Sunday, January 13, 2013


The last two times I've gone somewhere on the metrobus, there have been tinerci. I haven't seen a tinerci in ages.

Tinerci is one of those Turkish words I like. Tiner is the Turkish word for "thinner," as in paint thinner, and without looking it up, it's clearly a strange borrowing from English. Strange because most borrowings from English have to do with late 20th century technology and stuff in music and films.

The ending "-ci" is one of my favorite endings in Turkish. It makes things into jobs. "Demir" (iron) becomes "demirci" (someone who deals professionally with metal in some way). It makes some job names into people. "Tamir" (repair) becomes "tamirci" (repairman). No need for PC gendering it in English because I've never seen a repairwoman and anyway, and there's no gender on it in Turkish. "-ci" also makes some adjectives into adverbs, like "hızlıca." It makes nationalities into languages like "Türkçe."

Here's a cheap thrill I adore.
It can make people be really into stuff. And for some things, "-ci" makes you an addict. A tinerci is a huffer. There are quite a lot of them about. A friend once told me they do it because it makes them not feel anything. Not cold, not hungry, not anything else.

I wouldn't know. That's one cheap thrill I never decided to look into, if you can believe it.

I like tinerci as a word in Turkish. As an actual person, well. They're either incredibly sad or a little bit scary. Sometimes both.

These orphans all turned out okay because a supermodel visited them.
In Bakırköy, the place I lived when I first came here, there were tinerci all over. Plus a lot of other kinds of bad kids not so numbed up. Plus a lot of really sad kids who hadn't gone bad yet. And a few who were walking the line between bad and sad. For the most part, tinerci minded their own business. Sometimes they got surly. There's an orphanage in Bakırköy. Apparently once some of those orphanage kids reach 10 or so, they start to find street stuff to do, and kind of float back and forth between the street and the orphanage and jail until they turn 18, at which point the orphanage isn't part of the cycle anymore.

I'm often sorry I spent my formative years in Turkey in Bakırköy. It's taken a long time to un-form that shit.

Today, I saw the tinerci before I smelled him. I mention this because usually you smell the tinerci first. The smell of whatever solvent he has fills the air around him, and it's pretty much always a him. The gender-word people should be glad about this, but not really.

It's a little slice of heaven.
He got on the bus with another man, with his hand held loosely over his mouth and nose like he was coughing, except he never coughed. He and the man found seats and sat down. This in and of itself was a small metrobus miracle, because there is never a place to sit down on the metrobus, let alone for two people. I'd elbowed an obnoxiously pushy woman in the face to get my seat. If you've seen how especially obnoxiously and needlessly pushy some people are on the metrobus, you'd understand why it wasn't bad at all, what I did with my elbow.

An old couple got on with suitcases and sat in the first seats they found, the woman next to the tinerci and the man across the aisle. The woman talked a lot and handed her husband an umbrella. He rolled his eyes and looked pissed off and took the umbrella and shoved it into an outside suitcase pocket.

The tinerci called across the woman to the man and offered to switch seats with him, so the man could sit next to his wife. They swapped, and both the people thanked him, and the tinerci sat down and refilled his rag from a solvent-filled water bottle in one of his pockets.

He was small and young, maybe 18 or 20. His eyes were big and dark and they kept rolling around beyond his control. He had thick, long lashes and his hands were weathered and cracked with white. He had thick fingers and palms that could only be called square. He just sat and minded his own business and everyone pretended not to see him. He was close enough to me that the smell of the thinner started to make me feel good and I was inhaling probably a little more deeply than I needed to because I was listening to the Doors and anything you can do to make the metrobus more interesting, you should probably do it.

I like the smell of gasoline, too. Also skunks.

Across the aisle, the old man secretly held his wife's hand, with hers on the suitcase and his next to it, his pinky and ring finger over the back of her hand. She sat quietly and smiled inside. He smiled and looked at her and took his hand away but they were still smiling.

Another old woman got on the bus and the tinerci jumped up to give her his seat. He squatted on the floor next to me.

It's not easy, believe me.

Say whatever you want about this kid, someone had taught him manners. And there was something about him that seemed to make everyone else around us sad, too.

The old lady he'd given his seat to was sitting just in front of me, also near where the tinerci was squatting. She leaned to the man across from her and whispered something that, even through the Doors (which I'd quickly turned down so I could eavesdrop), I knew was about the tinerci. The man offered her the seat and they switched. His hands-free phone conversation continued.

When he got off the phone, he leaned over to the tinerci and asked him to not do that on the bus because the smell was disturbing people, like the old woman nearby. The tinerci said something I couldn't understand because it was so slurred. They talked a bit and I could tell, at least, that the man was being kind and the tinerci was being kind.

The tinerci's back was leaned up against my legs at this point.
Goes down good.

I wanted to grab him by the shoulders and shake him and tell him I loved him and that he was a human person with worth in the world and to please stop doing that to his brain.

I felt like buying him soup.

Between wondering where the hell all that came from and watching the tinerci drama unfold on the metrobus, I almost missed my stop. The tinerci and the phone guy had gotten off together a few stops earlier, so it was mostly wondering where the hell all that had come from that fucked me soundly in the head.

Trust me, my head is... Well, you know. And it wasn't because of the secondhand huffing either.


Ayak said...

Isn't it all so sad? How can they ever do anything to change their lives (which will probably be incredibly short) unless someone intervenes.

You show such compassion as well as being very observant. A very sad post.

Stranger said...

Well, I only showed compassion in my mind, so it doesn't count. There was something about that kid, though, that made people want to help him out, or at least talk to him. I've seen people get pretty vicious about tinerci in closed places, but it wasn't the case here.

I'll bet he was younger than he looked.

The worst part is that even if he quits that shit, his brain is still damaged forever.

Backto Bodrum said...

So sad - so many kids without any safety net.

Stranger said...

It's a crushing and apparently insurmountable problem. It drives me insane that it's a silent problem, too. Apparently, the only kids worth loving are the clean, well-fed sweet ones in their mamas' laps.