Can you see our cave? Look for the three black openings.
We were both couchsurfers and had considered trying to couchsurf on our hitchhiking tour of Turkey. But J had a tent and a sleeping bag with him and we found it more convenient and more conducive to cuddling to sleep in his one-person tent and share his sleeping bag. On the trip so far we'd used it only once or twice. We'd also slept on the sandy beach in Patara, at a friend's villa in Bodrum, under a beachside gazebo in Kas, and on the side of a pine-strewn hill near the Syrian border (where it was too hot for the tent). From the moment we entered the Kapadokya region we were in agreement. We would spend the night in one of the caves carved into the soft volcanic rock that makes the region so famous and gives it its otherworldly landscape.
So, in our biggest splurge of the trip, we rented a motorbike for twenty-four hours and toured the region. We saw thousand-year-old churches carved into rocky cliffs, Flintstones-style apartment complexes honeycombed in the rocks, phallic formations carved by centuries of water flow. All the while, we scanned the rocks, searching for a nice little cave we could sleep in. We wanted one that was isolated and difficult to climb into. No nighttime visitors please. We also needed a place to park the motorbike overnight.
When we followed a gravel road up an incline and looked out over a valley filled with rocks shaped like gnomes' hats we finally saw a seemingly suitable cave. It appeared as a dark spot on the golden cliff, but was only visible from a few turns in the road. We parked the motorbike, grabbed our packs, and headed down into the rocky valley to investigate. The cave was two small valleys over, so we needed to scramble down sandy and rocky soil before we could begin climbing up. Even approaching the cave was difficult, far more difficult than it had appeared from the road. I tentatively tried out a few routes before committing to one. The shadows were elongating, so when J saw that I was making headway, he scrambled back up to the road to repark the motorbike so it was as out of sight as possible. He soon followed me down to where I stood, peering up at a nearly sheer cliff face. We peered up together. Even without the packs the climb would have been tough. We climbed slowly. The rock face was soft and sandy, making traction difficult to come by. For every burst upwards, I slid back a few feet as well. The last stretch, just shy of the cave's opening, was the steepest. So I left my pack with J and scraped in, then he handed me our stuff while he climbed up himself. By now, the light was rapidly fading and we both realized we had chosen our sleeping place for the night sight unseen. Luckily, the inside of the cave was hospitable. It was small, though, barely large enough for us to stretch out in. There was evidence inside of recent occupation—by birds—but we felt quite confident, given the difficult climb to reach the cave, that no one would disturb us that night. The rented motorbike was another matter. I could only hope that no one would disturb it.
We ate our dinner—a typical (for us) melange of fresh fruit (peaches, grapes, melon), black olives, a loaf of Turkish white bread, and white sugar-coated chickpeas. Then we arranged our bed for the night, first laying down J's blue crinkled tarp then his sleeping bag. The thought that we would sleep on it instead of under it seemed absurdly hopeful. Though it was August and the air crackled with heat during the day, Kapadokya had cold, desert-like nights. In preparation for such a night, we each layered as much as possible. Since I had hardly any clothes in my small pack, this meant that we split J's warmer clothes. He wore his gray, paint-splattered hoodie and I wore his windbreaker jacket and mismatched windbreaker pants over my shorts and blue tie-dyed sleeveless shirt. It didn't take long for us to give up the pretense and huddle together under his tapered gray sleeping bag. We lay, sharing stories of childhood exploits as we drifted off to sleep.
Days earlier, sleep in such a situation—on a hard, rocky surface with little room to move and cold nipping in from every exposed gap—would have been nearly unthinkable. But my body had adapted quickly from my apartment-dwelling, bed-sleeping existence in Istanbul to my new hitchhiking and bumming around existence throughout Turkey. So despite the rocks that prodded into my back through the thin layer of tarp, the inability to turn around without bumping into J or the cave wall, and the chilling cold, I slept. You even might say I slept well.
But I awoke in the middle of the night cursing my responsible water consumption. I had to pee. That this was problematic was not immediately apparent in my sleep-muddled state. And then I remembered the layout of the cave. There was one large door and a small, waist-high window carved out the rock. Both looked out over the steeply dropping valley below. It was dark, too dark to try to navigate my way outside the cave—that would have been difficult even in the daylight—but for obvious reasons, peeing in the small cave was also not an option. I would have to pee out the window. Shit, I thought, this would be a hell of a lot easier if I were a man.
I crept to the window, climbing over J in the process, then climbing up to a rocky window-ledge-like jut. I shuffled around, making almost imperceptible changes in my angle and position. It was hard to find the right spot. I pulled down my few layers—J's pants, my own, and my underwear—and backed up to the window of the cave. I had a brief moment of self consciousness as I squatted in the window, my pale ass exposed to the cold, moonlit night. I quickly shook off my modesty. This was not the time. With each hand I grabbed the rocky sides of the rounded hole that served as the window and lowered my ass even further out into the cold night air. I looked down between my legs, but I was still inside the cave, so I leaned even further, now balancing with almost all my weight on my arms. I leaned until I could look between my legs and see the shadowed rocky terrain far below.
It was in this moment that I could visualize my demise. My balance was so precarious that if I lost grip in either one of my hands, I would tumble backwards out the window, rolling down, down, down into the rocky gap below. Caught by surprise, I would likely make a soft squawking noise, like the ejaculation of an adolescent bird, or no noise at all. I could see it now. J would continue to sleep, breathing softly, sweetly. He would awake with the early morning sun, smile and stretch, turn to embrace me. Only then would he realize why he had been so warm in the night; I had not been there to hog the sleeping bag! He would find me, slumped at the base of the cliff with my pants around my ankles, surrounded by a distinct smell of urine, my pale ass shining in the sun.
These thoughts occupied me as I peed out the window then crept safely back into the sleeping bag. Though it seems like a grisly image, the idea of this death actually tickled me immensely. What a way to go! I cherished the idea that it would first be a mystery. How did she get down there? How on earth could she fall out of a cave? And why are her pants down?
I could continue to inspire mirth even after death! No, I thought, as I looked out the window at the crisp night sky, it wouldn't be a bad way to go.