Istanbul, 1994

by T Nicole Cirone

The two of us were skipping through the Hippodrome, holding hands and singing “The Sidewinder Sleeps.” Very off-key. Ghosts of the ancient world spun around us in the city, as though the slides had come to life from the darkness of the Art History classroom I’d left behind a month prior. Graduation had only made me feel more uncertain; I was suffocating in my gallery job. Your invitation to spend the summer with you at Oxford—our ditching the summer ball and traveling, everything so spur of the moment. One night in the MCR at your college, I’d closed my eyes, and in a Sortes Vergilianae, put my finger on an entry in the travel section of the Time Out; Istanbul, Turkey, a backpack and $200 between the two of us.

We wrote postcards home, sitting shoulder to shoulder along the seawall. The photographs from that day show me squinting into the camera, and you, in tortoise shell sunglasses, profiled against the afternoon sun.

You bought me a scarf at the bazaar. Black with Damask roses in full bloom. There was a long line at the post office, and I was fuming about the second scarf you’d bought for “a friend” back at school. I know—we’d made no mutual commitment, but there was that moment of intimacy in the tiny bed at the guest house the night before. The turquoise of the scarf in your satchel leaked like a slow poison into our day.

Later, we had coffee in the little café behind the bazaar. There were weeping cherry trees all around, their pink blossoms like powder in the breeze. You caught me watching you read. Your brow furrowed, the prep school hair falling to the side, nearly covering one eye. I blushed at the memory of your expressive fingers on my cheek and your lips on my neck in the little guesthouse room with the upstairs view of the Strait. A man who said he was a mystic interrupted, sat down at our table and read our coffee grounds. Two sides of the same coin, the man said, and Remember: everything comes full circle, then slipped away into the city.

The taxi was late arriving; you pulled me back into the room. My hand on your chest, the thick cotton undershirt beneath the white dress shirt you wore with black trousers every day. The warmth of your skin underneath. You kissed me on both cheeks when the horn sounded, didn’t turn back as you stepped into the car.

T Nicole Cirone is the author of Nine Nails: A Novel in Essays (Serving House Books, 2019). She is a poetry editor at The Night Heron Barks and editor at Ran Off With the Star Bassoon. Her work appears in Ovunque Siamo, Serving House Journal, Philadelphia Stories, The Woman Inc., Hippocampus, Red River Review, the Philadelphia Stories “Best of” Anthology, Gateways and Reading Beyond the Saguaros: A Prosimetric Travelogue.


Photography by: Ekrem Osmanoglu