On this day, September 10, two memories stand out.
September 10, 2016: A night in Ankara
On the metro back from the city center this evening, on my left was a guy who smelled of tobacco and oranges who was inspecting a calligraphy set that he had just purchased, and on my right was a supremely bored woman. Across from me was a young woman who appeared to be on the verge of tears. She carried a sadness so deep that I wanted to get up and ask her what was wrong. She was between a guy who would rather be anywhere else than on a metro train heading to Koru, and another older man who was looking deeply into his phone screen, seeking out, perhaps, the meaning of going home alone on a Saturday night. After a couple of stops, the supremely bored woman got off the train and her seat was taken by an older gentlemen with a long white beard, wearing a cap, and carrying prayer beads. I guessed he might be an imam or someone with a religious office. He recognized a woman sitting beside where the supremely bored woman was, and the two got into a conversation.
For a few minutes, the low energy of the metro train was dissipated as the sad woman looked at the man and the woman in conversation, and the guy staring deep into his smartphone did the same. I thought both were intrigued at the two talking away —I wasn’t listening, I was listening to Soda Stereo on my iPhone— and maybe they also sought some sort of connection with the old man dispensing what looked like to me was some sort of advice about a bill the woman was carrying. Maybe they too felt like the advice the man was giving would also work for them.
Soon the energy level brought by the appearance of the old man went down again, and the train returned to its state of people staring blankly into space.
After the old man and the woman got off the train, I noticed a woman who was sitting a few seats away from me. She had been reading the whole time. I peeked over at her book, Orwell’s 1984. It felt fitting, somehow, that book in that train rolling along beneath the ground to the outskirts of the city, in that car full of people alone, wishing they were spending their bayram holiday somewhere else, hoping for some type of connection.
After the metro pulled into the last station, Koru, my stop, I walked out of the station and out into the park to see the Ankara evening. I have a lot of work to catch up on, but I felt in that moment that I also needed to not be alone, so I contacted a friend and we met up at the çay garden in our neighborhood to drink tea and talk and talk and talk.
September 10, 2014: Riding in a Taxi in Mexico City
Got into a taxi to head back to where I was staying in the Colonia Narvarte. The driver, about my age, probably older, was thin and wiry. And foul-mouthed. One of the best was after a litany of pinches, cabrones, and güey this and that, he apologizes for what he’s about to say, then he says, “No, pos, chinga a tu pinche madre, ¿no?”
Most of the drive was taken up by a long monologue —punctuated by him asking me questions like “¿no cree usted, jefe?” or “¿qué le parece, jefe?”— about getting his taxi repaired. The story began with him telling me about his busted up car key and that he wished he still drove a Nissan Tsuru because their keys worked…in your car, in your neighbor’s car, in the car down the street. This then led into his story about getting his taxi fixed for an electrical issue. The taxi would just stop. He thought it might be the fault of the key, but the mechanic found other things to work on. I asked if he’d tried to use a Tsuru key to get the car working. He laughed and told me that the mechanic fixed the key by opening it up, lighting up a cigarette, taking a drag, then dumping ash into the receptacle where the key control chip is, and then closing the key cover. As to the rest, the fix ended up being cheap, despite various parts being replaced, and the mechanic even threw in ten liters of gas and he added coolant to the radiator. Before getting out of the taxi, the driver began to complain about how he was going to miss the baseball game because it had been rained out yesterday and today he had to work.