last look

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Our story ends here. It once seemed your luminous gaze would never end, and I could have gleefully burned the rest of my days in its glare. But now, a last glimpse, over the shoulder, down the resounding hall. The marble steps a spiral. Through a window, the darkening street below stretches long in late afternoon shadow.

Little more than an awestruck boy when we met, and you, brazen and carefree, but not young. I wish I could say I changed you. That I lit you up. You did me. My mistake to think you were something real, tangible, something I could always return to, a house or a refuge. You are not so much physical reality as an idea that alters all realities. There are no others such as you. There will be no others such as you.

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The grit of you stays under my fingernails, your scent still fresh in my nostrils. The sun through the window, the drape of your hair. Still with me. Men fight in the street below. I pause on the stair. Your new lover’s footsteps ascend the staircase. I pass him often but always escape his notice. The tyrant, the bully. The two of you. A pair. I injure myself with the thought of it: your welcome, how you enfold him in your arms. He will drive you from your family and still you will keep him. I know this, but won’t say it, since I lacked the courage when it might have made a difference. He will offer cheap jewels and makeovers, but you will never be the same no matter how lavishly, how expensively he adorns you. He will pulverise your spirit, distance you from your admirers, grind the last facets of your truth to dust.

The drive to the airport. Light flashes through the plane trees. Memory: the boulevard, the high walls. Once it was dawn and the taxi whipped us down your empty streets. Only the two of us. And now I don’t miss your voice so much as the pause. That look of yours that started it all. The subsequent sticky days we slept away or laboured. Evenings, your breath cool on my neck.

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When I return neither of us will be quite the same. Might we be friends? Perhaps you’ll allow me to retrieve certain fragments left in the wake of my hasty departure … until then mutual friends and loved ones pass along news of you.

A light that withers. Shadows that chill. Goodbye, Istanbul.