Wednesday, 19 September 2012
When I woke up the next morning my right foot was hurting something fierce, the anxiety was back, and I still wanted to go back to Denizli.
Get off the edge of the plateau, I told myself. Get further down the road, you need to wade deeper into the pool, you need to replace this frame of mind with something else, anything else.
I decided that all I needed to do that day was get to Cardak, a mere 5 miles down the road. If I could get to Cardak, I told myself, that would be enough for today. In Cardak I could rest.
I packed up my tent and sleeping bag at 6:30 and thanked the gas station owner for letting me camp there that night. I told myself, Before you leave Bozkurt, celebrate with a nice Turkish breakfast! It was early, so there weren’t a lot of places open. But there was one small, three-table restaurant on my way out of town. I ordered the traditional Turkish breakfast of cucumbers, tomatoes, hard-boiled egg, cheese, black olives, honey, rose petal jam, and bread. It was a beautiful sunny morning. I had a nice seat on the outside patio. I ate every crumb off the plate.
Before I shouldered my pack, I pulled my whiteboard and black pen out of my backpack and wrote a note dedicating the day to my mother. It was her birthday — 19 September. I held the sign out at arm’s length, faced toward the morning sun, and snapped a picture.
The land ahead of me was flat and the road straight, and I could almost see Cardak from where I was standing.
Get to Cardak. Just get to Cardak, I muttered to myself. I sighed and began walking, once again.
Normally, I would have covered that distance in about ninety minutes, but because my foot was hurting so bad, I knew it would take me about four hours.
As I walked, I remembered Weebles. Weebles were small, plastic, egg-shaped, human figurines for toddlers. They were weighted at the bottom. You could knock a Weeble on its side, but it would pop back up, every single time.
When we were kids, my brother and I used to play with Weebles. Every Saturday morning we heard the jingle for Weebles on TV — “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.”
I hoped now I would turn out to be a Weeble.
My head began its spinning again. How had I become so lonely and so disoriented, so starved for human connection that a nice dinner with a friendly young woman was enough to make me contemplate giving up everything?
It doesn’t matter! Do the work anyway! Said the Voice. I stopped walking long enough to type a blog post into my iPhone:
“Discipline is not running a marathon. It is not losing 50 pounds. It is not walking across Turkey.
“Discipline is running one mile, and then waking up the next day and running two miles, and then waking up the next day and running three miles.
“Discipline is losing one pound, and then waking up the next day and losing the second pound, and then waking up the next day and losing the third pound.
“Discipline is waking up knowing the entire day’s walk could easily be covered by a car in 10 minutes, and then doing the work anyway. Discipline is being on the verge of tears because you’ve said goodbye to someone very important to you, and then doing the work anyway. Discipline is every day having a reason to not do the work, and then doing the work anyway.
“Discipline is not the end result. It is how we get to the end result. Discipline, and its close relatives patience and faith.”
I pressed send, pocketed my iPhone, and continued limping towards Cardak, which I entered about an hour later.
Cardak is a small town of about 3,000 people. As before, whenever there were people around, I tried to minimize my limp so that no one would worry or ask me if I was okay.
I poked my head into a cafe and asked where the center of town was. The owner of the cafe told me that I had another 500 meters to go. He may as well have said it was on the other side of the planet. I thought I would cry.
I asked him if there was a hotel in town. He said yes, I would find it in the village’s main square. I couldn’t miss it, he said. It had a big sign saying “Otel”.
I smiled as well as I could, said thank you, and tried not to snag myself on the bead curtain as I walked back out the door onto the street.
I walked deeper into the village and passed a tea garden on the left full of people drinking their mid-morning tea. One of the groups at one of the tables spotted me over the stone fence, cheerily waved hello, and invited me to join them.
“I will come back later!” I called out. “First I have to find the center of town and get settled in. Is it this way?”
“Just a little further,” one of the men encouraged me.
I was feeling scared and defensive, so I didn’t trust their friendliness. Plus, because my foot was hurting so badly, “just a little further” sounded like a long way to me.
I found my way to the village’s main square. There were a couple of restaurants, barbershops, corner markets, and the hotel. It wasn’t fancy, just a nondescript and unpainted municipal building stuffed into the corner of the square, but sure enough, there was a big sign outside saying “Otel.”
I crossed the square, hobbled up the steps into the hotel, and asked if they had any rooms available. They did, and they ushered me into one. The room was drafty, but it had a shower, and I hadn’t taken one in ten days. “I’ll see you soon,” I said to the shower, “but I have some other business to take care of first.” Then I crashed onto the bed and fell into a deep sleep.
I woke up to the phone ringing. It was Ayse. She just wanted to say hello and make sure I was okay. “I’m fine,” I told her. I said that I had enjoyed our dinner very much and missed her. We chatted for a few minutes. I told her Cardak was nice, but that I had only seen the inside of the hotel. We hung up. I took a shower, washed some clothes in the sink, and then fell back asleep.
After dark I woke up, pulled on my shoes, and wandered downstairs onto the square. What day is it? I wondered. Is it tomorrow? I was disoriented from the nap. Plus, it was 8 p.m. (I had slept through lunch), and I didn’t like being out in a new town or village after dark. It was hard to gauge people and pick up on their social signals.
Most of the stores out on the square were closed, but I saw a light on in one of the bufes. Two men, probably in their late twenties, sat at a table outside drinking tea. They waved me over, and I took a seat at their table.
“Do you have any food available?” I asked.
“Of course! We will find something and bring it out to you.”
One of them went into the bufe and brought out a huge plate of rice for me. As I ate my rice we made small talk and introduced ourselves. The one who brought me the rice was named Eren and he owned the bufe. The other guy introduced himself as Ozgur.
During the conversation I noticed that Eren’s eyes kept darting back and forth, glancing at me and then away. Why is he doing that? I wondered. Does it mean he is not trustworthy? Also, I sensed Eren and Ozgur were signaling to each other with body language I couldn’t figure out. It was dark. I was new. And, except for the three of us, the square was deserted. My “you don’t understand the situation, get out of here” alarm started going off.
I gulped down the plate of rice and thanked Eren and Ozgur for the food. They invited me to sit with them for a while and have a cup of tea. “No, thank you,” I told them. “I’ll be back but I need to make a phone call first.” Then I walked out of earshot, pulled out my phone, and called Ayse.
She answered, “Hi! How are things in Cardak?”
I said, “I feel uncomfortable and the people seem strange.”
“Then be careful, go back to your hotel room,” Ayse said.
That sounded like good advice.
I hung up and walked back to the table. By then it was about 9 p.m. I thanked Eren and Ozgur for their hospitality and walked back across the square to the hotel.
Since I had slept all day I wasn’t that tired, so I sat in my room and answered emails and wrote in my journal before falling asleep.