What you do in a coup

The first sign was messages from two different friends at 11pm asking me “What the hell is going on?” I think, “I’m drinking a Campari spritz on my balcony in the breeze” but know this isn’t the right answer.

I take to Twitter and Facebook and am glued there until dawn watching a coup unfold in my adopted city, Istanbul. At 1:30am a Turkish friend calls to check on me and offer to come get me if I’m afraid. Strangely, I’m not afraid, but it gives me a feeling of security to know someone has my back. I check in with my friend up the hill who tells me she is on her fifth vodka, so she’s doing fine. Through the night a circle of dozens of friends continues to check in on each other and update each other as much as possible, culling our news from social media as much as the official news, which at some points in the night consists of a broadcast of empty chairs in a newsroom as the coup conflict enters the news building.

At dawn, I fall into an exhausted headachy sleep, hoping the sonic booms from jet flyovers are over so I don’t have to be jolted out of my bed in unconscious confusion, as opposed to the completely logical conscious confusion I feel up to then.

I sleep until 9:30am then crawl out of bed wondering what to do. The world is silent. No sounds of traffic or horns, a few birds twittering, but the normally raucous seagulls seem subdued and shell-shocked. They spent the night being lifted from their perches to circle aimlessly too.

I make blueberry pancakes and coffee. Last night after work I stopped at the grocery store. A minor miracle since lately I’m addicted to food delivery services. I’m thankful I have food in the house, enough for a few days, as much because cooking will give me something to do as because I’m hungry. The one immediate concern pricking the back of my mind is that I need water. We don’t generally drink our tap water in Turkey because of the nasty additives, so if I’m going to be holed up at home for any length of time that’s the one thing I don’t have enough of. I congratulate myself for overcoming my shopping guilt and buying Nutella and a loaf of bread early last night, pre-coup. I should be able to subsist on that for days, right? Although this being Turkey I’m relatively certain that no matter what the longterm fallout is, we will all be back on the streets as usual in a few days.

The good side of living six floors up in an apartment that faces the center of the block is the quiet and the green view. The bad side is that when there is any kind of protest or uprising I have no idea what’s happening on the streets. But I really want to have a supply of water on hand for the next few days, so after dawdling over my pancakes and coffee on the balcony overlooking my silent neighborhood, I get dressed, ride the elevator down six flights, and cautiously poke my head into the entry to see — complete normalcy.

The sun is shining, I see people walking up and down the street, and the owner of the little shop next to my building is on the sidewalk rearranging his wares. I open the door onto the sidewalk and see the smiling face of the owner of the furniture store two steps to the right of my building. He greets me with “Welcome!” and a big smile because, while on a normal day you might smile and say hi as you rush past each other, in a coup, you try to hold each other up.

I take two steps to my left and enter the convenience store next door. I see there are only two 5 liter bottles of water left and pick them both up. The shop owner, who has always been no more than distantly polite comes inside to take my money. We usually keep our exchanges to a minimum but we just had a coup so for the first time I ask him how he is. He shakes his head and answers with a paragraph of Turkish I don’t understand, but on the other hand I do. There was a coup attempt. This is good for no one. We will wait and see what happens next.

I pick up my 10 liters of water, take two steps to the right, and go back inside to wait. With everyone else.

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