I was on the lam for an assault I did not commit in a country where I did not speak the language. I was not caught within the 48 hour limit that would have allowed my accuser to take me to court and jail immediately. Once that limit was up, I received a court date for six months in the future. Because my accuser was an insane neighbour who told her lies to everyone in our building, including the landlord, our family were evicted from our apartment, with two weeks given to get out.
Fate is a mystery. We rented the only place available on such short notice, and it was a magnificent, enormous house on a hill with beautiful views of the Bosphorus. Each ceiling was wooden, each with a different traditional pattern of flowers. The entire bathroom, as large as some bedrooms, was tiled in antique Iznik tiles. It was the most elegant, peaceful house in which I have ever lived. This was a good thing as I was by then too frightened of Turkish society to venture out the front door.
Another person might have laughed it off, but I was told by my lawyer there was a chance that I would go to jail. Those six months of waiting were pure anxiety, yet with two small children, it was not possible for me to show that fear. The abnormal becomes the normal in such situations, and my abnormality was the obsessive and constant, nervous tic of making pie crusts. All day long. The ingredients had to be pure, the butter the best, the flour wholesome. Each morning I mixed the dough by hand, my fingers crumbling the lumps of butter and flour to the texture of fine sand. I then rolled, folded and rolled again, becoming really quite expert at producing a tasty, flaky crust.
I made chicken pot pies and beef pies until the freezer was full. I made fruit pies fresh every day. Every meal was a pie of some sort. After school snacks were pies. Breakfast was pie crust with scrambled eggs. I baked pies and gave them away until people said to stop. Stop I could not. I was the Sorcerer's Apprentice of pie crusts. Toward the end of those six months, I was baking pie crusts and throwing them away.
My day in court came. No translator was allowed. The wacko and deeply malicious neighbour, with her husband as lawyer, had bribed a load of people who had not been there on the fateful day to appear as witnesses. They made their complaint again, the judge listened to the witnesses, an unkempt lot. The general tone seemed to have a lot to do with the fact that I was American. Then, the judge turned to me and spoke in Turkish. "Say your name," hissed my lawyer. "Morddel?" repeated the judge, and I felt a stab of panic that, somehow, he would challenge my name. "Moroglu versus Morddel. Ha, ha, ha." He found the similarity of the first syllables of the loony's and my name worthy of a chortle.
He then turned to my lawyer, who was made to say his name. Not good enough. He had to say his full name. Even I could understand when the judge made him repeat his middle name - Isaac - four times. It was a profoundly uncomfortable moment, and my lawyer handled it with dignity. He made my case. I was found guilty. The fine came to four dollars, and was suspended unless I ever assaulted anyone again.
I went home frustrated and angry that the truth had not prevailed, though my lawyer told me to be glad I had not gone to jail. Many pie crusts later, my fear and anger finally receded. To the family's relief, fewer pies were served, the supply of frozen pies was at last consumed, and our time in Turkey came to an end. It remains the only country where my home-made, pristine name was besmirched with a criminal record, my readers may be glad to know.
©2011 Anne Morddel