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10:07 to Istanbul

10:07 to Istanbul

A Story by True Henry

Audience, meet Cole van Riebeck, otherwise known in the Universe as Black Genesis. Set in the middle of the "Journal Entries", his offers a non-chronological perspective to the Charlemagne Universe.


10:07 to Istanbul

File #37*



You keep asking me about those two weeks in Istanbul, even to this day. I still don’t know how you’d come to find me at a place like that- a street corner buried in the everyday, with our eyes meeting like midnight trains.

            It was a place she had always… talked about going to, in her own way, sometimes bringing up the subject on cool autumn nights after we'd put Melody to bed, and then she'd start the talking to me with that tone in her voice as though she were showing a student a map for the first time. I knew what she was doing the entire time, but I absolutely adored it when she did that, and shortly after, we'd be sure to start into one another in bed, but just because you 'adore' something doesn't really make it sincere.

            You know me- I very rarely admitted anything to anyone… on occasion, especially after a drink or two or three, but I said something to Sara once about wanting to see Europe, eventually, but sometimes Sara was never interested in anything I said but I suppose I simply accepted that as a fact.

            You see, I don't think she ever saw herself as the invigorated climber of crooked towers (actually, she was deathly afraid of heights), and she told me once that she thought watching a clock was a waste of time, if it wasn't entirely depressing. I guess… Normandy was just an overgrown garden to her- hell! The Yeti might as well have lived in a hostel at the foot of Matterhorn, and she firmly believed- no, no, she insisted that those sunsets in Southern France were staged in Pasadena all along by old National Geographic magazines.

            But to her, the Middle East was… what? authentic?

            Oh! just think of the impressions Dubai would leave on our little girl, Sara...

            I don't think Sara actually believed that anything pretty- in its natural- could exist east of the Continental Divide. I never really understood Sara, but I'd take both of them for long walks along the shoreline on foggy Saturday mornings after Melody woke up and breakfast was made.

            Sara taught the seventh grade there in Detroit, and each year or so she’d switch between science and history. I think that explains what type of person she was, and at the end of every year she brought home a new assortment of coffee mugs she’d received from students and each had pen splatters on the insides, but her pension was very nice for someone her age (I still to this day think it was because of her dad, who taught at the University). In the end, I think we could make a trip like that work and we could go anywhere, really- getting the right papers would be easy because, after all, she was a teacher.

            But I think Europe terrified Sara. We’d been hearing stories lately of how the children of American tourists were being kidnapped and then sold off somewhere at bargain prices- to yurt dwellers in Mongolia, for instance, where the old women huddled quietly in each tent laugh without showing teeth- and if the parents pay the ransom fast enough their child is found on a raft floating out in the South Sea like something from a Robert Lewis Stevenson story, their skin bleached by the sun.

            But the Middle East…

            There was always something different she was telling me about these places, and every detail was told with a precision that made me feel like… an idiot?

            Oh! Hi, honey!

            How was your day, dear?



            Today the students learned that in Beirut an entire family will share a three-story house and everyone wakes up early on Fridays to pray towards Mecca and the old men sitting on park benches in the afternoon heat smile quietly at themselves. Have you ever heard of such a thing?

            I said nothing, like a dumb a*s, and yet her gaze was absolutely certain that I had actually known that all along. I suppose you could say she... what?... trusted me.

            You see, I think this image of the mundane, of the community, captivated her, as if the world were a sort of ant farm and we'd take a magnifying glass on those cool autumn nights and take turns looking over maps in the atlas she kept with her. She thought that I thought she liked people that way too. Anyways- that was authentic enough to her and we’d smile to one another the whole night, like a couple who, after having awesome sex, thinks they have each other totally figured out, and then we would simply turn over our sides of the bed like brothers put up together.

            Sometimes I think those nights were the only vacations we ever needed to take, two children camped out under stars like boy scouts who shiver in their sleep, an innate fear of the bears that is greater than the fear of themselves.

            It’s one of those moments you laugh at after the bitterness fades because an old friend makes a joke about it over a drink or two down at the bar, and you all laugh along because you don’t want to be seen as a bore. But you laugh bitterly, of course.

            I spent two weeks in Istanbul.

            Without Sara's magnifying glass.

            It’s one of those moments when you lie awake in the middle of the night, and- depending on how drunk you are- wonder how you had gotten to that particular place at that particular time, whether it had been for better or for worse.

            I spent two weeks in Istanbul, lying on the grimy floor of an unused apartment that had once been a greenhouse.

            Without Melody.

            And you were there that one morning on the street outside a corner café in Istanbul, and our eyes met like midnight trains so that I had to stand and leave.

            I remember, specifically, that the child cried the entire night through, and it was the sort of crying that echoed the whole time in the cavity of the ears, in that grand cavern of the space between them. In fact, it may have wakened the whole damn building at one point… or several points. At times you’d hear, between the screams and after the echoes died away, the whisperings of the neighbors that seeped like water through the walls. A young boy telling his older sister to move over and give back his share of the blankets. The landlady's snore creating a harmony that trailed after the wrenching screams. The mother of that particular child trying to coo away the fever while rubbing the poison of sleep from her own face.

            Some days I think sleep is poison.

            I can’t say I bothered wearing a shirt those days even though it was winter outside the foggy windows and in the meantime my hands rested flatly, clammily on my bare chest and stomach, sometimes drumming to a rhythm of their own.

            These were all the sounds that Sara would have just… adored, and I could imagine her head, her ear, resting on my chest, listening to the metronome of the heart buried somewhere within while her eyes stared past the rain-streaked glass ceiling. It was all a symphony, but how do you take a picture of that to write on the back of a postcard?

            Wouldn’t Mount Sinai make such an impression on her, Sara?

            I may very well have been hungry, maybe even tired- sensations you know exist as part of you but you don’t necessarily share their sentiments.

            I was starving, for anything!

            And apparently, the night transformed the very sounds themselves.

            All the while- the whole night, which lasted for two weeks- I laid there hearing train horns blasting through that dark Istanbul velvet, carrying Melody away at the back window of the rear car waving a slow goodbye that didn’t want to go, and I’m standing back on the track like a dumb a*s watching her leave all while flicking another exhausted butt towards an ashtray sheltered somewhere in the darkness of the flat, and my fingers drumming along to this Istanbul Philharmonic.


            Did you know that?

            I realized at that moment that all the Turkish cigarettes taste something like black coffee- which I can't stand the taste of, but it’s the same feeling of flight on a lazy summer afternoon that we all wish we can have that cannot be masked, not even by the Pearl itself. And then I spent two weeks flicking cigarettes towards an empty ashtray like a dumb a*s until I was certain that I could soar over the spires of the mosque down the street, and it offered its hand to me if only I could lose the weight of the train horns.

            Honestly I was waiting for something to happen there in Istanbul- like awaiting sex, but without all the stimulations- but for what I still don't know to this day. Maybe it had something to do with that moment when you wonder what exactly, at what exact moment, your life decided to radically change its direction while you were still barely riding backwards in the saddle.

            I think I took comfort in it, actually, which is something that would have... utterly terrified most people my age. In fact, I didn't even feel fear those two weeks I laid in an empty apartment in Istanbul. You see, when you're on the run, you're having to check over your shoulder constantly, sleeping with your feet facing front doors but your eye on them the whole time while your right hand keeps a quickening tempo on your chest, and the cold barrel of a gun nestles itself against your left side pointed at your hip, should anything go too haywire, and only after you've reached the comfort of your own home can you gradually begin to slow the tempo of your right hand.

            I noticed, once, that whenever Melody would walk with me she would always take me by the left arm even though she had just gotten over the fact that I had the sleeve, which used to scare her when she was a baby and I had to wear a shirt everywhere I went with her, even in the bath. Oh! Mommy says that your eye twitches, Daddy. How are you supposed to take pictures with one eye closing all the time?

I'd give an answer a five year old could understand and she told me- whatever the question was- that she already knew that. She was very smart for a little girl, something she must have gotten from her mother and her granddaddy was a professor at the University and when her daddy was growing up, all he wanted to do was learn how to break dance on the Detroit sidewalks.

            One of the nurses from the clinic came in the early hours of dawn, and that seemed to silence the Istanbul black-velvet for a while until the knock came at the front door after a few more exhausted cigarettes tossed carelessly towards the ashtray somewhere in the twilight void of the stained-glass room.

            And the knock came again.



            Again, until I felt the very knocks themselves echo about that grand cavernous space that once housed a child's broken music box. The last of the trains had left, finally, and I flicked one last cigarette to some place new before standing, naked and with stomach raw.

            Good morning, bayfendi, even in a thick accent, means the same thing anywhere.

            Can we have sex now, hon’?

            No, dear, but in Jordan, everyone smiles to you as you cross the street.

            'Evsahibesi' is Turkish for 'hostess', and she stood on the other side of the door looking in past me, past the scattered cigarette butts, to the impression I had made on the dust on the floorboards. The ashtray lay within arm's reach of that, empty save for the thick layer of dust that blanketed it.

            And then she looked to me.

            'I came to see if you were still alive,' she told me without saying it, and somehow I knew she was disappointed that the ashtray had gone the last two weeks unused. 'Sometimes I worry about my tenants. It just comes to us naturally, after all your children leave you alone so you can finish growing up.'

            I said nothing, holding the door with one hand as one holds open a shower curtain, refusing to allow the familiarity of the steam escape. Behind the door, I had unconsciously set to scratching myself with my other hand- something that eventually came to surprise me, as I didn't actually feel anything there worth itching.

            Mommy says your hands shake when you get mad at her and when I asked her why you get mad at her she wouldn't tell me, and Melody always walked holding my left wrist.

            “You looked the same when I last saw you, Mister Kaestner,” and her eyes sunk into a sort of softness that I hadn't recalled ever seeing. “May I come in?”

            I opened the door quietly a little further and she slipped in past my fidgeting hands and stood in the middle of the room and looked about the graveyard of charred tobacco that tasted like burnt coffee. She cradled her arms close, one hand wrapped around her body and the other over the end of her hijab, and the coldness of the room stung my chest for the first time but I stood there door in hand and the other still digging at my crotch, and her back was to me the whole time, politely waiting for me to finish, all the while speaking in patchwork German.

            “You remind me a lot of my boy when he was your age. I still remember sweeping cigarettes from the floor every morning when I lived with him in Berlin, and each pile seemed larger than the one the day before, and I cooked for my boy all of the time, and he was happy with me until he finally found work and had to leave town... at least you preform the courtesy of buying local tobacco- he refused any brand he didn't already know, and spent himself stupid buying only the imports, and would smoke them while sitting naked on the kitchen floor, in front of the sink.”

            I remained there, door still half-open, hands at my sides now and for once they hung there still.

            “Madame Turan is the one who sends the gifts to new residents- tulips, mostly, planted in coffee mugs she buys from a potter on the other side of the Bosporus. She says she left them at your door, and came back a few days later and saw that they had died, and she cried a little about it to me because she said all they needed in the end was some water.”

            From the corner, I pulled a shirt over my head, all, and sat back down against the wall beside the door. The metal lighter rested in the middle of the room, at her socked feet, and I see could she was thinking of asking to use it.

            “I went early this morning and prayed for my boy (who lives in Milan now and something about three grandchildren)... and then I prayed for you. Do you believe in any god, Mr. Kaestner?”

            She said this as though she had difficulty accepting her own words- and I was okay with that too. Mommy says you play pretend really, really good. Can you pretend to be a knight, so I can be a princess? Why do your hands shake with you get upset with her, Daddy? Does your eye get lonely when it twitches?

I sat silently, and the half-used pack of cigarettes was starting to feel heavy again.

            "Some of the other tenants tell me that they think you're a loner, but I tell everyone not to be so nosy. Besides you go running early in the morning, I tell them, and did I ever say how you remind me of my boy when he was your age?"

            She turned to me, looking me in the eyes that I suppose gazed blankly towards the other wall, a week's beard on my jaw and perhaps I could have taken a wash even though it was very cold now in Istanbul. She continued to tug on the end of her headscarf, tucking a stray hair away and for a moment she reminded me the old woman we used to know who lived there in Detroit who wore those silly purple and white polka-dot bracelets on both wrists.

            "Have you tried Turkish coffee yet, Mr. Kaestner?"

            "No." I answered.

            "You may not have had the chance, then, but not many foreigners like the way we prepare it- they say our coffee is like... motor oil? That's what you call it, right? Do you drink-"

            “No.” I answered, folding my arms across my body and sticking my feet out in front.

            “Sometimes I worry about you,” she said as though she didn't blame me either.

            “Let worry find me here.”

            “You know, I lied to them about the running,” she smiled finally, giving a wink like a grandmother who knows too much, “but you do run. I saw you, the other night, up on the roof and I watched you take a running jump to the roof of the next building over and you kept running down the roofs of the whole street, and I watched until you vanished and I remember thinking to myself 'That's very odd of Mr. Kaestner'. My boy used to do the same sort of things, you know, but I thought it was especially strange because... because you went without a shirt.”

            I said nothing more and our eyes finally met, and I felt her gaze try to burrow itself into a feeling that just wasn't there anymore. Sometimes Melody and I would pick up shells on the shore line and we'd walk back with pockets full to show Sara while she fried eggs only over hard, and Melody would always sit on the left side of the breakfast table next to me and she'd show me her favorite ones that were always striped and would lay them across my arm and try to make the stripes match up with the lines of the tattoo.

            I closed the old woman away.

            “My mind sometimes wonders about you, Mr. Kaestner, sometimes making up great stories of its own. You're in Istanbul on business. You own a villa in Tuscany, and your wife secretly writes romantic poetry in your study while you are gone. Can you blame me for that? An old woman who is just your landlady?”

            “F**k,” I leaned my head back and let out as a grumble. My eyes opened to her again, “I'm starving.”

            She said, “There's a bakery that makes gevrek down the street”.

            And her voice was so… unwavering, and just so knowing… and she stood in the middle of the man-shaped hole in the dust with patient refusal to leave, one hand wrapped around her side and the other fidgeting with the corner of her headscarf.

            “What is that?”

            “My son still calls them 'bagels.'”

            I thought, “I always liked bagels” aloud, between itches of the jaw.

            She waited for me to stand, and we left with the door still open.

            She asked me again in the steady, patchwork German if I liked my coffee Turkish and I told her no for the third time.

            “I think you’d like it.” she nodded to me as I pulled the cigarettes out and laid them out across the small table shoved into the back corner of the bakery that was a five-minute’s walk from the apartment’s glass ceiling. In return, she produced her own lighter, taking one from the pack and holding it to the flame and then handing it to me with the same grandmotherly smile that I had never known before. “It seems your type of aura...”

            “No……. [and then softer] I never drank coffee.”

            We waited on each other- her soft eyes hitching onto mine- until she finally pulled the smoldering end back and stuck it between her crackled lips. Her eyes shut for the first time that morning- a substance that touched me a little bit.

            “My boy was the same way- just hated the stuff. I think he grew out of it, though, before he ever had a chance to try it.” She answered with a breath of smoke that kind of reminded me of one of the houses we lived in growing up… laugh, but I thought then of boxed stuffing at a Thanksgiving dinner.

            Sometimes Sara would drink an Irish cream after dinner, and the landlady just smiled at me and told a passing waiter in Turkish to buy an import, for me, from the vendor across the street and he came back with the pastries in his other hand.

            “Honey?” she asked me, smashing the fuming end of the smoke into an ashtray, hard, and finally switched topics. “Where are you from?”

            I just looked at her with what I guess was the same… haggard expression, perhaps a little more dazed than before.


            “I meant you don’t strike me as very European- too reserved, but I hear the Swiss and Danish always like to take up the back corners in coffee shops in train stations, chattering with their fellow countrymen like old men do on park benches.”

            My gaze flattened a little more. “We used to live off Lake Erie, once.”

            She lifted her eyebrows over the rim of the coffee cup she took a sip from, “Montana- right?”

            “No. Michigan.”

            A quiet correction, and a nod, an admission.

“I always wanted to go there- Montana, that is- but I heard from my son that Canada is nice too.”

            “Sometimes they’ll drive on the wrong side of the road in Quebec.”

            She lowered the cup, revealing a genuine smile. “Perhaps… at least they have streets to choose sides on. Did you ever live in Germany?”

            “I was stationed there for three years right before the goons finally kicked us out. People spit all the time and told us that we didn’t smell like fascists to them. There was joke going around the group that they were going to send all the Americans who stayed to the Alps for summer camp. One of the general’s aides was grabbed one night walking home from the store. Our Seals found her two weeks later chained to a kitchen sink in Zurich, the piece of bubble gum she bought missing from her chest pocket.”

            I could tell she thought that was a little shocking because she choked a little on a bite of whatever the hell they call bagels there.

            “You aren’t married, then.”

            I lifted the bottle and took a long draw of the beer, without a swallow, while keeping my eyes steady to hers the entire time.

I never knew anyone else who could do that.

“Nope. She left me on an early train to Toronto.”

            She seemed hurt then, disappointed that her fantasies for me were entirely wrong. But then there was the… understanding, of a mother who catches her son with his girlfriend in the middle of sex wanting to know if the bathroom fan’s on for a reason, and it certainly isn’t the type of full-blown anger you’d expect leading up to it.

            She waited until I lowered the bottle, and then motioned to the baker again for some more honey.

            “Every morning I told my son, when I lived with him in Berlin, that a man doesn’t find himself by screwing with the woman across the hall while her husband is away, and then lie to his mother that he was out all night with the only three friends he has in a city the size of Berlin.”

            “I run without a shirt in the winter because the wind reminds me a bit like swimming naked.”

            She took another forkful of pasty dough, content- for the first time- with my explanation. “Sometimes my tenants will ask me why I sometimes shout in German in my sleep, and I tell them not to be so damn nosy, but that it’s those little sensations I miss the most in my old age.”

            I looked past her as the trains came smashing into the bakery. You stood at the street corner across from us with an umbrella and wearing sunglasses because of the fog. I recognized you in an instant- a cheap headscarf bought from the market down the street- and the trains ran the two of us over in the café.

            “I miss them too, actually…”

I stood with the bottle not emptied, the rent paid by two-week-good-faith-Thanksgiving-dinner-trial-version, and she told me she was okay with that without actually saying it and I waited outside the café for our eyes to meet like midnight trains before turning the corner.

            When a song gets louder, it’s called a crescendo, Melody.

            I know that, Daddy. Will you stop squeezing my hand so hard? It hurts, and how am I supposed to pick up shells with a hurt hand?




*This author and story are proud members of the Charlemagne Universe-

© 2013 True Henry

Author's Note

True Henry
Please feel free to comment. Clearly this narrative style is unique, but don't let it sidetrack you. The purpose of this choice of syntax is to maintain an intricate INTERACTIVE with the reader. Ignore grammar- for the most part, it's a component of the style!

My Review

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Featured Review

When it comes to dialouge you have a way of drawing people into the story and get the interested. Yeah, they were gramaticals errors that had me cringing a bit. But its a common mistake and you can always edit the story. I for one shouldn't be talking about grammar I suck at it too.

Posted 10 Years Ago

4 of 4 people found this review constructive.


A very good story. I like the locations and the good conversation. The strong description kept my attention to the end. The characters were interesting and the storyline had purpose. Thank you for sharing the excellent story.

Posted 10 Years Ago

Sorry to read it so late, but I making up for it by "like"ing your FB page. Hope to see all updates in my news feed from now on!

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I reread your story again and I must say I am now a firm believer in the saying, "It always gets better with the retelling". Cole is by far the most interesting man written about today and the style used makes him all the better. I will give you the latest picture of Cole as soon as I finish with all the details.

I await your next installment!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

Posted 10 Years Ago

nice story

Posted 10 Years Ago

This is very unusual. It is not often that I encounter narration this conversational. It is interesting!

Good job!

Posted 10 Years Ago

True Henry

10 Years Ago

Thank you! I'm pleased that you were able to connect to this writing, as I had intended :-)
This was very unique but that is what made it interesting as well. I am no good with grammar so aside from that, you have done an amazing job drawing your readers in. It was like being with him as he moved from one place to the next place:) I was wondering what happened between the time and being with his family to being alone?

Posted 10 Years Ago

True Henry

10 Years Ago

Thank you. More shall come :-)
great work...nice dialogue.. awesome stuff :-)

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

True Henry

10 Years Ago

Thank you very much. I'm glad you enjoyed it :-)
Very interesting. Definitely of that slow contemplative literary genre, shuttling back and forth across time and place of memories, to draw the image of a man moving from where he once was to where he stands now. Still there is a lot of mystery remaining about the time in between that led from his life with his family to his lonely isolation in Instanbul. Is this meant to be the beginning of a longer piece?

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

True Henry

10 Years Ago

Firstly, I'm pleased that this has left such a profound impression on you. My personal belief holds .. read more
Horizon K.

10 Years Ago

Well, I think you definitely accomplished that tying in of relevant life elements with this one. Gr.. read more
This was very unigue structure and story. I was drawn in form the very first lines. Very well done!
God Bless

Posted 10 Years Ago

True Henry

10 Years Ago

Thank you very much. I'm glad you enjoyed it
Lost in Wonderland

10 Years Ago

No problem at all

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30 Reviews
Shelved in 7 Libraries
Added on August 24, 2012
Last Updated on March 5, 2013
Tags: Black Genesis, Genesis Pearl, Charlemagne, Voltaire, Geno, Navigo Industries, Superhero, Monologue, Cole van Riebeck


True Henry
True Henry

Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England, United Kingdom

I write. Short and Simple. That is all that matters to me, whether or not it does you. I appreciate only sincere comments,. Carry on with it, then! more..


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