From WhatsApp to Instagram, our social media presence creates the illusion that even after death, there is still an open conversation between us and a loved one.

Istanbul in December (Photo by Deno)

My parents, grandmother, and I were 40 hours into a 56-hour stay-at-home order in our family’s Istanbul apartment in December when we decided to put up our New Year’s tree. My dad installed our topper, which resembles the Taj Mahal. Glitter stuck on our fingers, we danced around the tree and momentarily forgot that the pandemic had trapped us in our living room.

My 78-year-old grandmother wanted me to send the photos — but this was not a simple request, because she doesn’t own a smartphone; she has a phone from the late 2000s that barely takes photos. …

Of course, you would tell me that sharks don’t save humans, they eat humans. And that was what I thought, too — until I woke up on a rock and Eqalussuaq was waiting right next to me.

Copyright: © Doug Perrine

Somewhere in the Atlantic, between Greenland’s glaciers and deep fjords of Canada, Eqalussuaq took a deep sigh that sent shocks across the crisp sea. It had been a long season for her. She traveled all the way from the Norwegian archipelago that mark the southern tip of the Arctic Sea and found herself floating in the darkness, 7,200 feet below the shores of an abandoned island off Canada with a worn-down harbor and a cemetery.

You might wonder how Eqalussuaq and I met. But before I begin, let me tell you: If you’re looking for a meet-cute, well, this is…

Do I think selfies will fix our problems? No. Am I glad to see Turkish women take up space? Yes.

December 2019, Istanbul

For me, it all started with my mother.

On Sunday, she posted a black and white selfie of her radiant smile, accepting a challenge from one of her good friends and colleagues. “I am compelled to speak my mind,” she wrote underneath in her native tongue, Turkish, “We have to teach men that they should not just love and respect their mothers but all women.” She received 58 likes and her comments led to a small but vibrant conversation below, including clap emojis and a bunch of hearts.

A 27-year-old woman named Pınar Gültekin was murdered by her ex-boyfriend on…

Nothing scares me more than death. That’s why most of the time, I feel compelled to say I have no fears because who doesn’t fear death?

January 2020, Istanbul
January 2020, Istanbul
January 2020, Istanbul

I was 11 when I went on my first date. It was the summer of, I believe, 2003. Me and my now estranged cousin spent our months off from school at our grandparents’ summer house in Kuşadası, a Turkish beach resort town on the Aegean coast.

Every night, the cool kids went down to the shore with their bikes, congregated around the benches overlooking the impulsive sea that stood between Turkey and Greece, and talked about the old man who allegedly swam to a Greek island every day and came back without getting caught. He was a legend. …

Is Kylo Ren hot or am I just lonely?

Kylo Ren and his army

Two or so months ago, I remember, I counted the days I spent by myself in my apartment. Then I started counting weeks; the last time I was at a bar or in my office or smiled at someone on the street, but once I hit months, that’s when I stopped keeping track. Instead, I dedicated three hours a day to watching Star Wars. My mental health wrapped in a wet blanket, I only knew which day it was based on the episode I picked for the day.

Star Wars and I, well, we go way back. I watched the…

What to do when you’ve already spent hours reading fanfic about Adam Driver, and there’s still a pandemic outside?

Now-defunct McDonald’s cherry pie

Cherry pies from McDonalds is all I think of when I recall having pneumonia as a 10-year-old. My parents, both doctors, had different approaches to the sickness that kept me (and them) up at night with never-ending coughing fits. Most of the time, the thing that helped me breathe easier was the tiny steam-room my mom created by putting a towel over my head and vaporizing Vicks in boiling hot water under the makeshift tent. …

Fort Greene, March 2020

I hated washing my hands when I was in middle school. I dreaded each time my nanny dragged me to the bathroom as soon as I took off my shoes. She looked over my shoulder while I washed my tiny hands stained in pencil lead because I was not to be trusted with my school-borne filth.

“See,” she would say. “See all the dirty water flowing down the drain?” And sometimes she would be right.

I was the messy nerd who sat in the front row with a pile of books next to her, arranged by her daily schedule —…

There’s rarely a path to true freedom here if you are an immigrant

Illustration by Eb Ball

It had been six days since my anxiety found itself a cozy place in my throat, and even that didn’t stop me from taking a sip from the fanciest glass of Cabernet I ever held in my hands, $150 a bottle. The California sun fed its rays to the vines of Napa Valley, and I — a stranger to the West Coast until then — stood next to them with hopes that the sunlight would puncture my anxious knot. But instead, it didn’t leave for the entire month of October 2018. …

Somewhere Above Minnesota (Photo by Deno)

Less than three weeks to 27, I sit by myself at an empty airport on the border of North Dakota and Minnesota where planes take off from that one gate that only opens 90 minutes before that one Delta plane takes off to fly over carpets of green to Minneapolis.

Less than three weeks to 27, I think about how this was the age my parents decided to commit to each other for the rest of their lives — or at least for the foreseeable future. Less than three weeks to 27, people tell me “Don’t be ridiculous. …

Istanbul in December 2018 (Photo By Deno)

A few years ago, my ex-boyfriend told me he wanted us to have kids, and I almost choked on my Szechuan noodles. “Not now, not now” I remember him clarifying as spice tears stung my eyes. “I was thinking in a couple of years.”

We had already separated twice over the past three years; he had proposed twice and disappeared afterwards twice, and I had taken him back — twice. And there he was, contemplating us having a family mostly because he thought we were “too hot to not pass the genes along to the next generation.”

In that moment…

Deniz Çam

An up-and-coming New Yorker, who is sometimes neither up nor coming. Follow me on Twitter @DenizCam

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