It started with his eyes. I didn’t even notice them myself at first, until my friend Allie pointed them out to me. We had been volunteering on a dairy farm outside of Istanbul, Turkey, and the farm’s foreman, Tarkan, had just dropped us off for a weekend in the city. As the van pulled away, Allie said, “Tarkan is hot, man. Those bright green eyes.”
It was true. Those eyes stood out against his dark complexion, the irises a piney green around the burning, amber-edged coals of his pupils. He had short black hair, a shadowy grizzled face, and the hard body and calloused hands of a farmer. Tarkan didn’t speak a word of English, so our communication had been limited by translators and the few sparse Turkish words I had learned.
After a weekend of couchsurfing and exploring the city of Istanbul, I returned to the farm with a newfound interest in learning the Turkish language. After work, drinking chai with the farmers, I approached the foreman.
“Iye akşam,” I ventured: Good evening. “Türkçe öğrenmek istiyorum, lütfen.” Turkish to learn I am wanting, please.
And he agreed, through the interpretation of another farmer, Mevlut, to help me in the evenings when he could.
I was an eager student, and my vocabulary improved dramatically over the next few days. Like a small child, I wanted to name everything around me. Cow! I’d point out to my fellow volunteers, many times throughout our work. A house! I am seeing a rock!
My lessons with Tarkan involved a lot of eye contact and tension building, interspersed with shy glances aside when it got to be too much. Body language was crucial, since it took a game of charades to learn each new word. Watching him mime the action of licking an ice cream cone, I tried to suppress a nervous grin. Unspoken desire had always made me giggle.
Tarkan was responsible for making the next day’s schedule each night, and I soon saw my name cropping up more than usual as his partner for milking duty. This meant the two of us alone in the dark predawn hours, herding cows into a sterile chamber lined with machines of suction. Popular traditional music echoed off the white tiles. The wailing voices, shivery strings and steady, gyrating beat had a tone both religious and deeply romantic. We worked in harmony, securing a pump to each full, tender teat, and releasing them once the rhythmic pulling had relieved each cow of her creamy load.
One morning, as I was pulling off my latex gloves with a smacking sound and preparing to trudge back to the volunteer cabins for breakfast, Tarkan called for me to wait. At least, I think that’s what he said.
“Evet?” I replied. Yes?
He followed with something unintelligible, but I caught you, with me, tonight, and the universal sign language for driving a car.
“Ne Zaman?” I asked him. What time?
At nine, he replied. Outside the volunteer house. He held a finger to his lips. A secret.
[Continue with I Am Wanting You A Lot (Part 2)]