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Published: September 5th 2011
“So, will I have the chance to use the toilet beforehand?” Throughout the day Mick had been placing cold bottles of water in any hands he found empty.
“I don’t know. I really need to go too, but we’re already late” replied Mehraneh.
“I seriously doubt they’ll start without us.”
The smelly horse-and-buggy continued to crawl slowly up the hill under the hot afternoon sun towards Club Mavi. Our driver, tanned perhaps less by the sun than by his acerbic disposition, would thankfully not be in attendance at the actual ceremony. The vile equine chariot, possibly my least-favorite form of transportation ever, had been an unavoidable part of our nuptial commute as bicycles (the island’s other option for getting around) are a bit rough to manage in a wedding dress and 35 (95) degree heat. Somehow we had shrugged all of these details off during the hurried planning phase.
Short-sleeved tourists turned their heads to peak at us as they cruised past us down the hill, wind blowing through their hair and comfortable expressions on their faces suggesting they had empty bladders. Utterly exhausted and sweating (like long-tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs), we
must’ve been quite a thing to behold.
The day had started just a few short hours after the previous one had ended. In fact, sleep had played far too small a role during the whole week leading up to the wedding. In the cool morning air, we scurried over to Moda for a Van-style breakfast (you should come to Turkey and find out what that means if you’re not familiar with it) that ended up running a bit late.
Next, Cahit Bey set to work on Mehraneh’s hair, sculpting it into an impressive form and decorating it with orchids. The final product left her looking a bit like a Japanese princess, which was as surprising as it was lovely. It takes some time to do stuff like that to hair. No more “a bit,” now we were just plain running late.
Fortunately, every taxi driver in Istanbul drives as though he is desperately maneuvering to escape from the people in the car behind who are trying to shoot him. We made it to Bostancı in no time and got immediately onboard the ferry boat. Unfortunately, the ship’s captain did not possess a taxi driver’s sense of urgency.
We waited an eternity to depart. It was a hot, hot day by this point.
Off the ferry. Onto the island. Under the sun. Somehow directed to the previously-discussed horse-and-buggy. My memories of this part are sort of foggy, but somehow we made it up the hill.
We were definitely late.
We alighted from our malodorous hoof-powered wagon where Mehraneh’s mother was waiting for us. Our cantankerous driver proceeded to demand twice the normal rate for his boorish services (I think I made a mental note at this point to later use a thesaurus to express how repugnant his behavior was). I looked incredulously at him as I helped my bride down from the cart – a cart which had clearly never been a pumpkin, and this sour creature at the reins would unfortunately not transform back into some adorable animal at the stroke of midnight. Fortunately, Mehraneh’s mother had her own magic to wield and quickly diffused the situation. My head was spinning at this point.
Our tardy arrival was met with distant applause as we started to approach the tent where the wedding would be. We then promptly ducked into the nearest building, where
we found toilets, averted an embarrassing crisis, and postponed all the excitement a few minutes more. Trying to stop the world from turning around so fast, I splashed some cold water on my face and looked in the mirror. I remembered the words my dear friend Brian had said to me on the phone a few days earlier. He had assured me that no matter how frantic, stressful, and possibly terrible the days leading up to the event were, the actual wedding would be “perfect.” Brian, ever the optimist, has always been a reliable fountain of wisdom in the past. This seemed like an appropriate time to trust his advice once more.
Deep breath. “Perfect.” OK, here goes. We stepped back outside.
I guess that’s why they sometimes have rehearsals before weddings. We hadn’t even remembered to talk about whatever it was that was supposed to happen next. Where do we process in? Where are we supposed to end up? I hadn’t even seen the venue prior to this moment. It had been a frantic couple of weeks, after all.
We started walking toward the blurry group of cheering people and Mehraneh’s father emerged
from the crowd. Realizing that we were probably doing things backwards, I said “Maybe you should go with him,” ran ahead, and somehow ending up seated at the big round table I was supposed to be at to receive my bride. Everything seemed to be working out.
Not a moment was wasted as the woman dispatched from the local municipality to marry us set about doing so. She proceeded with the pace of an auctioneer trying to finish one last sale before fleeing a burning building. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that an average movie trailer lasts longer than our wedding ceremony did. After each being asked to confirm that we wanted to marry one another and were not being forced against our will to do so, or something like that, Mehraneh responded with a spontaneous tri-lingual “bale, evet, yes” and I followed suit. The response was clear to the audience of Persian, Turkish, and English-speaking friends and family members. Applause followed. The Turkish “evet” in the middle was also symbolic of our entire three-year relationship, which has played out almost completely in Turkey, literally and metaphorically (in many ways) in between Iran and the United States.
Our witnesses, two-thirds of whom understood what they were agreeing to, also responded with an “evet” each (cheers, Mick), and after a few signatures and a quick peck on the lips we were married. Immediately, we were each presented with a cup of honey to dip our pinky fingers in. Nobody had mentioned this to me ahead of time. As we were cleaning the honey of one another’s fingers, I felt Mehraneh’s teeth sinking towards the bone (an Iranian custom – surprise!) and the sharp heel of her shoe threatening to tear through the leather of my new shoes (a Turkish custom – surprise!). My new bride whispered a smiling remark about how this was all foreshadowing.
If anything, the few moments of physical pain woke me from the surreal daze of the event and I found myself once again surrounded by a group of people all focused on us. The official was gone before I had finished scanning the crowd to see who had shown up. I assume she was late for another two-minute ceremony elsewhere.
Drenched in sweat, we then proceeded to shake hands, kiss, hug, and have brief, interrupted conversations with all of our
wonderful guests. Food helped us to feel human once again and the great weight of unnecessary stress and anxiety miraculously vanished completely.
The rest of the afternoon was bliss. A remarkable collection of people from all the strange corners of our lives was in attendance and we mingled up a storm. Better yet, I was freshly married to the woman I love, even if it hadn’t really sunk in yet. Feeling like the luckiest man on earth is indeed a great feeling.
Brian had been right once again, of course.
Early evening set in and we all made our ways back down to the ferry port. We went home to change into more comfortable clothes before heading out to the club we had arranged for the night. Some of our party headed straight to the bar to get an impressive several hour head start on us.
And the night went on and on, with story-telling and laughter. I’m not sure if it was the previously-referenced Cinderella hocus pocus or something else, but Mick’s water bottles somehow turned into tequila shots as the hours grew wee. We returned to Kadıköy at some hour that ten years ago
I would’ve considered perfectly reasonable. Photographic evidence suggests that those of us still awake continued the evening somewhere else and had what looks like a fun time doing so. We must not have wanted to say good night to such a lovely day.
By the end, I think Mehraneh and I felt something that could be described as the polar opposite of the stress we had woken up with; complete serenity, if you will. We bid farewell to the handful of friends left and left.
Happily ever after, I went home with my lovely wife.
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