This is a preview to the chapter Home Alone from the book Perking the Pansies by Jack Scott.
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The night before, we had dined al fresco to take advantage of yet another blessed, balmy evening. Liam’s gastronomic ambitions had reached such a pinnacle that we had less and less reason to eat out. The courtyard was a perfect setting. We reminisced about the days when, at the slightest hint of fine weather, we would rush home from work and grab the opportunity to eat in the garden.
We chinked glasses.
“To the good life, Liam.”
It was a hollow toast. Üzgün’s murder had changed everything. He had been raped, robbed and murdered by three teenagers in a back street of Yalıkavak. His body was found in a dry river bed, naked, beaten and barely recognisable.
Liam got the call he had been dreading. He packed a suitcase and taxied to the airport to pick up the next available flight. I stayed awake for most of the night, texting Liam and trying to make sense of the mess around us. I camped on the balcony for hours, questioning my flawed understanding of Turkish society, balancing the highs with the lows and wondering if, ultimately, we had made one huge mistake. My head was a mass of interconnected thoughts and contradictions, each leading to a different conclusion and each stirring up an emotion that took me right back to where I started. I set myself a challenge. I would stay awake until the morning; by then I would know what to do.
Üzgün’s murderers claimed that he came onto them. They had been scared of him. Jesus, Üzgün would fall over if you blew on him. Something wasn’t right. The last time we saw him, he was happy and now he was dead. Maybe he got drunk in Mehmet’s bar and revealed too many of his true colours. Maybe that was the night his murderers plotted to rob and kill him. I was sickened by the killing but Turkish sexual customs were more complex, contradictory and deep-rooted than I could fully comprehend. Quentin Crisp may have been right when he said that “men deprived of the company of women turn to boys and men deprived of the company of boys turn to animals.” But he surely had in mind English public schools, Welsh sheep farmers and American convicts. Not Turkey, where sexual ambiguity was an art form. Maybe I should have worked things out by now; I had visited the shores of Asia Minor for fifteen years. But my gaydar malfunctioned as soon as I entered Turkish airspace. It was as if the entire country was encased in lead. I was left in a continuous state of disarray, thrown by the intensive penetrating stares and contradictory playful signals from the swarthy men around me. I never played the game because I never got the rules.
In societies with strong gender separation, girls are expected to protect their virtue, so for adolescent males, access to sexual shenanigans is limited to a hand shandy from the boy next door. A familiar fumble with the lads is tolerated if absolute discretion is exercised; it’s certainly not an obstacle to marriage. And don’t even go there with lesbianism. Licking the lettuce is way beyond the pale: meaningful sexual liberation for women in Turkey was a distant dream. This may have explained the po-faced princesses of Bodrum. Being arsy was the only real freedom open to them.
Before the summer rush, whole caravans of young men with locked-down libidos and any-hole-is-the-goal mentality began their annual migration to the coast looking for casual work and casual sex. Some of these poor fellas were like coiled springs. The frustration was palpable. And why give it away when there was a little profit to be made? Even the nicest of them joined the gay-for-pay brigade: doing it for cash, not pleasure, was the best way to avoid guilt by association. Most of these men didn’t consider themselves to be gay. The thought of it would repel them. In the orthodox sense, few were. Come the autumn, the boys returned to their villages to overwinter, marry their cousins and breed. Being Üzgün must have been so very difficult. He deserved better.
The lights went out in Türkkuyusu just as they had done many times before. How could Turkey ever hope to become an industrial powerhouse if they couldn’t keep the bloody lights on? I stared into the darkened streets, lit only by the headlights of passing traffic. I wanted to speak to Liam but he was in the skies somewhere over Europe. I wanted to ask him why we didn’t go to Spain or why we left London in the first place. I
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