This is Part Three of My Stay in Istanbul

I didn’t have a lot of stuff so it wasn’t hard to pack everything and throw unwanted stuff out. I searched furiously on Craigslist for a new room and I hastily chose to live with a 27-year-old girl (whom I thought was 20 because she had a really thin frame and a really young voice) who had an overweight French roommate (named Manot whom I had almost no contact with at all). It turned out that I only stayed in that apartment for a month because there wasn’t any hot water for a week after I moved in. The 27-year-old girl was extremely difficult to get along with because she had manic depression and bipolar disorder (she had a lot of different medications stored in the fridge) and she picked on me for being very busy with work and my own hobbies and she criticized me by saying that I didn’t drink nor smoke and didn’t have expensive taste so why was I so busy making money for? (She was struggling with finishing her bachelor’s program.) She didn’t work; I used to see her watching film after film in the living room; she didn’t clean out her poor cat’s litter box for seemingly several weeks because the box was piled high with the cat’s waste and some of it was on the floor around the litter box (the poor cat hardly had any litter at all to bury his bowel movements). The girl stayed up all night all the way to 8:30am sometimes, smoking and having sex with different guys who’d come visit her (her moans were so loud that when I tried to sleep at times I thought she was perhaps in pain but I quickly learned that she wasn’t). Her life didn’t appear to be productive as she said she’d hang out all night with her friends because she didn’t feel like studying or going to class. She put me down for being quiet and for having a routine. She said she couldn’t stand me because I wasn’t like her. She also said she wasn’t happy at all, that she didn’t have any money and she tried so hard to survive and why didn’t I talk to her more because I was like a ghost, that I only appeared when I paid my part of the rent (which was likely more than what she contributed) and when I said that there was something wrong with the apartment (the kitchen sink was constantly clogged and the kitchen was often a mess and I wasn’t the one who cooked). She complained that I asked her to buy olive oil after she used all of the olive oil I had because she said that anything that anyone brought home belonged to everyone in the apartment. I asked her if my tone offended her when I asked her to buy the olive oil and she said that I was really polite which was the problem because I was so polite that I was ‘emotionless’ to her. She hated that I communicated well and politely because it was ‘so fake’ and why did people in the real world act that way? I told her I wasn’t emotionless, that I didn’t feel that expressing anger was an effective way to communicate. She accused me of being unobservant because I didn’t buy any toilet paper when there was almost none left. I apologized and said that I was so busy that I failed to notice that there were hardly any rolls left on top of the fridge (where the toilet paper was stored) and that if I failed to notice then she should feel free to inform me that it was my turn to get the toilet paper.

She said, “Why should I tell you? Why should I tell you something so easy? All you do is work. What does work teach you about life? What does it teach you about people? You need to be aware of your surroundings! Why aren’t you social like me? You should be open to being like me!”

I told her as calmly as I could that I didn’t do anything wrong, that I didn’t harm her in any way so why was she yelling at me?

She yelled, “I don’t like people like you because you’re so cold. You work and you have a routine. That’s not being open-minded! Why aren’t you more open-minded to do what I do!”

I apologized to her for asking her to replace the olive oil I bought and for not getting toilet paper. I told her that it looked like she needed to calm down and think for a while on her own. I told her that I had an evening class to teach and that I was going to talk to her later if she felt like it.

When I returned, she was gone. I went to bed and sometime in the middle of the night, she was with a male friend and she was yelling incoherently. She was yelling in Turkish. Then I heard her scream and scream and scream. For a long time, I got up to find out what was happening. Her male friend was restraining her because she was breaking glass and throwing things around and she yelled at me to get back in my room; she yelled at me not to do anything, to just get back to my room.

I took a long look at her and knew that she only yelled and criticized me for a month because she was sad. She was in a terribly melancholic state.

‘Huzun’.

There was a lot of unhappiness in that apartment.

I no longer wanted to witness that girl’s self-destruction. I decided to move. I found a place gain and informed her two days later (because she wasn’t anywhere to be found and I wanted to tell her face-to-face). She said, “Unlike you, I’m a very decent person because I’m social.”

I still remember the false smile she had on her face and that there was another guy on her bed that I noticed through the small opening of the door for her head to peek out.

To this day, I don’t know what became of her because I certainly didn’t stay in touch with her.

The next apartment I stayed in was with a couple (the guy was Turkish and the girl was Russian). Again, I moved in quickly. The guy helped me get ‘Blue Monster’ (my suitcase) out of that terrible 27-year-old girl’s apartment and accompanied me to his apartment. He was unemployed but he told me that he was actively looking for a job. It was near the end of April. His Russian girlfriend gave Russian and Greek lessons online to earn money. They also earned money by being Airbnb hosts. When the guy showed me the room I was going to move into, he told me that the apartment was going to be full of guests and that once he got a job in September (but how could he be sure, right?), there weren’t going to be so many guests and I could stay in that room (which was next to the entrance) permanently. He told me that he was going to have me sleep in different rooms because he had to accommodate guests. I also had to be open to sleeping in the living room. I told him that he appeared to be a friendly person and that his girlfriend did too and because of that I didn’t mind moving around in the apartment. I had a long talk with them about my living situation in Istanbul up to that point; they offered me borek (Turkish pastry) and gingerbread cookies from Russia and some cherry juice. They nodded in sympathy and promised to make my stay a comfortable one.

A few days after I moved in, the guy told me to move into his and his girlfriend’s room (there was a partition so their bed was well-hidden from where my bed was but it still made for an uncomfortable situation) because he was having a guest stay in the room I was peacefully sleeping in. He apologized and told me he was expecting up to six guests in the coming weeks to stay with him and his girlfriend.

Understanding that he badly needed the money (he said he spent 8000 Turkish liras on the apartment, and, remember, he was unemployed), I didn’t complain. He was also apologetic. He and his girlfriend became incredibly busy hosting their guests. I was left alone most of the time which was good for me. They asked me if I needed anything occasionally and I was usually fine.

The apartment was packed. There were people everywhere. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a washing machine and I often heard the guy give directions to a laundromat. I had my laundry done by a friend of mine at work which I was truly grateful for. The couple offered the guests food and snacks and they would let me have what they served the guests which was also nice.

Later, I was told that the price of the room was going to be more expensive once the guy found a job in September. I didn’t understand why. The guy told me that the rent prices were increasing in the fall, that the Turkish economy wasn’t doing well (which was the absolute truth; inflation was at an all-time high; the Turkish economy was going nowhere but down). The guy told me that things were going to change once he got a job. I didn’t appreciate being told about the price hike. I didn’t know why the guy didn’t tell me the day I had a long talk with him and his girlfriend. I was only two weeks into my stay. I didn’t feel that the price was fair. I told the guy that I understood him, that I knew that the economy was doing poorly and that I was going to reconsider staying in his home. He responded that he understood. I thanked him for informing me and that I was going to let him know soon if I would continue to stay. He told me he was fine with any decision I may come to.

It may sound surprising but I slept really well in the room I shared with the couple. They respected my sleep schedule. Even with many guests around, the apartment still remained quiet enough for me to feel at peace. I managed to feel comfortably alone with my thoughts and my reading.

However, I was looking for somewhere else less expensive to live in. I couldn’t afford to stay with the couple; there was no guarantee I could afford my part of the rent every month. It didn’t take long to find another place.

I told the guy that I planned to move and it was my final decision. I planned to go away for the entire month of June so I asked him if it was okay for me to leave my stuff in this apartment. I didn’t want to move all of my stuff to the new place because the lady I spoke to (whose father owned the apartment) said I’d have to pay for the room (the biggest room in that apartment with a window that revealed beautiful green space with as old, unused well. The room was good for walking around in. It was quiet. It was a great space to think in) I wanted to stay in if I brought all of my things to the apartment her father owned. Of course, I didn’t want to do that because I planned to spend June away from Istanbul. I thought it was too much to pay since I wasn’t going to be in the apartment during that time.

After I asked the guy if I could leave some of my things for a month, he said it was fine, that he was flexible. I told him I appreciated his help and that I was grateful for it. Since I was leaving some of my stuff in the couple’s home, I decided that it was reasonable enough for me to leave Istanbul with the key. I reminded him many times that I was going to leave Istanbul on a certain date in the first week of June and asked a few more times if it was okay for me to leave some of my things. He responded in the affirmative every time.

So I finally left Istanbul for a month.

After a month went by, I was in Istanbul ready for a new fresh start. I called the couple and the guy answered and said he still had my things and that I could go get them. It was probably around 7am. I went to the apartment and the guy’s girlfriend answered the door. She was angry; she said that I shouldn’t have taken the key and why did I not give them back the key? I said that my stuff was still in their apartment and I thought that since they had something of mine then I could have something of theirs (to be frank, I wasn’t sure whether I could trust the couple; I thought that if I left my things with them and gave them their key, perhaps my things weren’t going to be safe. I didn’t feel secure if I didn’t keep something of theirs).

The girl glared at me. It took me three trips to my new apartment and back to the couple’s to finally get all of my stuff out of there. The guy didn’t come out to see me once. I gave the key to the Russian girl and I wished her well (with her glare remaining on her face). I wasn’t far from the apartment when the guy called me and he yelled, “How dare you leave your stuff and not give me back my key! My apartment isn’t a hotel! And why did you disrespect me just because I’m unemployed? I don’t like that you thought you could do what you wanted! You didn’t ask me to help you move your stuff to your new place. Why are you so cold? Why do you act like you don’t know me?”

I couldn’t get a word in. I didn’t think that he made any sense. I didn’t understand why he didn’t come out to speak to me because he was in the apartment all along (his girlfriend took all of my stuff out of their room even when I said that I could bring my own stuff out myself because she said he didn’t want me over the threshold). I didn’t understand what the big deal was. I told him the date I was leaving and asked several times if I could leave my belongings there. He said yes. Maybe I should’ve mentioned the key (quite frankly again, I wasn’t conscious of it but later I just didn’t think it was a big thing).

As I settled into my new apartment, I got another call from him and I answered because I thought he calmed down somewhat but I was wrong.

“It’s my apartment! My apartment! You didn’t respect that you stayed in my apartment!”

I hung up and unpacked my things. I made sure to keep my phone shut off.

At first, I lived with a Palestinian boy (whom I really liked right away and whom I found easy to talk to) and a Turkish boy (whom wasn’t easy to talk to; he constantly talked about how dirty the entire apartment was [I mostly stayed in my room when I was in the apartment, particularly because my room was the most spacious and most comfortable. I didn’t know how the apartment got so dirty; I suspected that the Turkish boy had something to do with it because the Palestinian and I were on friendly terms and he told me he had nothing to do with the growing mess).

I liked my room. It was the best room I’ve slept in in Istanbul. Unfortunately, the landlord’s daughter wasn’t any good. I found out on night when I arrived at my building after work that my front entrance key didn’t fit. I called the landlord’s daughter several times when she finally answered and said that the building superintendent decided to change the front entrance lock. I asked her if she knew it was going to be changed. She said she didn’t. I asked her how I was supposed to get into the building and she said that i should just press a button on the buzzer and someone would buzz me in. She also added that there was a big, heavy stone by the entrance door inside and that I could use it to prop the door open when I had to leave the building again. I requested a new key from her and when she was coming to bring it to me and she said sometime in the week. I had to wait. There wasn’t anything else for me to say to get her to come sooner (it was near 11pm anyway) so we ended out conversation.

The apartment had some problems. The bathroom sink was horribly clogged (I noticed a lot of facial hair in the sink the past few days and I knew that the Turkish boy was responsible because the Palestinian boy had no facial hair to speak of). When I asked the Turkish boy if he knew whose facial hairs were in the sink which caused it to clog, he intensely denied that the hairs belonged to him. I told him that I spoke with the Palestinian about being more careful when shaving over the sink and that I only wanted to tell him too. He got upset and pointed out the moldy yogurt in the fridge (which wasn’t mine; it turned out it belonged to the Palestinian when I casually mentioned the yogurt later to him [he was embarrassed by it]) and the black trash bag that was leaking on the floor of the eating area (which didn’t contain anything of mine; the trash bag wasn’t even mine either). Every time I informed the Turkish boy about anything wrong in the apartment, he reacted a bit too strongly and defensively which I didn’t appreciate because I wasn’t being malicious nor did I say he caused any problems. The shower didn’t have a door so, inevitably, the floor around the shower got wet. The Palestinian and I called the landlord’s daughter (we’ve never met the landlord; only the daughter dealt with us) many times and it took her a month to bring curtains. Regarding the front entrance key, I returned home one day and the Turkish boy said he got a copy of the key and that he was going to get more copies made right away. That happened a week and a half after I called about being locked out (and imagine awkwardly propping a big heavy stone to open the front entrance door; how unsafe it felt to leave the door open ajar like that; and,unsurprisingly, the door was closed again and I had to buzz strangers’ buzzers to get in).

It didn’t take long for the Palestinian and the Turkish boys to leave (the Palestinian never stopped complaining about the landlord’s daughter) because apparently she took a lot of money from them and that the apartment was much worse off before I arrived, and it took her ages to take care of any repairs.

Two German boys and a different Turkish boy took their places (the apartment had four bedrooms). Overall, the boys were nice (it was my first time living with boys and it worked out very well. I felt at my most relaxed during that period (which lasted from July until the end of November). I was friendlier with the two German boys, particularly the one whose room was next to mine. The Turkish boy was almost entirely MIA (I only caught him once using my shampoo; the bathroom door was open and he was fully dressed and his back was turned to me. It was no wonder my shampoo bottle felt lighter. After he was done with his shower, I waited a moment before telling him to stop using my shampoo. He said he was embarrassed that I caught him using it and that was it).

The boiler wasn’t working. I heated water with the electric teapot in the kitchen and mixed that with cold water to wash myself every morning (yes, I poured buckets of water over myself for days until I decided to go to a friend’s home to use her shower). The landlord’s daughter kept postponing to get the boiler fixed. At times, she was in the apartment unexpectedly, and I was sharp with her once about it. I told her that she should answer my and the German boys’ messages and calls sooner and get the boiler fixed because it was cold and no one would wash with cold water and that we were paying her rent so she had to fulfill her duty in making sure the apartment was in good condition (specifically because the rent she charged us for the rooms we stayed in was high). I told her that she should stop showing up whenever she felt like it and why did she do that?

She retaliated by saying, “You don’t have any friends that’s why you’re telling me off. I think you should learn to care less. If you had friends, you wouldn’t care how the apartment is.”

“You don’t see the point, don’t you?” I angrily said, “When are you going to get the boiler fixed? You’re taking our money and you aren’t being responsible about keeping the apartment in working order.”

“You keep calling me because you don’t have any friends!”

“I call you several times because you never answer! And I have something important to say and I don’t know any other way to get you to do what you need to do. And why do you come here sometimes without letting anyone know?”

“This is my father’s apartment. I can come here any time I want to. And I want to make sure that this apartment isn’t a mess.”

I yelled because that horrible woman didn’t have any sense, “The boiler needs to be fixed. You better get someone here to fix it.”

She sneered and said, “You are always in this apartment because you don’t have any friends. If you had friends, you would use their showers and not have to be here to use the shower here.”

“Get out NOW!”

I’ve experienced a lot of absurdity in Istanbul.

The woman left.

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Deborah Kristina

Author of ‘A Girl All Alone Somewhere in the World’, ‘Confessions and Thoughts of a Girl in Turkey’, ‘From Just a Girl Grown Up in America’. (Amazon.com)