The salt of their tears

The light pouring in through the glass roof and the plants gave the terrace an outdoors feel. A long time ago, the Greek mansion had been a maternity ward. Now waiters dressed in black and white delivered wine to the brown tables. At the far end of the terrace, a wine bar listed local wines by number. On the opposite side, below the balcony, a door to the restaurant.  The man and the Turkish woman with him sat at a small table against the wall. When she arrived, she had asked to move to a quieter part of the terrace. She only had an hour before she was due to meet her friends. "Shall we order?" the woman asked.

Her long dark hair fell across her right shoulder, and she sat upright in the chair.

"What do you feel like," the man said.

"Wine, let's order some wine."

"Which one, the 17 or the 59?" he said. "I can't remember which one we used to order."

"It was the 59."

The woman caught a waiter's attention, "A bottle of the 59, please."

"Do you feel like eating something ?" she asked. "Perhaps some cheese to go with the wine?"

"Yes, let's have some cheese with the wine."

"And a mixed board of cheese, please."

The waiter scribbled the order in his notebook and picked up the menus and walked away to fetch their order.

"How was your day?" the man said.

"I couldn't concentrate on work."

"Yes, nor could I," the man said. "Have you been thinking about our conversation last night?"

The girl said nothing. Her hand rested on the table. The man reached out to cover it with his.

"I remember when we used to come here," the man said. "We'd meet your friends. Drink too much wine. And on the way home you'd stop to talk to all the stray dogs. We even took one home one night."

"I do tend to pick up strays," the girl said.

The waiter brought over the bottle of 59 and two glasses. He put the glasses on the table and opened the bottle of wine. He poured some wine into the man's glass.

"It's fine," the said man putting down his glass.

They both watched as the waiter half filled their glasses with the deep purple liquid.

"Şerefe, to us," the man said. The girl looked at him. Took a sip of the wine and then looked across the restaurant.

"I can't do it," she said looking back at the man.

"You can't do what?" the man sipped his wine.

"I can't do us," she said. "It's not fair for me."

"I thought we discussed it last night, what changed?"

"Nothing," the girl said and put down her drink. "Nothing has changed."

The waiter came over with the board of cheese and placed it between the couple. "Can I bring you anything else?" the waiter asked.

"No. Thank you," the woman said.

"But you were happy last night," the man said. "I know we have some challenges, and it won't be easy, but we can make it work."

"Perhaps a year ago. Not now."

"Why not now?"

"I don't have the energy," said the woman. "A year ago nothing seemed impossible. I was happy to fight no matter the odds. Now I don't have the energy."

"But the odds are good."

"No. You can't be sure the operation will be a success."

The girl looked at the cheese. She withdrew her hand from under the man's hand and picked up a knife.

"There is a new technique, with a much higher success rate," the man said.

"But it still isn't certain, and we would have to wait a long time before we would know if it was successful."

"It is less than five years since the first operation. Some men have had it reversed after twenty years."

"Yes, but we can't be sure," said the woman. "It is too long to wait. When we know, there will be no turning back. Even if the operation doesn't work."

"Do you love me?" said the man.

"It's not that simple."

"It is simple. Forget everything else for a moment and tell me, do you love me?"

"You can't make it that simple," said the girl. "When my father divorced, if it weren't for me, he would have been alone. If something happens to us, I don't want to be alone in the world. You don't have that problem. Can't you see what you are asking me to do is not simple?"

"I know it's not that simple, but if we love each other isn't it worth taking the chance. I can have the operation done now. Our chances are still good."

"Why didn't you have it done a year ago?"

"I thought we were over," the man said. "I wouldn't do this for anyone but you. I always hoped there would be a chance we get back together, but I thought we were through."

The girl picked up her glass and finished the wine.

"Do you want more wine?" he said.

"Yes," she said.

He picked up the bottle of 59 and filled both their glasses.

"So, that's it then. You're giving up?"

"Can't you see that what you are asking me isn't fair?"

The girl stared at her glass of wine, and the man moved the pieces of cheese around with the knife. He lifted his head and looked at her.

"You aren't being fair," he said. "We do have a chance. A better chance than a lot of other people, but you won't give us a chance."

The woman looked back at him. "I did give us a chance, and you walked away," she said.

"So you've made up your mind?"

"Yes."

"I know you love me," the man said. "Even if you don't want to love me. You love me."

The woman looked at him but said nothing.

"If this is what you want, I won't push you anymore," he said. "We should go, you're late to meet your friends."

"Yes," she said picking up her bag.

The man caught the waiters attention and made a scribbling motion in the air. He paid the bill and followed the woman through the wine bar and out onto the busy streets of Istanbul. The light was just beginning to fade as they walked to the corner. "I'm going that way," the woman said. They turned to face one another, and the man pulled the woman toward him. Her breath was warm on his neck and their cheeks cool and moist together. The man took her face in his hands, and they kissed, and he tasted the salt of their tears in her mouth.

"Goodbye. I love you," the woman said in his ear.

And he watched her walk up the street and lost of her in the crowd of people.