The Turkish Loser

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CHAPTER 12 – THE DEPTHS OF TECHNO HELL

The club was called Magma, as in “I hope this godforsaken airhead shit hole gets devoured by burning hot MAGMA and melt all of these techno-freaks into the ground.”

It was one of those nightclubs that were too cool for school, the kind you have to find at the end of the last dark and seedy side street possible after making your way through all of the labyrinthine alleyways of Taksim.

In full accordance with pretentious clubs of its ilk, the entrance was through a cold gray metal door with a douche bag bouncer standing outside looking for the next group of unworthy ugly or fashion-blind losers to turn down so he could feel superior to other mortals and therefore be able to hide his shame for having a small penis for yet another day.

Inside was a typical techno club devoid of all warmth and life. Of course every part of the interior decoration had to have that impersonal and metallic feeling, as if the bureaucratic nightmare of Brazil and the industrial factory at the end of Terminator 2 had an illegitimate baby.

The headache inducing distant coldness of the place was topped by an ongoing spastic laser show that would put even the most shameless planetarium to shame. It was there to accompany the Deliverance-style ear-rape perpetrated by the so-called DJ who certainly masturbated to the mere fantasy of considering himself a legitimate musician at least five times a day as he thump-thumped his way through your nerves until you begged it all to stop so you could retain a modicum of self-respect.

All of this, for what? So maybe you could hook up with a girl emotionally vacuous enough to actually frequent such a place? How were you supposed to achieve that? Even if you had balls big enough to go talk to a random female, and none of us really did, you couldn’t make her understand a goddamn thing in the middle of all that deafening “music”.

Let’s say she somehow heard your lame pick up line and decided to play along, you couldn’t understand her, no matter how hard she screamed into your ear. She could be singing “My vagina is so wet right now I would allow literally any penis to enter it” to the tune of Hello Dolly and you would have no idea. Eventually after asking her to repeat herself three more times like the dolt that you were, you would give up and yell something generic and lame like, “I know, right!?”

I never understood club culture and my male friends’ wholehearted belief that it was the only place in the world to find yourself a girlfriend. Adnan especially believed that to be true. His big sister was a clubber and a proud member of the shallow materialists club. He tried so hard to be like his sister and her airhead friends that he was always a leading defender of the pussy-finding powers of nightclubs.

You see, Adnan was the biggest movie nerd among all of us, even bigger than I was. When there weren’t any girls around, he could talk your ears off about the tiniest little detail in the sound mixing of a random action scene in Die Hard and describe every single shot in The Rock with stunning detail. He loved talking about action movies to no end.

But all of that changed when there were girls around. Girls he actually desired to hook up with, of course. He never abstained from his movie ramblings around Nazan or Deniz since they were too plain looking for him and weren’t worthy of his desire to begin with. No, Adnan shot for the stars. He wanted the kind of girls his sister was friends with, intellectually empty but hot as hell women who were way out of his league.

He was so desperate to belong with the alphas despite his bona fide nerd status that it created a unique Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde situation. Around us, he was Adnan the movie geek, who could not help but ramble on about the three-second shot difference between the R-Rated and X-Rated editions of Robocop.

When it came time to hunt for women, he scouted outlet malls for hours in order to come up with the most hip ensemble he could wear for a night out on the town. He combed his hair slick back, began talking like a shallow dick hole and pretended to get down with the kind of music no rational human being with half a brain could possibly enjoy.

Meanwhile, before getting out of the house for a night of partying that I definitely wasn’t looking forward to, I used to put on whatever jeans and t-shirt I randomly got my hands on, took two seconds to spray generic deodorant on my arm pits and slouched out of the door.

So if I hated it so much, why did I submit myself to such techno-torture? The answer is simple; it beat the hell out of spending more endless hours locking myself alone in my room to do nothing but sit in front of my TV watching five DVDs in a row, masturbating in between pretty much each movie as a perverted form of intermission until I passed out on the couch. It wouldn’t be so pathetic if I hadn’t more than likely partook in the exact same activity during the daytime, before going out for the night.

I looked at going clubbing differently than my friends did. They couldn’t care less about spending quality time together, all they held onto was the faint hope that all of the money, energy and the ever-depleting self-esteem spent bouncing from one Taksim club to another would eventually end up with some dry hand jobs somewhere, sometime down the line.

Me, I didn’t harbor any sexual expectations to begin with, hence the reasoning behind walking out of the house with a getup that signaled I was on my way to doing laundry rather than going nightclubbing. My only motivation was to spend time with friends and actually talk to some other life forms, no matter how irritating I found them to be at times.

That’s why the part of the night that was probably the most tedious and uneventful to Adnan, hanging out at a café or at someone’s apartment, usually Adnan’s since his place was closest to Taksim, shooting the shit, listening to music or watching TV before we headed out to the clubs later at night was what I was looking forward to most.

This was the time, before submitting our bodies to the devils of watered down overpriced drinks and horrible, ear grating music, we could relax and just be buds, enjoy each other’s company. You know, gay shit.

To Adnan, and to other beta males to a certain extent, this part of the evening was just a necessary waste of time, kind of a long and sluggish wait at the sidelines until the real game started when clubs began filling up after ten pm or so.

As the clock reached nine, my enthusiasm and energy ran opposite to everyone else’s. For Adnan, it was finally getting closer to crunch time. His excitement at the remote possibility of bedding some clueless drunk chick would become more and more visible in his eyes. Sometimes he got so into it that he would start doing stretches in the middle of his own living room, around everyone else. He would then stop when he realized how dumb he looked.

Me, on the other hand, I would become more and more depressed as we walked out for that cab ride to Taksim, my version of the last mile. The only thing that gave me a tiny smidgen of happiness was that I could spend the rest of the week looking forward to hanging out with my friends in peace again, during those couple of hours before the distracting overdrive of testosterone kicked in.

Before I showed up at his door, Adnan always met me with “What the hell are you wearing? None of those are brand names and the colors don’t even match. If we can’t get in this club tonight because of you, I’m gonna be so pissed!”

Adnan and I always got into arguments about the best ways to find a girlfriend and in the end, regardless of our different strategies, neither of us was successful.

One night, we were sitting on the balcony of the apartment he was sharing with his sister, sipping beer. “Why do we have to go to those awful clubs to find girls?”, I protested, “Can’t we just meet girls the normal way? If the way to hook up with someone who’s essentially a stranger to you is to go talk to them, what difference does it make if you’re at a bar, or a library, or a school, or a park…”

“Yeah, have fun trying to ask a girl to make out with you at a park in the middle of the day”, Adnan scoffed, “The girls at the clubs are mostly drunk and ready to party, all you have to do is chat them up, and they’ll open up to you with most of their inhibitions gone. That’s when you strike, and clubs are the only places you can do that.”

“What if I don’t like the kinds of empty-headed girls that go to those clubs?”, I asked.

Adnan looked at me as if I was a sick and unbalanced individual, “What the hell is wrong with you? Look at you. As if you have choices.”

“Fuck you”, I whispered under my breath, loud enough for him to clearly hear it.

Realizing that starting off his argument by calling me a desperate fatty bum-bum might not have been the best course of action, Adnan turned on whatever empathy was left inside his T-800 soul: “Listen man, I’m not saying I’m much of a looker either. But you have to at least try. We’re at our sexual peak, but look at us. We’re spending our lives doing nothing but watching movies. You have to look and act a certain way in order to attract girls, plain and simple. I’m just playing the game.”

“A game you happen to enjoy”, I added with a hint of distaste.

“Who gives a fuck if you enjoy it or not? What matters is the result.” He pointed to the rest of his apartment. “A lot of the time I have this whole place all to myself. Do you know how shitty it feels to have a sweet bachelor pad such as this and to come home with my dick in my hand night after night? I have to do something, we have to do something, right?”

I unenthusiastically shrugged, implying “I guess.”

Adnan continued with a fervor, “Yet you show up every Saturday looking like you just randomly picked a pair of jeans and a shirt without any thought as to whether or not they look too cheap and tacky to wear to a club, or even if the colors match at all.”

“There’s no likes about it”, I said proudly, “That’s exactly what I do.”

“And then when we get to the club, all you do is sulk at some corner as if this is the worst torture anyone’s ever experienced.”

Not true. I bet having your nuts hooked up to a car battery is slightly worse.

“You don’t even attempt to dance, let alone try to talk to any of the girls. How are you going to find a girlfriend if you keep acting like this?”

I almost asked Adnan the same question but I held it in. The only thing I could say as an answer at the time was, “With a compass?”

However, this time it was Adnan who was on his own and had to jump into the minefield of uninterested vaginas headfirst. I had a genuine ray of hope traveling with me to Magma. Granted, that was probably not the best way to describe Neval because vampires and bright rays of light usually don’t mix.

Also, I hadn’t really made much headway in terms of getting to know her better on account of the fact that we couldn’t find anything to talk about and that I found her to be an appalling creature. But at least I had someone to focus on for the rest of the night. I had actual homework, so did Oguz, even though it looked like he already got an F from Gizem before the test even started. It was Adnan who had to find someone to work his magic on.

Before making our way to Magma, the gang stopped over at one of the many Turkish fast food joints that were conveniently peppered up and down the lengthy Istiklal Avenue. These were places that, along with offering such Turkish kebab staples like Doner sandwiches, also had various forms of alcohol and even beer on tap. This way, you could start your journey towards mindless alcoholic rage and eventual guilt that much earlier while enjoying your sheets of meat and chopped onions in between two pieces of bread.

As opposed to the clubs, these places were overly lit with 1000-watt fluorescent lights that would shine their stark whiteness above you with such dominance that you would eventually start feeling like you’re in heaven’s waiting room. They were almost always furnished with the shittiest white or red plastic chairs and tables imaginable, the kind that you were sure cost less than the sandwich you were eating.

All of us were seated around like Nerds of the Round Plastic Table next to the giant windows that looked out at the lively crowds of Taksim. Once again, I was in between Nazan and Adnan while Neval was sandwiched between Oguz and Gizem as a more-than-likely unwilling bodyguard and Oguz-repellant for Gizem.

Nazan whispered in my ear, “Say what you will about that weird girl, but I would have loved to have someone like her on my side while I was being stalked by our stalker friend.”

I snickered and said, “Yeah, she’s doing a pretty good job cock-blocking Oguz.”

Nazan took one more look at the other side of the table. She whispered, “Be careful, she might be doing too much of a good job.”

“What do you mean?”

She pointed to Oguz and Neval, who were engaged in what looked like an actually involving conversation, which was further than I ever could get with Neval. They genuinely seemed to enjoy each other’s company. This did not look good.

“If you don’t act soon, she’s gonna get snatched up”, Nazan laughed, “Considering she’s probably no more than thirty pounds, that shouldn’t be much of a problem. I thought you were gonna try to sit next to her, or do something. If you don’t act soon, she’s gonna be gone.”

“Is that such a bad thing?”, I thought, but then I remembered that if I missed out on Neval I would probably be looking at the barrel of the loneliness shotgun for another couple of years.

I diffused the issue by whispering some blatant bullshit like “I’ll put on my classic moves at the club. Besides, I don’t think Oguz would be interested in her in a million years. He wants Gizem.”

Nazan scoffed fairly loudly, “You know that’s not happening for a million years. I don’t need to tell you that when it comes to men, if the first choice fails, you go for the next one. And beggars can’t be choosers, you know that.”

I politely smiled and nodded. For some reason, what she said hurt me on the inside.

I could see that after his second pint of beer, Oguz was already becoming intoxicated. You could tell that to be a fact when his pale white cheeks would start turning bright red and he would look like a pretentious clown with a goatee.

He lifted up his beer stein, which probably cost more than the table it was placed on, and proclaimed, “I’d like to offer a toast for the new members of our gang.” He turned to Gizem and grinned as if this was their engagement party. “To Gizem, and Neval. Thank you for joining us.” He lifted his stein higher and yelled “Serefe!”

I’m sure all of us instantly knew this to be an act of desperation from Oguz so he could keep on appearing relevant in Gizem’s too-pretty-for-her-own-good eyes, but we all played along anyway. Everyone also raised their glasses and yelled “Serefe!”

“Serefe!” is the “Cheers!” of Turkey. In fact that’s how the title of the TV show was even translated. Its literal meaning is “To your health!” Now that you know this, you can’t complain that this book offered you nothing but the endless pithy whining of a sexual coward and his pointless failures that don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

Next time you visit a bar in Turkey and you impress that hot brunette with the pear-shaped breasts with your ability to greet her alcoholic beverage with yours in her own language, which in turn irresistibly makes her moist between her legs, you better remember where you learned that word and dedicate at least a couple of pumps to yours truly.

With our classy dinner finished, we made our way through the dark and seedy alleyways of Taksim. The barely lit streets made sure you couldn’t see what was two feet in front of you, probably for good reason because why would you want to find out you stepped on a wino’s vomit right as it happens as opposed to when you got home hours later and are too drunk and tired to give a shit about it?

Apart from the darkness, the uneven stone pavement and the steam coming off of the sewage pipes underneath always made me feel like we were on our way to a drug deal that was about to go horribly wrong as opposed to an overrated night club.

As we got closer to the industrial metal door entrance, I sighed deeply as I prepared myself for the most embarrassing part of the whole ordeal: Being double-checked and scrutinized by an oversized, muscle-and-ego-filled dick with a leather jacket and knock-off designer sunglasses.

This guy, who you wouldn’t spit on if you saw him on the street, was now in charge of determining whether or not you were worthy enough to soil his beloved thump-thump room. They always looked exactly the same too, as if some disgusting form of Bouncer-Orc shat them all out in order to create the ultimate Douchebag Uruk-hai.

As we got closer, I could see Adnan counting in his head to make sure the ratio of male to female was either equal, or close enough. You see, it was impossible for a bunch of guys to enter nightclubs pretty much anywhere in Turkey unless they were accompanied by an equal amount of girls.

Sometimes, if the bouncer was in a good mood that night because he just got a blowjob from his bimbo Uruk-hai whore, he would let you in with a 3 to 2 ratio. A half ratio is out of the question and if you have one girl among ten men, you might as well count her as one of the guys.

Yep, unlike in other parts of the civilized world, Turkish men by themselves weren’t trusted to act like semi-respectable adults inside a place where alcohol was available and girls in skimpy dresses danced “provocatively”. Therefore, they weren’t allowed in without “Dams”, which is a Turkish way of spelling Dames.

The large sign that was placed on top of every club’s doorway, “No Entrance Without Dams” would haunt every single Turkish man’s nightmares during their entire period of youth. That sign was scarier and more foreboding to us than Freddy, Michael Myers and Jason combined.

You know that Peanuts movie where Snoopy leaves home to find his original owner and everywhere he goes he sees the sign “No Dogs Allowed”, followed by an ominous singing voice? He then hangs his head low and walks away, accompanied by sad piano music? Replace the sign with “No Entrance Without Dams” and Snoopy with horny Turkish men and you get the idea.

The usual suspects were lined up with their IDs in full display, waiting to be evaluated by the nameless generic bouncer who looked like the world owed him a favor because he was bothered to get up from the creaky wooden chair he had set up outside, which made him look not like the badass he thought he was, but the loneliest man on the planet.

Of course he barely checked if the girls were underage, not that he gave a shit, before moving onto the guys. He looked each of us up and down until he made sure he telegraphed the fact that he was the alpha with the creaky wooden chair in his own tiny universe. He pretended to carefully analyze our IDs and as usual, spent an extra amount of time on me and my fashion-blind getup.

I could practically hear him thinking, “You’re one lucky cave troll, or whatever the fuck you are, my friend. If there were one less girl in your group, you’d have been turned around faster than you could spell ‘loser’. Oh well, let’s hope one eyesore won’t bring the whole place down.”

As the bouncer opened the metallic gates of Magma, the faint thump-thumping of the so-called music yearning so much to break free and begin its night-long session of fly-in-your-ear annoyance flooded my ears. From the first checkpoint it was onto the next one, where a purgatory gnome occupied a tiny, under lit space with a portable cash box so he could release you from your money in order for you to gain access to techno hell.

As each of us handed out Turkish Liras equivalent of around twenty dollars today, I could always imagine an operatic slow motion shot accompanied by sad John Williams music as the money was pulled away from my hands and tragically found itself among the other sheets of cash, none of which deserved to end up there.

The gnome opened the second door and we were finally granted access to the glorious Magma. It looked exactly as it did every time I stepped inside its unholy grounds. The first thing that hit you was how cold and artificial it all felt, so much so that it almost made one lose all hope in humanity as a whole.

Later in his career, Kubrick was blamed for having a cold and distant stance against humanity in his films. I wonder if around 1962, he got into a time machine and found himself inside a 90s techno night club, then went back stripped of all hope for mankind and made films where a computer is the only human character.

The first thing you saw once you passed the two bathrooms and hordes of drunks zipping by you, praying they reached the toilet before they threw up, was the dance floor lit by an old-fashioned disco ball and colored lasers you wish would blind you so wouldn’t be reminded that you just paid twenty bucks to dance under a disco ball.

As we made our way in further, the poor minions of the techno lord were fully into their spastic gyration dance as the DJ spun away his wastes of good vinyl in his booth above the dance floor like a cult leader, a hipster Jim Jones if you will.

Of course we all could tell that Gizem was a natural citizen of this world. She started dancing and bobbing her head and down as soon she heard those “sick beats”. I’m sure none of us cared how ridiculous and shallow she looked considering she had an ass that wouldn’t quit even if it worked the night shift at a Taco Bell drive-thru.

As far as my male friends were concerned, the show had begun.

I’ve never met a bigger music snob than Oguz in my life. This was a dude who probably thought Frank Zappa was a commercial sellout. He was an undying fan of all kinds of unlistenable art music, including Brian Eno albums where he literally pressed a key on his keyboard and let the reverb ride out for fifteen minutes while he enjoyed his triple shot latte.

Yet here he was, giving up every ounce of his cultural principals for a nearly non-existing probability that he might, might end up sniffing some Gizem muff by the end of the night. So he went full in, literally running up to Gizem’s side on the dance floor in order to make himself look like the biggest techno-head lame white dancer in the world.

It was truly a pathetic sight to behold, to watch this goateed young intellectual, the man with whom I indulged in many long conversations regarding the genius of David Bowie’s late 70s albums, bobbing his head up and down, flailing his arms and legs like an insensitive prick making fun of people who suffer from cerebral palsy, all the while sporting a shit-eating grin that didn’t even attempt to hide how desperate he was to impress Gizem.

Of course Adnan didn’t have much cultural integrity to sell out and he actually enjoyed this music, so he went in wholeheartedly.

Neval sighed and slumped up to the dance floor. After all, she had to resume her duties keeping Oguz away from Gizem.

Nazan leaned over to me again like a guardian angel who was desperate to help me bag any female humanoid. She yelled over the noise as best as she could, “When are you going to make your move!? You barely talked to her all night!”

I yelled in her ear, “Soon!”

“I’m telling you, you’re gonna lose her if you don’t act now!”

“I know! Don’t worry about it! Let’s go upstairs and chill!”

Nazan looked at me like a disappointed parent and shook her head. She walked up the spiral metal staircase leading to my only solace in finding at least a little bit of peace and comfort in Magma: The upstairs lounge area. This was a place where patrons tired of dancing could chill on the comfy couches and beanbags away from the dance floor.

Since it was a loft that looked down at the dance floor, the music was equally as annoying and deafening. But at least it was dark, so you wouldn’t be eye-buggered by the lasers. The west side of the lounge was reserved for the second, smaller bar, so you could also grab your drinks and relax as much as you could while sitting on tiny tacky neon bar stools.

As I followed Nazan upstairs, it was a pleasure to watch her voluptuous Eastern-Turkish ass wiggle left and right like two basketballs bouncing under a silk sheet. She made her way to the bar and ordered her favorite drink, vodka-cherry. A favorite among many Turkish girls, it’s basically a screwdriver with cherry nectar instead of orange juice.

Back then, I had an unusually high tolerance to alcohol, which made it even harder to stomach the mediocrity of nightlife entertainment. For some reason, no matter how much I drank, it just gave me a slight buzz for a couple of minutes and the traces of alcohol would disappear like a drunk stranger into the night.

I used to try to utilize this weird medical situation to my advantage by showing it off, hoping that it would impress the ladies. It never did. I remember ordering straight double vodkas at bars and chug them down like they were tequila shots and watch my friends gasp and wait for me to puke and fall down drunk.

It never happened of course, I was always as unfortunately sober as I was when the night began. One night at a house party I had thrown, I downed an entire bottle of expensive vodka my mom had brought from Poland in twenty seconds flat, hoping that maybe then I would feel something. It didn’t work, all I accomplished was inflicting myself with a crippling fear that I was going to succumb to an alcohol coma and die without even participating in the endless pleasures of getting drunk first.

I already suffered from near-crippling lack of confidence, especially around girls, and this condition made it that much harder because I couldn’t even inflate my ego slightly through artificial means. Even during the unholy hours of the night when everyone was wasted beyond belief, here I was, dead sober and ready to run away from these irresponsible, incoherent creatures who thought absolutely everything was interesting and in turn, hilarious.

Many a night I listened carefully to the gibberish uttered between my drunk-ass friends like a National Geographic wildlife correspondent trying desperately to decode the incoherent and seemingly random clickety-clack noises followed by loud guttural howls.

Of course as far as other drunken people were concerned, they were all engaged in the most profound conversation of their lifetime. Yet I was the one who lacked the vodka-cherry soaked Babel Fish that would have allowed to me join in the festivities.

As much as I had observed, apparently getting drunk was essential in gathering up the courage to talk to a girl at a club. And even then, it usually didn’t work. I can’t tell you how many times I watched Adnan locking his targets onto a fly honey across the dance floor and ordering one beer after another, telling me each time, “After this bottle is finished I’m gonna go up there and talk to her.”

Of course by the time he downed seven or eight bottles and could barely feel his own skin, the girl either left with her friends or got hit on by someone to whom apparently less than ten beers were enough to gather the same courage.

If Adnan, who was fully willing to play the so-called game and even had the ability to benefit from liquid courage failed, what chances did I have in becoming a proud member of the drunken shallow techno club?

Even if I eyed a girl who looked like she didn’t really belong there the same way I didn’t, which never happened, how was I supposed to push my sober self into going over there and casually yelling into her ear like a maniac, hoping that she will not confuse “It looks like you don’t belong here, neither do I! Do you wanna go outside and talk!?” with “Your Double D’s go boing-boing! Do you wanna get side-fucked!?”

Anyway, after Nazan’s order it was time for me to pretend I actually didn’t want a simple Diet Coke and that I actually enjoyed the putrid taste of beer or vodka without being able to enjoy any of its benefits. I usually went with a generic pint of Turkish beer, Efes Pilsen brand, which was the palest ale I could find at the time. This way, I could at least console myself that with the fizz in the beer, I was drinking soda that past its best by date by a couple of weeks.

We both sat on the stools, facing each other. “I don’t understand why you’re not down there, dancing with Neval!?”, Nazan yelled.

“I don’t know!”, I shrugged, “You know how much I hate this music!”

Nazan came back with the argument I heard far too many times when I expressed my distaste of club music: “Who gives a shit whether you like it not!? Do you really believe the other guys in this club actually like this music either!? You just pretend to enjoy it so you look like you’re a fun person to be around!”

“I guess I’m not as good of an actor as these people!”

Nazan scoffed, “Whatever man! Just get off your ass and act like you belong in your age group for a change! You do like her, don’t you!”

I lied, “I don’t know, I guess I do!”

“So go get her! Besides, you’re cramping my style!” She winked and did the old nudge-nudge. I laughed. She had a way of making me let my guard down.

“Aren’t you gonna be lonely!?”, I asked.

She grinned suggestively, “That’s the whole point, isn’t it!? How am I going to have hot guys come up to me and buy me drinks while you’re buzzing around!?”

For some reason, that made me feel very insecure, somewhat hurt, and surprisingly jealous and protective.

“Besides!”, Nazan added, “My sister will be here very soon!”

Nazan’s sister Ferah (Pronounced “Fair-ah”) was a hotter and younger version of Nazan. Not only that, she had about 35% less body hair. She was a fun-loving girl who loved to party and not much else as far as I could see.

I should have been so lucky to hook up with her, of course, but we weren’t very compatible intellectually and physically so I didn’t even think about chatting her up that way. Also, she was my female bro’s younger sis, and the bro code did not allow it. Who am I kidding? I would have pounced on that shit in a second if I felt like I had a chance.

After a couple more minutes have passed while Nazan had to endure my wishy-washy pussy whining about actually presenting myself to the dance floor with my mortal soul screaming in agony, Ferah showed up in skintight jeans and an expensive top that showed off her young and fit breasts.

“What’s up guuuuys!?” she scampered to us arms wide open, with a sweet smile on her face. She gave Nazan a heartfelt hug, “Hi sis!”

She turned to me while her smile went from warm to courteous, “Hi Ergen!” She kissed me on both cheeks. This is an advantage for Turkish nerds as opposed to our more Western counterparts.

Since it is an expected part of Turkish culture to kiss your friend on both cheeks upon greeting them, not only did you get to feel her lips touch your face (Twice, I might add), but you got to kiss her as well. On the cheeks, of course, but if luck was on your side or if she was very drunk, her aim might have become a bit off and you could end up getting some side-lip action. Unfortunately you had to greet your guy friends the same way, in which case you prayed that your friend’s aim was nothing short of sniper-level.

“So what’s going on!?”, Ferah asked.

“Not much!”, Nazan yelled, “Ergen wants to hook up with this girl we met recently and he’s pussying out! So I’m trying to get him to man up!”

“Really!?”, Ferah yelled, somewhat shocked. Her reaction made sense since I rarely ever expressed blatant interest in anyone of the opposite sex with fear of being ridiculed. She nudged me playfully and yelled, “So, who’s your girlfriend!?”

I pointed with the painful reluctance of a damaged kid who had just been asked “Show me on the doll where the bad man touched you.” Ferah tried to make out Neval on the dance floor. As soon as she figured out to whom I was pointing at, her giddy curiosity turned to obvious disappointment.

“Her!? Really!?”, she tried her best not to show her disgust, “She’s… Cute!”

“I’ve been trying to tell him to get off his ass and go down there!”, Nazan yelled in Ferah’s ear, “Otherwise, someone’s gonna make a move!”

Ferah turned to face me in full lecture mode, “She’s right! No matter what a girl looks like, or how ugly she is…”, she gulped and reconsidered her words, “Not that I’m saying she is! Not at all! She’s very, um, cute! My point is, I don’t think you understand how many times any girl in a club will get hit on by random drunk men all night! Before you know it, she will be making out with someone who’s desperate enough to… I mean, someone who’s attracted to her!”

“Really!? You get hit on like that!?”, I asked.

“Pffft!”, Ferah scoffed. She stepped back as if showing off her body and saying “With this piece of hotness in front of you?” It was hard to argue on that point. She yelled, “Sometimes I have to literally beat them off with a stick!”

“Me too!”, Nazan joined in. Ferah looked at her, obviously thinking “Yeah, right!”, but she probably didn’t want to hurt her big sister’s feelings so she let it slide. Nazan continued, “But we have sure proof ways of getting rid of them if they bug us too much, don’t we sis!?”, she winked suggestively at Ferah.

Ferah laughed, “Sure we do!”

Nazan’s sexy wink intrigued my libido. “And what’s that!?”, I asked.

Nazan yelled, “We pretend to be a lesbian couple!”

Now I was really intrigued, “How do you do that!?”

Ferah yelled, “If a bunch of guys show up at our table uninvited and try putting on their lame moves, we start making out! That clears the room in a second!”

Of course in America, this attempt at turning off men would backfire tremendously. Not only would the men not get turned off, they would pull out their camera phones and before you knew it, you’d get pestered with calls from Girls Gone Wild.

But in Turkey, gay and lesbian activities are frowned upon by most straight men, specifically the kind of homophobic, shallow, alpha meat-heads who unfortunately possessed the dumb courage required to hit on women at clubs.

So even before camera phones were invented, instead of taking full advantage of the gorgeous view and record it in his spank bank for later use or even going out on a limb and suggesting a threesome, these traditional, “strong” Turkish men predictably didn’t know how to handle the situation and ran away with their sexual immaturity in tow.

Of course as a rare liberal Turk, I never had any problems with homosexuality, pretend or real. This sounds sick, but the incestuous implications of this clever cover story made it even that more exciting. I felt like I owed myself to at least make a move.

“Really!?”, I yelled, “You don’t feel weird kissing your sister!?”

“That’s precisely why I don’t feel weird!”, Nazan yelled, “It’s nothing, like kissing a friend on the cheeks! Here, I’ll show you!”

I thought, “My god, is this really happening!? If it is, I might think about believing in you sometime in the future when I turn really old and desperate.”

Nazan got up off her stool and called Ferah with her index finger like an old-school stripper at a burlesque act, “Come here sis!”

Ferah smiled and sensually approached Nazan. They embraced while locking eyes like two sex-starved lovers. At first, their lips met quickly and tenderly. After a couple of innocent short kisses, they began a full-on make-out session, I could swear I even saw some tongue action.

While this spectacle was unfolding two feet in front of me, I was trying very, very hard to maintain my cool along with my erection. If I could, I would have loved to hit a bunch of engineers straight in the nuts with a spiked hammer for not inventing the camera phone ten years earlier.

Of course since nothing good lasts forever, they separated and turned to me. “See!?”, Nazan yelled.

“Actually I missed that! Can you do it again!?” Hey, I had to give it a shot.

They both laughed. Ferah yelled, “Oh Ergen, you’re so funny!” Somehow, I missed the joke. She continued, “Alright guys! I’m gonna grab something to drink and hit the dance floor! See you downstairs!”

Ferah leaned over the bar to order a drink. I tried very hard not to stare at her perfect ass in front of her big sister and failed miserably.

It’s confession time: This whole little snippet around Nazan making out with her sister does not affect the outcome of this chapter of my story or further the already non-existing plot in the least bit and is not really referenced again. If this were a movie, it would probably end up getting cut out and placed on the Blu-Ray as a deleted scene.

The only reason it exists is so I can brag about the fact that I once saw two hot sisters make out right in front of me for almost a full minute. This might not be a big deal with kids now in America, where I’m sure it’s a common occurrence for them to see underage supermodel triplets go down on each other during a church potluck on the table reserved for the deviled egg potato salad, but it was a big deal for me. Besides, it also showcases a more concrete passage of time that will make the end of the chapter pay off better, I hope.

The make-out session had made me hot and bothered enough to get up off of my big ass and strut over to the dance floor and bag myself a disgusting elf vampire. Without even letting Nazan know, I just made my way over, which was what she wanted me to do anyway.

I wish my confidence lasted longer than sudden bursts of three seconds. Before I could even reach the stairs, my coolness went from John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever to John Travolta in Look Who’s Talking Now?

I had only taken a total of five or six strutting steps yet I was suddenly paralyzed upon coming across a full view of the dance floor, where my friends were acting like over-stimulated baboons in the middle of it. This was why I should have been staring at the floor up until the bitter end.

What was this? There was Ozan, with his arms and legs thrashing left and right as if he was suffering from a seizure that also tragically forced him to look like he was enjoying his own downfall. Gizem was lost in the moment, you could tell that she was actually having a good time and didn’t give two shits about us or the rest of the men in the club who had already set their sights on her.

One could easily tell that Adnan’s mind was working overtime, trying desperately to find out just how much fun he should be pretending to have in order to look like he was naturally having fun and making it clear to the vaginas in the vicinity that he wasn’t doing absolutely everything just to please them.

And then there was Neval, looking like a stick figure piñata being thrown left and right by invisible children. During one of those crucial points when the DJ decides to enact a change of pace from playing the exact same two beats over and over for twenty minutes and creates artificial tension merely by turning up the volume and speeding up the beat for ten seconds, Neval threw her hands up in the air and yelled the predictable “Whooooo!!”

Yes, that moment in the club was always very exciting. After all of that build-up and all of that excitement, everyone wondered if the DJ would finally switch to a virtuoso performance of a blend of old and new music, the kind that felt like the vibrations were making sweet, sweet love to our ear drums, or if he would simply go on with the same shitty beats? My money has always been on number two, and I never lost.

Yet even though all of those otherwise intelligent (Some of them anyway) people knew that the music would not change one bit regardless of the brief modification in tone, they still raised their arms and yelled the clichéd “Whooo!!” like Pavlov’s partying dogs.

And there it was, Neval was one of those dogs, and not just because of her freakishly protruding dogteeth either. What the hell was I going to say to her even if I finally made my way over there? If I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my vocal chords by yelling sweet nothings, or just even plain nothings, into her ear, was I supposed to look like these fools?

Without even realizing, while I was thinking about all of this, I had made my way back upstairs, over to the far side of the couch, hiding away at a dark corner like a scared child, spying on the dance floor in between the handlebars.

I thought to myself, “So what if they look like a bunch of fools, doing something they wouldn’t normally partake in? So that they might end up with something that they really want, to find someone to couple with, either with a quick make-out session, meaningless sex, or even a sustainable relationship? Isn’t that worth selling out some of your values for? And what are those values to begin with?”

“Who gives a shit if you stick to your musical guns and refuse to pretend like you’re having fun while, god forbid, something you would never listen to at home is playing out of the speakers? All of those people you love listening to, what advice would they give you in this situation?”

“Would Robert Plant thank you for sticking up for his music or kick you in the face for not going down there and scoring some ass? Would Roger Waters be forever touched that you take your love of his music to unimaginable lengths or would he call you a bloody right git pansy tosser for not even having the goolies to pretend a certain way so you can finally score with an admittedly not-so-fit bird?”

“Come on you pussy! For once in your life make a conscious decision to unconsciously go with the flow! Who cares if you will eventually feel like an asshole? At the end of the day, you will be the asshole who got the girl, and isn’t that what really counts? Let’s do it Ergen! Get up, get up now, and… Hold on a second.”

Was that Nazan chatting it up with some alpha dickhead at the bar? Holy shit, this guy was a true neanderthal, shaved and dressed up to look human with his tight Diesel jeans and Tommy Hilfiger shirt, complete with (Ugh!) a baseball cap worn backwards.

I forgot to mention that by this time, Nazan had broken up with her boyfriend. You know, the boyfriend she was doing it with? I know, this was a true loss, most of all for the rest of us since the stories of them having sex in dirty hotel rooms had run dry and we had to revert back to the usual pornography and lingerie catalogues.

But there she was, getting obviously hit on by this single-brain-celled prick. Of course there was no way she would reciprocate his advances with anything but a strict rejection, a drink to the face or fingers crossed, a punch in the jaw. Who knew, she might have even called her sister over for a quick fake-lesbian make-out session and I could have gotten a second helping of sheer awesomeness.

But what the hell was this? She looked like she was enjoying whatever crap this obvious con artist was feeding her. Between the occasional smile and interest in body language, I even saw her laugh a couple of times. Why would she even consider hooking up with this dude?

I guess the real question was why did I care so much? Enough to distract me from my current mission and reset my already fledgling ego? I should have focused on the task at hand. Who cared what kind of a human refuse she wanted to spend her own time with? I had my own thing going on and…

What the fuck!? He offered his hand and she took it!? There they were, right in front of my eyes, the beast leading the brown beauty down to the dance floor where he will most likely talk endlessly about his brilliant choice in shirts and baseball caps. And there I was, following them with my eyes like a bewildered security camera.

By the time they reached downstairs and the dick in a hat began dancing like the drunk gorilla that he was, caressing Nazan’s shoulders and hips while doing so, which was apparently fine with her, I could not take it anymore so I averted my gaze. I found a dark corner next to the bar and decided to aimlessly stare at it until the pain in my head went away.

Why was I so upset? I wasn’t really jealous of Nazan, was I? I didn’t think that was the case. Too much thinking at that very moment was my biggest problem anyway and I knew that it wasn’t wise to pile up yet another reason to feel insecure. I think what struck me the most was how easy it was for her to let herself get swept away like that.

This was Nazan we were talking about, the intelligent, tough-as-nails woman, confident in herself and her sexuality. The woman who had high standards, who rejected many a suitor, ridiculed desperate attempts by men in front of other men, did not give Oguz the time of day after he literally stalked her for an entire year. All it took was for an obvious con artist to come along and make small talk for five minutes?

This also led to a more universal frustration within me to open up like a lotus flower. Here I was, a year, nay, an entire lifetime filled with dashed hopes and broken dreams, adding to possibly another lifetime full of severe social anxiety and self-doubt. Just the thought of walking down there and talking to a girl I already kind of knew felt like it was a harder task to accomplish than climbing the Himalayas wearing nothing but a pink thong.

And yet it seemed so easy for this asshole to approach a woman she didn’t know, talking to her for five minutes and end up holding her hand. This game was really rigged in favor of the idiots. The less thoughts you had in your head, the easier it was for you to find someone.

He obviously didn’t give a shit about her or had any interest in knowing her in the least bit. We knew her, I knew her. Oguz, who wasted a year of his life trying to make her his boyfriend, knew her more than any of us. Yet here it was, the person who probably least deserved her was walking away with the prize.

I don’t know for how long I was sitting there, looking at the same spot, letting my dark and hopeless thoughts ferment my brain into a juicy dish of depression. Suddenly, I saw Nazan running up to me, looking pissed.

“What the fuck are you still doing here!?”, she screamed.

“I have no idea! Who was that guy!?”, I looked directly at her.

She sat across from me, sweating and obviously a bit drunk, “I don’t know! Some guy!”

Here came the bullshit: I wasn’t going to tell her exactly how I was feeling for the last however minutes, was I?

I leaned forward to look into her eyes, “Listen, I am a good judge of character!” Yeah, right! “I can look at someone and figure out what they’re about in a couple of seconds!” Now I was really reaching. “You’re my friend and I care about you! So I just wanted to tell you that guy you were with, I don’t think he was a genuine person! He looked fake, and shallow, and he looked like he would do anything to get in your pants! You deserve better than that!”

“Thank you, that really means a lot to me!” Nazan yelled. I couldn’t tell if she was being sarcastic or not. “But I don’t care if he’s interested in me or not or what kind of a person he is! It’s not like I’m gonna go out with him! I just danced with him and I’m probably never going to see him again!”

“You just danced!”

Without even batting an eye she added, “I made out with him too! For a couple of minutes!”

“You actually kissed that dick!? Why!?”

“He said some nice things to me! And he was cute!”

“That’s it!? That’s all it takes!?”

“Yup!”

That got me to thinking. Maybe it was time for me to make a move. I jumped up and finally made my way downstairs. This time I was smart, I looked down the entire time until I reached the very middle of the dance floor. I could see a bunch of feet jumping around and arms flailing around.

I got my bearing, took a deep breath and slowly looked up. I must have stuck out like a sore, stiff thumb, barely moving in the middle of the crowd who were doing their best to let loose. I looked around to locate our gang.

I saw Adnan bobbing his head up and down, burning a hole into one of hotties dancing in front of him, trying to look casual while he was probably pumping himself full of self-hatred because he couldn’t muster up the courage to go talk to her.

He was by himself; it looked like the gang was all dispersed around the floor. This was going to make my job that much harder. I was already feeling dizzy from the sheer awkwardness I was feeling standing around like the ultimate buzz kill in the middle of the club.

I located Gizem in the middle of the floor, dancing on her own, with a bunch of horny guys orbiting her, copious amounts of saliva dripping from their shivering primitive lips, trying to find any opening to make their move.

This wasn’t a good sign for me since Oguz wasn’t one of the men drooling after her. This was very uncharacteristic for him, unless he found something else to distract him. Uh-oh, could this be what I feared would happen, what Nazan warned me about? No, I refused to believe it.

Until, that is, I turned my head slightly to the right and there it was. Oguz was standing at the edge of the dance floor, cooling off, with Neval in front of him, pressed up against his body. This couldn’t be! Maybe it was an optical illusion.

But then I looked down and saw the final blow. Oguz’s hand was wrapped around Neval’s five-inch waist, his fingers spread across her flat tummy. This brought me back to the time I held Deniz in a similar way during my birthday party as a final desperate attempt at a reciprocation of some form of real physical attraction. We all know how badly that one failed.

So maybe Oguz, after striking out with Gizem, which we all knew was going to happen, realized his options were running very low, held his nose, and dove in headfirst. I expected to be part of a suicide watch later in the night if he couldn’t score with his final choice either.

But Neval looked happy with Oguz’s hand being there. Either that, or her cold, shallow body had lost all ability to feel anything. They were both grinning like a bunch of idiots who got punched in the face by pixie dust.

Finally, the universe decided that since I wouldn’t take a hint, it was going to once and for all show me what the deal was. Neval slid her hand over to Oguz’s and their fingers locked into a mega-fist of “Fuck you and your hopes and dreams!”

The universe said, “Do you get the picture now? Or do we have to show them making out as well?”

I sighed in utter disappointment, “No, that’s okay. I get the picture. I’m just gonna walk away now. Find a corner to hide in and not come out until the apes take over the world. Maybe I’ll have better luck with a nerdy chimp.”

The universe said, “You better avert your gaze right about now because they are about to kiss for the first time, and it will not be pretty. Not just because of the way it will affect your already crushed soul, but in a universally visual way.”

“You got it universe. Before I walk away, can I ask you a question?”

“Shoot.”

“What’s the meaning of all of this? What does it mean?”

“Nothing. That’s why you suck so bad at it.”

“Thanks universe. You’re an asshole.”

“You’re welcome Ergen. Fuck you too.”

On my way back, I thought about confronting Oguz and manufacturing a reason to fight him and make an ass of myself. If I could indeed get drunk, I would have probably found this to be a solid option to express my frustration.

But as dead sober as I was at that moment, I knew that the only thing it would accomplish would be the ending of my friendship with Oguz and a jolly good show for the alphas passing by:

“ONE TIME ONLY! SATURDAY NIGHT NERD FIGHT! WATCH AS THE FAT KID AND THE GOATEED POSER GO AT IT! Outside Magma at four in the morning! PS: You will not see any real punches being thrown, but the sad sight of two grown men trying to slap each other in the head while pulling each other’s hair will be hilarious to watch!”

Also, what reason did I have to fight him or insult him anyway? I never told him what my intentions with Neval were. I didn’t even want to tell myself on account of the fact that I wasn’t even attracted to her. But I guess that in the end, Oguz’s desperation won out over mine. His hunger for the attention of any female life form must have been stronger than mine was. He was swifter, more cunning and he seized the moment after he struck out with Gizem.

Of course there are many morals to this story, all of which can be attributed to my colossal stupidity. First of all, I’m sure a lot of you are asking “What the fuck did you expect!? You didn’t do a damn thing! How can you be mad that you lost a game when you didn’t even play it to begin with!?”

You’re right, the entire time I’ve known Neval, I didn’t make nearly any effort to hit on her, complement her (Complement her on what? “My, I love the way you don’t burn to a crisp when you expose yourself to sunlight”), asked her out or even talked to her for longer than three minutes at a time.

That entire night I dodged any opportunity I had to go talk to her with the lamest excuses known to man. So of course when the very thing that Nazan warned me would happen actually did happen, I had no one to blame but myself.

On the more psychological side of things, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to pursue someone you found to be repulsive, fake, stupid, annoying and quite possibly a member of the undead. Regardless of the fact that she (hopefully) was the proud owner of a vagina, and as a natural curse I was meant to be attracted to things with vaginas, it wasn’t enough for me to lay down my principals and pretend to be interested in her.

Before I knew it, I was back where I started, hiding in the dark corner of the couch upstairs like the resident Phantom of the Techno Club. I could have cried my eyes out, but why bother? Besides, no one would take a mental break long enough from their alcohol-soaked rhythmic twitching to notice that a budding human soul was suffering two feet away from them.

I know, I know, a sentence so over-the-top and dramatic has to come fully equipped with a copy of The Twilight Saga and the lesser-known bestseller The Little Annoying Entitled Emo Who Could.

Besides, I wasn’t going to shed any tears for losing the possible affections of that emaciated creature. I was fully aware that my sorrow derived from failing to romantically connect with ANYONE, not because I was particularly fond of Neval. She didn’t deserve a single molecule of my sadness. I would bounce back from this. Perhaps not immediately, perhaps not even that year, but at some time, at some point in the future.

The silver lining was that now I was more determined to continue my existence as a carbon-based life form, much more than I ever was. I made a deal with myself that I would try really, really hard not to die during the next year or so by being extra careful not to go spelunking without any ropes and looking both ways twice while crossing the street. Actually just to be safe, any form of spelunking was probably out of the question.

The simple reason for this newfound attachment to life was because I really did not want my last thoughts on Earth to be further useless contemplation about why I failed to hook up with The Bride of Nosferatu.

So there I was, sitting alone in the dark, sulking like a whore in Amish Country, planning to ride the night out as long as I could by not moving an inch and pretending to meditate on the gaudy Efes Pilsen neon sign above the bar. Yep, that in a nutshell was the plan for the night.

But before I knew it, I heard a familiar voice next to me. A voice I hadn’t heard since my 18th birthday party. “Ergen, are you all right?”, the voice intoned with genuine worry and care.

It was Nazan’s cousin, who was at least five years older than anyone in our group. Yes, for those of you paying attention, this was the same cousin that Nazan brought to my disastrous birthday party. The one who did not join my clever spin the bottle ploy with fears of ending up kissing his own flesh and blood.

If you go back to the chapter about my b-day party, you’ll notice that I did not introduce him by name at any point and that he’s referred to only as Nazan’s cool cousin. There’s a very simple reason for that: I don’t remember his name. Therefore, from now on he’ll be known as Ponytail, since he sported a sweet, long and paintbrush-style, well, ponytail.

With genuine worry and interest, Ponytail sat on the couch next to me and looked at me in the eyes with pity and concern on his face. “What’s wrong buddy?”, he asked, “You look like you got hit in the face with a bag of shit.” The god that I don’t believe in bless the folks who hail from Eastern Turkey.

As opposed to the sometimes nihilist and selfish influence various Western lifestyles had on Western Turkey, people from the East tended to stick to their warmer roots, where empathy felt towards other human beings was not considered to be an inherent weakness in character.

Since Ponytail was older than Nazan, he had spent more time growing up in Eastern Turkey than his cousin before his family relocated to Istanbul, so he carried with him the sensibilities of the old world more than the further Westernized Nazan.

He was still an open-minded and cool dude, he just happened to soak up the most positive parts of being from the East while leaving out all of the religious entitlement and blatant misogyny.

“I don’t know man”, I kept avoiding my gaze like a beaten down puppy, “I just feel down.”

Ponytail slid closer on the couch and wrapped his arm around my shoulder as if he was my long-lost brother. “Girl trouble?”, he asked while smiling emphatically. As non-judgmental as he was, I wasn’t going to admit to his face that all of this was because I was rejected (Was I officially rejected?) by the skinny gargoyle on the dance floor. Even he, the sympathetic one, ran the risk of giggling uncontrollably and fucking up the big-brotherly vibe.

So I managed a faint nod, letting him know that I didn’t want to go into any details. He nodded and said, “I get it. We’ve all been there you know.”

I don’t know what made me suddenly open up to him and expunge all of my anger and frustration right then and there, but I think this being the first human connection I felt in years might have had something to do with it.

“I just don’t know what to do, you know?”, I whimpered while trying to hold back the tears. I knew that as soon as I opened my mouth, I was going to fail in that mission as well and that pretty soon my face would turn into Niagara Falls.

“I have these feelings and urges, everything in my body tells me that I should act on them and no matter what I do, I fail miserably. Look at me, I’m 19-friggin-years-old and I’ve never ever been on a single date with a girl! I’ve never ever held hands with a member of the opposite sex. Not in a romantic way anyway. I have no idea what it feels like to be loved, liked, or even found remotely attractive by a girl.”

“I have no idea what the image of a woman looking at me with a face that shines with love and affection towards me, a face that actually wants to kiss me, and hold me, and spend alone time with me even looks like. I have to capture it within my peripheral vision when I look at other couples and store it in my memory bank, only to pretend later on that the girl in that couple was looking at me that way just so I can go on pretending I’m normal.” Needless to say, tears were uncontrollably running down my cheeks at this point.

“Look at me! Here I am, a complete mess, pouring my heart out to someone I barely know, and why!? Because my best friend hooked up with a girl I’m not even attracted to! The only reason I even considered going after that girl was because I found her to be almost as ugly as I find myself to be. The odds of me finding someone that repulses me as repulsive as I think of myself are almost a million to one. How crazy would I be not to act on such a find when it’s served right in front of me on a silver platter?”

None of this of course is a direct transcript of what I said word-by-word and how I sounded. In between the whiny stuttering caused by the unstoppable sobbing and futile attempts at trying to keep from slobbering all over myself, it’s a miracle that Ponytail even made out a single decipherable word out of that entire meltdown. This is just a way for me to translate what I regurgitated into a readable format.

By this time, Ponytail had his palm on my back, gently rubbing it in a circular way and looking at me with a mixture of pity and compassion. Much to his chagrin, I’m sure, I continued: “And I know it’s all my fault. All of it. What girl in her right mind would want to be with this?” I pointed to my flabby body and my four-eyed pudgy face.

“I’m fat and weak, and I don’t do a single damn thing to change it. I keep shoveling food into my mouth knowing full well that it does nothing but contribute to my disgusting body and my self-loathing. You’re gonna say that it doesn’t matter. It’s what’s inside that counts. It’s all about inner beauty, right? What inner beauty? I’m an arrogant, pig-headed snob who thinks the world owes itself to him. I make fun of people who are much better than I am, which is pretty much everyone, just so I can go on making myself believe that in the end, I am the ultimate loser.”

“I made fun of a beautiful girl. I should have been so lucky if she ever chose to love me. I ridiculed her around friends because she was fat and odd-looking, but where does that leave me? I acted like I was too good for her, yet when I attempted to actually tell her how I felt, I was shot down in a second. And can you really blame her?”

“I’m stuck in a time loop from The Twilight Zone, an endless nightmare where I keep raising my hopes up for no discernible reason, only to fail miserably and not learning a single lesson out of it. I’m bound to re-live it over and over again until, what? What’s going to happen that will break this curse? I’m going to kill myself like one of those sad sacks of shit who can’t take it anymore? Another forgettable footnote, an invisible ink stain on human history? Here lies Ergen, he couldn’t get laid so he decided the best idea to deal with it was to blow his weak brains out. It’s over man, it’s all over. I’m done.”

“It’s not over Ergen”, Ponytail said, “Nothing is over.” He leaned down to look at me in the eyes. “You’re only nineteen-years-old. You don’t really know shit about life yet. I’m twenty-six, and I don’t even know shit about life. Who really does at the end of the day anyway?”

“Your friends, your environment, even the movies you watch tell you over and over how you should be, exactly what you should have in life. But at the end of the day, nothing happens the way we think they should in our minds. Nothing is supposed to be anything.”

“You expect your life to be just like a movie. The obnoxious, fat, nerdy anti-hero protagonist of his own raunchy but sweet romantic comedy is introduced in the first act as a clueless, entitled, rude nihilist snob. He meets an irresistibly cute anti-social pixie girl who revels in candy-colored oddities.”

“At first, the two can’t stand each other but as the pixie teaches the nihilist to change his evil ways and become a respectable member of the anti-social society, the two fall in love and realize that, against all overwhelming evidence to the contrary, they are not all alone in this cold and heartless world. They realize they have each other, as the shameless cliché predicts.”

“At the end of a dramatic finale, they kiss under pouring rain or falling snow, everything around them looking like the wet dream of a burgeoning cinematographer, the beautiful composition and the artifice of celluloid perfectly blending together to create the illusion that these two characters will never be happier than they are at that very moment, even though they are probably looking forward to another sixty years of life on this planet. So, what? This is it? This is the climax of their life? Why go on living then?”

“But the thing is, they don’t go on living. The screen fades to black and they cease to exist. But you, as you leave the theater, your very real life goes on indeed. You still have choices to make, there are still opportunities to take, and there are even some more lessons you can learn. Things will change, and nothing remains the same. We never see it in our moments of despair, but things will change, one way or another.”

“You might think you’re stuck in a continual loop where you have to re-live the first and second acts of your story over and over again with the third act and the obligatory happy ending nowhere in sight. But what’s really going to happen when you kiss the girl of your dreams? Your life is going to fade out and that’ll be the end of Ergen? No, you’re going to go on living just like the rest of us.”

“You’re going to be faced with more conflict and problems that will dwarf the ones that turn your life into a Greek tragedy at this very moment. They will look like microscopic specks of molecules on an atom of insignificance compared to what’s in store for you. And with the perspective and wisdom you will no doubt gain, they will teach you to deal with those problems one step at a time.”

“All I’m asking from you is a little bit of a real world perspective Ergen. You’re so bummed out that you’re nineteen and you still haven’t been on a date with a girl? And you’re certain that it’s because you’re, what? Overweight and ugly, with an ugly personality, according to you, which are mostly false observations.”

I looked at him with a confused face. “How do you know that?”, I managed to whimper.

“The most simple answer I can give you is,” Ponytail said, “I’m right here talking to you, genuinely hoping to make you feel better. If I didn’t care about you, why would I waste my time with you? If Nazan didn’t care about you, why would she propose that I come talk to you because she thought you could use some consolation, man-to-man?”

“Why would Nazan ask you to do something like that?”, I asked.

“Maybe because she saw Oguz and Neval hooking up”, Ponytail said, “She knew you were thinking of hitting on Neval and probably predicted that you’d be pretty upset seeing Oguz and Neval together.”

“That makes sense, I guess”, I said, wiping away the tears.

“Anyway,” Ponytail got back on track, “You believe deep down in your heart that those things which are not mostly real are the reasons why you’re unlucky in love so far. But what if there is no reason for it? What if this is the way it should be, regardless of any reason whatsoever? And I’m not talking about some religious concept of fate and destiny, or anything of that ilk. I’m just saying that fundamentally, this is who you are, and this is what you’ve become, and that this is the way things are. And that’s the ultimate reality that any of us have to accept.”

He continued with a staggering observation, “I have friends, quite a few number of them, who didn’t even start dating anyone until they were twenty-three.”

“Twenty-three!?”, I asked with bugged-out eyes. If I were drinking anything, I would have done a spit-take.

“Yes,” Ponytail reassured me, “Normal guys, just like you and me, some of them quite good-looking too. Western Turks, open-minded, coming from open-minded families, none of them restricted or dragged down by a sexually repressed environment. They were all free to date girls as much as they humanly could, but for some reason or another, nothing happened until they were twenty-three or so.”

“But, why?”

Ponytail shrugged, “I don’t know. I guess that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?”

I looked up at him and actually cracked a smile, which seemed to make him happy. He squeezed my shoulder and shook me a couple of times to snap me out of my funk. “There you go!”, he said, “That’s the ticket!”

“Also,” he added, “If that doesn’t make you feel better, consider how shitty it must feel for Oguz to settle for a girl he’s not even attracted to, only to make himself believe that he’s still in the game. Consider how much it must hurt to fail with a girl you really like, only to sell out your principles because you don’t want to look like a total loser. I’m sure he doesn’t feel like this is his happy ending either. If I was you, I wouldn’t feel too envious of him.”

“At least he will have sex sometime in the future”, I huffed and puffed.

“Sex with that!?”, Ponytail pulled back with a disgusted face, “I’d rather jerk off with sandpaper!”

We both laughed so hard that the people sitting around the bar ten feet away from us could hear us even over the deafening thump-thumps.

Finally Nazan showed up, probably getting over the effects of the alcohol in her system, which in turn probably made her begin to question why she made out with a total stranger who was original enough to tell her she looked pretty enough to kiss.

“You look like you’re in a better mood”, she said, winking.

I looked around myself. I was sitting there in a pit of hell, surrounded by friends. “I guess I’m doing better”, I said, smiling.

“Are you guys ready to get the fuck out of here!?”, Nazan yelled.

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