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I am “Joy” remember me

The sun was sinking low, casting long shadows over the exotic cityscape of Istanbul. Anurag and I had been walking aimlessly, our stomachs rumbling with hunger, yet our minds roiling with the possibilities this city offered. I'd been trying to ignore the insistent ping of my phone, my friend Cuansu inviting us for a walk. But my body longed for rest, for the enveloping comfort of sleep before my early morning departure to Riga. I had decided that this last evening in Istanbul would be mine alone.

Anurag had found his culinary paradise, a place that sated his omnivorous appetite, while I was pining for the comfort of a cosy vegan café. I convinced myself to tag along, a last meal before the sterile confines of the aircraft where, contrary to my pessimistic expectation, they served a delightful breakfast. The city buzzed around us, the noise providing a strange comfort, like white noise lulling a baby to sleep.

Our choice of dining place was eclectic, a reflection of our varied tastes. And there she was, a woman whose pale face was etched in the canvas of my mind. A face that seemed familiar, yet elusive. I ordered tea, raised my voice just enough to rouse her curiosity. Her double take was a signal, a recognition of the thread of interest that wove itself between us.

Fate smiled down on me when two women chose to sit next to us and lit their cigarettes. As the smoke swirled around us, my disdain for the habit provided the perfect excuse to move next to the intriguing stranger.

"Joy," she said, her voice soft as the sun kissed waves of the Canadian lakes she hailed from. The conversation flowed like a languid river, our words dancing around the trivialities of life, the weather, the city. Yet each word, each sentence was an invitation, a dance of intrigue and curiosity.

The offer to join us at the vegan café was met with a smile that lit up her eyes. She was a wanderer too, like us, looking to escape the confines of her reality, to live fully in the moment, to taste the sweet nectar of spontaneity.

As we walked the vibrant streets, our conversation veered towards the deeper aspects of life, the labels we put on ourselves and others, the circles we draw to define our identities. In that moment, we were just three people, unburdened by the expectations of the world, free to be ourselves.

Back at our Airbnb, nestled in the beating heart of Istanbul, Joy revealed another layer of her enigma. As she shed her jacket, the tattoos that adorned her body told a thousand stories of a life lived on her own terms. The melody I played on my flute seemed to blend seamlessly with the rhythm of her breath, her gaze holding mine with an intensity that spoke of a connection beyond words.

That night, as the city lights twinkled below us, we discovered that the boundaries that separate strangers can blur into nothingness, if only we let ourselves be open to the possibilities that life offers. And in that space of openness and authenticity, true connections are born.

As the time for Joy's departure drew near, an inexplicable pang of longing stirred within me. An intense desire to explore the intricate tapestry of her life inked on her skin welled up. I moved closer, my heart pounding against the silence of the room, and asked if I could examine her tattoos.

There was a moment of stillness, a silent acknowledgement of the intimacy that was about to unfold. One by one, she rolled up her sleeves, revealing the secrets etched on her skin. I gingerly extended my hand, tracing the contours of her tattoos with my fingertips. The feel of her skin under my touch was soft, inviting, and electrifying. It held a promise of stories untold, of experiences shared and cherished.

Yet, a voice inside me whispered caution, reminding me of the ephemeral nature of the moment. Today, Joy was to be savored like the fleeting sweetness of a summer's breeze. To possess her would be to shackle the free spirit that she was, to taint the purity of the joy she personified. I was to be a silent observer, a vessel that held the memory of her without claiming ownership.

As she prepared to leave, we embraced. It wasn't a hurried, casual goodbye, but a prolonged, heartfelt farewell that seemed to squeeze the very essence of our encounter into those precious thirty seconds. Her scent filled my senses, her warmth seeped into my skin, and for a moment, we were one. As I held her hands one last time, I found myself sinking into the depth of her being, into a labyrinth of thoughts and emotions that were as profound as they were fleeting.

And then, just like that, it ended. As she disappeared into the night, I was left with the echo of her laughter, the lingering scent of her perfume, and a night's worth of memories to lull me to sleep. Even as I closed my eyes, I could still feel the ghost of her touch, a sweet reminder of a night spent basking in the glow of pure, unadulterated joy.

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