THE DEADLIEST OF KILLERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What is the deadliest thing in Turkey? Devastating earthquakes in the Northwest? Bombs in the Southeast? Landslides in the mountains? Minibus and taxi driver's freshly escaped from Istanbul's Mental Facility for the Deaf and Blind? No! The answer is something far more sinister, and even more sinister than that for its pervasiveness. It's on every street corner, in every restaurant, running freely from every tap. It is in the very air you breathe. It is the air you breathe! That's right, air and water are Turkey's greatest killers. And I am not talking about any climate related disasters, my child. No, no, no. Those are far too fey, too poofy. No, I'm talking about the everyday air and water we breathe, drink, and bathe with. The so-called "essentials" of life.
For millennia man has longed to destroy air in a tooth and nail struggle that has claimed billions of lives, and yet air (and its satanic sister "water") like the indomitable cock roach, still prevail. All this week, at my school in the Anatolian outskirts of Istanbul, one of my fellow teachers has been floored by severe chest pains. She can't sleep at night from the excruciating tightness in her throat. At times, her left arm goes numb. She's only twenty-eight, so the likelihood of a heart attack is slim, yet something is clearly amiss. I ventured a guess that it had something to do with the amount of coffee and tea she drinks. (By noon today, with five hours still to go, she's already pounded five cups of coffee, and one of tea). Or possibly stress. (She handles seventeen different classes of raving, wild, chimp-like creatures a week, for a grand total of thirty classroom hours--anyone who has every taught before knows that this is an insane amount of hours. She cries at the teacher's table on a daily basis from sheer frustration with some of these students.) Or, I said, it could be a combination of caffeine and stress.
I am so naive.
No, it turns out, it's simply the fact that some teachers leave the window open in the teacher's room. "You see," she says as her jittering hand brings her mug of Nescafe up to her lips, "There's a draft that runs from the window to the door and it brushes right over me." A breeze passing over three or four layers of cloth has the power to devastate the heart muscles and sever the nerves to the left arm. God only knows what other damage it causes unnoticed. Ebola? Leprosy? Look no further than sweet O2, friends.
A more famous and therefore more important person was victim to a different element. When in his late seventies, Aziz Nesin, Turkey's beloved (once he was dead at least) comic writer, was plagued by weeks and weeks of colds. Is this because his immune system had been ravaged by age and heart disease? Ha, only a simpleton "doctor" would suggest such bollocks. A wise friend had the answer. "Aziz," he said. "You wash your clothes too much." And so Mr. Nesin simply stopped doing so. Then one New Year's Night, while preparing gifts for the orphans in the orphanage he managed, he was floored by a deadly heart attack. He was sure that it was the big one, and lay clutching his heart preparing to die (undoubtedly there was an open window somewhere, ah the folly of man!) His only regret was that whoever found his body would discover him sitting in underwear that had not been washed for weeks. (But hey, he was blessedly free of colds.) Water, even the memory of water on cloth is nearly as fatal as a breeze, and thought by some to be deadlier than radiation poisoning. It's far healthier to roll around in hydrogen bomb fallout than to allow yourself or anything you touch to get wet. Much damage that has been attributed to radiation sickness may actually be due to open windows in hospitals.
One day our scientists will be able to destroy our age-old enemies, air and water. But until that golden morn, we must continue to spin in this macabre dance with death and pray for salvation.