- May It Come Easy
Then one morning, four months after James first slept with her, Damla was at his apartment. He knew immediately something was wrong. She visited only for scheduled lessons.
"I am missing," she said, when he opened the door. She stood in her full-length raincoat and headscarf, studied his face for a reaction. She didn't seem afraid of anyone overhearing her—no one spoke English in Ağrı.
It took James a moment to understand. She had meant to say "late." He thought about the panicked aftermath of that first time, about hurriedly destroying the evidence that they'd slept together, that he'd been her first, burning the bloody bedsheets in the dumpster behind his building as soon as she'd left, terrified her uncle might discover them during one of his impromptu visits. Mohammed was the vice rector of the university James worked for and looked after James as though he were family. He loved tidying up the apartment whenever he stopped by, letting himself in when James wasn't home. He had his own key to the place, which the university owned.
"For how long?" James asked.
Damla looked at her shoes. "Eight days."
He motioned her into the living room, where they sat on the stiff couch. "It's early still," he said, worried she could sense his fear.
"This is new," she said, with the same seriousness she demonstrated when discussing grammar.
"I could buy a test," he said, thinking about the pharmacy in the center of town.
She sighed, and he understood. The American in Ağrı buying a pregnancy test. The rumors that would spread.
"Did you tell your uncle?"
She shook her head.
He exhaled. That was good. She hadn't told Mohammed. He ran [End Page 8] his fingers under her headscarf, pushed it off her, undid her tight bun so that her hair, dark and smooth, flowed onto her shoulders and over her back. She took his hands, pulled them away from her hair and onto her lap. It was hard for James to tell how she felt, his hands in hers, her nails a light and airy blue. The color stuck out against her drab outfit.
"I'll think of something," James said, standing. "Expect a plan."
Damla smiled slighty, nodded once with that same studied seriousness. "OK," she said. "Thanks." She rocked forward slightly, and stood. James guided her toward the door, where she adjusted her hair and retied her headscarf. A deep relief rose in him. She hadn't cried, he hadn't needed to console her. When she finished, he took both of her hands, looked down at her nails. "Pretty," he said.
He walked her down the stairs to the entryway, just like he did after each lesson. It was important to keep up appearances. He felt odd, as though he was watching the moment play itself out from far away. "There are many things we can do," he said, opening the door onto the street. "Let's talk when we meet for your next lesson."
Damla nodded. She seemed just as eager as James to end the conversation.
He stood, watching her walk until she disappeared down the street, then went back upstairs, into his apartment, and bought a plane ticket home.
The following morning James was at Mohammed's apartment building, huddled under its overhang, trying to avoid the rain, trying not to focus on the fact that Mohammed was Damla's uncle. James had found the teaching position on one of the blogs he checked whenever he felt particularly burdened by the immensity of Istanbul. He'd imagined a spare existence in a town whose name translated to pain, teaching English in the mornings, exploring the foothills of Mount Ararat in the afternoons. He met Mohammed at the Ağrı bus station, his legs stiff from the twenty-three-hour journey across Turkey. Mohammed looked as though he'd come straight from the lecture hall—hunched shoulders cloaked in a worn blazer, reading glasses slipping down his nose. Later, over several rounds of tea, he quizzed James on his hometown and...