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A few hours ago I got up to feed my cats. When I put out the food, to my puzzlement, only six cats showed up.
I wasn’t initially that concerned, because I’ve freaked out over a missing cat before only to find him or her several hours later in a suitcase under the bed. But it’s quite unlike Süleyman to miss a meal. When after several thorough searches of the apartment and several conspicuously loud openings of several more cans of cat food he still hadn’t shown up, I began to get worried, and then, after several more passes, the searching of all the drawers, the hamper, the washing machine, and every other place a cat could hide, I knew for sure something was wrong.
Jump cut: No idea how he ended up where I finally found him. He’s not saying. It seems impossible that he could have fallen six flights from my balcony–it’s covered in fishing net to prevent just that–but it’s remotely possible he could have squirmed through a tiny part that wasn’t quite sealed. Either that or somehow he slipped out the door when I last opened it, got down six flights of stairs, out the locked front door, halfway down the block and up a high sheer concrete wall to the ledge of a nearby building, but this too seems improbable. Point is, that’s where he was, on a narrow ledge, a very long way off the ground. I wouldn’t ever have found him if he’d done what lost cats typically do, which is to hide silently, but he heard me calling for him and started howling back. So I knew he was up there, and from the way he was crying, I figured he was most likely injured. There was no way to get him but to climb on top of the van, scale the wall, and rappel up the drainpipe.
The guys on the street are working guys–they do manual labor of some kind, I’m not even sure what kind, to my embarrassment. Everyone who does this stuff in Turkey is always doing something nuts and OSHA-violating like climbing to a place like that without using a safety harness or a hard hat. They would never have let me go up there when one of them could have gone, but as I explained to them, that cat was no way going to come down with a stranger, and if they tried that this situation was going to get a lot worse, fast–trust me, I know him. So one of them went off to find a ladder (of sorts), one went off to find a cat trap (of sorts), one went off to find some cat food (of sorts) and one steadied the make-shift ladder, and the other one went up first to make sure I had a hand to grab, and the other ones waited on the street looking mildly concerned.
It took us about forty-five minutes on that ledge to coax the idiot cat out from behind the air conditioning unit, and the whole time I’m thinking that one misstep and one of us, or the cat, is going to end up as a chalk outline on the pavement. I’m imagining my obituary, and actually kind of narrating it in my head, to be honest–BERLINSKI DEAD AT 42 IN FAILED ISTANBUL CAT RESCUE OPERATION–and thinking of the announcement on Ricochet and how sad you’d all be and how it probably wouldn’t come as that much of a surprise to anyone.
But at last he stopped howling and came out for the food, and when I snapped the lid on the cage, it really had a kind of moon-landing feeling of against-all-odds accomplishment. We handed him back hand-over-hand; they helped me down; and this was, all in all, very typical of Turkey, because the fire department is not going to come in a situation like that. You help out your neighbors, and you especially help foreigners, and sure, you’d risk cracking your head open to help rescue a cat for some woman you barely know and from whom you expect nothing in return. (I swear to that last part; this wasn’t a damsel-in-distress situation, this was a crazy-cat-lady in distress situation, and we all know there’s a difference.) Ordinary people here help each other. They have to: They know the government sure won’t.
Suley seems just fine–he’s sleeping it off. I’m going to keep a close eye on him tonight in case there’s some kind of internal injury, but as far as I can see he’s just dusty.
I asked the guys whether there was anything I could do to thank them, they said no, no, don’t mention it. I went downstairs again to bring them some cookies, but they were gone.
Endnote: It seems kind of beside the point, but they were all moderate Muslims. I’m guessing so, at least. It’s statistically highly unlikely that they’d have been the local Zoroastrians.Published in