Ah sweet Istanbul, empire of empires, the bridge connecting cultures, the city of contradictions. Napoleon once said if the world had a capital city you would be it, you simply are that glorious. Thousands of years old, now Istanbul, once Constantinople, before that Byzantium, and the many monikers that followed. You stand tall on your seven hills, blue and beautiful, and the whole world knows your name. Let's spend this day together, just you and me. For today I have a secret for you. Today I confess my love for you. Today I will spend my last day with you, today you will break my heart.
The dawn breaks quietly and the first call to prayer spreads word to your dwellers that another day has begun. The devoted wake earliest and kneel down towards the East. While others begin to rise within your sprawling grasp, still there are some who have yet to sleep, still drunk on love, on melancholy, on booze, or a hazy mixture of all three.
The sun rises higher along with the number of people filling the streets. Some in a hurry, some not at all, but no one safe from the sensory stimulations assaulting the five senses from every direction. Wafting scents of freshly ground Turkish coffee, black tea and oven roasted simit dance through the early morning breeze.
To begin this day right, our last day together, let us sit down in a tiny chair on a tiny street corner, I'd like to take all of you in. In your honor I'll order a bronze kissed tea, served hot and steaming from a delicate curvy cup, resembling the shape of a voluptuous belly dancer. For me, I'll sip on a unfiltered brew so thick that will leave a temporary Turkish moustache if I drink my tiny cup until empty.
Let's walk through my favorite places together, before we say goodbye. Fantastic facades tower over cobbled streets of days gone by. Greek, Armenian, Ottoman and modernly Turkish buildings stand side by side, some slanted to the left or right, supporting each other from gravity's endless pull. Some crumbling to pieces, empty and barren. Some bursting with life, shaking with laughter and oriental melodies. Others eerily still standing, yet charred at the roots, revealing the scars of the millions of people and cultures who once lived within your belly. All quietly telling stories of tolerance and of tolerance disrupted, one of your many contradictions.
Your various corners, alleyways, staircases and neighborhoods hold magnitudes of surprise, even for those who've walked those same paths so many times before. The grey haired, bushy mustached shadow leaning lazily against the street lamp, cracking and spitting out sunflower seeds, watching your afternoons pass by. Colorful headscarves adorn the heads of women, longingly gazing out from their windows, contemplating your beauty and your injustice.
The adventurous sea gulls plummet down into your shimmering turquoise throat, hunt for the freshest daily catch and all the while laugh hysterically with the joys of flight and freedom. Tanned, sweaty men with bushy eyebrows crowded over their shiny eyes serve up their own catch to passersby. Grilled, lightly salted and perfectly squeezed between two fluffy white loaves, fish fillets are flipped by the dozens and devoured by your other lovers for lunch.
Cats of all colors and sizes, curled up cosily on multicolored rugs in the shade seek refuge from your relentless midday sun.
By the time the huge sun begins to set into your Western horizons, the sky lights up with dazzling shades from a pastel palette. The call to prayer blasts through the skies and sleeping felines awake from their slumber. Hopping daintily down from their resting place, they are ready for the night, in a city that never sleeps, and we continue our stroll together.
By now the sky has blackened but flourescent lights scatter the skyline like stars, and my belly growls from hunger. A soft yet gentle breeze flows through the air and gently plays with my hair, you are trying to tempt me, and I will let myself indulge, but for the very last time. Let's follow the sounds of clarinets, accordions and tambourines galore down a narrow yet crowded cobblestone side street where I can satiate my hunger. Tiny little olive oil soaked dishes are passed all around the table; washed down with laughter, song and a milky, anise flavored drink served over ice. Together we share stories, we dance with our arms and hips, we gather as a community. The mischievous street cat knows that he is a part of our community too. He fearlessly approaches me, pat, pat patting my leg, asking for a bite. As wise as he is, he moves along the table, getting his fill plus more. The last drop of rakı has been drunken up and the small plates have all been taken from the table. Rosy cheeks and smiling faces fill the atmosphere and we all stagger home late in the night, fat, happy and satisfied.
A tear slips down my warm cheek as I confess that the time spent with you, Istanbul, was special and unforgettable. Days turn to months and months turn to years in the blink of an eye. At times you made me laugh, at times you made me cry, at times you made me feel like the luckiest girl alive. I've loved you since the day I met you, I've never had the heart to leave. But your lovers overfloweth, dear Istanbul, and I know I am not the only one for you, and you not the only for me. As the old saying goes, there's many fish in the sea, and as much as it hurts me to go, my heart knows it's time to leave.
Now it's just me and my suitcase, and your long, sweet kiss goodbye, that fills my heart with sorrow as I wave to you farewell in the darkest depth of the night.
Originally from the U.S.A, Chasity Reichard is a curious global wanderer and seeker. Dabbling in different creative projects of all sorts, she has been writing for years but has never before been published. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Art Education and has been loving and living in Istanbul, Turkey since 2010.