Saood Abdul-Kabir peers over me as I dipped a big toe into sleep. As soon as I was drowning in the blackness of sleep, Saood encroaches upon my sleeping figure and shakes it awake. This pattern was precedence for all occasions. There was no sleeping around Saood Abdul-Kabir.
After awaking me he slings my blankets like a cape around his body and perches himself like a bird-of-prey on the flat top of the hotel dresser. ‘We are in Istanbul now. We don’t sleep in Istanbul’.
He flies off to another room probably to perch on someone else’s dresser. Sleep doesn’t come. The digital clock next to me on the nightstand waves the time; It’s 3:45.
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The plan was to wake up early for Fajr (morning prayer for Muslims) and sneak out to the large mosque a block from our hotel. It was to begin at approximately 4:30.
I threw on a beatnik style hat and a flannel, and some shoes that I bought torn from a top of the line shoe store.
We slither our bodies down the red staircase, slithering to keep quite from the teachers who may be listening in their quarters. It was dark in the lobby and the only light was from three dim blue skylights over the counter and a large touch-screen computer device.
Three of us fiddle with the computer screen, while Saood herded the others in waves down the stairs. We all united.
“What are you…” A voice trails off behind the counter. He points to a very dark clock on the wall.
Saood steps in saying, “We are off to Fajr, and do you know when it starts?” The little man points to the clock again and storms off. We leave.
When we exit the hotel a wave of fresh air hits my face and I noticed that the air here was different then the air back home. It made all the lights look surreal and blurry in my eyes, and my nose stretch open like wings. I thought, “They should bottle this up and ship it to America to be enjoyed by all.”
We crept across the sidewalk to the towering mosque. There was a large wall with a metal gate and a high-tech security system. We approached the gate and it was bolted shut. We waited there for about 15 minutes experiencing no type of living creature, but a few plastic shopping bags and candy wrappers.
“Oooh. Look, there’s someone we can ask.” An acne-covered classmate announces. In the distance was a hobbling creature making his way over to us. There was momentary panic but we composed ourselves for the encounter.
This man was undoubtedly the scariest man in Istanbul. He was hunched over on a long wooden cane and was clad in sad rags. “Lira (money)” he hums out of a small hole in his lips. He waves a hand out at each one of us. We motion that we have none. He waits.
And he waits for a long time, hand outstretched, humming “Lira”. We aquirdly talk and shake our heads ‘no’ occasionally. He all of a sudden starts yelling English words mixed with Turkish and a bit of jiberish. It sounded like this, “Moneyahsmid, mbb, Liramoney, mbb, ahsild!” It was scary so my friend Ehsen forks twenty-dollars out of his wallet and throws it over to the man.
The man stops yelling, smirks and begins to stroll away. “When does Namas (prayer) start?” We ask. The man shrugs and disappears in the distance.
Fajr was at 5:15. There was no sleep for me in Istanbul that day.
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