I was Bashed by a Bouncer in Turkey
Rough hands threw me against a wall where I crumpled, watching as Abraham was towed away. The bouncer shoved me through an exit into an alleyway littered with upturned crates and cigarette butts, juniper trees lining the stucco walls. The door slammed and I braced myself just in time for a backhand that collected the underside of my jaw and sent me sprawling into the foliage.
“You WHORE,” he screamed, “You fucking WHORE.”
The bouncer wrapped a meaty hand around my throat, forcing my chin up.
“Look at me,” he said; then he started screaming. I was berated for my loose morals, my apparent disgracefulness and my stupidity. As if to punctuate these accusations, he slammed me into the wall behind again and again. With each blow, my head rattled and the belt on my jeans cut into the soft flesh of my hips. Then another two bouncers strode into the courtyard. They stood in silence with their hands folded in front of them, eyeing me with distaste. I kept my eyes on the door, trying to figure out how I was going to get back to the safety of the boat.
On a rare night off whilst docked in Turkey, we had come seeking as much liquor as our weary bodies could tolerate, and we’d found it. Inside Antalya’s only nightclub, a forgettable techno track poured from the speakers while a trio of stone-faced Russian dancing girls quickened on their podiums. I sat taking it all in. The haze of secondhand shisha smoke, the ting of tiny coffee cup on tiny saucer, my workmate Megan gossiping in my ear, and the hum of the crowd carrying through the courtyard and up to an open sky. Then I heard it. Someone somewhere was speaking English.
They were five Canadian backpackers, broad-shouldered and sandy-haired. When they insisted, with smirks yanking at the corners of their mouths, that they were in fact all called Abraham, we played along.
“What a coinky-dink,” I smiled, and all five Abrahams smiled toothily back.
An enormous bouncer was soon dispatched to peel them away.
“You go now,” he said, directing the boys to the bar. We sank back into the booth, watching as two beautiful young women danced for a man who had clearly paid for their company. Ignored by the crowds, the three of them were left to their private show. The man settled further into his daybed, totally engrossed in the prostitutes’ silicone breasts, which were barely contained in lycra and lace.
So far, I’d managed to slip through the streets relatively unseen. I covered up in skirts and scarves, and the almond-sellers greeted me in their own tongue. But tonight, there were few Turkish women to provide camouflage, and it felt like every eye was on us.
On the dance floor, I moved self-consciously until I spotted an Abraham. He grabbed my hand, pulling me away from the sullen glares of the Russian dancing girls in their corsets and suspender belts, and I followed. We talked about nothing: the clarinet band outside, working on yachts, our impressions of Turkey so far, his travel companions. When he placed his hands on either side of my face and kissed me, I let him. That was when I found myself in mid-air, the bouncer dragging me to the courtyard.
It seemed that as a young unmarried woman, my behavior was entirely unacceptable to him and he had taken personal offence to my disrespect for his modesty. His anger was relentless, and no matter how hard he shook me, how many insults he spat at me, it still felt as if he was holding back the worst of it. I was beyond relieved when Megan appeared in the doorway, heralded by a wave of sound.
“Where have you been?” she snapped, ushering me back inside before disappearing into the crowd.
Taking advantage of the diversion, I ran outside for a taxi. The cabbie whirled me off down the road to a busy parking lot and there we sat in the sickly fluoro backwash of a 7/11. He waited patiently for an explanation while I catalogued my injuries in the rearview mirror, his woolly salt-and-pepper brows furrowed in concern. Bruises bloomed everywhere the bouncer had touched. My arms were already patterned with clusters of finger-tip-sized marks. They glowed on my neck, my cheek, my collarbone, the bridge of my nose. Under my jeans, I could feel my hip growing warm where it had hit the wall, and my throat ached.
“OK lady,” the cabbie said, “where do you stay?” And it was then I realised I didn’t know. I described the marina with its manicured flowerbeds, and the rows of pirate ships that tourists love so much. He patted my hand and off we went, streaming down a greasy black highway, slick under the glare of the pale streetlights. I rode shotgun, sobbing into the muesli bar that the cabbie had given me and rambling on about the unfairness of it all.
“In my country this wouldn’t happen,” I said. “I was free.” He just sighed: “Yes but not all Turkish people do like this,” he said. “This man is only one man.”
He took me to two different marinas before I recognised the navy-uniformed security guard in his sterile kiosk. We ambled up the dock together, the cabbie and I, and he offered me a hand to guide me safely onto the boat’s narrow gangway. He was right: you can’t let one bad night ruin everything. I wouldn’t be that person who let one experience colour their perception of an entire population. I hobbled down to my cabin and carefully peeled off my jeans. Thinking not of the bouncer and his cronies, but of the cabbie’s quiet compassion, I curled up in that little bunk and somehow fell asleep.
The next day we set sail in the half-light of dawn, warning skies still blushing on the surface of a sleepy Mediterranean. Absent-mindedly rubbing my mottled bruises, I stood a while; watching Antalya fade over the horizon, giving way to nothing but the big blue.
Cover by Kelsey P