Kirsten Slept Here: Part One, Otel Büyük Erşan, Ankara, Turkey

h. A paper hand towel. She plunged into coma sleep. Her day ended.
Her day began, as it usually did, at the Refah Apartments. Her roommate was away. His friend, who taught English in Konya, was on the couch in his boxers. Kirsten drank her coffee and left for school. She walked to Moka for her 2-poğaça (1) breakfast. She caught the service bus. She was hung over.
The door to their top floor apartment in the Refah building had a security gate. Kirsten didn’t have a key for it. Her roommate never locked it. One or both of them were usually home.
She had two keys: one to the building and one to the apartment.
It was dark when she returned from school that night. She hiked up 4 flights and hit the landing. She looked up. The security gate was closed. She tried it. Instant fear sweat.
Friend from Konya had three keys.
In her stomach, a 2-poğaça breakfast. Coffee. A lake of Turkish tea. That was what she had to work with. No cell phone. She ran down the stairs.
Why didn’t she walk up the street to see if Aykan was home? Well, she didn’t.
Otel Büyük Erşan occurred to her.
During the day, the Erşan patio was wall-to-wall Iranians drinking tea in the shade of the biggest tree on the street. She could picture it. She followed the idea of it, all the way around Koca Tepe (2) and down Selanik 2 Caddesi (3). Sweating. Maybe cursing.
On the patio, a lone man. Smoking.
What did they think at the front desk when she arrived with just enough Lira for one night? And asked for it in good Turkish?
They gave her a key anyway. The fob weighed more than the contents of her pockets plus her boots.
The lobby was dim, the carpet lumpy. All around her, the tang of ashtrays. She had the sense to avoid the elevator and squinted her way around the electric boot brush and up the stairs to her room.
It was the kind of a hotel you might find yourself in after a black out. A hotel that you could only wake up in with regret. Or seized with the fear that you had behaved terribly and somehow deserved–this.
Although she was no longer hung over, she had no recollection of doing anything but falling into bed. She probably wedged a chair under the doorknob and slept in her clothes. It was that kind of a place.
The next morning, she ran out of the Büyük Erşan without caffeine or breakfast. She jog-walked to Seyranbağlar and was home in 10 minutes. The security gate was open. Her roommate was up and smoking on the balcony. He was surprised to learn she had no key and found the whole scenario amusing. He offered to make coffee.
He didn’t apologize. They did not have that kind of a relationship.
The kind of a relationship they had was, he cleaned the kitchen once a week and offered to pick up Efes Xtra (yüksek alkollu bira) (4) on his way home from work. In return, she didn’t touch his whisky. She allowed his friend from Konya to spend the weekend.
They had an understanding.
There may have been no reason for her roommate to be sorry, but Kirsten was angry. She didn’t even like the friend from Konya and resented the way he sat around in boxers in their living room. As though she wasn’t there.
She looked forward to telling this man what he had done the next time he stayed over.

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(1)Poğaça: a delicious, tender pastry; one plain, one with white cheese.
(2) Literally ‘Grand Hilltop’; the largest mosque in Ankara.
(3) Selanik 2 Street.
(4) Fortified beer.

Kirsten Voris is a featured in the anthology, Expat Sofra: Culinary Tales of Foreign Women in Turkey (Alfa). Her essays that aren’t about Turkey have appeared in Sonora Review, Hippocampus, The Knicknackery, and Superstition Review. She tweets @bubbleate.

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