Tonight I heard a man yelling and a woman yelling back. I thought it was a boyfriend and girlfriend arguing on the street, as I could not hear the words but I could certainly hear the tone of voice. The man was very angry with the woman. They came up to the corner and I then understood that it was not a lover’s tiff– it was the tinerci woman. She has been around for about eight years, which is pretty long for a glue sniffer. She comes and goes. She used to live in the garden of the pasaj down the street, but then the residents in the surrounding buildings had the gate locked so she could not get in. For a while she was sleeping somewhere else, but she is back. She sleeps near the closed gate, where she has her blankets, and uses the space as her toilet.
Last year when she was camped there, a guy who had a shop nearby took pity on her and gave her the occasional tea or cigarettes. However, one day the tinerci woman attacked his girlfriend. They went to the police to complain, but the first police sent them to another police, who sent them to another police and in the end nothing happened. Now instead of being kind to her, he chases her off.
The man tonight was chasing her off too. I have no idea what she did, but he was one pissed off Turk. There are some workshops on that street and I suspect that she tried to go in or tried to steal something. He had a metal piece that he smacked on the wall to punctuate his words. He did not actually hit her but it was clear it crossed his mind. Nuri Bey, the tea guy, walked down from his place to try to calm things down until the man went back to his shop. However, the woman kept walking back down the street as if to taunt him. Finally things calmed down and she went mutteringly on her way.
I have seen this woman on the streets for years. In the summer she is often walking barefoot. As you get down close to where you turn into the square from Galipdede Sokak, her bare feet are imprinted in the cement in front of the kepabci. Sometimes her hair is cut very short and occasionally it is dyed. It is hard to tell how old she is, but I think she is in her 40s. She is thin and dried out.
There used to be a young man, also a glue sniffer, of about 25 or 30 who hung around with her, but I heard recently that he died. He stopped by my cafe one rainy day to ask for a couple of garbage bags to wrap his blanket in but did not try to come into the cafe and was very polite. He reeked of glue when I got closer to him. The woman had asked the hotelier across the street if he thought I would give her money, but he told her no. She did stumble past the door one day and make the motion for a cup for tea, but I motioned for her to pass on.
Most glue sniffers are much younger than this woman. I saw one last summer who was 18 or 20, sitting on the step of the building across the street, sniffing out of his bag full of glue. He was in an animated conversation with an imaginary friend and also offered him a sniff from his bag. Most glue sniffers die young, so this woman must have started later in life.
In fact this street used to be a hangout for glue sniffers. A man who has had a restaurant around the corner for 11 years told me that when he first opened, the leader of the glue sniffers liked him for some reason and kept the others away from him. They liked this street because there were a lot of derelict buildings that they could get into or where they could at least shelter on the steps. I remember once seeing a pack of about 10 of these young people coming out of the street. I kept my distance because they are famous for being violent. The glue melts their brain and they have no hope anyway, so it is best to keep away from them.
These days there are a lot fewer glue sniffers around here. I don’t know if they have died off, been moved out, or collected for rehab (unlikely). It is a sad sight to see.
I wonder if, a few years later, the tinerci woman has continued to live on the street, or even to live at all.