Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Sad Man

The Sad Man rode the minibus to school with us almost every morning of summer school. On the first day, he took a seat next to us. It was the only empty seat that morning.

The fact that I feel compelled to mention that it was the only empty seat is indicative of my having been in Turkey for so long. It's not often that older men sit next to women on the minibus, particularly not working-class men like the Sad Man. Often men like the Sad Man remain standing if the only empty seat is next to a woman. I can think of some reasons why this might be, but they're probably mostly wrong.

The Sad Man chucked LE on the cheek and smiled at him a few times, but otherwise didn't pay us much attention. LE stared and stared.

The next morning, the sad man was waiting with two other men about his age. One of them was missing most of one hand. LE pointed, and I reminded him it's not nice to point, but he wasn't pointing at the man with the hand. "But Mama, look!" he said. "It's the Sad Man."

"Still," I said. "Only kids who don't know any better point. It might make people sad."

"But he's already sad. See?" And see how I'm already struggling in arguments with a four-and-a-half year old? He had me there.

"You might make him sadder." I just have to get the last word, don't I?

"Why's he so sad?" LE doesn't give a shit about rhetoric.

The next day, LE remembered not to point at the Sad Man. Instead, he went for a more subtle approach, whispering, "Mama!" then gesturing with his head and eyebrows towards the Sad Man. Watching a little guy like LE trying to be subtle is one of the best things I've seen in a long time. And he's never once said anything about the man with one finger and a thumb, even though that fellow does whatever he can with both hands to get a giggle out of LE, including peek-a-boo.

The Sad Man indeed looks very sad. He has a kind face, but almost clownishly sad in a way a child would pick up on. It turns out he's a groundskeeper on campus. I snuck a photo of him the other day to show LE when he was feeling grouchy after school, because stuff like that makes him feel better. I think the Sad Man caught me at it, but just smiled sadly and went about his work. I was prepared to tell him exactly why I was taking the photo, but he didn't ask.

LE has a book about a lovely zookeeper called A Sick Day For Amos McGee. The resemblance between the Sad Man and Amos McGee isn't lost on me.


Bill said...

How did he get the Sad Man apellation? From the picture, he seems to have that perpetual expression combining fatalism and dejection that so many Istanbul men have. Is there more?

Stranger said...

Maybe he looks a little sadder from the front. He seems to always have a slight smile, in a very sad way. Or maybe it's his eyes. Or maybe it's just hard to say what it is LE picked up on.

Anyway, LE was the one who named him that. So he must somehow look more obviously sad than the average man.