Raki in Turkey
It was midnight in Foca, Turkey. December, but not at all cold, especially after three days in ice-crusted Cappadocia. The lights from the seafood restaurants lining the semi-circular harbor were reflected in the dark Aegean waters as wooden fishing boats bobbed at their moorings.
My 24-year-old son and I strolled along the harbor, looking for a tavern where we could have a raki before bed. We’d been introduced to raki in Cappadocia. A strong, aniseed-flavored brandy, it’s mixed with ice or water, turning it milky. (It’s also known as Lion’s Milk.) We’d taken to having one as a nightcap every night. But my husband had retired to our hotel with a sinus infection, so tonight Ben and I were on our own.
We found the right kind of dive and settled in a booth, ordering our raki. Almost immediately we noticed the couple to my right. It was hard not to notice them: they were both astonishingly good-looking. We drank slowly and took sidelong glances as often as we dared. The woman was exquisite, with long sable hair, luminous dark eyes, skin like silk.
The man—well, more of the same, but with shorter hair and a chiseled jaw. They could almost have been brother and sister, though they were holding hands under the table. They drank red wine in large, expensive-looking goblets—not at all what you’d expect in a place like that.
When we were nearly finished with our drinks, the man leaned toward us. “Are you American?” he asked, his English barely accented. When we said yes, they began to chat with us. We learned they were Turkish soap opera stars, on hiatus from their show. The excess of beauty began to make sense.
When they told us that they played newlyweds on the show, my son asked, “Are you married in real life?” The man replied, “Not yet,” and the woman looked startled. “I’m going to ask her to marry me,” he confessed, and she blushed and cried, “Oh my God!” Unless it was all an act, we were present for what was more or less a proposal. We bought another round in congratulations.
After we toasted their happiness, the woman asked us, “And how long have you two been married?”
There was a long silence before I burst out laughing. Ben choked on his raki and turned bright red. The couple were confused, then embarrassed. They apologized for assuming we were married, and amended the question: “How long have you been together?”
At this point I was nearly weeping. “Twenty-four years,” I finally managed. “I’m his mother.”
Admittedly, the lights were low in the tavern. Still, there were well over three decades between my age and my son’s. I attributed the error to the raki, which, I assumed, had somehow made me look as good as it made me feel.
We left soon after, promising to look up the couple’s show (the name of which we immediately forgot), and walked a little unsteadily in the direction of the hotel.
“You’ll never mention this again,” Ben said grimly to me, and I promised, as solemnly as I could between snorts of laughter.
Reader, I lied.