Friday, February 5, 2010

An orange, a day...

I had an image of heaven as a child. God’s head, a large scale version of an evangelist often on our television while I grew up, ethereally hovered above an industrial waste land. Large steel towers puffed grey smoke as if on a timer, and stood upon dry and colorless land. Above the horizon was a cloudless and pale sky. I often pictured myself peering at this scene, which lay before my young eyes drab and spanning onward spatially and temporally without end. I hoped never to die if this was the experience of heaven. It seemed more like hell. I dreaded the afterlife and eternity. In adulthood I have come to see the roots of those fears, a fear of boredom.

At nearly thirty years old I find the same sensations of dread resurfacing that my thoughts used to invoke when I was a young child. Adana life has come to feel painfully routine. I am starting to ask, have I died and gone to the heaven of my childhood?

In my kitchen there is a purple glass bowl in which I put oranges. I had started using the bowl for fruit because I liked the visual contrast of the purple with the oranges. After about a week when I have eaten its contents I go to the market to buy more and refill the bowl. A video recording of the kitchen table played back in fast forward would reveal a cyclical pattern; the bowl fills, empties, winter, fills, empties, spring, fills, empties, fall, fills, empties, summer, fills, empties, winter, fills, empties, fills, empties…

Second to kebab, oranges are probably the most abundant food here. Orange trees line the streets and parks overflow with them. When walking I often see a stray orange, one that has fallen from a tree or someone’s shopping bag. Sometimes they are whole and unblemished, sometimes squashed, occasionally they are decayed. They are a reminder of the choice I made to leave Istanbul for Adana. The omnipresent orange has become a symbol of a stagnant, seemingly inescapable existence.

As the days collapse into each other even the people have taken on a static appearance, like in a painting or figures in a small town diorama. They live the same day, the same moment eternally, as am I. The fruitstand owner waits outside of his stand in his vest and apron. The restaurant worker is outside with a cigarette that never extinguishes and a glass of tea that never empties as he waits to escort customers into the phantom restaurant. The old man is hunched over his tray of chestnuts and turning them in the fire. And the hefty man with the five o’clock shadow sits on a crate on the street corner continuing to pop popcorn, although he is already neck deep in bags of it. I get the impression that he is as fed up as I am.

But how much of this is a projection of my own boredom? And is the remedy for this illness a change of location, or a change of attitude?

Contemplating this, the worn and jaded faces of these men enter my mind and I decide that at this time I am their companion in existential misery, and I toss an orange peel aside.

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