He woke to the sound of thunder. He looked around the two square foot room in confusion.
“No, am definitely not in New Jersey,” thought Oliver. “It does not matter where I am,” he said to himself.
He slumped on his bed again and closed his eyes but he woke up again as the evening Azaan started. He got up, took out his smokes from his back pocket and then opened the window and saw the roof of Hagia Sofia. He lit his cigarette and stood there as fine drops of rain sprayed on his face.
He was staying in a cheap bed and breakfast room with one single bed which had Victorian wooden cupboard and a small wooden side table. It had stopped raining but the sky was still roaring. As the Azaan mixed with the sound of thunder, he again remembered his friend.
“Why can’t I remember that song?” thought Oliver.
Wearing his shirt, he went out for work. The cobbled stones was glazed with fresh rainwater. He sat in a cafeteria and took another smoke out. He ordered coffee and started writing notes on his mobile. He had to cover an interview with the foreign minister of Turkey. There was a time when he would be so tensed that he would need to rewrite the questions couple of times, but now he pre-empted every answer of every question. The owner of the coffee shop brought him coffee and sat in his table. Oliver looked up and smiled.
“So your interview is tomorrow?” asked the man.
“Yes. Adding few last minute questions. How has your day been?” asked Oliver. He had been coming to the same coffee shop every day and had befriended the owner whose name was Ismail. Ismail was an old man in his late fifties who owned two more restaurants in Istanbul.
“Did you finally remember the song?” asked Ismail.
“No. I can’t. I simply can’t.”
“What song?” a woman asked. Oliver looked up, startled. A woman in her late twenties was standing in front of them. She wore high waist jeans and black shirt. She wore a long green jacket over it. Her eye was sea green, but it was her nose that stood out. She had a sharp nose.
“Meet Rezan, my daughter,” said Ismail. “He is a reporter and my friend Rezan. I like him. He likes my Cuban cigarettes.”
Oliver smiled and shook her hands. She sat down beside him and asked again, “What song?”
“I had a friend in college. She made me a mix tape of sorts. I saved the songs on my mobile and I just did not pay much attention to it. Then I lost my phone and lost all the songs as well. For the longest time, I can’t remember a song which I really liked.”
Rezan smiled. She had a beautiful smile. Her smile was neither seductive nor coy. It was warm and illuminated her face.
“I am going with my brother and Rezan to my restaurant near Galata tower. Join us,” said Ismail instructively.
“Umm. I think…”
“It’s an order. You are simply lurking around the city. The food we prepare there is quite eclectic. We have an amazing chef. You will enjoy it.”
“You can drop us near the bridge. Are you going to the market first?” asked Rezan.
“Yes. I’ve got to pick up few things,” said her father.
“Great! I can show him around and we can join you in an hour,” said Rezan
“Yeah. We can do that,” nodded Ismail. Oliver nodded too knowing that he didn’t have a choice but to go with them. But he was secretly happy to join Rezan.
They walked slowly and awkwardly for few minutes on the street and finally Rezan asked, “The friend you were talking about was she…”
“My girlfriend?” prompted Oliver before she could finish her sentence.
“No. She was not my girlfriend but she happens to be my favourite person.”
“So you can ask her about the song, isn’t it?” asked Rezan.
She looked at Oliver’s grave face which darkened instantaneously.
“You are not in touch with her, isn’t it?” she asked. Oliver nodded.
“How is that possible? You can find anyone these day?” she asked again.
They were now standing in the middle of the Gallata Bridge which overlooked the Golden Horn and the city. Below the bridge was another tier with restaurants which served abundant variety of street food.
“I was in college when I met her and we became close friends. Didn’t think of her as anything else. It’s sad you know that we think a friend is something lesser than a sister, mother or a girlfriend.”
Rezan nodded. Her green eyes lit up while she looked up contemplating on what Oliver said.
“Now that you say it, I realise it is true. So what happened to your dear friend?” she asked.
The crowd on the bridge was increasing and the sky had turned deep cobalt blue. Pedestrians on the bridge were now bumping into Oliver and Rezan.
Before Oliver could answer Rezan, she grabbed him by his arms and started walking back from where they came.
“Let’s go somewhere else. I’ll inform my father,” said Rezan. She had immense warmth in her demeanour and an unbridled allure which Oliver couldn’t say no to.
She took him through quiet lanes which had houses stacked against each other. Few of them had wooden terraces. In one of them yellow houses, an old woman with a grey hijab was sitting on a wooden chair with her hands busy knitting something. Rezan’s hand was still around Oliver’s.
They stopped by a greenhouse building abruptly and Rezan started climbing up the stairs. Oliver followed her and finally spoke, “Where are we going?”
Rezan turned back and simply grinned. The arrived at the top floor and Rezan pushed a teal door. They had arrived at a rooftop restaurant with a view the Süleymaniye mosque and the Boshphorous. There were few tables neatly arranged on the terrace adorned with fairy lights and lanterns.
Rezan looked at him with her raised eyebrows waiting for Oliver’s answer to the question she had asked several minutes ago.
“Her name was Lily. We were friends for almost twelve years. I was her maid of honour. I was there through her divorce. We moved cities but we never lost touch. I took a new job and started living in different counties. Slowly, we spoke less and less as months passed by”
“Why?” asked Rezan.
“I got busy. I am not sure. One day I had a terrible day at work. I covered the terrorist attack in Manchester and it was a really bad day,” said Oliver closing his eyes trying to forget the pain that had again struck him like a lightning.
“I went back home and went straight to her house. She was not there. I realised it had been a year that I did not speak to her. I called our common friends and they told me that her parents and died in a car crash. She was now living at her parent’s house.”
“You went to her parent’s house and she was not there?” Asked Rezan.
“No, she was not. She just took off. She keeps in touch with few of her friends. She has joined an organisation which takes children involved in child trafficking. Last I heard, she was in Dubai. All I want is a chance to apologise to her. ”
“Well you have not searched hard enough. They say you can even find God if you search for Him, I am sure you need to simply keep trying. What will you tell her if you find her?”
Oliver looked away at the horizon and took out one more smoke. The sky had turned dark now and silhouette of the mosque domes could be seen. What he didn’t tell Rezan and Lily is that he did not want to go back home. He enjoyed his nomadic way of living and he did not want to go back. The only thing which tied him back to America was Lily.
As he puffed his cigarette gifted by Ismail. “She always played the guitar so well. She intuitively could look in my heart and always knew which song she to play. She played Tears in heaven after I lost my dad.”
“I love that song,” said Rezan. She started humming the song and Oliver realised that she had a good singing voice. “Try humming the song which you liked so much.”
“I cannot carry a tune but I remember a very small piece,” said Oliver and hummed a tune in his raucous voice. Rezan listened to him intently with her eyes squinted.
“Have you searched for something?” asked Oliver.
“Yes. Everyday. A belief to believe in. A belief which I can hold on to.”
“That’s a nice. What about God? You just said if you search enough, you can find God.”
“What is God to a non-believer?” smiled Rezan.
They talked for some more time and they walked back to Oliver’s hotel. Rezan kissed his cheeks, said goodbye and disappeared in the streets quietly as she came. The next day Oliver got up and looked outside. It was partially sunny and pleasant. His interview went well and in the evening he stopped by the coffee shop hoping to meet Rezan. Ismail greeted him. He ordered his usual tea.
Ismail placed an envelope on the table and said, “Rezan left this before leaving for London.”
“Yes she works for Red Cross Society. She travels a lot like you. Didn’t she tell you?”
Oliver realised he had been only talking about himself to Rezan. Usually, he was the listener. Feeling sad that he wouldn’t see her again, he opened the envelope curiously and opened the parchment inside it. It read, ‘I hope your tune finds hers. Your song – Woodstock by Corsby, Stills & Nash.’