Tears at Topkapı (Istanbul)

Here’s an excerpt from my humorous travel memoir, Turkey: Bright Sun, Strong Tea. (The previous episode is The Bile Green Color Wasn’t Even the Worst of It.)

We leaned against the heavy marble balustrade by the Baghdad Kiosk in Istanbul‘s Topkapi Palace, gazing out at the city of the sultans and across the Golden Horn to the Bosphorusbeyond. The sultans themselves had relaxed here in the kiosks with their chosen consorts, reclining on the brocade sofas, listening to the women play and sing, watching their mesmerizing dances.

Jane’s eyes filled with tears.

“I have something to say.”

After a long silence I responded “So do I.”

“We’re not happy together anymore,” she said.

“Yes.”

” I think we should separate.”

“Yes.”

I took her in my arms and we held one another tightly, tightly, for a long time.

“It’s such a relief to have said it. I can’t imagine it, but I think it’s best,” I said.

“Yes.” She paused. Then, “I still love you.”

“I still love you,” I said. “But you’re right. We’re not happy. You need something different, maybe somebody different. If you need to leave, I’ll let you. We should at least try it.”

Each of us felt exultant relief. We had been well and happily married for ten years, but a beast had been gnawing at our hearts for the past two years. Now it was finally acknowledged, and the weight lifted from our shoulders.

We knew it would be difficult and painful to live apart after a decade of affection, passion, storm and strife, but we had taken the first step. Having done that, we now had a chance at something better. We had a future again. It might hold pain and suffering or it might hold promise and joy, but the simple prospect of future joy was better than present pain.

“So…what do we do now?” she asked, half-sobbing, half-laughing. “Here we are in Istanbulabout to go on a trek through Eastern Turkey, and we’ve decided to break up. What do we do?”

We go on our trip. We break up later. When it’s convenient.”

We both laughed through our tears and held each other tightly again, tightly, holding on for dear life. How could we let go? We laughed and cried, tears of sadness and relief pouring from us both in a cathartic flood.

Tourists eyed us warily–uh-oh, something going on there! They slipped past us into the kiosk carefully, willing themselves to vanish.

Nothing was easier than for us to be together–as long as we both saw the possibility of change in the future. The recent past had been a heavy train leading us inevitably toward the crash of heartbreak. Better to jump off, take the bruise, and find some other way forward.

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(Excerpts from Turkey: Bright Sun, Strong Tea copyright © 2004 by Tom Brosnahan. All rights reserved.)

(We did take the trip: see Eastern Sacrifice .)


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