Leaving The Crowd Behind


“Come on, clap your hands!” yelled one of the street musicians.

I looked around to observe the crowd. Few of them took up the cue, so I didn’t either. As a group of spectators, we were a timid bunch, forming a wide semi-circle around the band as if afraid what would happen if we got close. What little clapping there was died out quickly.

The musicians tried again. “When I say ROCK, you say ROLL!”

“ROCK and….”

“ROCK and….”

The response was weak. I started to feel bad for the band. It wasn’t their fault. It was ours.

We were a guilty crowd. I knew this, because I could see I wasn’t the only one tapping my feet to the music. The songs were catchy, the urge to dance was there! But conventions were holding us back. For my part, I was simply too shy to act out on my own. I didn’t want a crowd training their eyes upon me, or taking videos and pictures of my laughable dancing. After all, this was Istikal street in Istanbul. And on Istikal, the performing is usually left for the performers, and the spectating for spectators. Who was I to act differently?

The band jumped into their next song — an upbeat number — and that’s when they arrived.

Out of nowhere, two young Turkish girls broke their way through the crowd, carelessly tossing their carrier bags to the ground, and staggered into the middle of the empty semi-circle.

They joined their hands in outstretched arms and began spinning in circles. Faster and faster and faster, until… whoops!

One of the girls stumbled over a loose cobble stone, and the nearly fell over. The other caught her just in time, and together they tossed their heads back and laughed, as if challenging anyone or anything to get in their way. They seemed completely oblivious to the fact that 50 people were watching them, mouths agape. What were they doing — were they drunk? They looked drunk to me.

The band’s tempo picked up. The girls’ dancing became sloppier. Arms around each other, they started jumping up and down, down and up. It was completely out of sync with the beat of the music. Blue screens of point-and-shoot cameras popped up among the crowd; people were taking videos of them. I craned my neck to get a better view. The Turks looked simply amazed, eyes switching back and forth between their cell phone cameras and the girls. They were going to tell their friends about this.

That’s when I noticed – the girls’ eyes were what gave it away, how they sparkled when they looked at each other. They were intoxicated alright, but it wasn’t from alcohol. They were in love.

Nothing else in the world mattered for them in that moment. They were completely absorbed in each other, looks of unadulterated happiness frozen on their faces. Two lesbian whirling dervishes.

When the band played out the final chords, the girls pressed into each other in a tight embrace, as if refusing to concede the music was over. On the last note of the song, one of girls arched backwards. The other followed her forward, and cupped her face into her caressing hands. They pressed their lips together into a passionate, sustained kiss.

I was struck. It was the most beautiful thing I had seen in a long time — the most out of place, yet moving scene I could imagine in the center of Istanbul’s busiest shopping street.

And yet, for me, the most moving thing is what happened next; the girls didn’t give me a choice to stay detached. When the next song started, they grabbed my friend Morgan and me and dragged us into the the circle with them.

After just seeing their bravery, there was no way I could hold back. I gave myself over to the music. I danced even crazier and sloppier than the girls had. I forgot about the people watching us. I had the time of my life.

“Thank you, for dancing with us” one of the girls told me after the band finished their last song.

“No” I replied. “Thank you.”

This post originally appeared at POSTULATEONE