The Rug Salesman

In Turkey, rugs are high currency. They’re prized and valued with the same ardor Americans might cherish their Apple products or luxury cars. It had never occurred to Maribelle that anyone could take the hand-crafting–or even mass manufacturing–of rugs so seriously. But when Dylan took her to Cappadocia for their fifth anniversary as a couple (they counted it from the first day Maribelle didn’t force him to use a condom), she was assaulted with all manner of rug salesmen, and, of course, rugs.

A rug, to a Turkish person, means so much more than it does to an American one. There are infinite hidden meanings behind it, so many terminologies used to describe the different weaves, colors and patterns. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she could intuit this vaguely after spending a few weeks in Istanbul and going to the Grand Bazaar, among other lesser renowned markets where the peddling of rugs and spices is what stood out the most to her. It seemed obvious that these were the entities most cherished among the culture, as opposed to clothes or jewelry, as was the case in the hopelessly materialistic Western world where she had been hatched, and, through no control of her own, was conditioned not to have the slightest clue of the difference between want and need. Even so, she knew she did not want or need a Turkish rug, and had tried to subtly dissuade through her evasive movements and body language to Dylan that she did not want to be corralled into Miraç’s tent, even if there wasn’t much else to do in that town at the moment. To further add to her irritation, Dylan had managed to get them wrangled into an off the beaten path souk (if it could even be called that) instead of Galerie Ikman, where at least there wasn’t such a creepy form of sequestering, the feeling of being at the mercy of the sales pitch until it was over as no one would be able to hear you scream if you caused enough offense in wanting to leave, ergo warranting your murder. His blatant ignoring of her wishes was in keeping with the games he had been playing throughout this trip, and for the bulk of their relationship. Something within him got off on putting Maribelle into situations that made her want to crawl out of her skin, and that she would never ordinarily get into were it not for Dylan’s inherent devil-may-care approach to life. She thought that she might get used to it over time, but even now, it was still an endless source of anxiety, as though she had to remain constantly on her toes in anticipation of what fresh “out of her comfort zone” hell Dylan might come up with next. Wasn’t it ever enough for him to just “be”? To simply lie down and exist without constantly needing to stir up some kind of excitement? In his defense, however, Maribelle would never have chosen Cappadocia as a destination of her own accord, without the indelicate nudge of Dylan to get her there.

But while, sure, the Churches of Göreme or the Derinkuyu underground city or even a hot air balloon ride (which Maribelle was convinced was only so high up because of all of Dylan’s own endless reserve of hot air) were perfectly understandable in terms of pushing Maribelle outside of her norm, she felt at once that there was something malicious in Dylan allowing them to be drawn into this rug salesman’s tent, knowing, she sensed, something she didn’t. What he must have known, she surmised, is that Dylan had to be aware on some level that Miraç was going to bring up the subject of their relationship. Suggest that they ought to buy a rug for their upcoming marriage (for which there were no plans despite their lengthy amount of time together). Dylan had to have known it would be broached, considering his extensive research about Turkey before they finally decided upon going there for their “celebratory” journey. It immediately became clear to Maribelle, however, that he wasn’t celebrating their anniversary so much as an excuse to flee from what had become their banal existence. For all domestic roads lead to inevitable boredom. Maybe, somewhere underneath all his assurances that he didn’t want to leave her, this visit to the rug salesman was a clear message. A concrete way for him to be able to announce, solely because of being prompted, that they were not getting married, and never would be. Except instead of himself announcing it, his torture method would be to leave that declaration to Maribelle.

Although at first, Dylan took the reins on communication and interest, invoking the rug seller’s earnestness (clearly false and so well-worn as a sales tactic that it was clear he could do it in his sleep), he soon visibly lost his aura of enthusiasm when Miraç mentioned it would be a wise investment for them and their future. Seeing his deflation at the mention of the word “future,” he quickly redirected his pitch toward Maribelle. He apprehended that Dylan had grown smug and aloof, sipping slowly on another cup of Turkish coffee Miraç offered in the vain hope of getting a return on the loss of his supply. It was a risk he was willing to take: giving excess amounts of coffee in the hope of making a sale (she later learned it was usually customary to give tea in these “rug emporiums,” coffee being an immediate sign of “off-brandness”). Meanwhile, he ramped up his presentation by getting into elaborate demonstrations of how to fold and unfold the different types of rugs and what each color scheme or knotting style represented. Maribelle found it endlessly tedious and wished, silently screamed, to Dylan that he would end this waste of time as only a man’s voice could be processed in this part of the world (as was the case with all other parts of the world but most especially here). Yet he would not intervene, knowing full well that he alone could end this with a single indication of disregard. It was as though he wanted Maribelle to endure the agony of being shown these wedding/marriage-specific rugs so that she would finally have to burst out, admit to Miraç and herself, “We’re not going to get married, okay? Ever.”

And although being in New York for so long had made her feel as though this was perfectly acceptable, traveling to the nexus of old-fashioned values was placing large chunks of crystal-sized salt in the wound of her inadequacy with respect to never even being a consideration for marriage in Dylan’s eyes, but instead, more of a rest area on the road to something he might actually be able to give his complete passion and devotion to. That clearly also did not include a rug, in spite of his tacit and cruel insistence upon entering this godforsaken place, which was increasingly making Maribelle feel sadness over the musty odor of all those unsold rugs–how, rolled and unrolled as they might be on occasion, it would never compare to having a proper owner to care for and appreciate them. A lovely thing unappreciated. She could relate.

In the end, instead of confessing the sin of her inevitable spinsterhood to Miraç, to quiet him and to ensure that she and Dylan would finally be able to leave, she bought a five-hundred dollar halı rug intended for “receiving guests.” Miraç assured her it was made of pure silk. When she tried to wash it after moving it, along with all of her other worldly possessions, out of her and Dylan’s erstwhile shared living space and into her single woman’s apartment, she found that whatever shoddy threads it had really been made from rendered it frayed and unpresentable. She tittered to herself, vowing to one day return to Cappadocia and call Miraç on his bullshit.


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