Thoughts By Streetlight

Sometimes I feel warm and safe. The atmosphere envelops me and mysteries and dangers seem only theoretical. Nothing is psychically haunting. But I cannot maintain this state, and I come upon a cold exposure. It can be several things. Like when I’m moving through a foreign city, glimpse the expansive territory, the highway that is a lifeline, and think how everyone in this world is so alone in so many ways. Or travelling from airport to airport, the big air-conditioned infrastructure the same the world over, and then the earth begins to feel like a locked, eternal landscape… and we are the trapped seekers.

The slanting sun came down over the long, shrub-covered slopes. The greens and browns appeared rich and fresh in the cool yellow light and the shadow of the broad hill at town’s edge. We passed small farms in valley after valley, wide expansive valleys between the blue Turkish hills. At one point we passed an unbelievable cloud symbol with sunrays shooting off in layers.

A little girl standing on the seat in front of mine gave an unusual impression of maturity—something dignified and adult-like about her already, which made me feel that she will be a great woman one day. In front of her was a girl who was just about perfect looking. Her boyfriend devotedly expressed his love for her through mouthed words and hand signals as he saw her off. There was a preponderance of emotional farewells for this bus. A woman stood crying, chin up and mouth agape, transfixed on her loved one inside. Her two children cried and tugged at her. The daughter even reached up and wiped her tears away, and the mother stood red-nosed with grief.

As it grew dark, the shadow trees covered and uncovered a myriad lights. It began to rain, and lightning cracked and cracked beyond the hills, revealing the sky was purple in actuality, not black. Then a violent bolt struck the visible hillside.

It is natural that life and death are the matters that came to mind. What is really going on over this dark, wet earth? All the striking contradictions rattled through me: How life is so brief, yet an inescapable eternity as it’s lived. And how wonderful a treasure is our civilization, which is headed nowhere but extinction. And it’s as if the universe was boldly saying: “You will never understand me!” And the dark, wet world is so mysterious and painful that at times I almost wish it never was.

The lightning strikes grew oftener on both sides of the road, and the man beside me started speaking. I had my headphones on. I told him I don’t speak Turkish, but he continued on as if I understood. He made a gesture to my headphones, nodded up ahead: “You shouldn’t be wearing those—we’re in the center of the storm.” Another scare shot through me, though I didn’t believe in the hazard. The man kept flipping his prayer beads. Meanwhile, the passengers watched a comedy featuring a man in Indian headdress and another dressed as a cowboy, as the storm enclosed around us.

Beyond the eventual bend was Izmir. The station was a gloppy drizzle. The hotel was dim with pink marble and unfinished walls.

N Astraeus

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