“Two days before the concert, I thought I should go to Istiklal Street.* It was going to be my first day out with the owner of the advertising company where my sister works. He had an invitation for two. We would first go to the concert at Hagia Irene* and to a reception afterwards. Then I thought, goodness grief, what am I going to wear? Nesrin dear, what would you do, if you were me? Straight to Istiklal Street, of course. How would I have known that I was going to regret? No dear, I didn’t like the new design of the street. Everybody meddles with the street just for show or for votes. Anyway, I was walking towards Tünel. So many foreigners, some came for this international meeting, what was it, umm, HABITAT, yeah something like that. And the whole street was packed with policemen. Well, who cares, all I thought of was the reception. I told you, I was walking on the right side of the street, window licking towards Tünel. When I came to the, umm, the high school, I saw many people sitting on the ground in front of the school gate, they were protesting something, I think, umm, their sons or some relatives or somebody they knew had been lost, something like that. Just at that moment I saw the shoes of my dreams. There they were in a shop window calling me in. I felt I would die if I didn’t buy them. You know the feeling. You should have seen them. Very simple, but still so showy. I thought later I should buy a dress that suits the shoes. Oh, I get carried away, I know. Well, I entered the shop, I pointed at the shoes, the assistant took the pair out of the window, I put them on, walked for a while in the shop, listening in ecstasy to the sound their heels made when they touched the floor. Tick tack tick tack. Oh Nesrin, you should hear it, it was as if the shoes said: “Hey, I am here, if your eyes have missed me, your ears can’t!” You know well Nesrin, I am very good at catwalk. Thank God, I took all those walking lessons. The assistant asked me if he should pack the new shoes. Can I wait, of course not. I said, “No, are you crazy, I am going to put them on right now, I want to hear the sound of my body meeting the ground.” The assistant had a lustful grin on his face. I got him to pack my walking shoes. How much did I pay? Oh Nesrin, you think I looked at the price? You think I care? Thanks to my sister’s visa card, I don’t have such worries anymore. Anyway, as I was searching in my purse of the card, those people who were sitting in front of the school started shouting slogans. Oh, what were they saying? Umm, umm, I think I remember one of them, it was something like, umm ‘Don’t be silent, the more silent you are, the quicker your turn will come.’ Yeah, it was something like that. Dear, by the time I found the card, trouble broke out and the whole street got messy. I got out of the shop in a panic, I was going to walk quickly to the taxi stop and run away. Then I remembered that I left the bag the assistant had put my walking shoes in in the shoe-shop. It was almost impossible to walk anywhere unless you mix with those people in clash with the police. I was nailed to the entrance of the shop. Then I heard a click behind. I turned back only to realize that the shop assistant had locked the door from inside. I said, oh please, please open the door, and let me in, let me stay until this cools down. The merciless assistant didn’t open the door. He knew, so many people would take refuge in the shop causing a lot of damage. I had to do something, the entrance for the shop was not safe at all, I had to try my chance, and keeping to the windows again. I was going to walk only a few yards to the taxi. All I could do was to take just one step, that was it. Boom! I heard the sound in my head. Oh Nesrin, you should hear the echo in my brain. Then came the pain. Then a second blow on my back while I was desperately trying to cover my head with both of my hands. I fell on the ground face down. I didn’t even have the chance to say “Hey what’s happening, I’m innocent, I’m not one of the protesters!” A hand grabbed me from my hair and started to drag me along the street. I started screaming, let me go, please stop, but who is listening? I think the left shoe came off then. Nesrin, are you mad? How would I stop and get it? Why don’t you try it once, and see if you can get your shoe back when a cop’s bait is not sparing its skills on your back. Please be serious if you want to hear the rest. Until you experience it yourself, you never know how serious these street protests are. Until then, I had only watched such things on the news and thought that I was safe as long as I kept away, and that such things happened only to others who are involved in politics. Well, anyway, they took me to jail, or someplace like that for the inquisition. There were two other women with me. Nesrin, I can’t describe how funny I looked. Blue jeans and that one reception shoe on my right foot. My left foot was all in blood and bruises. Half of my face was in blood too, I noticed later. I had never before experienced shame and fear at the same time. Just think Nesrin, I didn’t know where I was. I didn’t know if anyone knew I was there. Nor did I know what else was going to happen to me. Suddenly fear. Someone was going to find my dead body among the litter on one street corner. With this shoe on my right foot, I could visualize myself dead. The other two women had their shoes on. I was embarrassed. I suddenly pushed the shoe on my right foot behind one of the cupboards. I can’t tell you about the inquisition. I won’t. When the inquisition of one of the other women was over, they took her to another room. When it was my turn for that room, someone came with the left pair of my shoes I had dropped on Istiklal Street in his hand.
“Whose is this?” he asked.
Oh, dear Nesrin, I was so embarrassed. How could I confess that it was mine. Thank God he did not try it on me. He looked at me. Seeing that I had no shoes on, he asked me if it belonged to me. I wished I dropped dead. One of the other men gave me away.
“It belongs to her. I just saw her pushing the right shoe behind the cupboard.”
Just because of this or not, I don’t know, they kept me in that dungeon-like place for two days. I couldn’t let anyone know that I was under custody. Well, that’s the story of my disappearing for two days dear. No, they didn’t take me into that room, no. God knows why didn’t. But when they set me free, the sound that my new shoes made when they touched the ground upset me so much, I decided not to wear them again. I don’t think I will ever go to Istiklal Street again with high-heeled shoes on. …Oh Nesrin, you must be out of your mind dear. What concert, what reception for God’s sake!”
(Translated from Turkish by the author)
*The most famous street in Taksim, Istanbul. An entertainment center like Soho.
**A very old chapel near the entrance of Topkapi Palace. It is now used as a venue for artistic activities.