Last night I did a bad thing.
I spent much of the day in my old neighborhood (old-- I’ve been here 16 days!) of Cihangir. Cleaning up a bit in that apartment, doing laundry, having lunch, a bit of window shopping. I packed a few things up in shopping bags to bring back to my new place, had another adventure with another cab driver, and finally arrived in apartment number 2 in Sultanahmet. It was later than I thought, so I decided to buy myself dinner since I still haven’t figured out where in this neighborhood to grocery shop.
I headed down the hill instead of up towards the main street and tourist area. It was a beautiful night; the nights here so far are all beautiful. The sun is strong and hot during the day, but so far I haven’t experienced any hot, muggy nights like we have in New York. At night it cools down and is very breezy, so it was nice to just walk and wander through the twisting streets.
I was surprised to find several nice cafes very close to my place, and recognizing the name of one as the place we used to order from at the hotel, I went inside and up to the third floor terrace. I ordered Coban salad, which I could absolutely live on for the rest of my life—tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, sometimes a few other things thrown in, and a squirt of lemon juice—and some sort of kebab, which consisted of pureed eggplant with small bits of meat with a tomato sauce on top. It was OK—maybe this isn’t the place we used to order from because that food was amazing. I’ll have to ask.
I had paid my bill and was waiting for change when the lights went out. The diners at the café and the café down the hill all applauded. The waiters leaned over the railing to see how far the outage went and then returned with candles. Power outages are not unusual so everyone pretty much just goes on as best they can when they happen. This is only my second, the first one having lasted all of five minutes during the middle of the day when I was sitting in Kahvedan.
I got my change, waited a few minutes, and then decided there was no reason to just sit there. I picked my way downstairs by candlelight and considered my options. I could go back to my building and climb the four flights of stairs to my apartment by the light of my cell phone where I could watch a DVD on my fully charged laptop. Strange the mix of old and new here-- I can entertain myself when the ancient infrastructure fails with my electronics. Or, I could head up to the hotel where they have a generator and maybe even have tea and dessert…
I decide it’s best to learn out how to deal with this stuff now, and head back to my apartment. On the way I pass Birol, a rug dealer who is nice enough, but a little too over-eager to help and be my friend. I say hello and he tells me he was watching a movie upstairs but came out when the power went off. I ask if there’s anyway to tell if it will be off for an hour or a day and he laughs and says no. So I ask if there’s anyplace where I can buy candles. He takes me into the shop a few doors down (no one here will tell you where anything is, they insist on taking you. Resistance is futile). He tells the shopkeeper I’m a new neighbor and helps me buy a box of candles and a few boxes of matches. I pay what seems like a lot, hmmm, and am on my way.
When I reach my door I open the candles, unstick one from the box, fumble to open the matches, and light the candle. Before I can get my key out, it goes out. I fumble again, light it again, it goes out again. I get out my cell phone and flip it open. I will use the candles in the apartment but plan to stumble upstairs by electronic light. I unlock and open the door to my building and the motion detector light snaps on. Either Musa has a generator or the outage didn’t go this far. The ladies across the street must think I’m nuts, lighting candles on the sidewalk if the power never went out here.
I make my brightly lit way upstairs and decide to unpack my candles and put them somewhere easily accessible for when I do experience an actual outage. And there it is. A roach. On my candles. I completely freak out. There is a ROACH in my new apartment. I try to pick up the paper it is on and shake it out the window, yipping and yelping the whole time but it falls off just inside the window and scurries behind the radiator. I spend many unsuccessful minutes trying to find it and make it come out. Finally I give up. I hope it dies old and alone in my apartment. If there’s only one, they can’t reproduce, right? I look at the box of candles and think I will have to toss the box, but maybe I can keep the candles. But what if there are roach eggs on the candles? And then I see that there are three more roaches in the box. I look at the matches which are shrink-wrapped so probably OK, but I just can’t have any of this stuff in my apartment. I have to get it out NOW. I briefly consider running down four flights of stairs—with roaches running up my arms from the bag. I can’t help it, I pick up the shopping bag which contains the box lid, a few candles, and the roaches and toss it as far out the window as I can. Bad, bad neighbor. It falls for a surprisingly long time, bag whistling and fluttering, and then thuds as it lands somewhere in a yard below. I look at the remaining candles and matches on my table, poke and prod them and then toss everything into my trash and run downstairs and down the block to the dumpster.
I feel like a terrible neighbor, but I just can’t stand the thought of roaches in my spic and span, immaculate apartment. I will never buy anything from that shop again. I will have to remember to buy more candles, but know I won’t buy anything in a box. I will sit in the dark if necessary, basking in the light of my electronics, before I bring any more roach candles into my home.