The Morning Commute

04:35, She wakes up ten minutes before the alarm. Still dark. Her husband rolls away and farts as she gets out of the bed. She glares at his hairy back while quickly getting dressed. Moving silently and without checking on the kids, she leaves the house and is out on the narrow streets. A big fat rat is moving slowly in the ditch next to the sidewalk. A crouched cat is watching it, not daring to come closer. She can’t judge which one is bigger. The diversity of life in this neighbourhood kept surprising her; last week it was a scorpion on the wall, as big as her thumb. Despite all the toxic materials and chemicals used in these houses, and despite all the underfoot ready to trample them, the creatures still managed to co-exists with us, she is musing as she scurries uphill to the minibus line a block away.

05:05, She jumped into a minibus which are usually slower in the morning to fill their capacity. Unexpectedly, there is an empty seat, which is a tradeoff of a momentary comfort now vs the trouble to get out of it later. Sitting is such a rare treat lately that she feels it’s worth risking it. But she forgets the duty of passing the money around that comes with the territory. The main problem isn’t the dirty money changing hands, but the constant hassle of communication in a noisy environment. Money would come and go with a location attached to it. Occasionally the driver would shout something like “what is this X lira is for?” with his head half turned, keeping his eyes on the road, and she would shout the name of the location that is usually too hard to pronounce or to care. She dreads a mixup. Bumpy roads, sharp turns, and frequent stops and starts doesn’t help either. When her stop approaches, she starts to claw her way out of the crowd between her and the door as people sternly stand their ground. Sometimes a pervert would position himself in her way, and at all times she had to guard her purse vigilantly. But she is not harassed today. Nothing she can’t handle.

05:40, She decides to take the metrobus for a change. She doesn’t want to use Marmaray which goes under water. Metrobus is cheaper, took longer, but she likes the view, she tells herself crossing the roundabout where congestion is beginning. The light blue of the new day gives her the strength she needs to brace for the human flow she throws herself in. Once you pass the ticket turnstiles, it’s near impossible to turn back. You are pushed and pulled by the collective will of the morning commuters and the wave of metrobusses. These long buses have their own lanes and are driven by daredevils. Every month there is news of an accident of the ghastliest kind. She holds her breath as she is sucked in by the next one, together with a million other people. A suffocating mass of arms, chests, wet armpits, bags, and hair. She fights for air as unwashed body parts are broadcasted by sweat. The worst is the crying baby. Who would bring a baby to a metrobus? At this early hour? Oh, maybe the baby is sick and they are taking her to a hospital, she thinks and feels grateful that none of her kids are sick today. She can’t deal with an emergency right now. She slowly makes her way to the nearest window, not caring for the mumbled protests. This is her single pleasure. The metrobus is speeding smoothly towards Bosphorus bridge. She takes it all in as a vast open space and sea spread in front of her; basked in an orange glow, boats and ferries gliding on the water, Maiden’s tower, Topkapi palace, Galata tower, skyscrapers on the hill, and Istanbul with all her chaos. She feels as if her life is like a fast-forwarded video between these peaceful moments on the bridge. It lasts a minute before the scene is cut by concrete.

06:10, when she gets off the last vehicle, she takes a big breath of sea air mixed with roses and pine. She turns to a quiet side street where the birds are waking up. As she enters the garden, street lamps turn off. The guard at the lobby sees her coming and buzzes her in. She knows that his shift is almost over, and he knows that she is in a hurry. They silently nod each other good morning. She takes the elevator to the 11th floor while searching for the keys. As gently as possible, she unlocks the steel door and enters the apartment. She barely has time to take her coat before a little boy hugs her leg.

“Nana! I want an omelet!”

“Shh you’re gonna wake up your mom and dad.” She giggles and starts to walk to the kitchen with a monkey on her leg.

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