While Mandana's forger was trying to make me a passport, my life in the darkly magical city of Istanbul rolled on through that strange territory of The Baby Years. In the neighbourhood, ours was the only family with small children and I was the only Anglophone. We made up our own games and play.
One was tea parties for the dolls and toy animals. On a sunny day, I took the children into the lovely garden shared by all of the apartments. There was a row of arbours with benches and we chose one that seemed less windy. There, we arranged the dolls and bears, each with a tea cup and settled down to drink our tea and nibble our cakes. A maid who worked for the neighbour opposite, in faded calico and with a kerchief on her head, came out and started scolding us in Turkish. The children gaped and I tried to indicate in sign language that I did not understand. She clumped back into her employer's apartment. The employer, a stout and sturdy woman in her sixties who had the sartorial appearance of one who knitted her own underclothes, came out and shouted at me in English.
"Get out!" was the essence of it. "This is our garden. You are a filthy infidel foreigner. Get out!" I was not inclined to do so. The woman took up the garden hose and threatened to spray us out of the arbour. My clearly wrong response was to try to reason with her. She lunged. I grabbed my baby up into my arms. The woman picked up the tea tray, from which I snatched my grandmother's teapot, and she threw it and its contents onto the ground, shrieking by now. She hauled off and hit the side of my head, pretty ineffectually but I was shocked. I was even more so when she suddenly screamed and clutched her own head as if I had hit her and ran into her apartment.
Thoroughly frightened, I took the children back to our apartment and locked the doors. Less than five minutes later, there was a thunderous banging on the door and a man shouting in Turkish and English that I had attacked his wife. I was alone with my children and terrified to open the door. Huddled in fear in the back bedroom, I telephoned the Frenchman for help. His snooty, buck-toothed secretary at first said he was too busy but relented on hearing the panic in my voice and the pounding on the door.
Shortly, the pounding stopped and the Frenchman arrived with corporate lawyers and Mr. Selahattin. We trooped down to the local police station to make a complaint, only to discover the loony neighbour there, with a huge bandage on her head. She and her husband were in the process of accusing me of assault. The two complaints were filed. The husbands got into a confrontation and the police put them in separate rooms. The children were allowed to play with the antique typewriters. The police required the two groups to leave at separate times by separate doors. "This is very bad," Mr. Selahattin said.
When we arrived back home, deeply upset, we were greeted by the head of corporate security. He had just seen eight large thugs enter the apartment of the neighbours. "You are not safe here. Pack a bag and we will escort you to a hotel." How quickly fear escalates to terror, I discovered. I was shaking and losing the ability to calm myself.
In the hotel, the children finally asleep, and each of us with a glass of wine, the Frenchman looked me in the eye and asked: "Just between us, I want to know. Did you you do it?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Did you hit her?"
"I did not. There may, at one point, have been in my hand a teapot, with some lukewarm remains. When that lunatic veered too close to my children, that teapot may have been upended over her head, but I swear I never touched her."
©2011 Anne Morddel