I set my one bag down on a large canopied hotel bed in a room that looked like it could have been plucked out of 1001 Nights. Through the oriental bedroom window, the sky was an apricot hue, as the sun slowly winked away in the west. Everything dies in the west, a wise shaikh once told me long ago. Perhaps this was some sort of prophetic line he had given me at the time when I was no more than eighteen years old and seeking wisdom at my father’s mosque. Words I had not caught the meaning of but now, applied to almost everything. I pushed back the green damask curtains and opened the French doors, breathed in the beauty of Istanbul and stepped onto small, finely tiled patio. I had a few hours before Emil would arrive. I had ordered a Turkish coffee, after a thirteen hour flight that had drained me of all my energies. Well, almost. I don’t know what it was about far away cities, but they did seem to revive the walking dead. That’s what I had been in Los Angeles, the walking dead. Amazingly, the masculine edge I was forced to muster up in order to muscle my way around LA, receded to the background. For the first time, in a long time, I felt as if I was on the verge of something beautiful, something promising and with Emil in my line of vision, maybe I could finally relax into a place called “love.” Not like I was getting ahead of myself or anything. But, why couldn’t I think of romance? Seems the idea of romance had been beaten out of me back home with so many worries sitting on my head. How pathetic.
There was a tap at the door and a voice announcing room service, “come in,” I responded. A young boy entered the room, which included a dining area, with a large silver tray in hand. I was served a demitasse of hot Turkish coffee along with a tray of pastries and fresh fruit. I savored the fig flavored morsels I hadn’t had in the longest time. Then, I noticed a slip of paper peeking out from underneath one of the plates.
I read the note and gasped, “Delayed? Flight delayed?” Emil must have sent notice to the hotel. I called downstairs and the concierge at front desk explained to me the mishap. Emil wouldn’t be arriving until the next day. “Fine”, I thought to myself, “More time for me, myself and I.” I rung downstairs again, “Do you have a spa here?”
I got ready for the hamam. I wasn’t about to trip through the hotel in my terry cloth robe like I’d seen American women do at the Wynn in Vegas. As I made my way down two flights of stairs, passing up elegantly dressed European women in full regalia and business men on their cell phones, I wondered why I hadn’t put my face on. “Calm down,” I told myself. Not like I had to be “on” all the time. Kicking LA out of me was going to be tougher than I thought.
The hamam was a fairly large area with women wandering around in various stages of undress through several open rooms, each boasting large Jacuzzi looking baths in the most beautiful hand crafted turquoise colored tile I had ever laid eyes on. I slipped out of my attire. A matronly woman approached me with a large terry cloth robe in hand and a set of sweet slippers for my aching feet. I dropped my poor tired limbs into the bath and bathed with a large natural sponge and jasmine soap. The woman stayed close by, should I have any requests. Steam rose up from the heat of the bath, I could barely make out the faces of two other women across the way. I closed my eyes and surrendered myself to exfoliating the burdens of the past, raking the sponge over my arms and back of my neck. Above me, a skylight opened to the night. I wondered if I was doing the right thing in traveling so far away with a man I barely really knew. The last thing I needed was a few “bones in the closet” surprises to come my way. I had had enough of that. After I was done, the kind woman dried me off and I slipped into the robe and slippers she handed me. When I finally came back to my room, I sunk into the down comforter and drifted away.
Kicking LA out of me was going to be tougher than I thought.
The next morning there came a knock on my door that had me bolt upright, “What!?” I blurted out, half awake and in that muddled state of mind that had no particular definition. Hadn’t I placed the “Do Not Disturb” sign out? Maybe I’d forgotten. My cell phone went off too and the sun brightly screamed into the room. “Ok,” I thought to myself
“Who the hell wakes up a guest at 8:00 AM? Fine, I’m up.”
I went and opened the door a millimeter. Another boy stood in front of me with a silver tray, this time I found a pair of sunglasses and a white fedora. “You must have the wrong room,” I said as I was about to slam the door shut.
“No Miss. This is for you. Sent by a man, oh…sorry, I forgot the name, a tall man.” I took the sunglasses and fedora and retreated. Inside the fedora I found a note that read: Meet me at 3 PM near the fountain downstairs. Dress for adventure. Emil. I was both amused and annoyed. Figured he was about to get some sleep after his delayed flight.
So, I pulled myself together and did what most girls do when they first meet a guy instead of taking off to another country. I “Googled” his ass. I was looking for salacious gossip, drug history, arrests and anything else I could find. After a good hour of nothing, I decided to get a mani-pedi and a blowout. Yawn, the guy was clean.
By the time I was human, several men gave me a nod or pleasing eye, but I was searching for just one man. After a diet of Turkish coffee and sweets, I was ready to eat anything put before me. With my thoughts on food and the consumption thereof, I found myself nearing the designated fountain. Standing to the right, leaning against the mosaic tiled wall was Emil, dressed in beige linen pants and a white v-neck t shirt, which stood out in stark contrast to his jet black hair. He hid his blue eyes behind aviator sunglasses.
“Welcome to Turkey,” Emil leaned in and graced my cheek with a kiss. “You look well rested.”
“Thank you,” I said blushing and thanking the salon goddesses silently to myself.
“Hungry?” He asked.
“Starving,” If he only knew.
I wanted to save time and grab a bite to eat, but he had another idea. To actually sit down for a meal and take in the elaborate buffet at the hotel’s restaurant. The aroma of fresh home baked bread lured us into a grand room full of platters of food. Set before us were biscuits and croissants, sesame rolls, bowls of olives, trays of cheese, salads, roasted lamb, salmon, and a diverse selections of poultry.
Sitting at a table of food, fit for a king, Emil doted on me, tore a piece of bread off to share, in fact, I found he liked to share in everything so far. He loaded my plate with scoops of hummus, baba ghanoush, pieces of falafel, slices of cucumber and cubes of feta cheese.
“You certainly know how to treat a woman. My thanks to your mother,” I said.
“Yeah, of course. Who else deserves the recognition for your manners?”
He stiffened a bit and took a sip of coffee, “My mother was never in the picture.”
“I’m sorry,” I lowered my eyes and felt bad for striking a nerve.
“No, don’t be. Nothing to talk about.”
But I could tell there was much he might have wanted to say, clearly he was keeping to himself. But I shooed those thoughts aside. “OK,” I said. He seemed relieved at my simple response. We wiped our plates clean while talking about other things, things that didn’t really matter but always made for good conversation between strangers that were not really strangers. He made me laugh, we both laughed and he found me amusing.
“You ready for your surprise?” he asked.
He took my hand and pulled me away into the city. I didn’t know where we were heading, but his spontaneous manner was exciting and intriguing. Suddenly, he stopped and turned to me as if to speak.