The Turkish Loser

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CHAPTER 8 – THE DEATH RATTLE OF HOPE

The rising of the morning sun was accompanied by the disappointment of condoms unused and a cracking headache. One by one, we rose like drunken zombies, greeted by my mother’s warm smile and her hands holding a lifetime supply of fizzy headache medicine. As the bubbly concoction hit the back of our throats, waking us up with something that tasted like ground chalk mixed with tonic water, we returned to the land of the living.

Drinking the bubbly concoction must have felt especially relieving for Deniz, since as I mentioned before, she refused to take any pills from us even though she said her head felt like it was splitting open near the end of the party when alcohol levels reached absurd proportions. Nazan had already left by then and Deniz remained as the sole female of the bunch for the rest of the night.

If this was the dark ages, or a random American frat house, her probability of getting gang raped would have been ninety-nine percent, but we lived in a civilized world and of course no one touched her.

Except for me, I guess, but my violations only went as far as a non-consensual caressing of her belly for a brief second. By the way, no wonder she was paranoid of men when you consider the fact that I just wrote about rape in such a nonchalant fashion.

After the detox was over, we all congregated in the living room, our eyes trying to get used to the bright morning light. We were scattered around the two couches, all of us instantly appreciating what a gift to humanity down couch cushions were. Oguz opened with the most clichéd line of a recent-drunk:

“I’m never drinking again as long as I live”, he mumbled, rubbing his temples as if he was digging for gold from his skull.

“I heard that”, I said.

There was quite a long and uncomfortable silence, which was broken by Selim asking the best question a dehydrated and hungry fat college kid could ever hear: “Burger King?”

We didn’t have much around us as far as hangover fast food was concerned, unless you were interested in eating a type of Turkish pizza called Pide (Pronounced “Pee-day”) that cost fifty cents and was probably made of pigeon meat.

Don’t worry, you can get quality Pide all around Turkey that contains meat from more traditional, wing-less livestock, so please don’t ask the waiter if you’re eating Tweety Bird during your first visit to a Pide House.

The restaurants in my neighborhood were pretty ghetto, hence the possibility of ingesting ground pigeon, except for the then-newly-opened Burger King, which the neighborhood folk were really proud about. God, where the fuck did I live?

American fast food spots like McDonald’s or Burger King in Turkey are not frowned upon and don’t carry the poor folk food reputation they have in The States. In America, it’s known as the kind of crap people would rather throw away than eat. Everyone who visits a fast food joint is supposedly either buying that crap out of desperation or as a result of a pathetic addiction to sodium and fat.

In Turkey, they are hangout spots for high school kids and suitable café alternatives for college students. In America, spending more than twenty minutes in a KFC is an offence punishable by death. In Turkey, I remember spending entire evenings hanging out with friends at the local Pizza Hut.

So we pulled ourselves out of the most comfy crevices of the couch as if we were climbing a mountain with our bare hands and prepped for future Whoppers and milk shakes.

“Last night was fun”, Deniz whispered under her breath.

I looked at her and smiled, “Yeah, I had a good time. Thank you for coming.”

Even though I didn’t score with her, I did have a good time. Now I know that at this point it looks like I learned some kind of a lesson about sexual congress not being an absolute end to a means and that the simple enjoyment and appreciation of the company of genuine friends is really what matters.

No, I was upset to say the least, and it wasn’t like I had given up on Deniz. It just doesn’t hurt my ego to admit that I valued good friends, and that I admit Deniz was one of them, no matter how romantically unsuccessful I was with her.

Selim broke this tender moment between friends by turning to Deniz and saying, “Make sure you wear a bra next time.”

Deniz turned to Selim in shock and giggled nervously. The rest of us immediately zoned in on her breasts for clues. Yes, it did look like she wasn’t wearing a bra, her round and plump breasts (What is this, a bus stop book?) were comfortably shaping the sides of her blouse.

The following question should have been directed at Selim, “Who cares if she’s wearing a bra or not you perv?” (Yes of course we cared, but this would be a polite lie in order to single out Selim as the lone pervert and make Deniz feel protected), or “Why in the hell would you want her to wear a bra?” (This would be the more truthful reaction.)

But I chose to act like an horny dipshit with verbal diarrhea once again and, while staring directly at her breasts, I yelled out “Holy shit, he’s right!” God I hope I wasn’t drooling.

There was no other option left for Deniz but to show an annoyed face and pull out the right strap of her bra in order to present it as proof for the prosecution that she was indeed wearing one. “Happy now?”, she grunted.

“Now I am”, I replied with a grin.

She laughed and whispered, “Asshole.”

Not very tactful, I know. But covering real, throbbing, and desperate sexual desire under the guise of light risqué fun is the calling card of a beta and I couldn’t have been asked to act any differently. After getting shut down as a result of a rare genuine attempt at drunken courting, the only ammunition left in my dwindling arsenal of romantic self-expression was to use crass humor as a way of keeping my more serious desire for her under wraps.

So we all went to Burger King and talked about nothing in particular. Nothing remotely sexual even entered the conversation. If it did, I would have remembered it. After that, everyone went on his or her own way, preparing him or herself for the four-hour-long bus odyssey that awaited them.

I hugged Deniz, my libido felt my chest rubbing against some side-boob while my heart was breaking. And that was that. What will probably go down in my life as the one birthday party I will never forget had ended.

During the following couple of weeks, I made it my mission to be unusually nice to Deniz. I would pull up her chair before she sat down, I would complement her looks at any chance I got (“My, your culturally ambiguous braid looks especially colorful today”) and would defend her whenever her and Nazan got into one of their heated whore-offs, arguments meant to settle which one of them was more of an independent, intellectual and socially liberal woman inside an archaic society that persecuted women and seeked to limit their advancement.

Of course the best way to prove that was to count how many dicks each of them sucked in their lifetime and the woman with the highest number won. Regardless of the numbers Deniz pulled out of her ass, the winner was always Nazan.

As far as defending Deniz from Nazan’s relentless offences to make her look less sexually experienced than her, I of course didn’t step up and try to convince everyone that I was sure Deniz blew more men than a hurricane at a paintball tournament. I mostly tried to steer the conversation away from the penises of men we would never meet into some subjects I thought Deniz would feel superior to Nazan.

“Oh wow Nazan, so you do hate anal sex and even though you complain that it hurts a lot, you don’t mind doing it on special occasions? That’s cool, uh, Deniz, do you wanna read us the poem you wrote yesterday about the night clouds in the sky resembling white, puffy blankets for your fragile soul?”

Or,

“Yes Nazan, I’m sure reverse cowgirl is your favorite position, but Deniz has a very interesting story about her trip to the art-house theater in the middle of the most seedy parts of Taksim in order to see an obscure Cuban film that no one has ever heard of, including the people who actually made the film.”

Of course I got evil looks from the other males in our circle because of my blatant cock blocking between them and their possible Nazan-related mental fodder for masturbatory fantasies. Oguz especially was hit hard by my rude intrusions and was probably relegated to rubbing one off to the sense memory of that one time his hand accidentally grazed Nazan’s voluptuous butt.

I was ashamed about betraying the basest sexual instincts of my own kind, but I was on a very important mission, one that was apparently not important enough to make me as tenacious and driven as I should have been, but that would have required a modicum of self-respect and self-esteem.

I had no game plan as far as what my next steps would be beyond being a little nicer to Deniz, which only meant that I was slightly less of an insensitive asshole. How would I even begin to articulate that I liked her and that I desired her as a possible mate?

Sometimes I almost wished that finding love was as easy as sniffing each other’s butts and deciding whether or not you were hump-compatible with your possible mate, the way dogs did. That sounded fine by me. If only it didn’t have to come with having to beg and debase yourself for ten minutes for a cheap treat made out of mechanically separated monkey bits.

For a while my plan actually involved the following conversation I dreamt in my head. Thank the god I don’t believe that I never actually wrote it down until now, nor even attempted to release it to an unsuspecting Deniz, who surely would have felt horrified:

Me: “So, Deniz, you know how we are part of this group of friends now?”

Deniz: “Yeah?”

Me: “I was thinking, there’s a bunch of boys in the group, and a couple of girls. It’s actually exactly a couple of girls, since it’s only you and Nazan.”

Deniz: “I guess. So?”

Me: “So I was thinking, and I’m making this observation in a completely rationalistic sense, if we were to assign certain physical characteristics to each member of the group and graded them in terms of physical attractiveness, I don’t think either of us would rank very high.”

Deniz: “So you’re trying to say that I’m ugly?”

Me: “No, no, not at all! I’m just saying that within the strict confines of our group, between me, you, Oguz, Adnan, Selim and Nazan, you and I are both, how should I say, slightly overweight and less physically attractive than the others in the group, and I mean this in the most superficial sense that most of the known world agrees constitutes external beauty.”

Deniz: “Huh?”

Me: “So I’m not saying that you or I are ugly, per se, but I’m trying to say that amongst the members of our group, you and I seem to be the most compatible, in a strictly physical sense. And that’s not the only reason. We’re shy, awkward and introverted people with, let’s face it, pretty horrible fashion sense. I think we would be providing a gross disservice to our natural place in this universe if we so casually ignored our perfect compatibility.”

Deniz: “So you’re trying to say we should start dating each other because you believe we’re compatible?”

Me: “Compatible in the eyes of nature, yes. And also, apart from the purely scientific reasons, I really like you.”

Deniz: “But I like Oguz.”

Me: “Yeah but what are your real chances with him? You know that he’s obsessed with getting into Nazan’s pants. A blind eunuch can see that. Even though after numerous subtle acts of rejection didn’t work and she literally had to spell it out on a piece of paper that she’s ‘Not interested in him’, he still holds out hope and doesn’t leave her sight for even a second.”

We momentarily interrupt this fantasy revolving around the worst attempt at courtship in known human history in order to bring you this hilarious and somewhat pathetic true story, once relayed to me by Nazan in between uncontrollable laughter:

Apparently after Oguz’s subtle attempts at wooing Nazan did not result with any response from her beyond trying desperately to ignore his presence, Oguz finally grew some balls and decided to call Nazan in order to express his true feelings towards her. There was only one problem: Oguz suffered from a crippling lack of being fluent in any of the four languages he spoke.

This handicap would become especially apparent when Oguz found himself in an unusually embarrassing and vulnerable situation. Opening up to the one girl in the universe you were desperately obsessed with popping your cherry to might qualify as an unusually vulnerable experience (I know, he claimed he wasn’t a virgin, but which one of you actually believe his story?).

So according to Nazan, Oguz had to assemble most of the languages floating around in his son of a diplomat head in order to finally spit out the simple and painfully obvious fact that he fancied Nazan.

After apparently taking to Nazan’s strict and traditional father for five minutes trying to explain to him that he was a friend of Nazan’s and wanted to speak to her about nothing in particular, especially not about possibly having sex with his daughter, he got Nazan on the phone and started the conversation in his trademark awkward Turkish.

After a couple of sentences of casual conversation full of Oguz’s trademark nervous stuttering as he tried to visualize upcoming words in his brain in Turkish, he had an odd request: He asked Nazan if it was okay if he expressed what he was about to say in English, since he felt more comfortable in that language when he needed to talk about anything of significance.

Nazan of course had to take a moment to come to terms with the absurdity of having to speak to her friend in a foreign language when both of them knew they could, maybe not easily, but somewhat efficiently communicate in Nazan’s native tongue.

What Nazan said after a minute of soul-crushing dead air was probably “Uhhhh, okay.” So Oguz immediately proceeded to pour her heart out to Nazan, in her second language, for no practical reason whatsoever, while Nazan tried desperately to contain her nearly uncontrollable giggling with fears of Oguz hanging himself later that night if she ever let one of them rip.

Oguz told Nazan, in English, that he was in love with her and that he desperately wanted to ask her out. I don’t have any sources to confirm this, but I sincerely hope that he at least mentioned the fact that Nazan already had a boyfriend at the time, who Oguz not only knew she was screwing, but was privy to every single one of their favorite positions and various free birth control methods. If he didn’t, I have a feeling Nazan made sure to mention it during the call.

Apparently when Oguz wasn’t met with the kind of positive enthusiasm he was expecting from Nazan after his bi-lingual professing of tender affection and when her real reaction was a somewhat casual acknowledgement of said facts, Oguz didn’t know what to do and hit the panic button, causing all of the words he knew in four different languages to collide into each other in order to create the linguistic clusterfuck of the century.

As Oguz realized he was really starting to lose Nazan’s focus and patience, he remembered something that might have possibly saved his ass, a Hail Mary pass to end all Hail Mary passes.

He remembered that Nazan once lived in Moscow for a year in order to study the intricate art of making interminable films about bleak and hopeless people. The kinds of Russian art-house films that have such slow pacing, even snails would ask for their money back.

Oguz also remembered that Nazan retained some of the basic Russian she learned while she lived in that place you saw at the beginning of Cast Away and recalled that one time he carried on an entire conversation with her in Russian about the location of the library and whether or not “It” indeed “was a pencil” while on a long bus ride from school to Taksim.

So he took a deep breath and asked her, in English, if it was okay if he continued the conversation in Russian. For those of you just joining in, we started with Turkish, moved on to English, and now we’re in Doctor Zhivago territory.

Now Nazan had two choices. She could either hang up on Oguz in order to never acknowledge that this conversation ever took place, or she could see how far this multi-lingual rabbit hole went with hopes that it could make for a great story one day to relay to her friends at times when they could use the most amount of amusement. You don’t have to guess which option she went for, since I’m now relaying the story to you.

After Nazan gave a quick positive response in Russian, Oguz proceeded to expire all of the words he knew in that language in order to tell Nazan that she should dump her no-good hunk of a boyfriend and get with his sexy dude self sporting the most effeminate ponytail this side of pretentious artsy intellectual douchiness.

Nazan could only pick up on a couple of words like “The”, “Is”, “Kiss”, “Luscious”, “Thick” and “Lips” but she got the gist of what Oguz was trying to say. Now it was only a matter of figuring out a way to shut him down in the gentlest way possible using ten elementary Russian words or less.

She took a deep breath, gathered her thoughts and told him in Russian, “I’m sorry but I love my boyfriend. You and I can never be”, which according to Google translate, is вишневый пирог ублюдок, although I’m not sure since I have a feeling my computer hates me.

As a devastating cherry on top of this disappointment sundae, Nazan ended the conversation in Turkish, informing Oguz once more that they were just friends and begged him to never bring up his feelings for her again. Sounds like a bitchy move, I know, but after being stalked endlessly for months, she had to finally be a little bit on the strict side.

And it worked. Oguz left Nazan pretty much alone after that awkward phone call. Sure, there was the occasional longer-than-humanly-comfortable goodbye hugs, but Nazan definitely got rid of her orbiting horny satellite.

Comedy is pain, right? I’m sure this experience was rather excruciating for Oguz but when told even in all seriousness would make even the most depressed bureucratic employee of the Information Retreival department in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil crack at least a smile.

Which reminds me to return to our previously scheduled delusion fueled by desperation, presented in the form of ridiculous scenarios contocted by my highly disturbed and damaged physche, which became this way after years of, you guessed it, emotional pain.

When we last left my imaginary conversation with Deniz where I imaginarily suggested to her that we should become an item simply because we were both physically unattractive nerds (Great way to approach any woman, I highly recommend it), I was trying to convince Deniz that her crush for Oguz would never pay off since he was still obsessed with Nazan.

Deniz: “Let’s say you’re right, and I believe that you might be since Oguz told me time and time again, directly to my face, that he’s in love with Nazan. Even if I were to give up on Oguz, what makes you think I would even think about going out with you, especially after your not-so-subtle and incredibly crass approach?”

Me: “Look, I know I’m not very tactful when it comes to these things…”

Deniz: “I’ll say. You’re the least romantic person I’ve ever known. Stockbroker sea urchins are more delicate and considerate than you. I’m not trying to say that you’re a bad person. You’re a great friend, but I can find more romance in a dry sponge. You’re just a very strict realist. And I’m in touch with the life and beauty all around us. I love ethnic, soulful music that you find to be cheesy, I love looking endlessly at the bright blue moon hiding behind a blanket of soothing clouds. I need to be romanced, I need to be complemented, and I sure as hell don’t need to be told that I’m a nerd with bad fashion sense. I have to disagree with you, I just don’t think we are compatible at all.”

Me: “But what about that kiss you gave me on my birthday, during the spin the bottle game? You were told to kiss me but you didn’t look annoyed like Nazan did when she had to kiss Oguz. In fact, you looked happy and eager. The way you crawled to me on your hands and knees, just like the way I did to you, showed me that we were attracted to each other.”

Deniz: “Yes, but what about the fact that I turned down all of your drunken yet admittedly genuine advances you laid on me later on that night? I was drunk and was at my most vulnerable state. Didn’t it occur to you that if I were even a little bit attracted to you, I would have lowered my defenses and let you kiss me again?”

Me: “Maybe you wanted to kiss me but you thought my advances might have led to an uncomfortable situation. Maybe you were afraid that things might have even taken a dangerous turn. You told me yourself that your mother made sure to scare you straight about all men being potential rapists. You were so afraid that we might take advantage of you that you insisted on opening all of your beer bottles and wouldn’t go to sleep until you made sure all of us were already passed out. Maybe you were too scared to open up.”

Deniz: “I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

Me: “Then how do you explain the kiss? If you felt nothing, shouldn’t you have looked just as annoyed as Nazan did? Your smile, that momentary flow of electricity that passed between us, what did that mean?”

Deniz: “How should I know? I’m not really Deniz! I’m some vague representation of her you concocted in your head with all of the information and nuances you stored about her in your head. We’re not even sitting in the school cafeteria or the library the way you are imagining right now. You’re basically talking to me in your head while staring at the crack on the wall behind the flat-screen TV in your living room/movie dungeon. I’ll prove it to you: That analogy I made about stockbroker sea urchins being more romantic than you, Deniz would never make an asinine statement like that. So since we are part of the same person and since neither of us have a telekinetic portal into the real Deniz’s mind, I have no idea what the kiss meant beyond any explanation you made up by yourself.”

Me: “Wow! Okay… So, since you’re just a part of my imagination, do you wanna make out?”

Deniz: “Fuck you!”

Me: “Okay, okay, no need to get hostile, damn! So you don’t think I should try this approach with the real Deniz?”

Deniz: “What the fuck do you think?”

Me: “I guess not. So what am I supposed to say?”

Deniz: “Like you, I have no idea. Go for broke, tell her how you feel about her the best way you can and see what happens. You already obviously don’t believe this is going to work out. You’re more than ready to lose the game before it even begins so what do you have to lose by giving it a vague shot?”

Me: “I guess you’re right. Thanks for the pep talk.”

Deniz: “You call this a pep talk? Have you never seen any American movie about sports?”

So I gave up talking to Deniz in my head and retracted my gaze from the crack on the wall behind the large flat-screen TV and proceeded to indulge my chronic loneliness by watching The Blues Brothers on DVD for the 500th time.

The following couple of weeks, I continued acting like a true gentleman to Deniz without clearly expressing my true intentions. It got to a point where Deniz felt like she had to confront me about it. We were in a taxi, about to head back to school from a shopping mall rich college students frequented in between their overpriced classes.

I was sitting at the front, while Deniz and Nazan were in the back. One of the advantages of being a fat man is that even with three people taking a taxi, you can always count on riding shotgun since the other skinnier passengers are still afraid of the mild possibility that you will crush them to death if the taxi driver has to make a sharp left turn.

Before we could even tell the taxi driver where we were going, Deniz asked, “Ergen, can I ask you a question?”

“Shoot”, I answered, clueless to what was about to come.

“How come you’ve been so nice to me recently?”

Nazan rolled her eyes. I had a feeling she wished that she could plug up her ears without having to look like a totally insensitive bitch.

“Have I been nice to you?”, I asked like a lost puppy, “I mean, more than usual?”

“Yeah!”, Deniz and Nazan exclaimed in unison. “I was just wondering why that might be”, Deniz added with a smile that could either be suggestive or uncomfortable. Knowing her, it could have been both.

I pretended to think for a while. Meanwhile, the taxi driver still wasn’t told where to go so I took the opportunity to inform him of our destination in order to gain more time. Not that it helped any, because as we went on our way I came up with the blandest and most neutral answer this side of the WASPiest politician imaginable: “There’s no real reason. I guess I just wanted to be nice to you. Why did you ask?”

“Just wondering”, Deniz said while pretending to look out the window. The rest of the trip was dominated by an uncomfortable silence to say the least.

Stop your judging and hear me out. How was I supposed to answer that question? It was an emotional entrapment from her part. If I was a hippie dope dealer and she was an undercover cop, I’d totally get off scot-free. And yes, my knowledge of the American criminal justice system is limited to Dirty Harry movies and early Law & Order episodes.

What was I supposed to do, tell her the truth? Should I have answered, “Because I like you. Hell, I might even admit to being in love with you if I wasn’t so deathly afraid of my own emotions.” I’m sure that wouldn’t be embarrassing at all with one of my best female friends in the car with us.

A friend, I might add, who couldn’t even shut up about her own sex life. What chance did I have of her keeping my embarrassing sudden burst of romantic intent to Deniz to herself? Fuck not blabbing about it to others for even a day, she’d have a brain aneurysm from the intense anxiety caused by not being able to call everyone from the taxi and tell them what just transpired.

And what about the taxi driver? The poor guy was trying make an earnest living within the harsh life I imaged he inhabited. I’m sure the last thing he wanted to hear was some fat private college kid who didn’t even look like he knew how to dress himself open up to an overweight yet admittedly cute girl about how he couldn’t stop thinking about the one time they kissed during his birthday party in his middle-class home.

Perhaps it could have made for an interesting story he could tell his colleagues at the cabstand. “Guess what happened in my car today?”, he would start, capping the story off with “God, what a fucking loser!”

But I think in between tales of drivers being robbed at knifepoint by pink-haired wannabe punks and prominent religious right-wing senators getting it on with blue-haired protitutes at the back of the cab, my sob story of abject rejection might not have been as interesting.

Even if I did pour my heart our right there in the cab, how could I possibly expect her to react? She was a notoriously shy person, even gathering up the courage to ask about me being nice to her must have taken a lot of strength. Why would she bother to ask me if she wasn’t ready for the true answer? I know, I’m asking too much by expecting women to make sense.

(I would immediately like to apologize profusely for my inner-misogynist momentarily rearing his ugly head. I will make up for this by submitting myself to a “Full Alex”, strapping myself to a chair, propping my eyes open with a pair of clamps and exposing myself to a double-feature of The Joy Luck Club and Steel Magnolias while Beethoven’s 9th blasts in the background. If you know someone who can administer eye drops during the procedure, feel free get in touch with me.)

Who knows, maybe she was looking for the safest and most conflict-free way of turning me down. If she had said that she was not interested in dating me among other company, there would be less of a chance of me making a scene by sobbing my eyes out. I’m exaggerating of course. I would probably just look mildly distressed. The sobbing would come after I’d lock myself safe and sound in my room later that day.

It was about a week after the taxicab half-confessions that I decided to make some kind of a move. She obviously wasn’t getting my subtle attempts at courting her no matter how many times I opened the door for her or pulled her chair at the cafeteria.

I was also probably not very cool and hip to the ways of wooing a member of the opposite sex, seeing as how I referred to hitting on someone or trying to hook up with a girl using the words “courting” and “wooing” as if I was a 19th century Victorian gentleman with the sex drive of a porn-addicted Tasmanian Devil.

Between four p.m. and six p.m. on Mondays during freshman year was reserved for European History 101, one of the many so-called elective general studies classes we had to take. Having to take a class makes the word “elective” redundant, I know, but there’s nothing I can do about that. Just travel back in time to 1997 and complain to the university’s board of directors.

Deniz, Oguz and I were hanging out by the staircase next to the large auditorium the film department also used for screenings. Apparently so many students “elected” to take European History 101, they could only fit the class into the biggest classroom in campus, go figure.

“Professor Murat is so cool, isn’t he?”, Deniz sighed like a schoolgirl one week away from getting her first period. Oguz and I rolled our eyes as if saying, “Again with this fuckin’ guy?”

Professor Murat was a seven-foot tall skinny old fart sporting an Evil Spock goatee at the age of sixty-five. Even though his skin was more wrinkled and dryer than Jabba The Hutt at a salt mine and he was a mere decade away from having that lovely old man smell, most of the girls in the class, especially the artistic, pseudo-intellectual types, had a major crush on him.

Yes, all of the guys in class were living in Woody Allen’s wet dream as well as their own worst nightmare: A place full of cute and smart twenty-year-olds fawning over an elderly asshole who obviously thought his shit didn’t smell.

“Why are all of you girls so in love with this douche?”, I asked Deniz. Nazan was also in the club of girls rubbing their pink buttons to call for the elevator to pleasure land thinking about Professor Murat banging them sideways while thoroughly explaining the difference between the 1812 Battle of Who Gives a Fuck and the Surge of Happened Waaay Too Long Ago of 1765.

Pretending not to be offended by the douche remark about her precious boyfriend, Deniz giggled and answered, “I don’t know. He knows a lot about European history. He is so cultured and smart. He can give random details about things you wouldn’t even imagine from history just off the top of their head.”

“So what?”, I thought to myself, “I’m a third his age and I can list obscure Star Wars facts even the biggest Star Wars nerd who don’t stand a chance in hell personally laying eyes on a woman’s labia (As opposed to a man’s labia?) his entire life doesn’t give a crap about.”

Of course I didn’t say this out loud. I just capped the conversation with an awesomely bad-ass one liner that would have made Ah-nold proud: “Okay, sure, yeah, whatever.”

Oguz checked his watch, “It’s time to go in.”

Deniz said, “Go ahead. I’m not going to class today.”

“Why not?” I asked, “It’s your favorite class, for obvious reasons.”

“I know”, Deniz answered, “I wish I could join you. But I promised my mom I would go with her to the doctor’s.”

“Oh, no. Is she okay?”, Oguz asked. Shit, I should have been the one to act concerned.

“No, it’s nothing serious. At least we don’t think it is. She’s just nervous about the tests and stuff, so I told her I’d go with her.”

“I’m so sorry”, Oguz said, “I’ll keep her in my thoughts. If I can help in any way, let me know.”

I thought, “God damn it Oguz, you could have held off on your genuine worry about your friend for a couple of seconds until I could come up with those awesome lines that would have gained me mucho sympathy points. But no, you had to go ahead and be a considerate friend to her. Asshole.”

“Yeah, let us know”, I said, “I hope she feels better soon”, jumping on Oguz’s sympathy bandwagon way too late like people who still wore MC Hammer-style baggy pants in 1995.

“Thank you Oguz, you’re so nice”, Deniz hugged him. She waited a good ten seconds and turned to me, “You too Ergen.” No hugs.

At that moment I thought of an awesome idea. “I don’t think I’ll go to class either!”, I said, perhaps a bit too eagerly.

“Why the hell not?”, Oguz asked.

“I just, don’t feel like it today”, I lied through my teeth. I’m sure the utmost respect I had for my parents’ spending their heard-earned money for my college education was evident in that sentence. I capped it off with “I’m just tired of listening to that asshole drone on and on about crap we’re never going to have any use for in our future careers.”

I know that as someone who was interested in becoming a screenwriter and maybe a director, knowing one or two things about European history might have come in handy one day as far as historical storytelling purposes went, but back then I was so certain that I was going to make my first million writing for the last two Star Wars prequels that I didn’t give a shit about that unless Professor Murat was planning on giving a lecture on The Clone Wars. I’m only mentioning this evidently delusional way of thinking in order to maybe help you understand why I actually thought I might have stood a chance with Deniz.

Yes, I really didn’t feel like listening to Professor Murat for two hours, but my plan was to use skipping class as an excuse to walk to the bus station with Deniz. It was becoming increasingly hard to score alone time with Deniz with all the rest of our friends being around us all the time.

I could maybe blame at least my male friends for not being more sensitive to my needs and every once in a while coming up with bullshit reasons in order to leave me alone with Deniz, but none of them had any idea I had a thing for her to begin with.

Making fun of a girl in front of your male friends for supposedly looking like an Ewok and not being able to apply decent make-up if her life depended on it and then telling the same friends how pretty and adorable you thought the very same girl was might have looked a bit hypocritical.

“So, since I’m leaving as well,” I said to Deniz, “Do you wanna walk to the bus stop together?”

“S… Sure, I guess”, Deniz answered while looking uncomfortably to the floor. Uh-oh, this was the same look I saw at my birthday party when I drunkenly hit on her. This might not have been a great idea but I was too deep into it to turn back now. I looked at Oguz, who was giving me a look as if he was saying, “But, why?”

“All right!”, I clapped my hands and jumped up like a coach pumping up his hopeless team of rejects, “I guess we should get going.”

“I guess”, Deniz said, awkwardly getting up and preparing his backpack for her proverbial last mile. She exchanged a couple of uncomfortable glances with Oguz. If they had telekinetic powers, I believe this would have been the conversation they would have conducted inside their minds:

Deniz: “Help me. Please, help me.”

Oguz: “I can’t. I have to take this class.”

Deniz: “I’ll stop talking shit about your precious Nazan, I promise. Just do me this one solid.”

Oguz: “I can’t just skip class like this idiot. I actually respect my parents and their hard-earned money.”

Deniz: “Isn’t there anyone around who can come with us? Anybody?”

Oguz: “Everyone’s either in class or they’ve already gone home. I’m afraid you’re on your own kiddo.”

Deniz: “Fuck.”

Deniz threw Oguz a final stare of desperation like Abe Vigoda silently begging Robert Duvall at the end of The Godfather. She finally looked back at me and sighed, “Let’s do it.”

In hindsight, it might not have been a good idea to use Deniz’s mom’s possible illness as an excuse to spend more alone time with her and maybe even express my feelings towards her. After all, what woman wouldn’t desire to be awkwardly hit on by a guy she considered to be nothing more than a friend at the exact time she was worried to death about a serious illness her mother might have?

So there we were, walking up the uneven and wet streets of the ghetto that surrounded the campus. After scrambling my brain to come up with something to say, I opened up with a whopper of a question: “So, what do you think of the whole university experience so far?”

“I like it”, Deniz answered, “It’s exciting to be a college student. Although, I have a feeling we’re not learning as much as we should about filmmaking.”

“No shit Sherlock”, I thought. But I said, “Yeah, I get that feeling too. Maybe next year we’ll have more film classes.”

“Yeah, probably. I’m not worried. I’m just trying to enjoy myself as much as possible. Being a college student, it makes me feel more, adult. I have friends who are interested in the same stuff I’m interested in. I feel more cultural, more outgoing. I’m growing as a human being and you can’t put a price on that.”

Was I growing as a human being? Was I becoming more mature by the day? I had a buttload more friends than I did in high school, I crawled out of the cage I called my room every once in a while in order to participate in social events. Life was definitely becoming more exciting and interesting.

Yet I was still spending most of my time watching movies at home and I had just used Deniz’s mom’s doctor appointment as an excuse to cut class and have some alone time with her. Not very mature.

“I guess”, I said, “I feel, older, as well.”

Shit! She didn’t say old, she said mature. Even at 18, women probably didn’t like to be reminded of the mere reality of getting older. She looked at me, confused and somewhat angry.

“Mature. I meant, I feel more mature.”

She nodded and kept looking forward. Perhaps she thought if she didn’t see me or hear from me for a couple of seconds, I would magically disappear and this socially uncomfortable situation would resolve itself.

I unwittingly helped her feed this illusion by not being able to come up with anything to talk about for two minutes straight. “God, come up with something!”, I thought to myself, “Anything! Gee, how about this weather? What do you think about current politics and such? How about them Cardinals, eh? Wait, who the fuck are The Cardinals? I’m Turkish, how would I know who The Cardinals are? And how would she know that?”

There was nothing but dead air between us. We were nearing the bus station, ETA five minutes, tops. My heart was beating faster trying to slow down the sweats of sheer anxiety that were forming on my forehead, making it so much harder for me to focus and come up with something to say.

My judgemental mind kicked into overdrive: “This was your idea, asshole. You were the one who took this risk to talk to her. You were the one who threw away, like, fifty bucks worth of European History knowledge given by an old arrogant fuckstick so you could finally have some alone time with her. And now you just, choke?”

I shouldn’t have thought of that word. Immediately, I imagined myself on a dark stage in an abandoned ghetto warehouse as if I was participating in a rap battle where the audience was comprised of all of my negative thoughts, my guilt, my low self-esteem and my crushed ego.

They were all jeering at me at the top of their lungs, with their arms in the air pointing at me: “Choke, choke choke!!” I was looking down in shame, my mic about to hit the floor, yet I couldn’t leave the stage. I had dug my own pit of embarrassment and I had to now lie in its filth.

But finally as an act of desperation, I thought of a conversation point that might veer things towards relationships. The idea was based on a movie, of course, but it was the best I could come up with at the time. I was going to be Bill Murray from Groundhog Day. Not the insensitive dick he was at the beginning, but the nice and “bangable by Andie McDowell” version he was turning into midway through the film.

In Groundhog Day, there’s a scene where Bill Murray asks Andie Mc Dowell to describe her perfect man. She goes through the typical list every woman recites as if they were fed talking points by the Universal Order of Women, describing a man so perfect that he could not exist in any form or dimension anywhere in the known universe.

You know, someone who’s funny, yet serious. Someone who’s rich, but doesn’t care about money. Someone who is romantic, but not too nice. Someone who can let her be her own person, but who can also take charge of things. On and on, the contradictions pile up.

No matter what manner of impossible perfections Andie McDowell lines up, Bill Murray knocks them down one by one by simply stating that it is him she’s talking about, that he possesses all of those qualities and more. We know that none of the things he takes credit for apply even remotely for his character, and that’s what makes him more charming for her. This way, he’s self-deprecating while appearing confident in himself. What if I used the same tactic on Deniz?

Yes, I know that this was real life and not a movie and this type of delusional thinking could only end up in sheer disappointment. Thank you for bringing that up “mom”, now can you shut the fuck up and keep reading without those searing looks of judgment?

A couple of minutes were left to the bus stop, tops. I could see it on the horizon, my destiny unfolding in front of my very eyes. I looked at Deniz, she was about to finish her usual transformation into social shutdown through embarrassment and awkwardness. Back hunched, head pointed to the ground, avoid eye contact however possible, and the piece-de-resistance, the shy half-smile.

“So,” I said with my best fake Bill Murray smugness, “How would you describe your perfect man?”

Deniz giggled, “What made you think of that all of a sudden?”

“Just wondering.” I said suggestively with a smirk. She lifted her head to look at me and immediately started laughing.

“What!?”, I said, offended, “I’m just curious.”

“Well, why are you curious?”, she asked, “Is there a specific reason?”

“Maybe”, I answered, my smirk upgraded to a shit-eating grin, “Will you just tell me!?”

“Okay, Okay!”, Deniz relented. She made sure to turn away from me as if she was a nun in a confessional a day after using a cucumber as an organic dildo while thinking about Jesus’ muscles bulging while building Ikea furniture.

“First and foremost, he has to be romantic”, Deniz said.

I knew what my only line was going to be, repeated over and over again. “That’s me!”, I said, puffing up my chest.

Deniz laughed. Yet this one wasn’t a shy and uncomfortable giggle, rather a “Get the fuck outta here!” laugh of utter contempt. “What are you talking about!?”, she said, “You’re the least romantic person I’ve ever known!”

“What are YOU talking about!?”, I retorted. Great comeback, I know. “I’m plenty romantic. You just don’t know me very well.”

“I think I know you well enough”, Deniz stood her ground with a kind of certainty I had never seen in her before. So far, this was going great. My heart was beating faster and the beads of sweat on my forehead were becoming so thick, I probably looked like a photo by Man Ray.

“How long have you known me so far? Like four, maybe five months?”, I asked.

“That’s long enough to know that you haven’t got a romantic bone in your body”, Deniz shook her head, “I can’t believe you’d even have the gall to say that…”

“I’m plenty romantic enough!”, I cut her off. Nice job turning what was supposed to be an adorable romantic comedy wisecracking banter into my ego’s version of Custer’s Last Stand without, of course, the genocidal murdering of countless Native Americans. Yet like a Fox News pundit, I continued defending my point, no matter how ridiculous and wildly inaccurate it was.

“I am a romantic on the inside, you just don’t know me enough. I love the sun, the moon, the clouds, the trees…”, I was running out of stuff so I started looking around for clues, “The streets, the people, the busses, and the Simit vendor. I see the beauty in even the smallest, seemingly most unimportant things. If that’s not romantic, I don’t know what is.”

A piece of advice for those who are as useless as I was when it comes to talking to women: If you’re going to prove to her that you are an energetic and passionate individual when it comes to affairs of love, do try to express it with more enthusiasm and emotional gusto than a city planner on Valium.

As I was listing all of this stuff, Deniz’s laughter became louder and louder, helping me dig myself deeper into a hole. Finally, she had to cut me off with “Please stop! I get it; you’re a genuinely romantic and delicate person. You win. Can we stop talking about this now?”

Yes, I had won the first round. She believed I could be romantic, and she definitely said it without a hint of sarcasm. Of course in reality I was still losing miserably. But my ego, out of desperation, made me believe that I was on the right track. In the end, without self-inflicted delusions of grandeur, where would our wonderful species be today?

“Sure, we can stop talking about this”, I tried comforting her, “So, what else? What else defines your perfect man?”

“Ugh!”, she scoffed, looking up at the sky, begging for god to stop whatever this was that she had to endure, “I meant let’s stop talking about my preference in men all together.”

“Why?”, I asked defiantly, “We still have about a block and a half to the bus stop. What else are we going to talk about?”

“Oh shit!”, I thought, “Don’t let her answer that!” I immediately countered with another one of my highly effective lines of persuasion, “Come on, give me another one! We’re just chatting, right?”

“Okay, whatever”, she said to shut me up, “He has to be very cultured.”

“That’s me!”, I immediately jumped in. Not only was I still running the course, stubborn as a mule, I actually thought this one applied to me, somewhat. Honestly, all I did my entire life up to that point was to watch every movie I could humanly get my hands on. I had an encyclopedic knowledge of film. If that wasn’t cultured, I didn’t know what was.

Deniz rolled her eyes and said, “Star Wars doesn’t count.”

Finally, a subject I actually knew and cared about. She didn’t stand a chance. “Actually,” I said, “Star Wars is based on countless Greek myths. You know, the stuff taught in serious ancient history and philosophy classes by people who look exactly like your precious Professor Murat? Star Wars was heavily influenced by Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces, which is a very prestigious book.”

“That may be, but it’s not what I’m interested in”, Deniz said, “The man I would fall in love with would need to have the same interests as me. Poetry, beautiful paintings, foreign films, French music, Latin American culture. He should be much more educated and passionate than I am with these subjects and more, so I can learn from him and absorb his endless knowledge. Even though he should be supremely intelligent and cultured, he shouldn’t rub that fact on my face and make me feel inferior. He should make me feel as if we are equals, even though we are not.”

There it finally was, the whopping contradictions. It was time for that pathetic reach into a female-driven fantasy universe that does not exist. I imagined that the second after she stopped talking, time stopped and I was facing a fork in the road. Depending on what I would say next, this already disastrous plan could come tumbling down and explode in a magnificent bonfire of passion, or sizzle back into the inescapable friend zone.

I had been relegated to the friend zone far too many times due to a lack of appropriately sized testicles; it was time to finally grow a pair.

I took a deep breath and let it all out: “But why wouldn’t you want someone who has different interests than you? Wouldn’t you rather find someone who is, you know, not your male doppelganger with a way higher I.Q, but a free-thinking person with a life alternative to yours so you can teach each other brand new things neither of you were initially interested in while stuck inside your little box of prefabricated character traits and predictable cultural milieu?”

After all of that, her response was a simple and strict, “No.” She didn’t even think for a second.

“Anyway”, I said, still sticking to the script, “Cultural? That’s me.” My fake Bill Murray smugness was now wearing thin, leaving behind a rather faint delivery without much feeling.

My heart was now beating slower and I was sweating less, not because I was finally becoming cool and feeling more comfortable in my skin, but because my brain was slowly acknowledging yet another failure with the opposite gender and was telling my body that it was okay to slowly shut down again into a numb slouch of defeat.

I could start feeling that familiar tingling in my stomach, preparing me for the oncoming anxiety at the thought of not being able to accomplish anything yet again, making me believe wholeheartedly that things were never going to change, that I would never have a girlfriend, that I would end up dying alone buried under an avalanche of DVDs.

Yet I kept pushing it, like a one-legged dog that refuses to give up on walking by himself. “So now that I’m two for two, what else? What else do you look for in a man?”

Deniz scoffed again, “He has to be a great listener. He has to listen to me…”

“That’s me!”, I jumped in.

“You didn’t even let me finish that sentence!”, Deniz roared with a kind of intensity I had never witnessed from her before. She took a breath to calm down. “Let’s just forget about this, okay?”, she asked with a sympathetic voice. I could tell that she was growing weary.

The charming romantic comedy banter I envisioned in my head, the one scene that would have propelled our two ill-at-ease yet adorable protagonists’ relationship beyond platonic interest and into the realm of a complicated yet honest romantic relationship had finally crashed and burned.

If all had gone according to plan, we would be two scenes away from indulging in our first real, non-spin-the-bottle-induced kiss. But the way it unfolded, I ended up looking like a persistent jerk instead of a lovable one.

I had realized that we finally made it to the bus stop, not by first laying eyes on it, but by the audible sigh of relief coming out of Deniz. We stopped and faced each other. We had to go stand in different lines since she had to take a bus that was going to her home in The European side of Istanbul and I had to embark on my daily five-hour odyssey into the remote undiscovered land known to the natives as The Asian side.

We turned to face each other. “I guess this is it”, Deniz said, “Have a good night.”

I thought for a second and finally asked, “Deniz, why do you like Oguz so much?”

Deniz sighed again and took a minute weigh her options. “Would it be too rude if I just started running?”, she must have thought to herself. In the end, she decided to tell me what must have been the first thought that popped into her head.

“Because he, uh, knows a lot about music, okay? I’ve never met anyone who knows as much about music as Oguz.” I had a feeling Lester Bangs would have probably disagreed, but whatever. “And I find that endearing. That’s it, are you satisfied?”

“Kind of, I guess”, I said, “Can I hug you?”

I was in my most vulnerable state in that moment. After spending whatever self-confidence I had bottled up inside me for years, my reservoir of courage was already dangerously low and pouring out any trick and strategy I could have possibly thought of within a ten-minute walk had left me running on empty. Well, emptier than I usually was.

Deniz simply answered with “Sure. Why not?”

So I hugged her. We were standing under a streetlight as one, the light shining on her face as if she was an angel brought down to Earth just for me to experience that sublime moment. For a moment, the entire world revolved around us as we stopped time together in order to revel in being the perfect and whole creatures we knew deep inside that we were.

God, that was romantic! Wasn’t that romantic!? Yes, I know it was nothing but shameless pandering and that you just threw up in your mouth a little, but that was just the kind of cheese Deniz would have gone gaga over. How come I didn’t say things like that back then? That was certainly better than anything fucking Oguz could have possibly come up with in an entire lifetime.

So the moment was over yet again, as it cruelly tends to be. We separated, Deniz said “Bye” and immediately walked off. I turned away and walked to my stop, frightfully wondering how I was going to possibly avoid, or at least lessen the intense pain of failure that was certainly going to envelop me from head to toe within the next couple of hours as the surge of adrenaline brought up by the intensity and the emotional difficulty of what just transpired would eventually tamper down and leave behind a used bathwater-like puddle of shame and self-hatred.

I had a long time to think about what my next move was going to be during the three-year journey home. Was this it? Was I going to accept defeat and just walk away? Or was I willing to give it one last hopeless chance, a final feeble attempt at going out with a giant, embarrassing finale?

It’s better to burn out than to fade away, right? Well, it depends on who you’re talking about, doesn’t it? I’m guessing you don’t see that bumper sticker plastered all around hospital burn wards.

During the bus ride home, I decided that if I were going to fail yet again, this time it would be more memorably excruciating. I thought that maybe the pain memory resulting from this disaster would become so severely ingrained in my brain that next time, I would think twice before attempting to couple with someone who obviously had no interest in me. I thought this to be a rather reasonable theory, not that it worked one bit.

So I got home and immediately pulled the phone into my bedroom like a teenaged girl. Those days, only the richest douche bags owned cell phones so I had to do something that is unthinkable today: I had to call Deniz at her home.

What made it so much worse was the fact that she lived with her parents, so it was highly likely that one of them was going to answer the phone. I already had such an aversion to talking on the phone to people my age that I immediately developed a stuttering problem alongside with “profusely sweaty hands syndrome” whenever I had to make a call.

Talking to older people where certain rules of etiquette suddenly came into play was a nightmare. Having to speak to the parents of the girl I liked, a girl who was probably praying in her room at that very moment to any form of deity who would listen to her, begging and hoping that Ergen didn’t call her to ineptly express his feelings towards her while her parents watched Wheel of Fortune in the same room, now that was hell.

I struggled to come up with a game plan that would decrease my unavoidable crippling anxiety as much as possible. The first thing I thought of was to turn the TV on and to keep it on during the entire conversation. That way I might, just might have been able to deflect at least some of my self-hatred and doubt, which were already working overtime, with some visual distraction.

The tragic display of opening up to Deniz in an empty, silent room, clinging onto the receiver for dear life while dollops of sweat plopped on the phone could somehow be made to look at least a little bit cooler if I was watching TV at the same time. “I care so little about whether or not you like me,” I could delude myself, “that I’m non-chalantly watching TV while casually chatting with you about my deepest, most sincere feelings.”

“What else can I use?”, I thought. I scrambled to look for another helpful prop. For a second, I actually thought of writing down what I was going to say but then I realized this would be more ridiculous than expressing your love to a girl in three different languages, none of them spoken fluently. Considering what I actually ended up saying to her, writing my feelings down might have been a spectacularly good idea.

First I turned the TV on to a random channel. It was Turkish basketball, which follows ridiculous European rules that turn the whole enterprise into a very dull sport, not helped by the fact that seeing any one of the players dunk was nothing short of a fucking miracle. Yet it didn’t matter what was on TV. I didn’t care much about basketball, or any sports really, and I wasn’t about to begin in that moment.

I turned the volume down, looked Deniz’s number up with shaking hands and began dialing. Each number I pushed was like a death knell calling me closer and closer to my inescapable demise. The phone started ringing. I began chanting, “Please not one of her parents, please not one of her parents, please not one of her parents…”

A middle-aged female voice answered, “Hello?”

My mind screamed, “Fuuuuuuuuuuuck!”

“Get a grip Ergen!”, I thought to myself, “It’s now or never!”

“Good evening madam”, I said with my best nice polite Muslim boy voice, “I was wondering if Deniz was home?”

My pandering rays did not penetrate her thick skin. The woman, who I now assumed was her mother, said “May I ask who’s calling?” with the warmth of a frozen mackerel. I was on the spot. Bells started ringing in my mind, voices screaming “ABORT, ABORT!! Hang up, abandon ship!”

But I stood my ground. Through trials, tribulations, and some awkward stuttering, I was going to see this through.

“I’m a friend of hers from University”, I stammered, “My name is Ergen.”

An uncomfortable silence on the other end. Not a good sign.

Finally, she said, “Hold on a second.” During what felt like eternity while Deniz’s mom was probably trying to come up with the most gentle way to break to Deniz the bad news that her incessant prayers of Ergen leaving her alome went unanswered, I kept repeating “Deniz, I love… Love you… I have feelings… Certain feelings…”

“Hello?”, I heard Deniz’s voice on the other end. She didn’t sound nearly as annoyed as I thought she would be upon finding out that I was calling her. But her voice did have that distinct smell of confusion.

“Hey, hey!”, I jumped up from my chair, “How’s it, how’s it going?” Great opening, stellar performance. I might as well have followed that up with “I’m gonna go get the papers, get the papers.”

“I’m okay. How are you?”, Deniz said, more baffled.

I sat back down and tried to assume a cool, not a care in the world type stance. I ended up looking like a modern art sculpture. “I’m just chilling at home, watching TV. I just wanted to check in with you. What have you been doing?”

“Well, we just got back from mom’s doctor’s appointment…”

Fuck, I forgot about her mom! How could I have been so careless? Her mom should have been my opening line! Now whatever sympathy I threw her way would be nothing but an afterthought.

“Oh yeah!”, I said with as much self-loathing as I could muster, “How is she doing? Are you guys okay? Do you need anything?”

“No, thank you. She’s doing okay. I don’t think it’s anything serious.” She paused. Why did she pause? “Thank you for your concern.”

“Good”, I said, “That’s good to hear.”

“Ergen”, Deniz said with the concerned voice of a doctor about to treat a cancer patient, “Why are you calling?”

“Why not?”, I asked defensively, “Can’t I just call to say, what’s up?”

“It’s just that, you never call, and you hate talking on the phone, unless it’s something important.”

I gulped in fear and took a deep breath. Here it went: “I guess, I just wanted to tell you that, I think you’ve been looking very beautiful to my eyes, recently.”

Yes, that was the line, word by word. You may now despise me with all of your anger, mock my very being down to my core, announce my lameness with industrial-sized bullhorns from the pits of hell to the peaks of heaven. You can now scream these immortal words at the top of your lungs until air, life and spirit leaves your mortal body: “You suuuuuuuuuuuuuck!!!”

Of course, this was followed by a long and painful silence from the other end. I was sweating so much out of fear and embarrassment at this point that I was afraid the phone was going to short circuit and explode in my face.

“D… Deniz? Are you still there?”, I whimpered.

On the other end of the phone, I heard a sigh of disappointment so long, it sounded like the final exhale of a dying person. It was followed by Deniz saying “Ergen, maybe it’s best if you just… Let this go.”

There it was, the final and absolute confirmation. I had finally managed to get a straight and profoundly serious finite answer from a girl who did everything humanly possible to avoid uncomfortable situations by giggling and joking them off. I must have pushed her into such a corner that, perhaps for the first time in her life, she realized that only a stern answer would make this charade come to a screeching halt.

Of course on my end I felt the axe of rejection come down on my neck and cut my head clean off. I didn’t even get to yell “Freeeeedoooom!” in a hearty heroic outburst. I sat there with my head on my lap staring back at my body, with a look that said, “I told you so” while my heart was torn clean off my chest.

All I could muster at that point was to gulp and say, “Okay then. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow”. I didn’t even wait for her to answer; I just hung up.

The following days hanging out with Deniz and the rest of my friends wasn’t as uncomfortable as I thought it would be. Women have a way of brushing off unwanted outbursts of attraction from men, even people they consider to be among their circle of best friends, and move on with their lives almost immediately.

Deniz was not an exception. I don’t know for how long she lingered on our conversation after my phone call before joining her parents to watch TV or lying on her bed with candles lit, masturbating to Professor Murat. I’m being ugly and crass, I know. I have no defense for that.

The subject of us, or lack of us, never came up again. I sure as hell didn’t bring it up, and as far as she was concerned, things were so normal between us that after I saw Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind in 2004, I wondered if Deniz used a similar memory-erasing machine on herself to rid her mind of the version of me she knew was attracted to her.

Regardless of what transpired between us, Deniz slowly disappeared out of our group. I don’t know if this was something that we caused or a decision that she made. Maybe it was a combination of both.

Her rivalry with Nazan increasingly grew to near-catfight proportions and the fact that Oguz suddenly started dating an annoying shrew who looked like a deformed Santa’s Elf (I’m very depressed to inform you that we will get to that disgustingly embarrassing part of my life soon enough) might have broken her heart.

During sophomore year I saw Deniz only in class and occasionally made small talk with her. She eventually found new friends who were probably less judging and proud of being sexually promiscuous. I bet they didn’t call her an Ewok behind her back either.

Suddenly, near the middle of sophomore year, it happened: She was talking to a group of people in class. I was just hanging out by the water cooler, casually eavesdropping. That’s when she must have decided it was the best time to reveal to the world that she started dating someone.

All I could see was that she looked happy. Her face was glowing and she was trying very hard to cover her obvious smile. You could imagine that right after I heard she had a boyfriend, I dropped my cup of water in slow motion and it slammed on the floor with a loud exaggerated sound effect. Water splashing every which way, cut to a shocked expression on my face.

But in reality, I just shrugged it off and went about my day. At that point it had been almost a year since my Deniz adventures and I had already been through other utter sexual failures that made my defeat with Deniz seem pale and dignified by comparison (This, my friends, is called foreshadowing).

A couple of weeks later, I saw her hand-in-hand with what looked like a hairy, mongoloid gnome. I mean this guy was the epitome of pseudo-intellectual wannabe douche bag, complete with a bushy beard, a ponytail and a fake hippie attitude.

In all fairness, I didn’t really formally introduce myself to him perhaps because I was afraid there might have been a slight chance I could end up liking him. And then what would I be? A reasonable, adult human being? I’d have rather died.

She dated this guy all the way through college and then maybe another year or so after that. Years later, I found out that they broke up and that the dude ended up marrying one of Oguz’s best friends, who, in all honesty, was nowhere near as cute and adorable as Deniz. But perhaps that’s just my opinion.

After the break-up, I guess Deniz decided to get her act together and completely made herself over. She lost a bunch of weight, started dressing up very fashionably and became, how shall I put this, conventionally attractive.

So, as Bobby DeNiro so succinctly said in The Deer Hunter, “This is this”, and that is that. I don’t know if there’s anything else that needs to be said.

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