And then it was time to go.
I had luscious dessert, kitty cuddles and conversation at my favourite café. When the café closed I headed two doors down and six stories up to drink in the timeless view from the rooftop bar of Leb-i-Derya. Watching the ships passing through the Bosphorus, the lights of Topkapı across the Golden Horn and Haydarpaşa Station on the Asian side, I thought of all the great people I’d shared that view with: strangers who became friends, my dad on the first incredible evening of an impromptu visit, my friend Jae returning from an epic Paris to Pakistan roadtrip .
On my nearly-empty street, footsteps echoing on the cobblestones, I stopped to talk with the lady who cleans the mosque and feeds the street cats. I understood kedi, araba and doktor and worried about the fate of my favourite fat grey kitten, whom I thought of as Charlie. I communicated to her that I was leaving that night. “But you’ll be back,” was her response, the same automatic reaction as the guy at the cornerstore and the girl at the café – not a question requiring a response but a confident statement of fact.
Bags packed, I took in my favourite view – the one from my window – while I waited. One quiet night during the holidays I had been awakened by the smell of smoke and realised that, even if I had a phone, I knew neither the number for emergency services nor my own address. When I’d wandered outside and found Ali, the 24-hour security guard of the posh new building around the corner, he promised “(When) you (have a) problem, (tell) me (and there will be) no problem.” Now, guided by Ali’s cell phone instructions, the taxi found its way through the maze to my door right on time.
We drove away past the fishermen on the Galata Bridge and I looked back.
Everything was exactly the same as it’d always been except I was leaving. I was reassured by the thought that everything would still be exactly the same upon my return.
“How is Istanbul?” the taxi driver asked.
“Çok güzel, çok güzel.”
“Will you come back?”
His eyes crinkled in a smile in the rearview mirror as we drove along the Sea of Marmara.