by Mac S. Pope
Before dawn, before the first yearning wails from the muezzins high up in slender
towers all around Izmir; before first light Barney and Isabel walked, bundled
together, from their bed, outside on to the wide, cool, marble floor of their
apartment balcony. At that hour they were still naked although she’d wrapped
herself in the top sheet and he had pulled the blanket around himself.
They went out every morning into the clear air under diamond stars, to smell
Izmir: the great ovens of the city’s factory bakeries were at high production
then and filled the air with sweet, milky, yeasty odors of browning bread and
rolls. Izmir and all of Turkey was peaceful under a white moon still as a hanging
ball. Always at that hour the air was balmy and sensual as light ether, the views
spectacular- from the dimly lit boats bobbing on the navy blue glittering wash of
open bay below them, to the palm-lined streets that radiate up from the bay, past
their building, on upwards to the hills overlooking Izmir- those hills crowned by
Kadife-Kale, the ancient “Castle of Cushions”- the crumbling walls of Alexander
the Great’s summer palace.
Isabel spoke the first words of the day as they embraced leaning against the
balcony’s low wall: “Dahlin, time for you to get dressed and go get us a warm
loaf. I’ll have the coffee ready and the peanut butter and jelly 'n some orange
juice...” Her smiling, untanned face glowed irridescent blue under moonglow,
she was hard to leave. “ How about dates and sweet olives, hunny?” Barney asked,
still kissing her.
“Those too.” she said, kissing him back
“We’ll eat on the veranda, okay?”
“Out here on the terrace, dahlin ”
“I’ll get some fresh yogurt too, babaganush, ...” He broke off the kiss.
“Umm, whatever.” Isabel said as he padded off.
“I guess I’m lucky!” she smiled to herself walking into the kitchen, “No woman,
except ’Blondie,’ in the comics, gets called ’Darling’ these days. She recalled
they started calling each other ’dahlin’ and ’hunny’ the same day they had met
Jamal and Shamika, the young African American couple who lived in the apartment
above theirs. Before them that kind of lovey talk would have seemed goofy, but
after watching those two clutch and merge on impulse whenever they came near one
another, after hearing Jamal call Shamika sugary names in his Barry White low
register voice and hearing her feminine high, southern-sexy responses both Barney
and Isabel came away believing that after a whole year of marriage they were
looking on real human love for the first time. They had decided to copy Jamel and
Shamika whole. Before that they had modelled themselves on two characters in a
1930’s movie, sporting around in tuxedo and a silk dress. “I think we started our
bogus lifestyle with that movie” she thought as she measured coffee grounds. “But
don’t knock bogus” she warned herself; “bogus got us where we wanted to go, so
far.” she balled her fists for emphasis. “bogus got us diplomatic status, Izmir,
incredible salaries, class careers,- prestige up the ass! Bogus is good, she said
seriously; it brought us our best friends, Jamel and Shamika - and they say
they’re at least as bogus as we are!” She chuckled, thinking about their stories
Both Barney and Isabel had been raised in orphanages; She in New York, He in
Columbus, Ohio. They had been ordinary looking, introspective children, not
exactly what Mr and Mrs America were looking to adopt, so few of the prospective
adopters paid them much attention. Approaching their early teens they each
decided to abandon Happy Family ideas and concentrate on their daydreams.
They met by coincidence. Their orphanages had sent them to a joint college prep
program for poor kids with decent I.Q.’s. The both of them had scored
near-genius on paper and suddenly they were hot property. That drew them together
to joke about the stupid irony of the whole thing.