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VIRGIN IN THE COMPOUND
I arrived in Samsun in April of 1968, barely nineteen and as inexperienced as anybody could be in the ways of love. I had always liked girls but never had a girlfriend, let alone an "experience" with one. So I made my mind up to ride the shuttle into town on my first break and meet some women. I had almost two weeks to learn Turkish so I was set, "Mir habe, nas iz zinnis?" "Cok iyi!"
I wandered around most of the day and all I saw were old women, or young women fast becoming old women. Shrouded under their kerchiefs and shawls, carrying buckets and bundles of firewood like beasts of burden, girls in that part of the world age fast.
Late that afternoon I found my way back to the city square to wait for the 5:00 PM bus when three attractive teenage girls came shyly up to me and said, "Pleeze, wat-tyme-eez-eet?" I told them it was almost 5:00. They asked again. Again I said five o'clock. When they asked again, I understood that they didn't speak English anymore than I spoke Turkish but were simply flirting with me.
I was okay with that, a walking hormone of nineteen, but after a few minutes of mispronouncements and laughing at our mutual lack of language skills, I began to notice a crowd of older, scowling Turks gathering around us. The girls became frightened and ran off. But I had nowhere to go. As the hostile crowd grew more vocal, I became unsettled. Luckily, the shuttle bus soon rounded the corner and I wasted no time climbing onboard.
Safely back on the base I told my sergeant, who informed me that what I just did was unwise, that he'd show me the proper way to find love in Samsun. The next afternoon we rode the shuttle bus to town and again and walked the dusty streets but to a specific location. It was an ancient alley lined with two-story buildings, the exits bricked with high walls. A pair of askeris [soldiers] frisked us as we entered through the military-style gate, joining a throng of Turkish men milling about looking at women, all standing provocatively in the alley's windows. My sergeant told me that it was like a women's prison but they were only allowed to charge $1.00 for each tryst. Such a deal, he felt.
At the end of one alley, a brick wall served as a place for men to stand and urinate. You can imagine the place had an awful stench and the all-male crowd made me uneasy.
Within a few minutes the sergeant had found his favorite house. We went inside where he immediately left me alone in a darkening room with several hardened Turkish prostitutes. I was petrified and it must've showed because they all cackled and taunted me mercilessly until I finally was forced to step outside and wait for the sergeant in the crowded alley.
When he came out, he couldn't believe I hadn't indulged myself, when all it would've cost me was a lousy buck! I told him it wasn't the dollar but fear that held me back. That seemed incomprehensible to him, but I'm convinced I couldn't have managed it, even if I had tried.
The only possible way might be to, first, imbibe in an unhealthy number of cheap, stiff drinks at the base club, then, after become desensitized to everyone and everything, call a taxi and try to find that damn place again.
At nineteen, 454 days is a long time to remain a virgin!
Doug Morris. Samsun '68-'69