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Saturday, March 04, 2006

An Arm's Length

I sighed with contentment.

Good food and good dining give me a buzz, and dinner with my friend B yesterday evening at a new restaurant had exceeded all expectations.

The fish had been exceptional, caught fresh that same day. Steamed lightly with the finest monastry wine, it had then been grilled perfectly for a tender taste. The caramel sheen had given way as easily as a lover's resistance with the first bite, allowing the creamy skin beneath to ooze out and send my tastebuds to paradise. Accompanied by a simple side serving of boiled island potatoes and Mediterranean sweet basil only helped to enhance the flavour.

We were seated at our usual table, next to the window that overlooked the old Venetian port of Kyrenia. I picked up my glass of mineral water with its twist of lime, no ice. Taking a sip to clean my palate for the next course, I turned to look out of the window.

"What are you thinking about?"

I turned back to look into B's large, dark eyes. "Dessert," I answered truthfully.

"I have never known anyone," she snorted playfully, "to give their stomach as much attention as he does the opposite sex."

She had thrown me a line to reel me into a conversation, but this particular fish wasn't biting that evening. She raised a sleek eyebrow. "What? No quick retort?"

Once in a while, there's something to be said for skipping the scenic route. Non-stop flights to the real point are best. Being direct with friends helps to avoid misunderstandings.

I replied, "You've already eaten one delicious fish, hungry for another?"

She laughed gently. "I am not fishing for news about your new conquests. I've known you far too long to know you don't "kiss and tell".

I looked at her innocently. "I thought we were talking about fish?"

"Well some people have been known to call it that."

I winced. "Oh B, that's vulgar...what do I see you?"

"What no else does," she said in a moment of profoundness, "that's why we are friends...the best of friends." She shook a slender finger at me. "But it works both ways," she said in a low tone.

As the waiter wheeled the desert trolley over to us, I felt that this was going to be another "Letter to B" moment. I had no idea or inclination, I just knew that this would become a post.

"What do you mean?" I asked, looking to see if they had any chocolate brownies, and wondering whether I could persuade the chef to heat some melted dark chocolate in any event.

"I mean that I know things about you, too."

Having sent my brownies away to be tucked into a warm blanket of roasted ground cacao seeds, I gave her my full attention with a smile. "Really? Like what, for example?"

"Well, we all know you are a Superman fan since you were a kid - but I know why you really like the series."

"His taste in women?" I interjected helpfully. Ever since I was a child, I had been a fan of the man in blue.

"That, too - but..." She shook her head, and leaned forward. "Superman's neverending faith and love for humankind. It stinks but it's true. You have what that boring big guy has, an inflated hope in humanity."

I tried to hide a smile. She was right. "Well, I know he's not your type B, Superman's arch enemy Lex Luthor is more your type."

She nodded her head in estatic agreement. "With Superman you know what you're gonna get, but with are always left wondering."

All my years interacting with the other gender had taught me to be wary of making generalisations, but I ventured one anyway: "I thought women always wanted stability in a man."

"A woman wants a man to make her tremble as she waits for him to walk across the room and get into bed, not knowing what position he'll give a whirl tonight."

"It's lucky you don't share these wise tidbits with everybody, B..otherwise there would be a lot of warped people in Cyprus."

She laughed loudly this time. Her eyes shone brightly. "Why do you have so much faith in people...or have you - the last stand - finally been disillusioned?"

I sighed, but not from contentment this time. "Can't I just enjoy my sweets, or are you set on ruining a perfectly good evening?"

"Come on, answer the question..."

Without thinking I reached in my pockets for an imaginary pack of cigarettes. It had been nearly two years since I'd given up, and suddenly my fingers were left searching for the remnants of a dirty habit.

For some reason it seemed a fitting symbol for the topic in question.

"I watched a programme the other evening on TV about camps where the physically challenged from Cyprus, Greece and Turkey meet to bridge cultures. I watched two friends, a Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot talking freely with sign language. And it suddenly hit me that it is not people with hearing difficulties that can't hear, only those with hearts that don't listen.

"As human beings we cannot envisage anything greater than living. Yet ironically, I thought to myself, because we fear our mortality we decide to ignore it. Life is just a fantastic learning curve to an even greater understanding of ourselves. If we could only realise our differences are not there to separate us, but to bring us closer together as we achieve understanding, then we would be halfway to becoming the enlightened species we falsely believe ourselves to be."

Ignoring B's quick round of applause, I leaned forward this time, and went on: "You know I want a child one day. But everyday I wonder is it the right thing to do? To bring a child into this world?"

"You would make a great dad."

"But is the world a great home? And you know the answer I get each time? Yes. Any you know why? Because our world has the potential to change."

We were silent for a few moments as the waiter approached with my dessert. After he departed, B picked up her spoon and asked, "What will you teach your child?"

I looked up. I stretched out my arm as far as it would extend. "That," I said cryptically, and picked up my spoon to resume eating.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

I swallowed a spoonful of delicious dessert. "That is as much as anyone's rights truly extend. If we connect our freedoms respectfully, we can chain together and lengthen those freedoms, but if I decided to slap you, then my freedom stops there. Shall we order coffee? I need a double espresso."

She looked at me strangely. "You're gonna put this into your blog, aren't you?"

For some reason, I remembered the lunch conversation I had with B nearly two years ago that had resulted in the opening of the Tarkan Deluxe blog. Somehow, I felt I had come full circle.

So many things had changed in those two years.

A few months ago I realised that the blog had changed from an insight to Tarkan to an insight into me.

It had developed from a blog that discussed the Tarkan phenomenon to a journal for me, where I had begun documenting my artistic confessions and muse sessions.

In as plain terms as the complexities of human nature can be made plain, I begun to see it as a legacy for the son I hoped to have one day.

"Don't ask me how I know," I said quietly in reply to my thoughts more than to B, "but I'm going to have a son one day. And for some time now I've been thinking that I'll back up these blog posts to give him - with the good and bad - to help him understand his father and in doing so, maybe help him understand himself."

Complex, yet so simple...I thought.

B smiled as she chewed her last spoonful of dessert. "So the length of your arm and a blog, anything else?"

"Yes," I said, after a moment's pause. "I'll leave him two other things. A Superman suit and the complete works of Shakespeare."

She stood up suddenly, and walking round the table, she grabbed me and planted a kiss on my cheek. I tried to protest but she hugged me, hard.

"Thank you," was all she said.

And I wondered at the funny ways of life. However much things seemed to change, they managed to stay the same, too.

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