Nedim was intent on forgetting. Almost every day, if he had enough money, he got shit-faced blotto drunk and passed out. His nose was battered from having fallen on it many times. A few times he passed out on the street and the esnaf, business neighbours, joked about it but also helped him out. One day he was sitting on the stairs to my apartment building, which was across the street from the cafe. He passed out in a sitting position and the guys came out with their smart phones to take his photo. However, then he fell over and hit his head. First they picked him up by the legs in a sitting position and moved him beside the stairs where if he fell over again, he would not fall very far. Then one of the guys came along with a damp cloth to dab up the cut on his head. He was unconscious for all of this.
Another day he passed out on the stair to the door leading to the hotel rooms upstairs. At that time there were several people from Pakistan staying up there, in town to make a film. They were disgusted to see him there. I went to the hotel people to tell them they had to move him, but they just tried to wake him up, which was impossible. Finally a couple of men dragged him to in front of an unused door in the derelict building next door. As they dragged him, his jeans came down, showing his boxer shorts. I was alarmed, as I did not want to see any more, but they managed to get his jeans mostly pulled up. Again, he was unconscious for all of this.
When he was not drunk he helped the metal collector next door or the cafes on the other street. Often he would find things he thought I would buy– small carpets, bags of textiles, occasionally furniture. My favourite story about him is the evening that a group of women had gathered to visit with a foreign woman who had left Istanbul for Poland. I had seen Nedim carrying a big golden Ottoman-esque column with a curved tip. He went up the street and obviously was not able to sell it to anyone up there, so he came back to me, telling me it would look great beside the stairs. It was actually too big for that space, but I had him carry it down to the garden. The women thought it was very funny, laughing that I had just bought a huge penis. It certainly looked like it.
Some people criticized me for buying things from him because they said he would spend it on drink. They were right, but my not giving him money would not stop him from drinking.
When Nedim was not drunk, he was clean shaven and dressed in clean clothes. Since he got drunk every day, one would expect that he would be in a continual hangover, but it seemed the next day that he was ok until he started drinking and would start the cycle all over again.
At the same time, Nedim was one of the local men who protected me. One day, for example, a sort of dodgy man came into the cafe looking for work. Nedim had been next door at the metal collector’s and saw the man come in. He stood beside the door outside and kept an eye on the situation. Luckily I did not need him, as I had gotten pretty good at acting aggressively at these kinds of men, and sometimes women.
Sometimes when Nedim was drunk he would pick fights. Our street was narrow, so if a truck came down and did not move on, it literally stopped traffic. Occasionally this would annoy Nedim and he would yell at the driver. Other times I saw him strike out at men on the street that he had a beef with. In situations like this, again the esnaf would come out, try to calm things down, and drag Nedim away. One time he had passed out on the street and someone called an ambulance to take him away. When I asked them, they said they would take him away to dry out a bit and then let him go home.
I asked the metal collector where Nedim lived and he did not know. So I asked Nedim. It turned out that he lived with someone in a flat around the corner, conveniently close to the beer store. One day he told me that his sweetheart had died. I was surprised that he had a sweetheart. I imagine she drank a lot too, as she was run over.
Nedim was one of the most colourful of the people on my street. He was always polite to me and the others helped him by getting him to do some work or by taking care of him in his drunken stupors. I wonder what happened in his life to cause him to kill himself so slowly, but he was one of many I saw on a slow dance with death.