Transcript 2001 - 2014

Istanbul Vice Versa

By Christos Chrissopoulos
Original language: English
Theme: Summer Shorts
Standard text | Formatted text

“The journey is always lived in recollection”

– C. Chrissopoulos, The Language Box

“What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present”
– T.S. Eliot, Number One of Four Quartets

I walked all day along the damp sidewalk with an alert mind. I was taken to places by taxi, I took the tram, I heard stories, I saw faces, I met people. I was high-strung, curious and tired. My reality was a confused matrix of starting points and destinations. I was constantly reminding myself not to forget what I saw. The city was unknown to me. I was telling myself: you have to remember this in the right order.

-/-

The loudspeakers on top of the pick-up truck were connected to a CD player. Two men were sitting on the fenders of the truck and smoked cigarettes. As the song floated over the square the children stopped playing. They gathered around the car and stared up at the big black speakers. One of the boys, about 6 years old, stepped out from the crowd of children. He was a stocky boy, with thick black hair and strong arms. He closed his eyes romantically, held his arms out as if they were around a partner and began to mimic a couple dancing. He had a slight subdued smile on his face, as if he were about to burst out laughing. The other children cheered. In the faint light the boy looked dwarfish, like an adult person imperfectly grown. Someone put a foot out and the boy tripped. He stumbled to his knees, his eyes popped out and he roared with laughter and anger. He got to his feet and lunged at the boy who had tripped him. At that moment, the tram started moving again and the whole scene slipped swiftly out of sight: you have to remember this in the right order

-/-

An expensive white car came around the corner, worked its way through the people in the street and drove over the curb. The driver got out of the front seat and opened the rear door. As she stepped from the car she lifted her hand, but not quickly enough to conceal the purple splash of a birth mark down the left side of her face. It started under her eye and like a vivid welt, furry in texture, spread down her cheek. With a practiced, expert gesture she lit a cigarette and held it so the birth mark was covered. She turned and walked up the stairs to the restaurant. As she turned, the right side of her face came into view. Suddenly, she presented a perfect cameo profile, with flawless skin, a flaring nose and a beautiful rounded chin. I felt embarrassed and looked down into my plate.

-/-

The fight was almost soundless. The two men staggered toward one another, barely able to keep their balance, and as one man’s hand hit the elbow or the wrist of the other, he would stumble sideways, trying desperately to stay upright. Even solid blows lit with a strange weakness as the bodies curved away. Like a fantastical slow motion ballet the two men pawed at one another in the half light; stumbling and falling, sliding down the walls, colliding occasionally and then staggering back, their arms waving with a slow wildness. One of them, the one wearing the white shirt, backed off carefully, assuming a boxing stance. He jabbed the air with his left hand; with his right thumb he brushed his nose and he snorted through his nostrils. His face became hard. You have to remember this in the right order: he narrowed his eyes and began to shuffle toward his opponent. The other man watched in fascination, his arms by his side, impressed by this new turn of events. Suddenly, he fell sideways into a chair with a gesture of surrender. The white shirt man stood motionless. There was nothing in front of him except the bare wall, but deliberately and with great force he hit it. I could almost hear in my head the crisp crackling sound of his bones breaking. He closed in on the other man, who immediately stood up, but the decisiveness was gone. They slipped in puddles of water and bumped into one another. The fight had no definite end – people stopped looking. The scene became shadowy and unreal and at some point it expired: the two men stood shoulder to shoulder breathing heavily, forgetful of what had started it all.

-/-

The traffic moved in great rushes from one signal to the next, beside the sea, like a flight of orderly birds. The fast drivers slid in and out, jockeyed for position and between each signal gained a place or two. The cars ahead of us moved in rhythm and the red signal lights flashed in succession after each push on the brakes. We stopped at a traffic light by some park and a little group of older men walked out from among the trees. They stood next to our car. One of them was wearing a bathrobe and slippers. The neck of a bottle showed in his pocket. They were all slightly drunk and they stared defiantly at our car. The man pulled the bottle out of his pocket and unscrewed the top. He put it to his mouth, his eyes glaring at us. When he threw his head back the cords of his neck drew the wrinkled flesh tight. The light changed and the platoon of cars got ready to pick up speed again.

-/-

I held her hand and helped Helen down the big rocks. Behind us we could still hear the shrill whine of the tires on the seaside highway but all we could see was the sea and the distant bridge spanning across the gulf. Close to the shore a fishing boat was motionless; behind the boat a dark shadow floated in the water. In the sky two jet planes were moving slowly. They were visible as two tiny, shiny triangles at the apex of a long, perfect, growing vapor tail of the clearest white. They were visible as two tiny, shiny triangles at the apex of a long, perfect, growing vapor tail of the clearest white: you have to remember this in the right order. You have to write this in the right order: They were visible as two tiny, shiny triangles at the apex of a long, perfect, growing vapor tail of the clearest white. Two jet planes in the sky were moving slowly. Close to the shore a fishing boat was motionless; behind the boat a dark shadow floated in the water. Behind us we could still hear the shrill whine of the tires on the seaside highway but all we could see was the sea and the distant bridge spanning across the gulf. I held her hand and I helped Helen up the big rocks.

-/-

When he threw his head back the cords of his neck drew the wrinkled flesh tight. The man had pulled the bottle out of his pocket unscrewing the top. He had put it to his mouth, his eyes glaring at us. They were all slightly drunk and they stared defiantly at our car. They stood next to our taxi. One of them was wearing a bathrobe and slippers. The neck of a bottle showed in his pocket. We had stopped at a traffic light by some park and a little group of older men had walked out from among the trees. The light changed and the platoon of cars got ready to pick up speed again. The cars ahead of us moved in rhythm as the red signal lights flashed in succession after each push on the brakes. The fast drivers slid in and out, jockeyed for position and between each signal gained a place or two. The traffic moved in great rushes from one signal to the next, beside the sea, like a flight of orderly birds.

-/-

The scene became shadowy and unreal and at some point it expired and the two men stood shoulder to shoulder, breathing heavily, forgetful of what had started it all – people stopped looking. They slipped in puddles of water and bumped into one another. The fight had no definite end. The white shirt man closed in on the other man who immediately stood up, but the decisiveness was gone. There was nothing in front of him except the bare wall, but deliberately and with great force he hit it. I could almost hear in my head the crisp crackling sound of his bones breaking. He stood motionless. Suddenly, he fell sideways into a chair with a gesture of surrender. The other man watched in fascination, his arms by his side, impressed by this new turn of events.You have to write this in the right order: his face became hard. He narrowed his eyes and began to shuffle towards his opponent. He jabbed the air with his left hand; with his right thumb he brushed his nose and he snorted through his nostrils. One of them, the one wearing the white shirt, backed off carefully assuming a boxing stance. Like a fantastical slow motion ballet the two men pawed at one another in the half light; stumbling and falling, sliding down the walls, colliding occasionally and then staggering back, their arms waving with a slow wildness. Even solid blows lit with a strange weakness as the bodies curved away. The two men staggered toward one another, barely able to keep their balance and as one man’s hand hit the elbow or the wrist of the other he would stumble sideways, trying desperately to stay upright. The fight was almost soundless.

-/-

I felt embarrassed and looked down into my plate. She presented a perfect cameo profile, with flawless skin, a flaring nose and a beautiful rounded chin. As she turned, the right side of her face had come into view. She turned and walked down the stairs to the restaurant. With a practiced, expert gesture she lit a cigarette and held it so the birth mark was covered. It started under her eye and like a vivid welt, furry in texture, spread down her cheek. As she stepped inside the car she lifted her hand, but not quickly enough to conceal the purple splash of a birth mark down the left side of her face. The driver got out of the front seat and closed the rear door. An expensive white car went around the corner, worked its way through the people in the street and drove off over the curb.
-/-

You have to write this in the right order: at that moment the tram started moving again and the whole scene slipped swiftly into sight. He got to his feet and lunged at the boy who had tripped him. His eyes popped out and he roared with laughter and anger. Someone had put a foot out and the boy tripped. The other children cheered. In the faint light the boy looked dwarfish, like an adult person imperfectly grown. He had a slight subdued smile on his face; as if he were about to burst out laughing. He closed his eyes romantically, held his arms out as if they were around a partner and begun to mimic a couple dancing. He was a stocky boy, with thick black hair and strong arms. He was about 6 years old. The crowd of children gathered around the car and stared up at the big black speakers. As the song floated over the square the children stopped playing. Two men were sitting on the fenders of the truck and smoked cigarettes. The loudspeakers on top of the pick-up truck were connected to a CD player.

-/-

I was telling myself: you have to write this in the right order. The city was unknown to me. I was constantly reminding myself not to forget what I saw. I was high-strung, curious and tired. I was taken places by taxi, I took the tram, I heard stories, I saw faces, I met people. I was walking all day along the damp sidewalk with an alert mind. I was a stranger here. And I am still a stranger here. My reality is a confused matrix of starting points and destinations. I walk all day along the damp sidewalk with an alert mind. I’m taken places by taxi, I’m taking the tram, I hear stories, I see faces, I meet people. I am high-strung, curious and tired. The city is unknown to me. I remind myself not to forget what I see. I reassure myself constantly, saying: I am seeing this in the right order.

-/-

The loudspeakers on top of the pick-up truck are connected to a CD player. Two men are sitting on the fenders of the truck and smoke cigarettes. As the song floats over the square the children suddenly stop playing. They gather around the car and stare up at the big black speakers. One of the boys, about 6 years old, steps out from the crowd of children. He is a stocky boy, with thick black hair and strong arms. He closes his eyes romantically, holds his arms out as if they are around a partner and begins to mimic a couple dancing. He has a slight subdued smile on his face, as if he were about to burst out laughing. The other children cheer. In the faint light the boy looks dwarfish, like an adult person imperfectly grown. Someone puts a foot out and the boy trips. He stumbles to his knees, his eyes pop out and he roars with laughter and anger. He then gets to his feet and lunges at the boy who tripped him. At this moment the tram starts moving again and the whole scene slips swiftly out of sight: I am seeing this in the right order.

-/-

I sit at a small restaurant next to the tram stop. An expensive white car comes around the corner, works its way through the people in the street and drives over the curb. The driver gets out of the front seat and opens the rear door. As she steps from the car she lifts her hand, but not quickly enough to conceal the purple splash of a birth mark down the left side of her face. It starts under her eye and like a vivid welt, furry in texture, spreads down her cheek. With a practiced, expert gesture she lights a cigarette and holds it so the birth mark is covered. She turns and walks up the stairs to the restaurant. As she turns, the right side of her face comes into view. She presents a perfect cameo profile, with flawless skin, a flaring nose and a beautiful rounded chin. I feel embarrassed and look down into my plate.

-/-

I’m walking again. A fight attracts my attention. The fight is almost soundless. The two men stagger toward one another, barely able to keep their balance and as one man’s hand hits the elbow or the wrist of the other, he stumbles sideways, trying desperately to stay upright. Even solid blows light with a strange weakness as the bodies curve away. Like a fantastical slow motion ballet the two men paw at one another in the half light; stumbling and falling, sliding down the walls, colliding occasionally and then staggering back, their arms waving with a slow wildness. One of them, the one wearing the white shirt, backs off carefully assuming a boxing stance. He jabs the air with his left hand; with his right thumb he brushes his nose and he snorts through his nostrils. His face becomes hard. I am seeing this in the right order: he narrows his eyes and begins to shuffle toward his opponent. The other man stares in fascination, his arms by his side, impressed by this new turn of events. Suddenly, he falls sideways into a chair with a gesture of surrender. The white shirt man stands motionless. There is nothing in front of him except the bare wall, but deliberately and with great force he hits it. I can almost hear in my head the crisp crackling sound of his bones breaking. He closes in on the other man who immediately stands up, but the decisiveness is gone. They slip in puddles of water and bump into one another. The fight has no definite end – people stop looking at it. The scene becomes shadowy and unreal and at some point it expires and the two men stand shoulder to shoulder, breathing heavily, forgetful of what had started it all.

-/-

The traffic moves in great rushes from one signal to the next beside the sea, like a flight of orderly birds. The fast drivers slide in and out, jockey for position and between each signal gain a place or two. The cars ahead of us move in rhythm as the red signal lights flash in succession after each push on the brake. We stop at a traffic light by some park and a little group of older men walk out from among the trees. They stand next to our taxi. One of them is wearing a bathrobe and slippers. The neck of a bottle shows in his pocket. They are all slightly drunk and they stare defiantly at our car. The man pulls the bottle out of his pocket and unscrews the top. He put it to his mouth, his eyes glaring at us. When he throws his head back the cords of his neck draws the wrinkled flesh tight. The light changes and the platoon of cars gets ready to pick up speed again.

-/-

It is late in the afternoon. I hold Helen’s hand and I help her down the big rocks. Behind us we can still hear the shrill whine of the tires on the seaside highway but all we can see is the sea and the distant bridge spanning across the gulf. Close to the shore a fishing boat is motionless; behind the boat a dark shadow floats in the water. In the sky two jet planes are moving slowly. They are visible as two tiny, shiny triangles at the apex of a long, perfect, growing vapor tail of the clearest white. I am seeing this in the right order.

-/-

Walking all day along the damp sidewalk with an alert mind. Taken to places by taxi, he took the tram, heard stories, saw faces, met people. High-strung, curious and tired. In a city unknown to him. His reality is a confused matrix of starting points and destinations. He is constantly reminding himself not to forget the right order…

on the ferry in Istanbul