by Marcus Slease
Last January I slept with two pairs of socks. The snow really came down. There are always wild dogs howling in the nearby forest. I was attacked by six of them on my first day here. Two of them were Anatolian shepherds. Of the ancient clans used for hunting wolves. I was listening to a Zen lecture on my iPod when they attacked. I thought by remaining serene and calm they would leave me alone but that only seemed to egg them on. I turned my back on them and walked across the road. That’s when they attacked. One of them jumped up out of the blue and sunk its teeth into my thigh. My calmness during the attack did not stop the attack. It happened regardless. A policeman came by on his motorcycle. I am not sure what would have happened otherwise. I was taken to a clinic even though I insisted I had my class to teach. I think I was in shock, but I thought I was being stoic. The clinic didn’t have any rabies injections so I took a taxi to a public hospital. The public hospitals were swarming with people. Like lost bees. This was a different part of the city. The women were mostly covered and the men were mostly old. The signs were not in English and it was a real labyrinth inside. A few weeks later I got a Facebook message that my grandfather had died. I grew up with my grandfather. His father was a gardener and he was a gardener too. Tending the rich Anglo-Irish gardens. My grandfather clipped his hedges, grew roses, and kept budgies. When I visited him in Northern Ireland, he was always watching some gardening show or other. One night when my grandmother had retired to bed, he confessed to watching Baywatch and wanted to know if women in America really looked like that. I couldn’t make it to his funeral. After I got the news, I went into the small room. The one with the narrow bed and no clothes in the wardrobe. One of the perks of teaching at university was an almost-free, two-bedroom flat. Furnished to Western standards. Which meant that the smell was bearable, the plumbing mostly worked and we were walled off from the rest of the city on a hill. I sat in the room with only a bed and tried to listen to the silence. I thought I was being spiritual and brave. There was no use in causing a ruckus. Just take things as they come. I was getting severe sweats. I thought it might have been bad meat. Later someone told me it was the vegetables. One advised me to wash them in vinegar. Washing them in treated water wasn’t enough. The natives are born with some kind of bacteria in their intestines and are immune. The Western teachers were always having stomach problems. A few days later Bedia brought me a Turkish rug. It wasn’t an expensive one. It was the kind you see hanging on walls near the castle where you had to haggle. I didn’t care if it was expensive or not. It added a nice touch to the place. Bedia held my hand in the kitchen and showed me how to make Turkish tea. There is one big kettle and one small one. One sits on top of the other. The big one is filled with water. The little one is warmed by the big one and has the black tea. The big one boils the water and the boiling water is poured into the little one. You have to wait fifteen minutes or so for it to brew. We drank it in little glass cups without the sugar. Bedia also helps the man across the street with his street stall. They make toasties together. When REAL shopping is closed I grab sandwiches from the stall. I had to visit three hospitals in the city to find the one that gave rabies injections. Four doses over the course of a month. I have to take a bus into the city. There are no trains. Everyone takes a bus. The buses, or rather the coaches, are luxurious. Like a small aircraft. A man or woman walks up and down and gives you drinks and small packages of fıstık. There is a television screen in front of you, pinned to the back of the person’s chair in front. At the front of the buses they are usually streaming ads about marriages. The faces of eligible bachelors from all over Turkey blink on and off on the big screen.