One More Step
by Iclal Akcay

You see, my stories are the same. I don’t fall in love at first sight. I barely noticed him hanging around most of the evening. I don’t know when exactly he came into the frame. A secret current moving underneath through a gesture or utterance, perhaps. Then I’d feel it coming, getting pulled into the game. He sits there in a corner with others. I found myself on a chair next to him within a moment, without recalling the steps I must have taken. I hear my own voice, wondering who asked the questions that he was quietly answering. Am I there at all, while all this happening? He wants to dance. I say, “no”. Why? Then he stands up to leave, taking my body with him, which I realise only when I find myself in the empty space he left behind.

Last Monday I developed a way to recover from pain. When I felt it coming, I lay down on the floor, hands at my side, eyes wide open, staring at the ceiling. And you think this is the way? A big “No, no!” I kept lying there, the pain on top, arresting my arms, my chest… invading my body to the point of paralysis so that I might have been dragged to a rehab. I felt the Tibetan wool carpet getting cold underneath. Right then, tears came without warning, as a temporary saviour, wheeling me into the ambulance of sleep.

The same current that brought me to him, pulls me up. I go dancing, surprising everyone with this sudden burst of energy, having sulked the entire evening. But my friends obey cheerfully without asking.

When a sting in my tummy woke me up, I knew this would forecast a dark day in the history of rain. I had to do things and being in pain is not considered an excuse for not paying your bills or missing appointments. The sky was just as gray as yesterday and the people as harsh as any other. At the City Hall, knowing a sad look isn’t going to move the lady in the application booth, I put on a blank face while she pointed at my mistakes on the form, oblivious to my struggle. I changed the words as she instructed me.

We are leaving now. Moving in a herd to say our goodbyes to the other group where he also stands, being engaged in chitchat. I meet his eyes without looking at his face and turn to smile at him as he makes a compliment to a dangling earring on my left ear. He asks me to stay to dance. I say no again.

After filling in the forms, I cycled to one of my favourite, anonymous chain cafes where I could sit by the window and watch people passing by.

We’re moving near the lift for the exit. Barely leaning against a couch in the hall, I can feel his attention following me. Talking to a girlfriend something raises in my chest, seeing him coming to talk to us. She leaves to look for others. We’re alone for a moment. He pulls my hand to go dancing with him. I simply obey him this time. There, on the crowded dance floor, we’re moving in our own rhythm, falling into each others arms, faces brushing one another. Smiling with our eyes, he softly touches my lips.

Haarlemmeerstraat proved to be impossible for cigarettes. But the beginning of trashy Kalverstraat worked. I asked for a menthol Vogue and also asked the shop owner to light the first one, one of my first in three years. One is nothing with menthol, an immediate second followed, lit with the fire of the first one. With my head fuzzy, lagging behind the wet and cold cyclists in early dark woke me up, I went straight to my old apartment to pick up the post, which I had neglected for weeks.

Out on the street, still not knowing how to deal with this sudden romance, I remain distant. We get our bikes and cycle the same direction. I leave him, after a soft kiss at an intersection, to go home.

While waiting for the door to open in the entrance of this red brick prism, some familiar face kindly invited me in, and insisted when I resisted. I went into the lift with him, diving into an unusually long, friendly conversation about the cold. And suddenly, under the stripping bright light of the elevator, he burst into tears, the first instant followed with sobbing. We were at his floor already, I stepped out automatically to help soothing his agony, his standing two feet taller than me. His boyfriend, Theo said among a stream of tears and that definition comforted me, has broken up with him, ordered him to leave. In the face of this unexpected drama, having almost recovered from my own, I gave my word that everything would eventually be fine. I gave him a hug and in between other words, another one, trying, and with a smile widening on his face, finally breaking through his wall of hopelessness.

Almost a week now and not a word from him. This lack of contact defines the days. Sometime later, when I’m done with his pain, and I know I will be, he’ll show up. I might try to get him back, send him messages, travel distances, try whatever it takes.

I called Theo as I’ve promised. His voice was cracking but he managed to put a few words together despite an obvious struggle to reassure me that he would be able to move on. His boyfriend was in Paris he said, probably to meet his new lover, which explained his frequent trips in the past few months that he claimed were for business. By the time he’d be back, within a week, Theo should be gone from their place. “Where would I go?”, he was asking, “where would I go?”. Although considering whether I could take him in for a split of a second, I said: “You’ll find a solution, please try concentrating on who you are and calm down.” When I left him in the middle of his crisis, I felt stronger, finally. I had things to do.

He’ll come back. Some day. Like all the others did. He’ll finally be ready to open up. Then maybe he’ll write to me, send messages, travel distances. But whatever he’d do then, would be like throwing a stone into the void, falling weightlessly, echoing as it struck the walls of an endless, bottomless chasm.