Warning: rant alert
Yesterday, E and I decided to go to the Prince’s Islands for an afternoon of cycling, swimming and picnicking. What we got was perhaps the greatest test of our relationship yet.
Istanbul has been disgustingly, sweatily hot for the last 10 days or more. The kind of heat where you wake up sweaty and go to bed sweaty. Where just reading a newspaper makes your face sweat (or at least, it makes my face sweat). Where sleep just doesn’t come.
The idea of an island escape was tantalising. We knew that it was a Sunday in August, and therefore half of Istanbul was likely to have the same idea as us. But we decided to go after lunch, and to one of the smaller, less glamorous islands, Heybeliada, in the hope that it would be quieter.
I arrive at the ferry terminal at 2.15pm, our arranged meeting time. It’s busy, but not noticeably so. E calls to let me know he’s almost there. At 2.21pm, still no E, I’m distracted from my vague griping about E’s failure to be on time by an angry commotion at the terminal entrance. A security guard is trying to shut the gates. Apparently, the ferry is full and they’re not taking any more passengers. 30 seconds later, E jogs up. He is, as ever, optimistic that we cna talk our way in. But the security guards (now three) are having none of it, and the next ferry isn’t until 4.45pm.
Annoying, but not the end of the world. We bowl up to the Şehir Hatları terminal, the big, municipality-owned ferry service whose boats to the islands usually resemble a lifeboat escaping from the Titanic but travel closer to the speed of the iceberg. They have a ferry at 2.30pm as well, so we hustle through the gates where there is a heaving crowd.
It is at this point that E decides he must have a newspaper. I protest. We don’t want to miss this ferry too, do we? He rolls his eyes. He belittles my panicking. He says we can’t possibly miss it because the newspaper kiosk is just over there.
And so I throw up my hands in despair, and go through the barriers. Without reading the destination sign, I elbow my way onto the boat, and dive into one of the last remaining pairs of seats. My temper is already simmering by this point, but I text E to tell him where I am, then focus on defending E’s seat from the other hundreds of seatless but self-entitled passengers.
Presently, however, I realise that the ferry is moving.
I call E, praying he’s downstairs.
“Hi darling,” he says calmly. He’s calm. He must be on the ferry.
“Where are you? Are you on the ferry?” My voice comes out a bit more high-pitched than I’d intended, startling even myself.
“Erm, no, I’m not,” he replies, coolly.
“What?” I manage not to swear, but I am shrieking.
“They shut the gates, I couldn’t get inside”.
Again, so cool. I don’t know which island it goes to. I don’t have any money. And I am alone (well, unless you count the 853 other passengers, but you get my gist).
“But the ferry’s MOVING!” I cry. People are starting to look at me curiously now.
“Oh really?” he says, in a tone of voice that suggests I’d just told him about something interesting I’d watched on the Great British Bake Off.
I hang up. I cannot handle this. My dreamy Sunday afternoon of snoozing on a sunny rock is rapidly evaporating. Sure, I can go to the islands alone, that’s not a problem. But I am penniless, and have no way of getting back.
He calls back.
“I can get the next ferry at 3.30pm and meet you there.”
I am tempted to hang up again. I tell him this is not a solution and he needs to do better.
In the end, all is well. I get off at Kadıköy and wait for him. Together we get another ferry that is less reminiscent of a Titanic scene. But the gloss has gone from the day. We bicker on our bikes. He chooses a bit of sea to swim in that is filled with barnacled boulders that cut my feet and hands, and I am furious. Again.
On the way back, we buy tickets for a ferry that never comes. It starts to rain. In the end, we crowd onto one of the Şehir Hatları ferries that resembles a cattle farm. I am sure it will sink, just to top off our day, and I will find someway to blame E.
The storm breaks the minute we get out of the dolmuş in Üsküdar. We stand on the bus, shivering in the air conditioning and glaring at each other. I’m beginning to question my sanity in moving to this ridiculous country to marry this ridiculous man.
And then, out of nowhere, at precisely the same moment, we both start laughing. The ridiculousness of the day dissolves, and our anger evaporates into the storm clouds.
We make it home safely, and resolve never to go out ever again.