Istanbul, Elli Garlin

Wading into the terminal hustle, I step off the route seven bus. A kid in a baseball cap asks me for a cigarette. Then a light.

“What time is it?”

He studies his phone from somewhere behind fogged lenses. It’s just past eleven. Still time to take a leak.

I pass through the glass doors. Faces tighten against the cold as it rushes in like a refugee. Nobody around but petty troublemakers and tired old men sitting like cautionary signs. They remind me of my arts degree. They make me think of my mother.

The restroom door is open, riddled with fingerprints. I start through the doorway. A voice stops me. It asks me for help from around the corner. It’s loud enough, but louder still in my head.

My body stiffens.

“Help” calls the voice again, striking my ears like a rattlesnake among the weeds. I feel like an actor, in shock beneath the stage light. But already my feet are moving, moving down the broken escalator. The number eight bus is waiting, pumping smoke into the cold, sharp night.