100 Years

by Esra Ozturk August 18, 2016

The sun beating down on my face was unbearable after a night of turmoil. I felt my sweat drip down my face as I clenched my jaw, every single moment since it happened had made my life  utterly unbearable. I felt my muscles tense up at words that ticked me off to what had occurred. Trying to ease myself back into a state of mental and physical comfort was impossible. It felt like every single person around me was using language that was digging into every single sensible nerve I had left. I felt as if my sanity was hanging right in front of me where I could see it, and I was about to lose it. I had to keep moving.

I grabbed the door handle to escape the chatter of the public after the first military coupe in decades. Walking down the aisles of the neighborhood store I was familiar with for a few years now, I struggled to grasp onto reality. I grabbed a gofret (a popular Turkish chocolate bar) and made my way to the counter. Glancing up, the screams and temper tantrums on the television caught my eye. I glanced away. My heart had been broken piece by piece at the events that had unfolded the past couple of years. But after the recent attack at the international airport in Istanbul, followed by the coupe, my entire heart had shattered to pieces, leaving a heavy burden the size of a brick as its replacement. It hurt to sigh, to raise my voice, to argue, and oh god did it hurt to sob. “Hello?”

I glanced up to see a man with identical facial features to my father. “Oh sorry... my head was elsewhere” were the only words I was able to get out. Frantically trying to get my wallet out, the cashier turned away from me to speak to a man much younger than him who was looking at the screen in disbelief. The cashier chimed out and asked him to stop filling his head with information that would boil his blood, and politely asked him to get back to work. With a crack in his voice from the water slowly building in his eyes, the young man cleared his throat and looked back at both of us. “Can you believe this is the 100 years we’ve come to live in?”

I stopped, my mind at full attention. He repeated himself. “I mean… can you really believe this is the 100 years we’ve come to live in? Of all the times we could have graced the earth, we have fallen into this time of no humanity. You look outside? What do you see? All Turks are divided. Divided by religion, by politics, by education, by sanity. You look left and right on the streets, what do you see? A refugee child trying to sell you water bottles as cars drive past his left arm then his right. And now, we aren’t even allowed outside. People are rushing to banks and grocery stores to stock up, willing to rob each other for self preservation. Can you believe it? That this is our time?”

I grabbed my bag and bolted. Unsure of the answer to his question that was permanently engraved in my mind from that day forward. Were we really in a new era? What did we do to deserve to live in absolute anarchy? I had no freedom to express my thoughts on the internet, no access to most social media, no freedom to wear the clothes I wanted in this heat, and I couldn’t stand to see another picture of an innocent person brutally murdered in the name of some sick justice. When did this country shift, and shift backwards? Two years ago I was in the middle of the grand bazaar, smiling from cheek to cheek. I took pictures of where my dad worked in the bazaar as a teenager, and watched him reunite with his old boss after 20 years. We ate the most delicious food in the streets, and there wasn’t a moment I didn’t feel safe. I felt at home, at peace, relaxed and fulfilled. This was my culture and my people, and it was wonderful. I never wanted to leave. Fast forward two years, I was struggling to find a method of transportation back to the states after flights were banned. I wasn’t delirious about what was going on around me; I witnessed brutal exchanges of conversation and interaction everyday after the event. I stopped leaving my house, confined to my journal for hopes of ever getting back to a place where I could finally breathe. I was a first hand witness.

But unlike the young man in the store, I wasn’t confused or shocked at the 100 years card I was dealt. I had accepted it. It was no longer up for question. Is this the 100 years we have? It was a statement. This IS the 100 years you have. This is it, up front in your face. Raw. This is your 100, so what are you going to do about it?

Esra Ozturk
Esra Ozturk