Here's another picture of the neighborhood I grew up in. I remember running back and forth across that street with my brothers.
It was a game, to see who could get across faster. I was really good at it.
It's taken me a couple days to get back to telling the story of my first year with the Big-Two-Legged One. You know, when I think about it, I can't help but be a little angry. Oh, I've forgiven her, but every now and then I have a vague memory of it all, and I get pissed, and I attack her hand or her foot, or whatever. It's amazing she's kept me this long.
But anyway, in my last entry I told the story of how I kept wanting to have a boy cat after Hasan did The Operation that was supposed to make me not care about boy cats anymore. By the third time, well, I was pretty sick, and the Big Two Legged One was really tired. We'd tried all kinds of tricks to get me to stop howling. There was one day, when the heat wasn't working in the apartment, when she sat in the bathroom with me, with something I learned is called a Q-Tip, and, well, to put it simply,
she satisfied me. Yeah, that's right. My human did the dirty deed to me.
Well, it wasn't total satisfaction. I mean: she is a she. I started jumping up on her, and trying to get to those Q-Tips.
I really couldn't help it.
So she called the man named Mustafa, and together we took a taksi to Ankara University. Here I was again, with another taskici saying guzel kedi, hasta mı? (pretty kitty, is she sick?) when I knew damned well that if he saw me in the street, he might kick me.
You're judged by the company you keep, I guess, and here I was with an American college professor, so the taxi drivers decided I was some spoiled American cat. HA!
I was howling all the way to the University, where we ended up sitting in a dark room, waiting. I kept howling, ignoring the picture of Ataturk on the wall in front of me, ignoring the calender pictures of cows and horses on the other walls. The BTLO noticed them, though, and I've heard her mention them when she tells this story. That and the farmer waiting with us; his cow was outside the building, grazing.
Then he came in: the man who would change my life. His name with Mustafa Un. He was dressed in a long white lab coat, and followed by a litter of veterinary students. The BTLO seemed really happy when he spoke English. She told the story of all the stupid Operations I'd had, in just a six month period, while he pulled me out of my box.
He was one of those humans who knows exactly how to touch a cat. Or any animal, really. The minute he pulled me out of the box and looked me in the eyes, I stopped howling. I let him and his group of students take me to a stall next to where the farmer's cow was now standing, and they did something with some machine that he kept rubbing all over my body.. I heard him tell the BTLO that he couldn't see what was going on inside me. But he gave her three choices:
1. She can let this go, and give me shots to calm me down. That would kill me in a couple years.
2. She could just ignore it and listen to me howling every few months. The probably wouldn't be very good for me either.
3. Or she could let Mustafa try to operate.
To make this story a little shorter, she went for #3. She looked at him with her tired eyes and convinced him to keep me with him that night.
He took me to another room, then, and a little while later I was asleep. I don't remember anything, but I remember waking up and shivvering all over.
I really thought I would die. My whole body was on fire.
Mustafa let me sleep on his belly that night. He was taking care of the clinic, and sleeping on a cot. He had a big soft belly and a laugh that felt like cool clear water running through the gutters after a rain. He spoke Turkish to me as if I was a person. I tried to speak back to him, but it hurt too much.
I was still pretty sick when the Big-Two-Legged-One came and got me the next day. I heard Mustafa explain what was wrong with me:
"she still had half of her uterus and one ovary inside of her. It was fused up against her bladder. But we got it all. Still, she has some sepsis. She's very sick and could still die tonight."
He gave her some antibiotics for me. I decided on the spot I'd fight them. I'd had enough of these pills and shots.
She also wanted my ovary and uterus, because he actually showed it to her. He got upset. "Don't go after the vet who did this. Let me do it."
That was the first time I heard him ask for Hasan's name.
She told him, and he rolled his eyes.
He knew Hasan. He graduated from the program.
"Some of our graduates, you know, aren't really very good vets. But some have wealthy parent who buy them what they need to set up a business, and they do it. And Turkiye has no regulations; they can do whatever they want to do for money.
"Unlike me. I work for the state," he added. "I don't make any money. I do it out of love. Or insanity."
He laughed, and hugged me, then sent me home with the BTLO.
I slept on her belly that night. I was shivvering and hot when I went to sleep, but sometime during the night, I felt myself explode, and the heat went away. I woke the BTLO up in the morning, licking her face.
I should have had a happy ever after then. But something happened that no one expected. She couldn't get me to take the antibiotics. So she took me, every few days, back to Mustafa, which I didn't mind that much, and he gave me a shot.
One day she couldn't get to Ankara University. She didn't have time. We'd stopped taking taxis; we were no regular bus riders. She called Mustafa, and he said "any vet could give this shot." He told her what it was. Some antibiotic.
She took me to the vet who had sent us to Mustafa. He didn't have that antibiotic, but he gave me another.
I didn't feel good after that. A week or so later, I woke up in the middle of the night and I realized my head was empty. I could not hear the night birds. I could not hear the howling dogs, or the occasional car on the road. I could not hear the BTLO breathing.
I could not even hear my own voice.
I stood in the middle of our big empty room and screamed.
I screamed and screamed,
trying to hear my voice.
I couldn't hear my voice, but I could feel it. If I went into a small space, like the bathroom or a closet,
I could feel it. And the BTLO thought I was wanting a man again.
She got angry.
So I slept a lot. I slept like I was dead.
It took the BTLO a couple weeks, and the help of a friend, before she started to understand I couldn't hear anymore. And all I could do was scream and sleep.
I have to give her credit. She looked tired, but she kept giving me kuzu şiş, and petting me and playing ball with me. She would get mad sometimes, and so would I.
Sometimes she would just cry.
And so would I.
We'd go to see Mustafa often, and he was always happy to see me. When she told him I was deaf - sağır is the Turkish word - he rubbed my ears and said "I wish I could go deaf sometimes. I really hate hearing the things I have to hear."
Maybe that's true for humans. But for a cat, well, being deaf is not so easy.
As summer came, I knew the Big-Two-Legged-One was upset about something. She seemed to want to go somewhere, and I had a funny feeling it didn't include me.
She met an old student from the program she taught in. His name was Onur. Everyone thought Onur was a bit crazy, a bit like me, I guess. I don't know how she made this deal with him, but he agreed to let me stay with him that summer, while the BTLO went away. Part of me thought she'd probably never come back, and part of me just didn't care. Onur would let me go out on his balcony, and after a few months, he got another street cat like me. And we would play. Onur would scratch me just right, and we both decided that we would be nice together.
And then the Big-Two-Legged-One came back, and I was actually happy to see her.
She did that every summer for a few years, and I was always happy to be with Onur, and always happy to see her again. I guess I came to understand that she a bit of cat in her: if she made a promise to you, she kept it.
Cats are like that, you know. Cats never lie to you.
Sometimes they just don't answer you, if they think the answer will make them have to lie, but in general, cats are very truthful animals.
Oh, so what am I doing right now?
I'm sleeping on another couch. Here, check it out.
I wonder if my face is a little dark in this picture. This is me, in my "garden" in our apartment in Çankaya. We moved there after the first year, and after I had The Operation.
Yeah. The Operation. It seems Americans have another rather odd tradition: they make it so their animals can't reproduce themselves. And that assures the human that their animal will live a long and healthy life. Or some kind of crap like that.
Well, I didn't know that. And neither did Hasan, which is why he was so surprised when the Big-Two-Legged-One asked for that. It seems the Woman-Who-Wanted-To-Save-All-The-Cats-In-Ankara had convinced him that he should do The Operation to cats she was putting back out on the streets. He kind of understood that, because those cats wouldn't have any more cats.
But here I was, a cat not going back out on the streets, and they still wanted the operation.
Niçin? (why?) Hasan asked, the first time this was requested.
"It's how we do it," the Woman-Who-Wanted-To-Save-All-The-Cats-In-Ankara said. And she told him about how healthy it would make me. She made it sound like it would transform me to some Angel.
He just did what they asked for, just like he did it to every other cat the Woman-Who-Wanted-To-Save-All-The-Cats-In-Ankara brought to him, before she put them back out on the streets. The big difference between me and all those other cats was. . . .well, read on. Let's just say: I wasn't put back on the streets, and well, some people realized how well Hasan was doing this Operation.
Two weeks later, the Big-Two-Legged One came and got me. (Don't ask why it took Hasan two weeks to give me this operation. I try not to remember.) Finally the Big-Two-Legged-One came and brought me in the taksi to my new house. And there was another couch there! It was pretty ugly, but I didn't care. Here I am in one of the matching chairs, reading the Turkish Daily News with my friend the monkey, Hotchkiss. There's a story about Hotchkiss. Maybe I'll tell it later:
Like I said before, she made kuzu for me, and I got to sleep in a bed: what else could a cat ask for? I decided that for the time being, living with her wasn't all that bad, and I just got to business partying in the really big, nearly empty apartment she was living in. My favorite thing then, and even now, is playing football. I love to kick balls all over the place until they go into little cracks and crevices, and then I just scream at them, until the BTLO comes and gets them out for me.
But then, one day it happened. I didn't know it wasn't supposed to happen; after all it had happened before. It was just natural, you know. Part of being a girl cat: it was that feeling. That feeling that I really wanted to go outside and find myself a boy cat. Any boy cat. Oh, it was so strong I thought I might even settle for a small boy dog. So I stood in the middle of this big nearly empty apartment and howled. All night long. For a few nights. Yelling really loud seemed to make it feel a little better.
We'd been getting along really well, but all of a sudden the Big-Two-Legged-One was not happy.
Now I'll tell you something about the BTLO: she's not always on top of things, but fairly early, she realized that Turkish people are not really crazy about the idea of cats in their houses. Her Turkish friends at work just kind of shook their heads when she told them about me. None of them really wanted to meet me. So she figured that our neighbors might not be really happy to have me howling like that all night long in this apartment building. So she called Hasan. I guess he told her that sometimes this happens one more time after the Operation.
BTLO seemed to get even more angry after that. She took me to another veterinarian, who stuck some long sharp thing into me -in return, I stuck a few claws in him. He drew a little blood and so did I.
But he did do something that made me stop wanting a boy cat. For a couple months, at least.
Then it happened again, and this time it was much worse! I knew how to solve the problem - just let me out!!!! I knew there were cats outside; I'd seen them through the window. I'd even be willing to come back in and keep her company, after I got it over with.
Instead, she took me back to Hasan's.
The bitch. I was pissed. No couches there. I was back in the cage, back in a room full of dying animals. The one thing I knew for sure was that I was really close to the streets I lived in for the first eight or nine months of my life. And if I could get out, I could take care of this awful problem myself. I knew there were plenty of boy cats out there that would help me.
It's true - if I could have gotten out there, I would have never come back. I knew damned well by now that kuzu şiş picked out of the trash tasted almost as good as kuzu şiş on a plate with a tomato and parsley garnish. I would not make that mistake again.
But I never got out. Hasan put me to sleep and did something else to me. And I kept trying to wake up after that, but I couldn't. I lay in that dirty dark cage and slept for days. When I woke up, I just kept puking, for about four days. And then I slept for nearly a week.
I don't really remember much of it, but I do remember that when I saw the BTLO again, I was really dirty and tired. I would have taken her hand off, it I wasn't so tired. I let her put me into that box and bring me back home.
Back home. Yeah, I was back in the place where I could play and eat kuzu and hang out on the porch. She would be away in the day, but she'd come back at night and feed and play with me, and sometimes she brought some other Big-Two-Legged-Ones over. She worked with a bunch of other people like her. They'd come and visit me, and everyone loved playing with me! And I thought it was pretty fun playing with them too.
When it happened the third time -- by now you should know that it was that feeling, that feeling that I just had to get out and find a boy cat -- well, when it happened again, even I wasn't happy. Because it hurt so much. I felt like I was dragging my tale-end behind me, and I kept just sleeping in my sand box, because I kept thinking I was going to pee. And I really hated the idea of peeing in our house.
I couldn't even scream, it hurt so much. I just cried, and cried, and the Big-Two-Legged-One looked like she would cry, too.
She didn't call Hasan. She put me in that box, and took me to the other veterinarian, the one we'd met before, who gave me that shot. I kept trying to figure out what she was thinking, but I couldn't feel any emotions off of her; she just got really cold, and she said something to this other doctor, and he got cold, too. He touched me all over, and all I could do was yell and scratch. I didn't really mean to, but I just hurt so much.
I really had the feeling that she wanted me gone, just completely gone. He asked her to not make him do what she wanted him to do. I kind of understood - remember, my ears were working just fine then - that he was trying to do something for me. To save me. He talked and talked (he spoke her language) and then finally gave the Big-Two-Legged-One a piece of paper.
And she took me back home. She didn't talk to me. I knew that she really thought she wouldn't bring me back home with her. I heard her on the phone. She was calling somebody at a University. Somebody named Mustafa. I didn't hear much else, because all I could do was cry, with the pain I was in.
People think animals don't have memories. That is just crazy not true. I'll never forget that pain. I'll never forget that whole year. And I'll never forget that doctor, though I don't remember his name. He wasn't really tall, and his skin was kind of dark, and he wore a blue smock. And he kept saying:
"Please don't ask me to do that. She's a healthy cat. Please don't ask me to do that. I can send you to someone who can help you. If it doesn't work, then come back to me, and we'll talk again."
It's true - she never had that conversation again, though he became one of my vets after the next part of this story happened. And I'm just too tired to tell it tonight! For now, let's just say: what happened after that changed my life, and made me very angry for a long time.
I'll tell you more later. But it'll be soon later! Thanks for reading. I've really wanted to tell my story for a long time.
. . . . check out those legs. Sexy, eh?
That's me at a spry 1 1/2. I'd just moved in with the current (and really only)
Big-Two-Legged-One. Our first apartment together had this great balcony.
I'll tell you about that in a minute.
But yes, I still miss my kuzu şiş. Kuzu şiş çök özledim! It's been awhile since I've done anything Turkish, but yes, I speak Turkish. What, that bothers you?
Deal with it.
Yeah, that's right: deal with the fact I'm a Turkish street cat. No, I'm not one of those fancy-assed Van Cats, or even moreso, ben Angora'kedisi değil! What I just said was I'm not one of those Angora Cats, either. Funny thing is, I'm living with a cat now who looks like she is an Angora, but the joke's on everyone: she's a street cat too! She told me that on one of our long weekends alone together, when the Big-Two-Legged-One was in love.
(I'm going to let Fluffy tell her own story, a little later. But for now, the stage is mine!)
Well, the BTLO is always in love, but at that point in time, she was actually in love with a person. She's done that a couple times before, but this one I actually liked, until I started to think that maybe he was lying to her.
But back to my point, I'm a Turkish Street Cat, plain and simple. Not many people take a cat like me back to the U.S.A. with them. Most people just feed me at restaurants, admiring how cute I am. The ones who pick me up and bring me home, generally throw me back into the streets, or do what the People-With-The-Beautiful-Kuzu-Şiş did, and in a way that was kind of the nastiest of all. They didn't know it was nasty, because they were Americans in Ankara, but it was nasty.
What they did was they forced him to give his word. "Promise," they said, "promise you won't put this cat back into the streets." They didn't speak Turkish; they spoke through an interpreter. The interpreter used this word: sözleşmek, which is closer to a vow then a promise. Promises, yes, can be broken. Vows cannot. Poor Hasan was just old fashioned enough to feel that once he made an agreement sözleşmeli -- he had to keep it.
You see, in Türkiye, people believe that if you make a promise verbally, you should keep it. And, I should let you know, that's also a basic rule of being a cat. I now know that's true for any cat, in any language. I've discovered with The Fluffy One that this is a universal understanding between all cats.
The problem is people.
Now, in America, people tell you stuff, but then they don't do it. Or they tell you some stuff, and they don't tell you everything. Or they are really careful about the words they use, so they're not saying anything that would get them in trouble.
Call me simple minded, but that's just not how it works. A spoken word, when spoken with sincerity, is as good as a written word. This writing-things-on-paper thing is for the birds; a promise that is written in the heart (and the soul!) is far more durable.
Anyway, Hasan found himself making a sözlü with these people, and he felt he had to keep it. He wouldn't put me in the streets as long as he had the food the people gave him. When it was gone, well, he didn't know what he would do, but he wouldn't put me in the streets.
And - bok! all I wanted to do was get back in the streets.
So it was Hasan's sözlü vs. my will, and yeah, I got kind of nasty. I wanted out; he wanted to fulfill his stupid promise. He won. And I turned into a huge bitch!
But then, the food was also running out. . . .
Look at that: that is one of the streets around Tunalı Hilmi, where I was born, and spent the first nine months of my life. Then I lived about four months with the People-With-The-Beautiful-Kuzu-Şiş, then about four months with Hasan. And then, well let me tell you what happened then:
Little did I know that my life was being measured by the amount of food that was left in a big orange bag. All I know for sure is that one day, sometime when the leaves were falling, this Big-Two-Legged-One appeared. She was brought to Hasan by another American, a woman I'd met a couple times. This Other American was married to some big businessman or something like that, and while he was going to meetings all over the Middle East, she was left to amuse herself in Ankara. And she decided to Save All The Street Cats of Ankara.
Let's just say: she had a really good heart.
Well, she would bring street cats to Hasan, and he would keep them for a few days, do something to them, and they would be screaming when it was over, and then she'd come and get them and put them back in the streets. I really was willing to put myself through whatever torture those cats went through, if it meant going back on the streets.
Now let me tell you, on the streets of Ankara, I would have lived maybe two years, tops, and had about thirty or fifty kittens, before I got run over by a truck, or eaten by a dog, or tortured by some bored kid. Or just died, you know, just froze, or starved or something normal like that. That would have been my life. But I would have loved every minute of it. Except for maybe the end.
Think about it: today, I'm a little over twelve-years-old, and right now, I'm sleeping on a couch.
And I'm not even in Türkiye.
That's what makes it hard. But let me go on with my story:
So the Big-Two-Legged-One shows up at Hasan's. The word on the street was that she just got to Türkiye and wanted a cat. But I don't want a kitten; I want a cat who needs a home. That's what she told some American colleague of hers who happened to be dating the South African Ambassador, and he knew the Woman-Who-Was-Trying-To-Save-All-The-Cats-Of-Ankara.
So, if you're confused: the Woman-Who-Was-Trying-To-Save-All-The-Cats-Of-Ankara introduced me to the Big-Two-Legged-One. Hasan dragged me out of the back of the cage I was in, and handed me to this scruffy, kind of confused, blond female human. She didn't even speak Turkish! She tried to hold me close, and I nearly took her arm off.
She handed me back to Hasan and said "OK, I'll take her," and all I could think was: "Bitch. And you'll leave me in the streets when you're done with me, too."
But then she said something, and I didn't understand it. And Hasan didn't seem to understand it either. But she said she really wanted him to do something.
She didn't demand a vow; well, actually I think she did, now that I know her. She just said it in a real soft voice, which is how she says things. And her voice gets really soft and firm when she means it. So in that real soft voice of hers, she just asked him to do something. And he did the best he could, despite the fact he didn't know how to do it, which is why I didn't actually move in with her for over two weeks after that.
Basically, he did the torture to me that he'd done with all the other cats. The big difference between me and the other cats was: I felt ok when it was over. And Hasan felt great, because he thought he'd finally done it right. He kept calling me "my pişi-pişi," and actually acting like he liked me.
And I still just wanted to go back out into the streets.
But instead, she came and got me. I rode in one of those yellow taxıçılar. Usually, the drivers of those yellow cars just yell at cats like me, and chase us out of the streets. Generally they don't run us over, though. But it happens sometimes. The difference between the taxıçı - the taxi drivers - and all the other drivers, is that the taxıçı cry when they run over a cat. Then they go on with their job, yelling at cats all the while. But this one drove me home and said "çök guzel pişi" while he drove me to my new home. And I found myself in a new apartment, with a new couch. And I had the cool balcony you can see at the top of this entry. She would let me hang out out there, and it was fine. I was home; I was comfortable; I was in Türkiye.
And my name became Pişi. Because I am The Kat. I am not "kitty kitty" (pişi-pişi), which is what street cats usually get called. I'm just Pişi - The Kat, who made it to America with some chick who could write about me this way.
I'm telling you: I played my cards right. I only had to live with her for three months to know that she was the one, the absolute human who would give her word and not go back on it. I saw her do it, again and again. And I knew she would not let me down.
And here I am, in America, over ten years later, with a woman who'll still cook kuzu şiş, and let me share it with her. And then let me sleep in a big soft cozy bed with her at night.
But there was a price to pay. . . .
You'd think this would be a happy ever after, but no. Life isn't that easy! You'll notice that in my story so far, I actually could hear things. That's because I could hear when I was living in the streets. My ears actually worked. And then something really crappy happened. That's all I can say for now. It makes me upset just thinking about it.
It's been awhile since we've written. What can I say? She's just so busy with work; she has no time to listen to us! But it seems I caught her ear tonight. And what I'm telling her is:
I miss my kuzu şiş.
Now, kuzu şiş literally translates as "lamb kebab," and what yous see above is generally what you would get in a Turkish restaurant if you ordered it. I know, because my mom and sis and brother and I used to watch people eating these in Tunali Hilmi, which is the street and area where I was born in Ankara. I liked the colors of it all, and that's what got me into trouble one day.
You see, my mother was absolutely happy to eat whatever they threw on the ground. That's what happened when I was a kitten: my mother, sisters, brother and I would run around after whatever scraps were thrown at us. And then one day it happened, I decided I liked it so much, I wanted to see what else was on this dish.
And that was what I saw. That plate up there. Unfortunately, the people eating off of those plates immediately thought I was the sweetest thing, and I was being my absolute best to get some of that kuzu şiş. All I really wanted was the kuzu (the lamb)
But hot damn, they took me home, which wasn't what I had in mind at all. I was upset for awhile, until I saw the couch.
It looked a little like that one. You see, the people who picked me up off the street in Tunali were kind of wealthy. He was an executive for some oil company, or something like that, and they could afford to live in that area. They were American, too. So for about seven months of my life, I lived pretty high on the hog, until it happened:
They got relocated. To Spain. And they decided not to take me. It was like, I was a Turkish accessory, and I wouldn't look good in Barcelona. So, one day, I'm sitting on my couch, having forgiven them for taking me away from my mother, and they scooped me up and put me in a box and took me to a veterinarian, a guy named Hasan. They made him promise that I would never be put back into the streets. They gave him enough money to feed me for about three months.
And then they left, and there I was, taken from my mom and my beloved streets, then teased with a couch. Only to find myself in a dark, icky cage that I shared with some strange skinny, sickly black cat. That cat wouldn't survive on the streets; I'm telling you.
Yeah, so I demanded my own cage. Wouldn't you? Hasan said I was nasty, and I think he would have really hurt me if that woman wouldn't have come along.
. . . . .oh, wait a minute . . . . I smell kuzu. The Big Two Legged One cooked kuzu! That's one thing I like about her: she doesn't forget what I like. . . . . .