Twice a week, the alarm clock on my phone drags me into the waking world at 5:00 a.m. Despite the pleasant-sounding ringtone I've set it to, it never ceases to anger or surprise me, and I clumsily hit the snooze button. I have no idea how many times it rings between 5:00 and 5:30, but I somehow manage to sit up, and roll myself out of the comfort of my bed around 5:30, into the shower while müezzin voices, singing the morning prayer in nearby mosques, echo in the early silence.
Once dry, I slide floppy cold contacts into my stubborn eyes and stumble off to select something I have loosely planned on wearing the night before from my tiny wardrobe. I get dressed, paint on some eyeliner and head to the kitchen for a light breakfast of beyaz peynir— a mild, feta-like cheese— and a croissant with olive oil and cracked pepper. I drink some water, pack a lunch, brush my teeth and run out the door while double and triple checking I have my keys, wallet and phone.
It's around 6:35 as I head down the enormous cat-filled hill that I live on, to wait for my bus at the corner across from the Bosphorus and the taxi stand. I check the sky for interesting colours, clouds, and that first peek of red sun behind the Asian hills. The taxi drivers stand around in small groups, çay bardaks in hand, cigarettes between lips, chuckling to each other as they stare at me. It doesn't matter what I am wearing, or that I am doing absolutely nothing remotely interesting, they simply stare. It has become a part of our morning ritual; I stand, they stare while sipping tea and hoping for a fare.
I always get a slight tremor of panic that the bus driver skipped me— what if I confused Çarşamba with Perşembe again and he thinks he's supposed to pick me up on Thursday? No, he is just late, as usual, and I wonder as always, why I think I've been forgotten. Another part of the ritual. He arrives, all smiles, tooth missing, thin white hair and thick white moustache. I beam at him, relieved that there has been no miscommunication.
"Günaydın!" I chime.