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  • After three days in Istanbul, four days of travel, too little sleep and too much walking and talking and getting violently ill, after all this, I went back to work. I slid back into my life with picking up Girl Scout cookies and dropping off a library book, walking to work and seeing the dentist.

    The tooth doctor cheered when my mouth failed to bleed upon flossing. A small thing out of context, it deserved celebration; my mouth had bled for more than a year. It ached, throbbed, and wept for more than four. My old dentist caused a little permanent damage. The lack of bleeding meant something was working, which was great, but still slightly lame.

    Incredibly lame.

    For three days, I wandered Istanbul. Europe. Asia. Churches and mosques. I walked and talked with a man I had last seen in Paris seven years earlier and a man I'd just met, a friend's brother, a new friend. I weighed in on an argument over the disks hanging in Hagia Sofia and their role in both religion and aesthetics. Sipped raki, red wine, bottles of mineral water, and ate piles of meze. Life seemed so much brighter then, there, under the dark skies, heavy with rain.

    "What makes this all real?" I wondered at home again with the cookies and commute, library and dentist. "What makes it realer than anything else?"

    In Istanbul, I slept too little, laughed so much, and rode a ferry across the Bosphorus beside tourists throwing crusts and gulls swarming. Between hummus and pickles and getting violently ill, I wondered briefly if I'd started chewing sleeping pills instead of stomach meds. Then, I went to bed, got up, and got sick. Went to bed, got up, and got sick. Went to bed, got up, and pretended everything was all right. Eventually, it was.

    Laundry and flags flapped. A man shined my shoes. Tiles glittered on walls. A taxi parked on stairs. We ate dinner in an old Ottoman house.

    "Hey," I said, slapping a friend's arm. "We've eaten here before."

    And we had. Another time. Another trip. We were different people then but the house, restaurant and food had stayed much the same.

    Was tea at my desk less real than tea on roof in Kadiköy? Turkish delight less than Thin Mints? A Turkish woman scrubbing my body than the Jamaican woman flossing my teeth? None of it made sense to the girl who grew up poor in Ohio except, maybe, the Thin Mints.

    The Thin Mints made sense.
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