Friday, July 22, 2016

Twenty-two Million Nightmares

At 2am in the morning, the muezzin sang the prayer for the dead and implored men to go out on the streets to challenge the coup. I did not know this at the time. I had no clue what he was saying. All I could hear, in my groggy disturbed moment of waking, was shouting on the loudspeakers, honking of car horns down the street and the occasional gunfire. My dream state tried to incorporate this cacophony, but eventually I could not ignore the sound of tank gunfire. I was awake.

Alike for those who for TO-DAY prepare,
And those that after a TO-MORROW stare,
A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries
"Fools! your Reward is neither Here nor There.”

I was given a book of poems, the Rubiayat written by Omar Khayyam, when I was 8 or 9 years old. An illustrated copy. That early morning in a humid Istanbul suburb I remembered that phrase and looked out to catch the Tower of Darkness. Leaning out of the window, I could not see where the noise was coming from, but it was very close in the valley below where I was staying.  Neither was I preparing for TO-DAY nor was I staring at TO-MORROW. I just wanted to know what is happening in a country in which I do not speak the language.  

I ended going back to bed and catching up on the cacophony of news on the internet. Sailing on a sea of information, the internet is a modern day song of the Lorelei, luring wondering sailors to their death. From one inaccurate news item to another, only the most outrageous news seems befitting my fear. Until reading the news on the monitor invaded my own world and it became all too real. An F-16 was doing fly-bys around the neighborhood. The second time round the fly-by was immediately followed by a sonic boom. At the time I thought we were hit,  a mortar attack. Shaking the building and rattling the closed windows. My body shook with daughter. Shit, we need to find a safer place.

Running into my daughter’s unlit bedroom I could see the whites of her eyes. She was startled awake.
We have to evacuate, there’s a coup going on.
She remained lying down in bed.
What’s a coup?
And that’s when I realized that if we are being bombed I had nowhere to run to.
I think I will make some tea. Things are always better after a cup of tea.
Repeating part of the narrative of a movie, a chick flick, that she made me watch earlier that evening.

She fell asleep quickly after. I stayed up listening to the song of the Lorelei a bit longer until the caffeine and the adrenaline cleared through my system and I fell into a deep sleep.

A week later, just before I was starting my lecture I noticed that all my students were still looking very tired and I was asking them, again, about their experiences. They all had a common theme. That the trauma of that early morning assault was still reverberating with them. They were living their own personal fear. Each one had a different interpretation. They were seeing the event through very different lenses. Some wrote to me excusing themselves from class; anxiety attacks, stomach pain, headaches, not getting enough sleep, all the effects of trauma.

Late at night, in my little dorm room, my daughter safely out of the country, just before I welcome the lulling of sleep, I start thinking of all the Istanbulites, all 22 million of them. I picture them all, looking up at the ceiling from their bed. Eventually sleeping and going through their own personal trauma again and again every night. Recurring nightmares. And falling asleep, I realize that I am one of them tonight. We share a common experience. Even a spiritual one. I will awaken with another nightmare but this time realizing that for the first time I share some of the same experiences with my hosts, there will be  22 million nightmares—and mine--that connect us closer together tomorrow.

© USA Copyrighted 2016 Mario D. Garrett

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