(For Part VII click here)
When Sylvia and Karga came back to the party, Madison had already discovered the beauty of raki – talk and food and more talk and more food and … until everyone was either eating or speaking. Plates of melon and feta, fava beans with garlic, Kofte meatballs laced with pistachios, chestnuts, tangerines, Pide bread with olive oil, and paper-thin pastry filled with meat and onions. These were the tastes of the exotic Ottoman east since the days of the caravans. The sights and smells and touch of sun-bright courtyards, mosaic-blue corridors, canopied pavilions and the beaded, curtained harem. And the music wove through the air like erotic threads, searching for a tapestry that was just beyond hearing. Sylvia remembered this – all of this — as if she’d fallen asleep for a few minutes and dreamed a whole different lifetime. As if she were an amnesiac coming out of a coma. As if … and she saw Madison, bright-eyed and oh-so-young, listening to an attentive young man explaining it all to her. And she smiled, remembering her own young men – persistent and gallant. She tucked her arm into Karga’s.
“Come dance with me.” She said.
At first, nobody noticed. The music was low and slow, and Sylvia and Karga were alone by the windows. Then a couple of people saw them and caught the attention of a few others, and there was a drum beat rhythm, and soon conversations began to fade. And then there was a singer, a single female voice that swayed into the music like a thread of silver. Sylvia moved her hips as if she was born to be there, her palms low and open and inviting, and Karga matched her movement, following her with his shoulders, his arms out so she could not escape. And the lights of the city night behind them were shivering neon stars that surrounded them until they became lost celestial beings, alone in the heavens – dancing their eternities – but unable to touch.
It was the most sexual, sensual thing Madison had ever seen. She could feel the deep, desperate ache of love. The need of it, the want of it, the satin tightness in her stomach, the whisper hairs on the back of her neck and the humid velvet ….
“Oh. My. God! That’s grandma!” Madison said out loud.
“Sahin,” replied Madison’s attentive young man, helpfully.
“It’s the song.”
Madison looked blank.
“The song,” he gestured to the music.
“They wrote it for her. I’ll tell you. It’s the story of a great Sultan who had a beautiful falcon, and they would hunt together in the summer mountains. And he would feed her from his fist, and no other bird was as fearless as she was. But one day, the falcon was taken from him, and his anger flared so fiercely it burned the clouds and scorched the sky. But nothing he could do would bring her back to him. So, over the years, his sadness grew, his tears filled the sea and no one ever saw him smile again. Finally, he went back to the summer mountains to sit in the evening sun and wait for his falcon to return — because he knew, if she could, she would come back to him.”
And as Cenk (the attentive young man) told Madison the story, the music stopped and there were cheers and clapping, and then someone said “Tarkan!” and before Madison knew it, Cenk had pulled her out on the dance floor. And she looked across and saw Sylvia, holding her dress up with one hand, her knees bent, her hips moving and her other hand waving in the air.
And they danced, and they drank, and they ate, and they talked. Madison heard the story of the time Mehmet fell off the East Wall, running from the police …
“Two broken legs, and six months on crutches, but I can still dance.”
And he jumped up to prove it.
And the one about Sahin’s sailing ship that the Russians blew up in the harbour because they couldn’t catch it on the high seas.
And they ate some more and …
“Don’t eat that one, Maddy: it’s liver.”
“No. More water, or I won’t be able to walk out of here.”
And then there was the night they dressed up in stolen uniforms and raided the American airbase. Three truckloads of Johnny Walker whiskey, sold to the Soviet’s 14th Guards Army of the Ukraine – for American dollars – and they all laughed and laughed.
At some point, Karga took his son Taavi aside and talked to him earnestly for several minutes. Taavi left the party, and Karga came back to the table. He leaned close to Sylvia’s ear and whispered.
“Sahinim, we can do this thing.”
Sylvia smiled and crinkled her eyes. It was a sparkle that Madison was getting used to.