Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Telephone call from Istanbul


Immediately following our recovery from the plague, Pasha insisted on redecorating our suites. I think he fears contagion. Which makes the following adventure all the more irritating.

He insisted that Koosha and I accompany him to Cairo and Istanbul to visit the bazaars, to shop, to haggle, to discern -- for him. I had hoped when I signed up for harem life that travel to exotic locations would be a part of the arrangement, but I certainly had no visions of having to work -- ever again. And this was work. I mean, I was sweaty most of the time...

Perhaps he thought it would give a woman great pleasure and a sense of power to spend a man's money and make executive decorating decisions on his behalf. But he has never had to shop with Koosha. Clearly.

With plenty of money to shower on the hawkers of wares both rare-lovely and plastic-hideous, he insisted on talking them down to the lowest price. And then he insisted on telling me all about it as we walked away, even though I had just witnessed his parsimony firsthand. I blame his upbringing -- rummage sales and flea markets and whatnot (but even I must admit, it gave him a wonderful eye for hidden treasures). He then insisted on teaching me how to bargain and dicker. He made me dress in cheap clothing. It was horrible.

I have no idea what Pasha was up to as we dragged his giant wallet through the smells and sights of the great bizaars of the world. I'm sure he was doing something sneaky like visiting museums or reading up on Ottoman history.

Here is a list of our purchases:
  • seven Persian rugs

  • 25 bolts of silk -- from chiffon to China to crepe to charmeuse to jacquard to douppioni to noil -- in almost every color. We had to carry them ourselves! Again, horrible.

  • Opals and lapis in great quantities

  • A vase to replace Behnaz's clumsy dancing

  • A lovely copper tea service

  • five opium pipes

  • leather for Pasha's study

At the end of this week-long pain-spree, I forced the maharajah to take us to Paris for two days of relaxation and champagne. Bottles and bottles of Egly Ouriet Ambonnay and one small trip to Cartier for a ruby fix, and I was slightly less ornery.

Upon our return, we discovered that Behnaz had disappeared for a day or two, a fact Ferzaneh couldn't wait to share with Pasha. They are both blackhearted. But then I guess I am, too.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Pardon my hiatus -- and my appearance. Illness has ravaged the harem. Two days after the receipt of my laptop (oh how warm it feels in my lap!), Behnaz took to her bed, then Ferzana, then yours truly. Even Koosha could not withstand its virulence. Pasha cut short his travels and came home to tend to his henhouse. With the succour of the other two and our personal physician, we are all in a beautiful state of convalescence, drinking bitter tea and lying off the hookah for a spell. I detest moderation.
The computer conundrum is solved. It seems Koosha was growing tired and fearful of the nearly constant study key subterfuge and contacted Pasha to tell him I seemed bored, and wouldn't a computer help fill my time without him? You can imagine the squawk and squabble that ensued when my little gift arrived. Such a gaggle of complaining ninnies they are...but Pasha has not spoken of it and neither shall I.
He's off again tomorrow to continue his business. I feel very naughty doing this while he is home. More soon. I promise.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Gift Horse

Pasha has just sent me a computer. I didn't ask him for one...yet. An interesting development, no?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

When the Khan's away...

Our stately pleasure dome finds itself Khanless for the next few days; he's away on business. High times indeed in the harem! Koosha has seen to it that I have unrestricted and uninterrupted access to the study. There are a few planned outings -- I will be coming down with a nasty headache tomorrow.

I thought you might like to know a little about Pasha** -- at least more than what he doesn't look like (see above). He is quite tall and athletically trim, with dark hair and olive skin. Imagine a cross between Naveen Andrews and Nestor Carbonell (yes, we watch Lost -- it takes some of the romance out of it, doesn't it?). He is, of course, fantastically wealthy. It would not be inaccurate to say his business involves international shipping. I'll say no more on that topic. For a man who likes to have many women about, he is surprisingly impatient. I would describe him as kind and lavishly generous but prone to bouts of impetuous (albeit mostly harmless) anger. He is easily subdued, as are most men who live at the mercy of their egos. He is clever in his business dealings and his social relations.

He is Moldavian (geographically), the son of a Macedonian father and Bulgarian mother (a former belle of Sofia whose first husband met with a most unfortunate end). His affections and affectations are decidedly western.

The only feeling better than being seen on the arm of a man like Pasha is secretly believing you could outsmart him. Time will tell.

Behnaz (our newest, and final, addition) just broke a priceless vase practicing hip-hop dance moves in the salon. I'm off to save her sorry behind. More soon!

**Yes, I am being liberal with the use of this term, and many others, strictly speaking. We are all well versed in correct Ottoman terminology. Since I can't use his name, I'll use many different terms which speak only of his position as a man in power. And Pasha is pretty.

Monday, May 4, 2009


I had to cut my last post terribly short. It seems Koosha, our "eunuch," scheduled their appointments for today, not Saturday. You can only imagine how this upset the suleiman. He had big plans for Sunday night.

I guess this is as good a time as any to introduce you to Koosha. I don't quite know what to make of him; perhaps you can help. He seems to have the confidence of all of us (for example, he is responsible for absconding with the key to the study, with which I was able to access the computer to begin my little story). He never asked me why I wanted it -- he is good that way. He never asks questions, he never betrays the confidence of anyone. But I wonder how "accidental" his scheduling foible was. Does he want me to get caught? He seems to like my company, but this place is more treacherous than the Elizabethan court -- seeming and being are almost never related. I must take care with him. I had considered telling him about this -- I think I will wait.

Of course, Koosha is not a real eunuch, although my pasha tries to make our experience as authentic as possible. No, he is the next-best thing in non-threatening males: in short, he's gay. Like all good eunuchs, he seems to have no ambitions to establish his own dynasty, nor is he competitive with any of the other males in the household (of which there are many -- I call them our janissaries. Pasha loves this. He would have been a good Ottoman emperor).

Koosha is an invaluable resource. In fact, he decorated our seraglio suites -- I'll post paintings some other time (risky, indeed, but you have to see this to believe it). Pasha only allows paintings of his possessions (yes, that includes us) -- he is the patron of no fewer than five artists.

Koosha is also helpful in choosing and purchasing our wardrobes. They are extensive. He is an expert on all sorts of looks -- Pasha's tastes are varied. From elegant to pornographic, he is a visual man.

As far as my relationship with Koosha, he seems the most like me in many ways. We both enjoy tremendous freedom (with the exception of computer access). We are both voluntary servants, and we both love our pasha. Hmm... On the other hand, my status as the favorite makes me a desirable choice of confidant, don't you think?

So what do you think? Can he be trusted? Or shall I keep this particular secret to myself?


PS -- Any thoughts on how I could talk the grand vizier into giving me my own laptop? It would make posting so much easier.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

This is not me.

It is at great personal risk that I come to you -- and you, my friend, have put yourself in danger just by being here. Well, almost. There is still time to leave. Innocent wayfarers will bear no fault and no consequence, provided they do not return and leave no evidence of their ever having been here. But if it is transgression and trespass you seek, then I welcome you behind the veil. But a warning: once you're in, you share my secrets... and all that comes with them. Do you see a room, pillow strewn and tapestry covered? Does it lie under the heavy, still fog of hookah smoke? Does it smell vaguely of pleasure? You may be partially correct.

My name is Ava, and if the sultan or the other members of our little seraglio knew I was writing this, the consequences would be dire -- for you and me. I myself do not even know what he would do, which makes it all the more terrifying, but it would be painful and it would be unexpected. Are you still with me? Just now, he's off having the rest of them depilated (he's a tyrant about this). Thanks to my natural hairlessness in the appropriate areas, I find myself alone. In his study. On his computer. Oh, no... here I certainly should not be. Dire, dire consequences... But temptation wins out, as it always does. I want to tell you about this sweet, astonishing life only because I shouldn't -- I musn't.

The most important thing to know about me for the time being is that I am a concubine by choice. In this way, I am unique. And although I am not the first, the most powerful, or the youngest of our sisterhood, I am undeniably the favorite. Unlike the others, whose appointments and roles in our little harem were decided by others, I came of my own free will, with full knowledge of what I was coming to. For me, there were no dental exams (see above), no requirements of training or skill in the arts of music or domesticity -- or love. You see, my pasha is everything he should be in every way. (You will learn more about him later, once I have worked up the courage to write of him. My hands are shaking at the thought of it.) In short, he is worth sharing. And I needn't tell any ladies who may be reading this that the benefits of sharing a man can be quite... liberating (especially if one is very courageous and foolhardy and has other pots to stir, particularly in the daytime). But for all he is, he is also egotistically confident. This makes him unaware, and there are many secrets. He is not in on most of them, but I am, and so is our eunuch.

And now, so are you.