CHAPTER 15 – UNSURPRISING BAD NEWS
That Monday morning, during the three-hour ride from Nazan’s home to the campus, I sat on the right side of the back seat and looked out of the window the entire way, not saying a single word. I think I was trying to prepare myself for the long period of depression I was about to face.
Not only was I all the way back to square one as far as finding a girlfriend was concerned, I also had to deal with the thought that one of my best friends might already be in a relationship, with a supposed female who went to our school, who was going to be a part of our circle from now on. We were now going to operate as a group of single boys, a girl, and a couple who would inevitably indulge in disgusting public displays of affection any chance they would get.
This might not seem like a big deal to you if you were ever one of the kids in your group of friends who had a boyfriend or a girlfriend. But for your fat, unattractive friend who tags along because he or she can’t think of anything better to do and will probably contemplate suicide if left alone long enough to think about what a failure he or she turned out to be?
It really sucks for them to sit across from you at Peet’s Coffee, taking their frustrations out by sucking the shit out of the 1500-calories-per-cubic-millimeter Extra Creamy Strawberry Frappuchino they ordered while being silently ridiculed by the zit-faced, 18-year-old condescending asshole barista, all the while having to stare at you and your significant other locking lips like two happy people do as they wonder what exactly stops them from chopping you into tiny little pieces with a rusty, HIV-infected spork before drilling their own brains out of their skulls with a woodpecker hopped up on methamphetamines.
As soon as we arrived at the tiny campus, we immediately made our way to the cafeteria for some breakfast in the shape of tea and simit. It was there when I destroyed all of the goodwill and sympathy I accumulated from Nazan during our weekend adventures at her place. Leave it up to me to ruin a good memory right at the tail end of it. I don’t know why I said the following but it sort of happened for no reason:
While having breakfast and mostly keeping my mouth shut due to the understandable funk I was in, I saw that Zeynep 1 was sitting around a table right across from ours with her semi-alpha friends. She was wearing a t-shirt and I could make out her black arm hairs all the way from my table. It didn’t look that gross and I would still have become her devout sex slave at the drop of a hat given the opportunity but the body hair was definitely noticeable.
For some reason, I decided to break my morning vow of silence by leaning over to Nazan and whispering, “Look at Zeynep over there, she has more arm hairs than you do.”
I don’t remember what my goal was in disclosing that ill-advised opinion directly to the last person I should have disclosed it to, but maybe in a completely twisted way, I was trying to ease whatever insecurities she might have been feeling about her excessive body hair by letting her know that there were other people who looked worse.
First of all, Zeynep’s arm hair did not look worse than Nazan’s by any stretch of the imagination. Second, and most importantly, I found out that day that it’s never a good idea to reference a female human being’s body hair issues during a conversation with that very same female human being, regardless of context.
Predictably, Nazan’s face turned crimson with pure anger within half a second. Her eyes opened wide with the wrath of a thousand “What-the-fuck!!?”s. “What the hell is wrong with you!?”, she whispered in hushed tones while piercing a hole through my soul, “Why would you even say that!?”
“I’m sorry”, I blurted. I scanned my empty brain for an excuse. All I could come up with was “I thought it would make you feel better.” Major fail.
“In what universe anyone, let alone a boy, reminding a girl flat-out about her very personal and hurtful bodily problems is going to make her feel better!?” Nazan managed to articulate in between her uncontrollable puffing. “I already deal with this shit day in and day out, I don’t need you to point it out to me!”
In a perverse way, for a couple of seconds I imagined us as a couple having our first fight, but the illusion thankfully didn’t last long.
So there it was, because of a fleeting comment, a brain fart that really did not need to be let out, I screwed up the good memories from the latter part of the weekend and now all I had to look forward to was the intense pain of failure I was surely about to experience when everyone in class would congratulate Oguz for finally bagging any member of the opposite sex.
That was my biggest fear, while my hope was to find out that maybe Oguz came to his senses and decided that dating a member of the undead might not have been an optimum career move and broke things off with Neval before anything even started.
Or maybe Neval realized the next morning that the dude she made out with at Magma could not physically stop talking about how much he loved David Bowie and Brian Eno, two names that must have sounded like founders of a new age religion to anyone as culturally ignorant as Neval was. Realizing the absolute extent of Oguz’s nerddom, she could have run for the hills right in the middle of being forced to listen to a rare collector’s edition mono mix of Hunky Dory.
However, if I was that lucky, I wouldn’t have ended up with the kind of pathetic personality that actually feared the possibility of one of his friends actually dating another human being while he wallowed in a romantic wasteland without even thirst-induced mirages to keep him company.
During the half an hour Nazan and I spent in complete awkward silence before we had to rush to the first class of the day, I attempted various forms of an apology multiple times, each more useless than the last.
“Nazan, hey Nazan”, I whispered, trying desperately to get her attention. She ignored me while taking bird bites off of her simit. I kept insisting, “Nazan, hey!”
“What!?”, she blew up.
I immediately pulled back. “Nothing”, I gulped in fear, “I just wanted to, wanted to say, I, kind of, sorry.”
“Whatever”, Nazan huffed and took a passive-aggressive sip from her tea.
It was time to bring out the sincerity guns. I leaned in and said, “Look, I’m really sorry about what I said. I don’t know what I was thinking. I probably wasn’t thinking, and that might have been the problem.”
I could see a smile cracking on her icy, recently-lady-mustache-waxed lips. But she wasn’t going to let up easily. “I don’t care”, she responded, “Whatever, apology accepted. Now shut up about it.”
“It doesn’t sound like you’re over it”, I said with a completely unearned air of judgment.
“Well then that’s your problem”, Nazan said, “Just don’t mention it again.”
“Okay, okay. I just wanted to say I’m sorry.”
“And I won’t mention it again.”
“You just did.”
A maximum of five minutes later, I shot my big mouth off again. “Look Nazan”, I started in a humble yet somewhat patriarchal voice, “I feel really bad about what I said. Can you accept my apology?”
“God, will you let that shit go!?”, Nazan blew up, “I told you it’s fine, I accept your apology! Now move the fuck on!”
“Okay, sure. I just feel bad.”
“I don’t care! Shut up!”
I must have brought it up a couple more times until we had to leave for class. All of my feeble attempts were met with similar responses from Nazan. I think part of my obsession with her accepting my apology and moving on was because I really wanted a friend by my side for what I was about to face next.
The walk upstairs to the Film History class felt like my last mile before the death of whatever confidence I had left deep in some abandoned corner of my brain. It was time to face the music in the form of my goateed friend scoring with someone I shouldn’t have cared about for a fraction of a millisecond to begin with.
I was relieved to find out that Oguz wasn’t among the small group of students congregating outside the classroom, full of sorrow and pity about having to sit through three hours of discussions about a silent film most of us probably slept through at least half of its running time during the eight am screening five days beforehand.
After some banter with the students, some of it concerning upcoming films, some of it expressing how much we all hated Professor Deniz and her obsession with blowing every director of the French New Wave, even those who were already dead, I saw Oguz approaching the class from the other end of the long white corridor like the spirit of death with well groomed snobby facial hair coming to collect my soul.
As he came closer, I could tell that he was doing this thing he always did when he came across a rare album he wanted to get his hands on for years but couldn’t express his true emotions in order to avoid looking like a total dork in front of his friends. He had a somewhat contained shit-eating grin on his face which let me know that he was hiding a lot more energy and cheer than he was letting on.
“What’s up dude?”, Oguz asked while trying to contain his goofy smile as best he could. He looked like a rookie performer on Saturday Night Live trying his damnedest not to crack up with gleeful enthusiasm in the middle of a sketch.
“I’m alright, I guess”, I answered, simply letting air escape my mouth.
“Are you sure?”, Oguz asked, “You looked bummed out.” I think what bothered me the most was that I could tell he was genuinely worried about me and wasn’t asking in a douche bag passive-aggressive tone at all. Would it have been so hard for him to give me just a smidgen of emotional ammunition I could have used against him? No, he had to act like a decent person.
“I’m alright”, I brushed him off, “Just a bit tired, had a pretty long weekend.”
The slight smirk on his face made it clear to me that he was dying to counter that with “Oh yeah, me too, if you know what I mean.” But he didn’t do that. He just rubbed my shoulder like a true friend and said, “That sucks buddy, I’m sorry.” It wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought spending the next year hating his fucking guts.
“So, how was your weekend?”, Oguz asked Nazan.
“Why don’t you ask this guy?”, Nazan pointed to me, “He was at our place the whole time.”
“Ooooh,” Oguz whistled suggestively, “Anything happened I should know about?”
Now I could hate him.
Nazan playfully slapped Oguz, “Ew, shut up! It was nothing like that. He just couldn’t go all the way home that late. So he stayed over on Saturday and got stuck.”
“That doesn’t sound any less suggestive”, Oguz said with a grin.
By the way, “Ew”!? “Ew”!? There could have been a more tactful way to communicate to everyone how disgusting the thought of hooking up with a gnome like me would be. She could have slapped Oguz playfully, but Nazan definitely hit my fragile heart with a sledgehammer while doing so. Yes, I realize that I just sounded like a twelve-year-old girl and that I should go shopping for tampons in the whiny little bitch aisle.
Nazan punched Oguz in the shoulder this time, “Will you stop that!? My mom and dad were there! Even if something was going to happen, WHICH IT WOULDN’T, that’s the last place I would let it… Happen.”
It was time to jump in and say something wildly inappropriate as a last-ditch attempt to use humor as a defense mechanism in order to deal with my internal sorrow and self-loathing. “I have to say”, I said with a smirk, “I was expecting her to offer herself to me late last night but alas, it didn’t happen.” Nazan rolled her eyes. “Asshole”, she whispered to herself.
Zeynep 2 asked Oguz, “So what’s going on with you?”
“What do you mean?”, Oguz asked.
“What’s up with that smile on your face?”
Before Oguz could answer, Nazan jumped in with “Oguz is dating someone.”
Oguz smiled and looked down like a shy schoolboy. His cheeks turned bright red and all he could muster was a slight nod and a whispered “Yeah.”
“Oooh”s and “Aaah”s emanated from the group, followed by “Congratulations” and “Good job!”. Some classmates even went as far as shaking Oguz’s hand.
I wanted to yell, “Excuse me! The dude just found a girlfriend! It happens, big fucking deal! You’re all acting like he cured cancer or some shit and it’s embarrassing! Now why don’t we all just get our values straight, calm the fuck down and carry on with our lives! Nothing to see here folks, move the fuck on!”
Yet I just stood there biting my lip, pretending to be happy for my friend while boiling on the inside.
“Who is it?”, Zeynep 1 asked.
“Her name is Neval,” Nazan interjected, “She’s in English prep year but she comes to the screenings from time to time.”
“Oh wow! She’s cute!”, Zeynep 2 said.
“Wrong one!” I jumped in. Usually, people wait to hear more details to figure out a case of mistaken identity but the fact that Zeynep 2 thought the girl was genuinely cute without looking like she was trying extra hard to be polite made it painfully obvious that she thought we were talking about Gizem. “He’s dating her friend, the skinny, short one”, I corrected the mistake.
I knew I was acting like a major dick at that point but I didn’t care. Besides, my prejudice was justified.
“Oooh”, Zeynep 2 sounded disappointed, “That one!” For a second she looked like she just swallowed a gallon of sour patch juice. She then recomposed herself and with the polite look expected from someone who just found out anyone was courageous enough to date Neval, she said “She’s cute too, I guess.”
Nazan looked at me with piercing eyes. What the fuck did I do wrong now? It’s not like it was a secret that could have been contained for long. Sooner or later, people would have found out that he wasn’t really dating a supermodel. Yes, I could have waited for some more information without jumping to the conclusion that Zeynep 2 was thinking of the wrong girl, but how obvious was that?
In time, the class began, signaling the start of the new week and our lives mostly went back to the humdrum existence of film students, full of boring old movies and boring discussions about them.
During the next couple of days, I tried very hard to ease my mind into coming to terms with the idea that this life was now the new normal for me. One of my best friends had a girlfriend now, and I could do nothing but gracefully accept her into our group and keep my mouth shut. If only things were so easy. For me, this was the beginning of a downfall that would not end for another two years.