Writers 4-2: Orhan Pamuk: City of Memories

Streets, avenues, alleys, roads, I do not mean just any street like the yellow lines that run in between the orange squares and polygones that form the lettered streets on the city plan of some unknown town, but I mean the cobbled street, with the pothole at the end, in the old city with the blue street name sign reading Osman in faded, white letters, hidden behind the branches of an old chestnut providing shadow for a group of old men playing backgammon, with the ornamental lighting crossing overhead during national celebrations, forming decorative constellations of imaginary stars at holidays commemorating formative dates in the country’s history, with colored, striped sails hovering above, tightened between the antenna poles and street lanterns, broad red and yellow lanes, keeping the space in which shoppers scurry from store to store, cool on a hot, arid Friday afternoon, streets with the aluminum kebab cart parked on the curb, smoking lines of lamb sticks damping under a brightly yellow parasol, the pink faces of mannequins with their fiercely blue eyes and blackened eye lashes, with their chins pointing at the sky. Street corners, not the wholesome idea of street corners anywhere in the world, where similar but separate events take place, not the shared abstractions of any street corner, but that one, single street corner in every color of detail that makes it recognizable by its own fragments, apart from any other, at which you need only the unique smell of roasted chestnuts, like the street corner across from the bridge with the entrance steps leading to the mosque. And shops, not shops in general, not the type of shop every always goes to for their daily shopping, not any shop you will find in any other city, but this one shop in particular, where I always go to buy my grocery shopping, lettuce, a piece of feta and some tomatoes for a salad, the shop with one out of many, that specific owner with his thick, straw mustache and his glancing eyes that always express a continuous joy or pride perhaps, and a smile of recognition even though he doesn’t know my first name, with the wooden crates of fruits stapled on convenient wheel-able carts, that every early morning roll out, rattling, coming to a stop in front of the display window that reads supermarket in red, stocky, western style fonts with a yellow lining, the shop that sells the dried figs that I love, with the dairy cooler in the back of the store humming, buzzing absently, where I go and pull a plastic bag out of its carton box and scoop my favorite kalamata olives out of their tin can with a blue plastic spoon, Ibrahim’s grocery store. I can tell the tale of a city only by the particular details that I happen observe, but only then can I keep the city alive.

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