"That beard of yours is plain amazing."
How did he react?
He looked at me, nodded, then said, "Thanks. I really appreciate it. I like it, too- but ever since Paris happened I get these looks.. Been thinking about shaving it."
How did I feel?
Uğur is my liquor store guy. He quenches my thirst at two AM, hands me a Sunday chocolate bar, and satisfies my craving for after school Haribos. The neighborhood feels warm and cozy because of Uğur and his shelves groaning under the treasures he sells. But it's not just what he offers; It's the person he is, too. His calm voice and his steady movements are what I look forward to when I enter the store. And, honestly: So is his beard. Beard, this word is an understatement. His facial hair is a forest of dark, thick climbing plants clinging to his jaw. They flatter my eyes.
I finally told him last week:
Here is the thing: This happened three days after the attack in Paris. My project is not a political blog, but Uğur's reaction upset me. I have decided to share it with you- no further comment needed.
Me: "That beard of yours is plain amazing. This is the fourth time I am having this thought."
Him: "Thanks. I really appreciate it. I like it, too- but ever since Paris happened I get these looks.. Been thinking about shaving it."
Me: "No way! Seriously!? I think you shouldn't pay attention to those guys!"
Him: "In fact it's my own fellow countrymen, mostly, and some of them even drop comments."
Me: "Oh man. A beard like this does not make you a terrorist! It's awesome hair, that's what it is. Wear it with pride."
A few days passed. Days in which I contemplated on our society and whether I can grasp what it means to be someone else in it. A muslim, an African American, a queer person. What do I know?! I wondered, I talked to friends, I read about je suis Charlie.
Today I returned to Uğur's store. I wanted to tell him about the blog and ask if I could take a picture of him and his beard. Tell everyone about the doubts he's having about growing it ever since Paris. When I arrived he was standing in front of his shop but I did not recognize him at first--
Because the beard, the way I'd known it, was gone.