How You Felt
by SUMEJA TULIC
I am sure if I learn to skate my life will dramatically improve for the better. I am almost 28, I have a 9 to 5 job, and I live in a city with only one decent skater and bunch of lonely Wahhabi guys. So, me skating is close to digging a hole in my yard, finding a coffin full of golden and diamond jewelry, and getting to cash it or keep it without having to pay any taxes or to report it to the IRS.
I actually did find an old coin from the beginning of the 20th century in my yard. It is a worthless piece of metal that I keep in my obscure jewelry box. A year or two back I would have hoped for a prince-skater-teacher. I would eventually become better at skating than him. He would get frustrated. We would break up only to make at a famous skateboard tournament where I would skate in a flamingo patterned skirt (or shorts with flamingos on it). Now I believe I need to buy a damn board and learn to study from YouTube tutorials.
Middle class happiness is like an overdue pregnancy. The love child of endurance and expectations. Torn between wanting to drift away on a road that naively starts below your home and leads to somewhere in Sicily, and wanting to own an apartment and a medium sized car. I take my weekend sucker punch as I clean the toilet. Actually it is not that sudden or unexpected. The evil sarcasm that is reading a literature-themed e-newsletter and then hurrying to clean a toilet is anything but a sudden punch to my melancholic being, perfectly adequate for a house in which the sink is full of dirty coffee mugs. The water is burning my fingers. I cannot curse in the bathroom because it disturbs evil spirits. I am holding back random imagery and songs because that can awake all kinds of spirits. The wonderfully scary things holy texts preach… Restricted by it all, I drive the medium sized imaginary car down that hill. The road is narrow and from one side surrounded by forest.
I wish I could be proud as the mothers of daughters with long wavy hair are at airports. They stroll around elegantly early in the morning. They are not in a hurry and they are certainly not dizzy from the smell of perfume and the lipstick they evaporate into each other. I have deodorant on me and I am contemplating a mercy suicide. I wish I were at least dazed like the dad. I am pretty sure his brain has been in a coma since his daughters came of age.
My temple is any given airport. There I want to reform. I just made a list. I will wear make up more and become a person who wears their socks right.
By the way, I believe in God. In Allah Almighty, to be precise. That is why I choose to sit opposite a young conservative Jewish family with their lovely screaming brood. As I type this, little babies are dying in Gaza. This family has nothing to do with it; I have nothing to do with it.
Today, I whispered to myself and recited embarrassing metaphors. I noticed cracks in walls, tinny chimneys, strange shoes, hundreds of mosques, connected eyebrows, suspicious guys, beautiful women in the rain…I noticed a whole fucking lot. I wish I could bring it together it in one solid paragraph. It is hard since I stopped premeditating sentences for our conversations. That routine died. Sultanahmet district in smelly fog embedded with lights and seagulls. This unsolicited explanation of things that are there, before his eyes, like many others, once read backwards are a screaming love plea. Love me, love me and only fuck me.
Hammam is one place I feel absolutely fine about my body and I am not alone in this. The many pinned out breasts and almost sleazy smiles confirm that there is a temporary epidemic of confidence.
By the way, have you ever swum in a cold river, beneath heavy shadows of green trees? I did back in 1999, and thought of life as it was — and it was there on the shore: my parents and my cousins eating picnic delights. I saw their intrusive kindness pushing them to feed each other. I was endlessly grateful they haven’t brought a stereo. It is hard to lead a genuine teen life of a moderate loner when nothing is off limits. Not even a dip in which I hoped to release my fear of my body’s transformations through preventive confrontation.
My mom yelled my name and something about starvation and I withdraw my hands from my chest. Just months ago, I was crying silently in my bed. As I was changing into my pajamas, I felt pain in my chest. I thought I got breast cancer before I developed a proper breast. The smell of oleander and the croak of baby frogs in our yard serenaded me.
She pulled her legs up as we drove in a shabby cab. My legs were down, where they are supposed to be. Her boyfriend sat in the seat up front. I hope he saw her legs up. Such a cool retro move, that I seriously contemplated shutting up and staring at her. She could have opted for one of the other classics — smoking a cigarette like she is making angry love to it, for example. Nope, she pulled her legs up. There is something upsetting about beautiful girls dating artists. I would say, even embarrassing. I mean, google “Yoko Ono Fireworks“ and let me know how you felt.
I pressed my finger on the misty window and drew a line so I can clearly see the red flickering lights outside.
A day or two before December
I came back home.
Photographs by the author.
“Monster” – Elephant (mp3)
“The Lightning and Breeze” – Elephant (mp3)