The Tuesday Bazaar

Every Tuesday newly married young men, middle-aged fathers, and farmers over their 50s and 60s come from all over the city, as well as nearby villages and farms, to this narrow street. They arrive here early in the morning and eagerly set up their stands alongside one another while chatting about the latest gossip they have heard since last Tuesday. Every seller has something different in his truck and crates that he will neatly lay or pile on to his stand.

While the men prepare their displays, old women and retired men, who have nothing better to do on this Tuesday, take their places at their surrounding apartments’ windows to watch those who come and go. Homemakers and “desperate housewives” who have been anxiously waiting for this since the previous week rush to the bazaar site without even having washed their breakfast dishes with the hopes of seizing the best of the best. Women briskly walk to the bazaar with their whining children in one hand and large shopping bags in the other. Some get together with their favorite neighbors for this Tuesday excitement. As they get closer to the bazaar, they challenge one another to guess which salesmen they can hear yelling. “Come, come! Two for the price of one!”, “You won’t find a better one anywhere else!”, “Ladies, try these!”

The air is simply vivacious.

On one end of the street, some salesmen are seen standing up on their tables modeling bras in red, pink, and blue over their clothes, guaranteeing that the floral-printed bras will save their twenty-year old marriages. Women giggle with blushed faces. While the shoppers dig through piles of socks, underwear, jackets, and scarves, the sellers continuously clean-up after them. Mothers hurriedly hold up sweaters onto their children’s bodies to get a sense of its size. Although none of the customers pay attention to the cries of the salesmen, every seller advertises his goods in his loudest and proudest voice.

Over all the cries of the sellers, the conversations never die out, may they be between two women discussing a new mantel piece or a child begging his mother for a new action figure of Spiderman. The most heated argument, however, is between the buyer and the seller. These frenzied chatters consist of persistent bargaining. If a shirt is ten lira, the buyer starts the negotiation at five. From there, the prices are suggested from each party as is customary. Initially, the salesman is only willing to give it for nine and a half lira; the woman insists on six. The man decides to compromise: eight lira and a free pair of socks. The woman is stubborn; she will only give seven lira and would also like two free undershirts. The seller tells her in frustration that he will never make a profit that way. But neither side will give up this chance.

On the other end of the street, ripe tomatoes; long, green peppers; bright, yellow lemons; purple eggplants the size of a baby’s fist; yellow, green, red apples; sweet grapes, each of which is as large as an ox’s eye; parsley with thin stems which have only been picked that very morning; watermelons; and soil-covered potatoes paint the street. The smell of the fresh fruits and vegetables is so overwhelming that one blocks out the noises of this outdoor market. Tomato stains cover the ground where people have dropped them in the commotion, as children occasionally slip on them along the way. Some salesmen allow their customers to fill their over-sized bags themselves; others strictly forbid the curious customers from touching food they may not buy.

In another corner of the street, some sellers display smaller, miscellaneous items to their buyers, such as toilet cleaners, teapots, curtains, and soaps, all of which have faded under the heat of the scorching sun from the past six months. Everything is cheaper than air itself.

Among all of the rushing men and women, a girl of four in her faded red sweater (most likely passed down from her older sister) walks from one customer to another with a small box of packaged tissues in her bony hands. Her curly, reddish hair does not seem to have been brushed for the past couple of weeks. She asks everyone whose attention she can capture whether they would like to buy a pack of napkins for 50 kurus. Almost everyone ignores her, but once in a while she gets lucky enough to attract someone’s attention. Other children around her age sell bottled water, crispy bread with sesame seeds – simit, gum, homemade lemonade, and some simply beg for extra change. Older and stronger children follow the women (who are now happily headed home with their new dotted bras) and carry their rusty wheelbarrows filled with the shoppers’ heavy bags full of tomatoes, eggplants, melons, and everything else that smells heavenly.

From sunrise to sunset, the noise never eases. After the sun goes down and the girl selling the napkins, the man modeling the various bras over his shirt, the woman who rummages through the tomatoes she does not plan to buy, and the old farmer who yells at her, all leave the bazaar, the street turns into an abandoned, lonely, dark fair. The evening wind carries the trash along the dusty sidewalk, and the bazaar is scattered with orange peelings, lettuce leaves, empty water bottles, torn black plastic bags, used tissues, and the relics of those who were there that day. Everyone retires home, exhausted more than ever. The men, women, and children return home to their wives, husbands, and siblings who have all waited for them in boredom while watching reruns of old TV shows that do not even air any commercials, until next Tuesday.

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