This day started yesterday, March 13th. I woke up in Cappadocia just before 7am (noon in PH time.) I was at my happiest, from spending days in Turkey- working on 366 and just living. Best of all, being with Norman. And also, suddenly my saddest, because I had to take him to the airport for his flight back to Switzerland. I’m writing this in a hotel bathrobe, it’s 10:50 pm now, March 14th and I’m back in Manila. We drove to the Nevsehir airport and got there at 8:30am, just in time for his 10am flight. 15 days with Norman are never enough. But that’s always the time we have… roughly two weeks. I waited outside the airport, watched his silhouette get smaller and smaller as he moved further and further away from the automatic doors. I was freezing outside because it snowed the day before and the winds were still carrying the crisp, fresh air around. When I couldn’t see him anymore, I walked back to the parking lot and let myself cry a bit in the car as I drove back to the city. Norman offered to come out again after his bag was checked in but Ive never been the type to rip band aids slowly. So instead, he kept me company on the phone as I drove through the desert. Stretches of golden brown rocks and hills sprinkled with bushes and trees that are just starting to wake up from winter. Behind everything is a beautiful mountain still covered in snow and a few dozen hot air balloons suspended in the air. I drive for half an hour to get back to the hotel. To pack my clothes, coats, costumes and props used for the film and gifts for friends and family back home. I sit on the edge of the bed for a bit. For the first time in fifteen days, I am completely alone again. The silence makes me so aware that the hotel is buzzing. New tourists have come in and I hear their excitement. Norman is just about to fly off and he texts me to enjoy my day and not be lonely. I didn’t want to sit with my thoughts all day. That wasn’t the plan. But being alone again hits you like a wall. And this is a reality I’m very very familiar with. And I am ok with all of it, it just felt more real in that exact moment. Eventually, I get up to pack everything, finally.
I wear my coat again and take my wallet and car keys and drive off to Avanos for breakfast. I park in front of a shop that sells all kinds of soaps, colognes, face masks, vitamins and oddly enough, cigarettes. We love that shop. Our friend, Arif, took us there the first time we met him in September. But we entered the shop only to exit, to get to the other side of the road because it has two doors. Since then, I’ve returned a few times. But I must say, the feeling of entering and seeing so many things at once and then leaving without buying anything the first time made me love this shop even more. I made a mental note to return one last time after breakfast. So I cross the bridge and see the ducks on the river below. Say goodbye quickly under my breath and get to the other side. Mado is a chain. You see it in every city. They serve beautiful Turkish food, in restaurants that look like you’re in London or New York. I go in and my cheeks are grateful for warmth of the heater but it was full, so I asked if I could sit outside in the sun, facing the river. A week ago, Norman sat here as I shot my scenes for the movie. In all the other scenes, he stayed with me. But for this particular one I asked if he could go somewhere else. The scene was heavy and I didn’t want him to see me cry at/for work and the sight of him makes me happy. He told me how lovely it was to just look out into the river. So, I order kaymak and hot goat cheese for my last Turkish breakfast. I’ve fallen in love with Kaymak. Eating it without Norman looking at me, amused, felt different. But I tried to enjoy every bite. I emptied my head and focused on slicing my food precisely. Amazingly, anywhere in Turkey, where there is a restaurant, there are at least three cats. The first one that approached had a piece of my hot goat cheese and the next, Kaymak without honey. I watched people pass. Some looked at me weirdly, and I get why. You don’t see too many people in Turkey that are alone, almost everyone moves in groups. I paid for my food after finishing everything and walked a cross the bridge again. There were policemen on both ends, reminding people to keep their masks on. I go into the shop and buy clay face masks to give to my mom. I look at the man behind the cashier and think to myself that I won’t see his face for a while, or ever again. the half that I know at least. The masked part could look like anything. I’m pretty sure that the next time I see Norman won’t be in Cappadocia and so I say goodbye in my head to all the spots we went to as I drive around town.
I go back to the hotel and shower for my flight in the evening. A man knocks an hour after to ask if I’m ready so they could clean the room for the next guests. I say yes. My bags are carried to the lobby and I take my backpack as I drive around aimlessly again. I go to Urgup and then Goreme where I finally find a place to park. I cross the road and enter the touristy shops that Norman doesn’t particularly like. I allow myself to take my time as I look at keychains and little things that are fun to look at and buy in the moment you’re there but will end up in a drawer of nothings in 3 years. So I keep my hands in my pockets and leave each shop, thanking the people who enthusiastically tell me how much everything is. I go to a cafe that we went to and I buy an orange soda, taking small sips as I find my way back to the car. Before I start driving again, I text the owner of the car rental service that he can take the car already. I pass through the fairy chimneys, the horse ranches and viewpoints one last time and wait in the hotel lobby. Oguz picked up the car keys and I said thank you. More to the car, than him, I think. He gave us the same car we had in September and it’s taken us to such beautiful places.
Shortly after, a van came to pick me up. The kind man that drove me, who spoke zero English, almost took me to the wrong airport. (This is why I always leave extra early.) But he ~kindly~ took my bags to the airport door where I was standing hours before on the other side, and I check in. The first plane ride to Istanbul was just an hour long. Riding planes during a pandemic is tricky. But not as hard as we all think it is. I get to Istanbul and was the only passenger from my first flight that had a connecting, international flight. From our tiny plane to the bus to the beautiful airport, I entered a different door, the glass wall between me and all the other passengers separated me from people again and now it’s just funny. I watched them as I ascended the escalators and then walked alone for about 5 minutes until I got to the immigration gates. This whole part, I love. Moving around a shared space of nowhere. Eating food you normally wouldn’t eat so late or so early in the day. Airports for me are safe boxes that follow no time or location. Your boarding pass, reflecting the local time from your place of origin and the local time in your destination. Always so magical to me. I wander. Buy Turkish delights and apple tea for a few more people and finally stay in the lounge. I watch as the huge screens flip between Turkish and English every two seconds. In the meantime, I get up to have a strawberry yogurt, the bowl, cold in my hands made me worry a little because the medication I have in my bag has now been out of a refrigerator for more than four hours. I itch to get on the plane and have it chilled again. Norman is finally back in Switzerland at this point and I, still being in Turkey, have a feeling that the trip isn’t over yet. Because one of us still is where we should be. At 1:30 am, Turkish time (6:30am Manila time) I board the plane that would take me home. My earphones are tangled with my scarf and everything but I don’t fix it. Norman reads Noli Me Tangere to me (a translated copy.) A gift I got him last year. He likes reading things out loud. And I love listening. I fasten my seatbelt and eventually drift off. Basilio in this part of the book is asking if he could go home for christmas to surprise his mother and brother, not knowing what happened while he was gone. I slept through take off and wake up with my phone on my lap an hour after when they served “dinner.” After two films, more food and roughly 11 hours in the air, I finally made my way back home. Home for now is a quarantine hotel and it will be for the next seven days. Norman and I talk through screens as I unpack and listen to what his day’s been like so far. It was a new day for him already when I landed in Manila and we’re back to how we usually are. As tall as our smartphone screens. Yes, the new day has unfolded for him already, back with his friends and work…while I refuse to sleep and write this instead, living in a day where I still saw him in person, this morning.