Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Cemetery

Gravestones in Eyüp, below Pierre Loti
Damn you, metrobus!
The other day I had to make the trip across town to fetch LE from the in-laws. I haven't had to do this in awhile, though I'm not sure why. Maybe BE just likes the drive because it's sure as hell not to do me a favor. It could be because LE *hates* the metrobus so much when he gets even a whiff of a hint he might have to ride on it, he flails himself into a full-tear explosion in about two seconds. I don't blame him. When the metrobus is crowded, his face is about the same level as most people's asses and when a sitting stranger offers to hold him, I'm all "Here you go," despite his objections because it gives me an LE-sized space of breathing room and also we can score the stranger's seat later on maybe, if the stranger gets off before us.

The metrobus kind of goes through the old part of town, where there are lots of cemeteries. I was standing in some prime metrobus real estate, my back to a bar and my head pressed to window idly remarking to myself about the coolnesses and annoyances passing by. A Byzantine wall (cool!). Another fucking crane building an ugly piece of shit building (annoying!). People picnicking on the medians (cool!). The whole Bayram's worth of trash littering the median (annoying!).

And it occurred to me that people picnic on the medians because there's fuck-all else to go, for poor people at least. A lot of places where they used to picnic, like the Yeşilköy seaside and various other parks, have banned picnicking accessories like grills and little gas stoves, while other parks, like the one in Bahçeşehir, invented a fake "show your ID that you live around here" system, wherein people like me aren't asked for ID while others can be blocked based on class assumptions. It's probably because the picnickers do have a tendency to leave their trash lying around. It doesn't justify the banning in my mind-- it just makes things shittier for poor people. Why not have a few guys wandering around politely reminding people to pick up before they leave?

Given recent events, I've gotten all sensitive to trees. Between Zincirlikuyu and the airport, the only places with trees are cemeteries. Probably most of the so-called green areas left in Istanbul are cemeteries. I'd like to think this means these places are forever protected, but the road running through the middle of the old cemetery in Sarıyer says differently. It's a useful little road, but still.

BE's parents still hadn't made their Bayram cemetery visit. So as soon as LE back-arch bawled about the metrobus, they offered to take us with them and drop us off closer to home. Both of us went "Yay!" because we love going to the cemetery.

I've written about this cemetery before, but it was a long time ago. It's the one where Menderes and Özal are buried, only now when anyone says Özal, they mutter "zehirlendi." On this trip, MIL was insisting LE had never been to the cemetery before and I was pretty sure he had, though he was pretty little. Ha! The Internet says I'm right. We balanced along the edges of the graves to where BE's grandparents are buried. MIL talked about how much more crowded the cemetery has gotten over the years, how there used to be paths to the grave they wanted. LE kept stopping me to read the inscriptions for him. He wondered where all the zombies were.

At the grave, FIL gave LE the half-full bottle of water he'd brought to pour into the little cups at the head end. "It's for the birds," he said. Then he and MIL had a short kerfuffle over whether or not the grave needed cleaning off. Then they said their prayer, hands close to the chest and open to the sky the way Muslims do, ending with a washing motion over their faces. I tried to keep LE quiet, something he's not wont to be. I showed him the grave BE had shown me the last time we were there, where the bones were coming up. Later on, LE said the bones were the only thing about the cemetery he'd found interesting.

On the way out, MIL showed me the three brothers' graves I wrote about in 2010, a few months before the divorce, where one gravestone describes a brother's military honors, another has the man's academic and professional honors, and the third says, "Best Husband and Father in the World." The third is MIL's favorite too. LE asked her what the others said and she carefully sounded her way through them because she doesn't read all that great. She's lucky enough that her father sent her to school through about 4th grade, in a time when no one even bothered to record the date and year of her birth.

My favorite way of flummoxing her these days is by doing and saying stuff to let her know I think she matters. It seems to be working out all right.

For the last few nights, the honking and guns going off on the main road says it's conscription time, when the guys go to be soldiers for awhile.

Given all that's going around here these days, I wonder if there is going to be enough room to bury all the dead?

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

The part about the picnics resonated with me. I live right opposite a lovely park on the Asian side, full of people using grills. Sure the smell is annoying but the atmosphere is jolly. Yesterday, a Turkish colleague was complaining about such people coming into 'elite' areas with their headscarves and stinking the place out. I asked her where else she thought their children could play. I can't believe in some places, people actually get asked for their ID.