This week’s episode is transcribed from my archive of handwritten notebooks.
A Modest Proposal
Istanbul, Turkey; February 2013
The rock is special. I found it at Wadi Rum when I was camped alone on a sand dune in the middle of nowhere. It sparkled in the setting sun and grabbed a hold of my attention. Its crystal structure bent sunlight into all the colors of the rainbow. It looked, quite literally, like a droplet from heaven. I even thought it might be a diamond. But now I’m not so sure. In the plain light of day and the harsh glow of fluorescent light, the stone does not look so magical. It’s still nice and all, but I have my doubts. It might be technically worthless.
Nevertheless, my plan is to give it to Ms. B.. Ideally, the presentation of the rock should be both dramatic and romantic so that she remembers the experience for the rest of her life. A spontaneous overflow of emotion would be nice. Perhaps even some tears of joy. I’m hoping to push the metaphor of our love story long into the future and the rock giving game as a symbol of commitment is a human tradition that goes way way back into the past. The modern world has, of course, spoiled the narrative with crass commercialization, sentimental clichés and legally binding contracts but the underlying story is still a good one. Two individuals decide to become a single unit… a couple… a family. It’s a radical move. It’s an optimistic bet on the future of the world. The giving and accepting of the rock is the moment of destiny; the climax of the love story. It is the moment when the happily ever after begins…
Welcome to Istanbul! There is a convenient metro station below ground at the airport. It is cheap and efficient so that is the route we take into the city center. Ms. B. is exhausted after 20 hours of travel time from New York via Amsterdam. Dinner time now in Istanbul is breakfast time in New York and poor Ms. B. has been up all night. I, however, am as chipper as cricket in a field of flowering clover. It was a short two hour hop to get here from Amman, Jordan and I had a good night sleep and a healthy breakfast. I was also here in Istanbul a couple of months ago so I know my way around a little.
The metro journey to the Sultanhamet neighborhood takes a bout 45 minutes total. We have to switch from tram to train about halfway there. On the train we have seats. Ms. B. leans into me and rests here head on my shoulder as we exchange a few words but the train is crowded and the scene is not appropriate for much conversation. She nods in and out of consciousness as we communicate non-verbally. Ten thousand miles from my apartment on a subway in a foreign city but with Ms. B. asleep on my shoulder, I feel right at home. After we switch to the tram, however, we no longer have seats. It’s very crowded and we are lucky to find space to lean our backpacks against a center pole. We hold on with one hand each as the tram rumbles slowly through the busy city. Ms. B. keeps blinking her eyes open. She looks dead on her feet… like she might collapse. I look around at the many passengers on the crowded tram car. Ms. B. and I are both rather blonde and we definitely stand out amid the dark haired, olive skinned locals. Nevertheless, there is no sense of stress, discomfort or anxiety. The other passengers pay us little mind. Tourists with backpacks on their way to Sultanhamet is a fairly common sight on this tram.