Izmir HTML version
canned goods through shyster entrepreneurs. Turkish law prohibited US military
investigators from operating in the country and although the traffic was
officially illegal, only the most inept Turkish detective failed to show a pack
of Marlboros in his shirt pocket.
Isabel thought of Jamel and Shamikas apartment upstairs - A shrine to the black
market, they called it; a stunning place of handmade white leather sofas and
chairs, rose quartz tables, breathtaking oriental carpets: Sarouks, Milas and
Isfahans, with embroidered kilim covered cushions everywhere. Not bad for an
Army two-striper, Jamel would say when Barney and Isabel visited.
Not bad at all: Jamel’s Public Defender and his Army recruiter back home in
burn-out Brooklyn had managed to have certain misdemeanor charges against him
go unprosecuted, allowing him to enter the military. Shamika was pregnant with
their first child, Marisa, then and he kept his promise to marry her, take her
out of her unheated tenement room and bring her to his first permanent
assignment. Jamel said they looked so shabby and scared, going through Istanbul
airport, that even the beggars looked away, embarassed.
“Look at us now, though!” Jamel could rightly brag. Because after about only six
months of Brooklyn-style merchandising and socializing with the “fellas”; cadging
and boosting ration cards from nonsmokers and nondrinkers, both of them hustling.
Jamel and Shamika had made themselves a power name in Izmir. Normally, junior
enlisted families found quarters in far less glamorous apartment buildings, but
the two had the money and the ambition for the best. Normally, the Turkish
Generals and other old families would not
have tolerated their social class in the building, but word quickly went around
that Jamel and Shamika were Muslims. The Turks took pride and pleasure in their
presence then; and they were Muslims, at least technically; Jamels Dad had been a
firebreather Black Muslim but his children had fallen away soon as they reached
their teens. Jamel had remained a “Social Muslim” never foreseeing that someday
that might be an advantage. Shamika followed her husband, lovingly, but tended to
backslide to Baptist sometimes...
They were the only known American Muslims in the US colony in Izmir and the Turks
looked after them like pet cats, helped them shop the bazaars,fed them bits of
Turkish and temple Arabic, and showed them off - in cabarets, at their homes, at
the Mosques... The Americans, including Jamel’s Commanding Officer, treated them
with cautious "Sensitivity".
On their way out of the apartment building Isabel reminded Barney of their
supper date at Jamel and Shamikas in the evening. They’d wear their new caftans-
Jamel and Shamika relaxed in long slinky-looking caftan-gowns all the time, while
they had sat around looking like the Mertzes...
They had learned so much from those two. Learned how blank their own years of
living in institutions had left them. Learned about high emotions, watching them
argue so heatedly that Barney and Isabel thought the floor would split open
beneath them. Then, amazingly, Shamika would approach Jamel, he still silent and
pouting - touch his arm and say:
“ Ummm, ain’ had nuthin...”
“Let me get you sumthin’...” And it would be over. They would step in to each
other. The meal would be superb, with plenty for all of them. Barney and Isabel
had never seen that kind of anger or love or much of anything else in their
orphanage and college cocoons. They had dealt with each other and the world on
the surface, jokingly, always imitating, always working to learn the rules and
abide by them.
They had gone about their lovemaking like happy rabbits - and their sessions
had’nt lasted much longer, until Jamel, big brother patient smile on his
noble-looking mahogany face, briefed Barney on the rudiments of foreplay, delay
and afterplay. Barney taught Isabel and she ran out and proclaimed him a God
-from the balcony - knowing Izmir would’nt hear or care.
Shamika let them in; her pretty, pecan-colored face bright and welcoming. A peach
colored caftan clung to her tall lean shape as she oohhed Barnibels new look.
(Jamel had contracted their names into ’ Barnibel’ and it grew
.3 into their nickname.) The room was immaculate and plush; Shamikas maid was one