The Hill

We are visiting Istanbul, and right now we are in Kerem’s mom’s kitchen, our eyes burning as we came in from the terrace too late, and then shut the windows too slowly. Tear gas smells like vinegar and shit mixed together, and it stings and makes your eyes stream tears, which is appropriate; the police are out of control with the blessing of the government. There is a lot to weep for. The gas gets in our noses and mouths too, and as angry as I am, I’m admiring of my five year old as I rinse her eyes and cuddle her. She and her friend Nika want to go right back out to the terrace. They want to wave to the new protestors coursing up the narrow street to the stairs that will take them up the steep hill to Taksim and into the heart of unrest. The metro stations and busses have been shut down, but the protestors arrive on foot from all directions and climb the hill, cheered on by Indy and Nika who are wrapped in their red flags, like tiny girl superheroes. We cannot deny them, and once the gas cloud has cleared, we tie bandanas around their small mouths, so they will not breathe the residue of the gas that floated down the hill and enveloped us.

Soon Kerem arrives, back from the front. His eyes are red and bright, and he’s breathing heavily.
“It’s like a war!” he says happily, alive with the chance to do something for his country, something to stop the imminent demise of all things democratic and progressive, all things Ataturk. He washes his face in the sink and gathers supplies: water, cloths, and lemons—the anti-tear gas kit. He is going back out to help the protestors in the thick of it, helping them to stay there. He tells us about the water cannons smashing people back and to the ground, and he rolls up his sleeve to show us a frightening bruise. “Rubber bullets,” he says and rolls his sleeve back down. “The policeman shot me while I was filming him.” He pulls out his phone and retrieves the footage. Kerem’s elderly father walks away, refusing to see. His mother, his wife, and I watch and are appropriately infuriated. Our reactions recharge him, and he grabs his bag of supplies and heads to the door. “Please don’t stay out too late,” calls his mother.

We hear the girls spot him from the terrace as he walks up the street. Going out to join them, we are distracted by the long line of water cannon trucks speeding along the main road at the bottom hill; things are going to get worse. Kerem’s mother goes inside, but Kia and I turn and watch him as he walks past the graffiti on the ancient wall that curves up to the stairs: DEMOCRACY THIS WAY. Then we lose him in the crowd of eager young folk–men and so many women who have too much to lose–surging up the hill.


About E.A. Fow

E.A. Fow was born and raised in New Zealand but lives and writes in Brooklyn NY. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in print and online journals and anthologies including Imagination and Press: Cartography, Sensitive Skin Magazine, and Penduline. Links and a full bibliography can be found at her website:

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