LETTER FROM ISTANBUL: Trouvaille | Misplaced Coast Outpost

###

I
never would have found the meaning of the word “trouvaille,” let
alone how to pronounce it, if it weren’t for Rory Moore.

When
I knew him, he was working on a short story with that as the
tentative title.

“Tru-vai!
It means ‘a lucky find,’” Rory explained. “I’m writing a
story about a guy who wins the lottery and then dies the same day.”

“How
is that a lucky find?” I asked.

“Well,
that’s just it,” he said, scratching his head. “I’m still
trying to sort that part of it out.”

He
never did finish that story, or if he did he never showed me. But
that’s just an introduction. He goes by a different name now, at
least on social media, the way so many people do, a kind of ironical
name that fits his sense of humor.

Originally,
Rory is an Irishman who comes from London. No, that is not a misprint
or sample of American geographical ignorance. He really is an
Irishman from London. Though a Londoner by trade, in his heart “I
bleed green!” he always insisted, especially after a few pints,
almost opening up a vein on the spot.

Anyway,
Rory was born in Ireland, but his parents divorced early, which after
the separation led to him being raised in London. As a young man,
Rory went into business, did fairly well. But he was bothered as many
young people are that he was not living life as fully as he could be.
In his case, it was a nagging itch to write or travel, both if
possible.

This
not infrequent malaise persisted as he drifted into his thirties,
until one day he opted out of his contract with the London firm,
completed a teaching course and with a TEFL certificate in hand, Rory
set off for a life of travel and letters. Teaching of course was
meant just to pay the bills.

After
a short stint in Dubai, where he found the money good but the climate
hot and inhospitable for a literary man, Rory accepted a post in
Istanbul. Here, he found the rolling hills overlooking the Bosphorus,
the sprawling cityscape, better suited to his romantic disposition.

At
the school in Fulya, a district on the city’s European side, he
found the teaching work tolerable, the hours flexible enough for him
to at least attempt to write the Chekov-inspired short stories he
felt were in him to write, with the right dosage of applied focus and
a few glasses of Jameson’s at the appropriate reflective hour.
Later he transferred to Suadiye, where I was working at the time, so
that’s how we grew to be friends.

The
stories were slow in coming. He always seemed to be distracted.
Friends who wanted to meet for drinks (quite often, for his brisk
Irish charm made him popular with Turks and expats alike), or there
was a late class at the school, or the demands of city life.

At
the school he met Cigdem, a smart, energetic woman about his age.
They were soon inseparable, and within a year married. For Rory, it
was “the best thing I’ve ever done,” he told people. She
“completed” him, as the tired saying goes.

After
the first two years, they decided to invest in their future. They
purchased a beautiful flat in Moda, a fashionable neighborhood on the
city’s Asian side. The neighborhood rests on a thin stretch of
coast overlooking the Sea of Marmara. The flat was large, spacious,
even with a spare room that could serve as his study. A study!
Exactly what had been missing in his work. With the proper
environment, he could now fully release his heretofore inexorably
restrained literary powers.

###

I
should try to say more about his wife, Cigdem (it’s pronounced
“Chee-dem,” a lovely name which refers to a delicate kind of
flower). We only met once or twice, and she seemed nice enough. Her
English was fluent, both from teaching and from living with her
husband, so that it bounced jauntily back and forth between Londonese
and Rory’s own pronounced Irish lilt, and she used the occasional
Americanisms to boost the overall linguistic picture.

But
sad to say, I never knew her that well. It was one of those things
about Rory. He was always saying, “I’ve gotta throw me a proper
house party! I mean, in a literary sense.” He presented a fond
fireside evening in the mind, with a room of select guests, everyone
sipping wine and discussing books, with the host Rory, sleeves rolled
up, tie off (he was fond of wearing a tie and waistcoat), his Irish
cheeks red with drink, waving his arms about while he plunged into
sweeping dismissal of “Ulysses” (the most over-rated book in all
of Western literature, he professed, patriotism be damned!).

“We
could even discuss our own work,” he enthused. “Your stories as
well! Give feedback, all that. We could even found a School!”

We
discussed these gatherings of great minds a few times, but for
whatever reason, they never materialized. But that was his way.
Always flitting from one idea to the next. It was the same with other
people. When you had his attention, you felt really possessed, that
he was concentrating, hanging on your every word, ready to leap in
with an affirmation or denouncement. But just as quickly, another
person would enter the room and he was off racing with them, leaving
your words hovering in the air –

I
suspect it was the same with Cigdem. The time or two I met her, she
seemed to have that polite acquiescence (in public) some clever wives
acquire when married to such energetic, overflowing husbands.
They’re used to having to share them with the world; presumably,
Cigdem had enough of Rory at home.

Anyway,
the apartment in Moda had to be pricey, especially with its gardens
and view of the sea. How they paid for it one can suppose that
Cigdem’s family played some part. They owned some successful
businesses in the south of Turkey, mostly related to agriculture. She
had that friendly poise, the easy good manners that people from good
(good? I mean, happy) wealthy families have. And there was a streak
of practicality in her manner that you sensed was a strong foundation
in their relationship. Somebody had to mind the shop while Rory
chased his flights of fancy.

###

That
is all I can really say. Even when I knew him in Istanbul on an
almost daily basis, Rory was always a hard guy to pin down, or keep
in one place. He was saving up, he said, to travel to Ireland for the
summer, so he worked extra hours and was always on the go. He had it
in his mind that a summer in “God’s Own Country” was just the
thing in order. He was tired of Istanbul for the moment, tired of the
traffic and politics, among other things.

When
the summer arrived, I got a call from him one day, out of nowhere. It
surprised me. I’d assumed he’d already left for Ireland.

“Y’round
today, mate?” he asked. “I’ve got a favor to ask. I’m in a
bit of a jam!”

It
was Saturday, my wife was at work so I had an open schedule. “Just
meet me at Bahane Kultur and I’ll explain.”

Bahane
Kultur is an outdoor bar in Kadikoy that we both knew well. I got
there first, ordered a pint of Tuborg and sat at a table overlooking
the street so that Rory could spot me easily when he arrived. It was
a fine afternoon in early June, and lots of young people were out in
the streets.

We
saw each other at the same time. Rory was wearing shorts and t-shirt
on his stocky frame. He raised his arms in a kind of fond hail from
down the street, and it looked like he already had a few drinks in
him.

“Good
to see you, sir!” he said, shaking hands and sitting down. He
signaled to the waiter to bring him a pint. I was curious, and a bit
flattered to be honest that Rory seemed to have reserved this bit of
time for an important matter to discuss with me, like I was being
taken into his confidence.

We
raised a toast and drank, and talked of casual things for awhile. He
asked how my writing was going, and he listened attentively, with
sympathy, only interrupting suddenly to ask if I’d read “The
Royal Game” by the Austrian author Stefan Zweig. I hadn’t.

“Oh,
it’s brilliant, man!” Rory exclaimed. He went on to discuss it
for several minutes, strongly urging me to read it. “I’ve been
thinking of adapting it into a play! That’s what I wanted to talk
to you about. Well, actually that and this other thing –”

The
“other” thing was what he, with a heavy gesture, proceeded to
move on to.

“Me
and the Mrs are done,” he said. “It’s over.” He just looked
at me and waited for the impact to register.

“What?”

“She
kicked me out last night. I’ve been out all night. Slept on the
beach last night! That’s why I look a bit rough.”

This
was not the kind of discussion I’d been prepared to have,
obviously. But the sunlight coming in over the tables was pleasant,
and the beer was fresh and cold, so it did not bother me to listen.

Over
the next half hour, or perhaps longer, Rory got the whole thing off
his chest. Seems he’d been seeing someone (“Well, not ‘seeing,’
just meeting!”), a girl he’d known back in London during his
business days. An old associate, Lisa or Laurie. They’d chatted on
Facebook and whatnot, and recently she’d come to Istanbul for a
visit. He’d gone to her hotel, and –

“And
it was not like anything planned, I swear!” he went on, thrusting a
stocky forearm towards the heavens.

Evidently,
one night had turned into several nights, off and on. At some point,
Cigdem’s suspicions were inevitably aroused. She was used to her
husband bouncing about, rushing off to meet a friend for drinks, that
sort of thing. But her instincts must have kicked in.

“Man,
she took my keys and hid them!” Rory protested. “She said, ‘I
swear you’re lying to me! You’re not leaving this house!’” He
looked at me in protest, to see if I shared his outrage. “I said,
‘You’re insane! You can’t lock me in and forbid me from going
anywhere! You’re off yer head, woman!’” Whenever Rory got angry
or outraged, his Irish lilt grew more pronounced.

Finally,
she’d relinquished the keys, but when he came back the next day,
the locks had been changed, and all of Rory’s things – his books,
teaching materials, clothes, etc – were lying in a pile at the gate
of the entrance.

“So
that’s where I need that favor,” Rory concluded, with a resigned
shrug of his shoulders. “I need someone to go over there and help
me carry that stuff. I feel like if someone – you, for instance –
were there she might be more reasonable.”

“So
has she said she wants a divorce?” I asked.

“No,
not in so many words. It’s me, really. I’m through! I’ve had
it! You know (Lisa or Laurie) wants me to come back to London. She
knows some people who can help me with that play I was telling you
about. That’s what I want. I feel like I’m holding myself back
here. I want to really give it a go in London.”

We
didn’t get much further on the subject, for presently his phone
rang. It was his somebody, a relative, back in London. And then his
phone rang again, and this time it was Cigdem’s brother, who Rory
told me afterward was going to go with him to the apartment, thus
relieving me of the dreary duty.

“Thanks
anyway,” Rory said, after he brought me up to speed. “Man, what a
day! What a life we lead! Cheers!” We raised glasses, to life I
guess.

###

Shortly
after that meeting, Rory did end up moving back to London. We keep in
touch sporadically on Facebook. That play adaption of The Royal Game
never materialized, though he did manage to make it to “God’s Own
Country” that summer, for I saw lots of pictures that he posted.
Eventually he went back into business of some sort, I didn’t ask.

One
day about a year ago, he reached out and insisted we have a chat.
“It’s been too long!” he said. On FaceChat we talked for about
an hour. Seems he’d recently read one of my novels and was
impressed. “Authentic,” he proclaimed with approval. He’d also
left his job and was seriously considering starting up a literary
magazine. During the chat, he had lots of ideas, as he always did,
and for a moment or two I began to envision the two of us embarking
on a great literary adventure, taking the world by storm.

“Well,
I’m still thinking about it, tossing some ideas around,” Rory
said presently. “I need to give it a proper think. I’ve been
making some changes to my life, and I think this is what I really
want.”

“Sounds
interesting,” I said. “Keep in touch.”

“Absolutely,
man! Will do.”

###

That
was a year ago, and I’m still waiting to hear from him.

I
suppose by now he has been tossed by that whirlwind heart of his onto
some other wave, some other passion. But that’s Rory. Sometimes I
wonder whatever happened to Cigdem, and whether she stayed in that
apartment in Moda they purchased, or sold it and went elsewhere.
Hopefully she is happy.

From
time to time, I am inclined to condemn Rory for leaving her the way
he did. As a married man myself, it feels capricious, selfish,
irresponsible, and maybe it is. But we all sometimes feel the
pressures of monotony, the drudgery of routine, especially in these
terrible times. In my case, perhaps it is only luck that I don’t
share Rory’s desperate plight . Walking with my own wife and son,
watching as he is learning to take his first steps, smiling with
delight, those heavy oppressed feelings wash away, and I feel
grateful for the trouvaille marriage (and now fatherhood) is
for me, despite their occasional frustrations and limitations. I can
recall those times, especially in youth, when all the paths of the
world seemed to be open to me, and the dire urgency one felt unable
to choose just one. And as one grows older, thoughts of paths untaken
can sometimes be haunting. In this light, I find it difficult to be
hard on Rory, or at least not any harder than perhaps, on his many
unquiet nights, he is on himself.

###

James
Tressler, a former Lost Coast resident, is a writer and teacher.

Comments are closed.