It was two years ago..I’d left early the firm where I worked as a designer at off days of school, it was around 5 o’clock if I’m not mistaken. I got on the tram at Merter Tekstil Kent stop, the tram and stop was quiet as the rush hour hadn’t begun. I sat on the corridor side of the spot separated with a glass cover at the entrance of the left door.
After staring vacantly around for a few minutes, I took my book off my bag and started to read it. With the crowd getting on at Zeytinburnu stop, first the empty spots and then in front of the door were filled with people.
I lifted my head on impulse with the question “How can we go to Üsküdar?”. Two people aged around 20-21 were asking an old man the way. While the man was telling the shorter one how they can go, I realized the knives at both of their back pockets.
It first grabbed my attention, then I decided to return to my book. After a while, I lifted my head again with someone saying out loud “Don’t block my view!” The youngster who asked for the way had said that while he was telling the others what he learned from the old man.
He was saying this while looking at three young girls whom I thought that they got on at Zeytinburnu stop. The other guy turned his head towards the girls too and they started to look them as a cat staring at a bird on street. The girls had become uneasy due to how they look and talk about them.
I dropped my book and started to watch the two men, they were slowly walking towards the girls and closing the gap. The three girls had come closer to each other and were stuck in the triangle area of the glass cover.
I put the book in my bag. I hung my bag on my chest, stood between the men and the girls and started to stare at their faces. (I always hang my bag on my chest when I get on tram but this time, my intention was to protect my body in case they would draw their knives. I’d fallen from Cortazar’s magical realism to City of God).
I’ve seen threatening looks through my life but I’d encountered such a look for the first time in my life. They were looking at me like predators looking their preys are slipping through their fingers and those knives would come out if the tram was a bit empty. It wasn’t merely my impression, they were revealing their intentions with the way they look.
The nervous trip continues, uninterrupted staring goes on, and the trip was feeling longer. The girls got off the tram at Topkapı stop with the crowd. Even our spot got emptier, we kept our distance without losing the eye contact. I got off when we reached Fındıkzade.
That day and the following couple of days, I thought about that weird trip. I’d come across many incidents such as vulgarism, vandalism, harassment, fighting, which are accepted now as part of daily life, but why was this incident bugging my mind?
Two youngster had come to a city which they don’t know but they didn’t come here for touristic or business purposes. They were seeing here as a new place where they could comfortably harass the women and stab people who would oppose them.
I’d started to see this new species for the last two-three years. When I was trying to understand why this is happening, I think I found the answer. I had to check the metalanguage again…
It was a year ago; this time, the destination was Tophane. As I figured out over the years which coach of the tram would be full at which station, I got on the first coach. It was not very crowded and I headed towards the corridor behind the cabeen of the tram driver, which is usually the most quiet part of the tram. (Additional information: This corridor is the coolest part of the tram. It is good in summer, but not recommended in winter.)
At Aksaray station, an Arab woman got on the tram, pushing a baby carriage. She positioned the carriage across the entrance door in a way that would not hinder the entry or exit of the passengers and stood beside the carriage. She was a relatively fat woman. All of a sudden, someone who was sitting on the seat in front of her and whose face I could not see because his back was turned began grumbling loudly: “They eat away and screw around! They resemble pigs because of screwing. They have invaded everywhere and they are still reproducing.”
I don’t know if the woman sensed that the man was addressing her, but she looked at him. I also don’t know if the man was disturbed by her look or encouraged by it, but he continued his grumblings full of swear words in a voice getting louder and louder: “You should fuck them so hard that they cannot come here again…”
Nobody said anything to the man, who was experiencing a self-confidence rush and taking a great sexual pleasure at the same time. They were listening to the insults not directed to themselves in a quiet as if they were listening to the sermons of an imam. Or they were keeping silent in order to stay out of trouble. I interrupted the lustful speech of the man by saying, “Keep your opinions to yourself, do not make a live broadcast out of them here!”
He turned around and looked at me with sparkles coming out of his eyes. I knew this look from one year ago. This time, not like a creature that made his prey run, but like a creature that did not let him play with the prey he had caught...
Then, a woman who was sitting at the other end of the corridor intervened by saying, “Yes, stop behaving rudely.” With a number of other critical voices raised, the man stopped speaking. When I was about to get off in Beyazıt, he looked at me with the same feeling and I looked at him with the same feeling as well...
It was a month ago; I got on the tram at Haseki station to go to school, the tram was very crowded. Seeing that I could not go any further than the middle part of the coach, I stood there. Two women who were speaking Russian and got on the tram at the same station found themselves a place on my left; my face was turned towards them. A man, who also got on the tram at the same station with us, stood beside them.
The face of the man was turned towards me. Though everyone was close to each other, it was still a closeness where somebody touching another can be suspected of doing it more out of bad intention than out of absent-mindedness. All of a sudden, the woman, whom the man stood next to and who was talking to the other woman, turned her head to the right, then below and looked at the man standing next to her. He was looking at the screen on the tram with a blank face.
Then, I looked at the hand of the man. He was holding a bottle of water. I started to watch the movements of his hand. The moment he found the favorable swing in his opinion, he was touching the leg of the woman with the upper part of his hand, which he thought he could camouflage with the bottle of water. The woman looked at the man one more time, she either thought that he touched her by mistake because of the bottle of water in his hand or she could not say anything because she could not speak Turkish.
Seeing that the man would make the same move again, I looked at him in the eye and said, “Don’t do it!” He answered, “What am I doing?” and looked blankly at me, getting a bit stubborn at the same time.
“I know what you are doing, do not ever do that again!”
That blank look in his eyes gave way to the look that I saw two years ago; in his eyes, there was not a shame or a feeling resembling an acceptance of the situation upon being caught red handed. He was again looking like a creature which caused his prey to slip through his fingers… And if it was again on a desolate street…
I got off at Cevizlibağ station. This time, I did not think over it too much.
Because, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was both an age of reason and an age of stupidity, it was both a period of belief and a period of suspicion, it was the season of enlightenment, it was both the spring of hope and the winter of hopelessness, we both have everything and have nothing, we will either go directly to heaven or to the other direction…”* (TY/ŞA/APA/TK/SD)
52 MEN 52 WEEKS
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