown eyes and conviction deep enough to drown the tallest man.  I can see the mercy of God surrounding me and it’s beautiful, blinding and brighter than any false light. So I thank God for forgiveness and all those rare moments when we get second chances. Tonight I’m going to buy a Cinnabon and enjoy every calorie. I’m going to read my old comics and watch old shows and laugh with childish delight. Like before I knew of the evil that displays itself in plain sight. And before I rest, as my whole country gears up to rise with the sun, I’ll look up at the few remaining, visible stars and think, what a fall, but what light. What marvelous light.

Siya Gwaan