- Istanbul Nocturne: Three AM, Maybe Four
Click for larger view
View full resolution
[End Page 122]
1. The young woman is sleeping.
2. Or, more exactly, the slim, even willowy young woman is sleeping beside a man named Kincaid there in the Grand Hotel de Londres in Beyoğlu, Room 505.
3. In her sleep, the naked woman’s hands are crossed atop her breasts; her long blond hair lies spread out almost like flames on the pillow. The naked man is on his side facing away from her, legs cocked at the knee as if running in a dream [End Page 123] of his own in the milky illumination of the full moon pouring through the single floor-length French window, left slightly ajar.
The glass is so old it has distortions, the gold drapes on either side of the window’s twin doors are stiller than still (her sister Elizabeth), and while this room on the top floor of the once elegant old hotel does open out to the night, overlooking some lumpy tile rooftops below and then the black waters of the wide Golden Horn and the silhouettes of the spired minarets of the many mosques of the Old City on the hills across the way (her sister’s name was Elizabeth), there is not so much as the suggestion of a breeze now in surprisingly warm October.
4. The Grand Hotel de Londres is in what sometimes is called the European District of the city, Beyoğlu. It is appellation left over from a time when the opulent villa-style foreign embassies behind their tall black lattice gates lined the nearby main shopping street, İstaklal Caddesi, and when a hotel of this sort, a white carved-stone baroque edifice, maybe actually was quite grand, a favorite of those who arrived with their piles of bags and trunks on the gleaming Orient Express back in what was definitely another era. But today the place is shabbily genteel, at best. The once rich red-and-blue Oriental carpets in the sizable lobby with its chandeliers and lumpy silk-brocade sofas are faded and worn; the wide marble staircase leading to the five floors and the walk-ways for the repeated dark-wood doors of the rooms, all high-ceilinged yet small, seems altogether too white amid the surrounding tarnished brass and framed, very old sepia photographs of the city’s usual tourist sites—the crenellated Old Walls built by the Byzantine rulers, the rise of the sultans’ palace, Topkapi, on wooded Seraglio Point, the seemingly swallowing Covered Bazaar and its labyrinthine ways, showing horse wagons and workers in turbans assembled out front and staring thoroughly dazed at the camera—yes, the white marble of that central staircase only emphasizes the rather worn-out surroundings and how the place has indeed seen much better days. (Back in New York she should have remained firm in her resolve, never even answered his pleading phone calls and let him convince her to change her mind and simply use one of his credit cards, charge the first-class ticket and join him here, and she should have been brave about it and told him again, as she did when they had argued before he left, that it all had gotten too crazy, it all had to stop sometime, their meaningless travel and travel and more travel still on his father’s never-ending money.) In an alcove with easy chairs [End Page 124] arranged around low coffee tables, at the lobby’s front extremity, there is an antique bird cage, a gilded thing, and within it a neon-green cockatoo sprouting a helmet of scarlet plumage. The many French businessmen who stay at the Grand Hotel de Londres never fail to try to coax it into talk whenever they pass, smiling maybe the way only French businessmen can at how delighted they are when the parrot repeats its one line, “Hello, hello, hello, hello.”
But now in what is very much so the middle of the night the parrot is silent, of course.
5. Which is to say at this hour and in the complete stillness the parrot, but...