First Impressions

"Do you like them?" I asked my roommate, Rosie*.

"Oh that's so you, Petra," she replied. "You should get them."

I stood paralysed, thumbing the plastic holder that displayed the garnet stoned earring contemplating the purchase of one more unnecessary earring, as Rosie struggled unsuccessfully to balance her large cache of bangles, earrings, rings and chains in one hand. 

With a clatter of wire and chain hitting the tiled floor, my decision was made. 

Nope.

Not today, jewellry store. 

I carefully retrieved the delicate pieces of Rosie's jewellry that fell near me on the floor. Doing so, as I bent down, I could see... something...blurry...someone...black...dressed in black...in the corner of my eye...moving... moving towards me on the concourse of the mall floor just outside the store. 

Closer,

Closer,

A blurry, frantic paddling of feet, the air stabbed repeatedly by an undefined right arm to increase momentum. 

This apparition played across the theatre of my mind, giving me the concentration needed to untie the delicate chain that had fallen into a mass of metal knots. I guess much like the effect of music on my literary craft, I needed the illusion to unravel the flow of linked impressions

"Thank you," said Rosie. 

"You are welcome," I said as I stood up facing her and losing sight... and memory of my blurred hallucination.

Waiting in the jewellry story, my demeanour conclusive of no sale today, the attendants and I engaged in an exchange of awkward smiles of guilt (mine) and concealed frustration (theirs) as we waited on Rosie to finish her shopping

It would not have been so awkward if it were not for the fifth time that week that we- all of us: Rosie, the two attendants and myself were reliving this scenario

 Never an eager shopper, I was often pulled into Rosie's shopping sprees during the first few months of living together in a tiny city in Turkey. A 'big city gal' from Texas doing her best to negotiate the small city life of Anatolia Turkey, she quelled her boredom with eating and shopping. I, her roommate and fellow English speaker, obliged her. Reluctantly.

Not because, I did not like her or because I did not want to experience Turkish life, food and mundanity of shopping. I did. 

However, I did not want to have to experience the reaction of stares, pointing, looks of disgust, confusion or shock from people to my black skin. 

A shared discomfort, Rosie and I, over the course of four months, had grown used to this experience- my experience that had, despite her Persian, Muslim and white skin, become 'ours' by default of affiliated proximity. 

We made it to her favourite jewellry store this day relatively unscathed. Some stares, no pointing and no gestures of 'You are not welcome here'. 

Still, the wait for Rosie to finish her perusing brought a level of familiar anxiety with it. 

Safe. I was safe in the jewellry store with the two attendants who knew me down to my fingernail by now. 

But back out there, where I felt alone and different, I lamented the ordeal that I knew awaited me as we soon would have to leave the store and most certainly indulge in Rosie's second favourite past time- dining out at a never before tried restaurant; guaranteeing even more unwanted attention. 

Turning around suddenly to see if Rosie was showing any signs of leaving as well as making my best attempt to distract myself from the impeding norm, I caught the outstretched arms of an old woman, dressed in a black abaya, black hijab and black moccasins. 

Fighting hard to maintain my pivot, I could not stop the momentum fueled by the strong pull of her arms on my shoulders, and so I fell into them.

"I love you so much," she said holding me in an embrace. 

 Startled, we all were. Rosie, the two attendants and I. 

I did not know this woman. 

She cupped my face, stared into my eyes and kissed me on both cheeks. 

"I love you. You are so beautiful."

Appearing behind her, a girl, maybe in her late teens, high pony tail with hoop earrings, rubbed the old woman on the back looking slightly embarrassed by the woman's overt act of affection. 

Turning to the girl and speaking in Turkish the old woman spoke with an heartfelt excitement. 

Using whatever English she knew as well as phone apps to fill in the blanks, the girl explained, 

"She has seen you before, walking and she wanted to tell you, you are beautiful."

 

*Rosie is not the real name of the person portrayed.