CHAPTER 9 – THE ELF AND I
Near the end of the first semester, we were all definitely starting to feel the fatigue from sitting through one excruciatingly boring silent film after the other. It was a couple of minutes before another one of our weekly screenings and you could smell the dread and depression in the air.
Looking around, one could observe students doubling up on caffeine by downing two cans of Diet Coke at the same time while praying that this time, maybe this time, the upcoming borefest would at least turn out to be a talkie. The name of the film we were going to be cruelly subjected to was never revealed until the short introduction by Professor Derya before the screening was to begin.
I think there were two reasons for this decision: One, I think Professor Derya was making this class up as she went along and had no idea which movie she was going to show until she played “eenie, meenie, miney, mo” with her extensive bootleg VHS collection on the morning of the screening.
Two, I think she took great personal pleasure from torturing her students through the anxiety caused by having to wait a whole week just to find out how long we were going to be squirming in our seats. At least if she told us the title in advance, we could have looked up the running time and knew precisely what we were in for.
Therefore the stress levels were up while we all awaited our temporary doom. I would carefully observe the crowd waiting outside, placing bets in my mind on who was going to crack first. It was like that bet the seasoned prisoners placed in The Shawshank Redemption to see which of the fresh fish would lose it first during their inagural night behind bars. This time, it was to be Adnan.
He slammed his coke can in the trash in anger and started yelling “I can’t take this shit anymore man! These movies are boring! God, they are fucking boring! Game over man, game over!” I added that last “Game over” part. I couldn’t help it, I just love Aliens so much.
We huddled around Adnan, forming a Film History Class supportive cuddle. I was the compassionate one, “It’s gonna be alright man, it’s only a couple of hours, it’ll be over before you know it. Just hang in there man, hang in there.”
Meanwhile, Selim was playing the part of the tough-as-nails drill sergeant, “What the hell is the matter with you private!? You’re bringing down the morale of the class! You better get your worthless carcass in there and sit on your ass for the next two and half hours and you better like it!”
Just when morale was at its lowest, Oguz brought our new year’s presents early in the form of two new female students. We could see him sandwiched between an eight and, let’s face it, a four, while strutting up to us with a grin that said, “That’s right, I’m the shit!”
The eight was a gorgeous, tall brunette goddess, dressed like a Guess Jeans model from the mid-nineties. She looked like she was on her way to a modeling school for exceptionally good-looking people and got lost on the way.
Looking at this view, I was sure none of the men could believe a girl this beautiful could exist within the same physical space where our film department congregated. Her existence within our gravitational orbit was an anomaly within the space-time continuum to be sure.
The four, on the other hand, was a short, skinny and pale girl who looked like she got banished from the Elf kingdom of Rivendell for looking too bland. If you just thought, “Rivendell is not a kingdom, it’s an Elven outpost”, you’re a neeeeeeeeeeerd!
She was wearing a pencil skirt around a pair of legs that looked so thin and anemic, the skirt could have just been a retrofitted four-star restaurant napkin wrapped around her non-existent hips.
If I knew what anorexic meant back then, I would have thought she should have come with that word plastered on her gigantic-for-her-tiny-face forehead. She had a flat torso and was overcompensating via her over-the-top make-up in order to prove to the general population that she was not a thirteen-year-old boy but (Rather miraculously) a twenty-year-old woman.
By the way, all of these observations were made before I even heard a single word come out of her mouth. Maybe she was an exceedingly sweet and interesting person, who knew? Don’t judge a book by its cover, right?
Oguz and the girls had reached us at this point. While the men were trying desperately to hold back their drooling, Oguz introduced the girls. Oguz instinctively introduced the eight first. “Guys, this is Gizem” (Pronounced “Ghee-zam”). Everyone impatiently took turns shaking her hand.
Oguz realized he had left the other girl out. “Oh, and this is… Uh…”
“I’m Neval (Pronounced Naval)”, she offered her hand to no one in particular. Everyone introduced himself with courtesy, of course, but for some reason the enthusiasm had faded.
“Gizem and, uh, Neval are in prep school now and they will be film students next year”, Oguz said.
Prep school was for students who didn’t learn English during high school or was too stupid to retain the English they were already taught. So they had to study English as a second language for a year and pass a language test in order to advance to their regular studies for their majors.
“We just thought maybe we can come to some film classes as guests so we can prepare for next year”, Gizem said. All of the men laughed, even though she didn’t make a joke.
“Although we probably won’t be able to understand the movies as well as you, I heard that you’re watching silent films now, so that should make things easy”, Neval said with a faint laugh at the end. Even though this one was sort of a legitimate joke, no one bothered even a giggle.
Eventually, everyone gathered around Gizem since they were so interested in her exciting life full of stories about looking all hot and stuff. I was left pretty much alone with Neval, whom I was now getting to know beyond her underwhelming looks, and sadly the news regarding her possible inner beauty weren’t stellar either.
First of all, she had a somewhat twitchy and manic personality. She said everything, even things that were supposed to be mundane, with a kind of needless energy that made you feel a rush of anxiety for no practical reason the entire time you would talk to her.
She was kind of a chain smoker, so not only was it near impossible to see her without a cigarette in her baby-sized mouth, she sucked on those babies as if she was an alien life form who needed nicotine instead of oxygen to live. She was orbited by a halo of smoke and that lovely tar-like cigarette stink wherever she went.
I have always been an avid non-smoker and hated cigarettes even as a little child. My mother, who was smoking around two packs a day when I was a wee one, would tell me horror stories about all the times she would come home to find her cigarettes torn apart and formed into a hill of tobacco on the living room floor, with me happily jumping and dancing around it.
She got so frustrated with my protests that after a while, she actually quit smoking for a couple of years. By the time she picked it up again, I had discovered girls and was too depressed all the time as a result of my dismal failure with them, so I couldn’t muster the motivation to tear apart more of her cigarettes.
I hated that disgusting smoke and that wretched smell with a passion. But most of all, I hated that proud look on the faces of kids my age as they sucked on that thin white-and-yellow dick while they proclaimed themselves cooler than I was, just because they lacked self-control and were too weak to fight against peer pressure.
Yes, I lacked self-control as well when it came to over eating and I was indeed a fat fuck, but at least my form of self-destruction was my choice and I wasn’t influenced by another dickhead who pushed a Big Mac in my face and told me that “All the cool kids were eating them.”
“So, why did you choose to study film?”, I asked Neval while trying my best not to start coughing profusely from all the smoke she was blowing around my face.
“I don’t know”, she said with less enthusiasm than a priest at an atheists’ convention, “I like watching TV. And it looked easy, you know?”
Strike two! She was one of the fakes. One of those people who chose to study film as their major because they thought it was an easy cruise through college. “Guess what sister? This shit is hard to succeed in, harder than any other business out there. And if you’re not passionate and tenacious, you best forget about it.”
Here I was, someone who lived and breathed movies, having to contend with people who didn’t know the difference between Kubrick and Cuisinart (That wasn’t meant to be misogynistic. You see, the two sound similar and… Aw, fuck it).
But on the other hand, she was barely yet technically a female human, and she was facing my way and smiling at me when she talked to me. I did not find her physically attractive one bit and she wasn’t working wonders on me as far as her personality went, but she was there and that was more than I could ask for.
While everyone was zoned in on Gizem, I had little time to use the opportunity to use my non-existing charms on this person that I didn’t even like. I thought my chances were pretty high.
“So, do you even like movies?”, I asked Neval.
“No, not really. I especially can’t stand old movies. I can’t stand movies in black and white.” Then, as if I didn’t get the point, she exclaimed her disgust of black and white films with a guttural sound, like a duck being water boarded. “If I see a black and white movie on TV, I change the channel immediately.”
Oh great, there went my fantasy of spending night after night snuggled in a loveseat with my girlfriend watching pretty much any good movie ever made. But hey, she suffered from the rare disease of anti-monochromity brought on by being the proud owner of an exceptionally dull and proudly ignorant personality. Who was I to judge her?
“How about you?”, she asked, “Do you like movies?”
While she was mid-sentence, I noticed that all of her dogteeth were protruding outward and were larger in comparison to her other tiny chompers, making her look like a feeble vampire. I was now trying really hard not to instinctively stare into her mouth so I could see if she had any other obvious dental deformities.
This made her look odd, to be sure, but what if I actually ended up bedding her? We could get into some freaky vampire blood sucking fantasy and that could be hot. I was definitely not the kind of guy who ever played kinky games like that with his girlfriend, not that I ever had one to ever make that decision.
I could imagine showing up at school sporting a cool leather jacket and wearing shades indoors with a patch of gauze covering my neck. “Me and the missus got a little carried away last night”, I would explain to my friends with an evil grin on my face while letting them soak in my sheer awesomeness. That way, maybe people would forget that my girlfriend looked like a little boy.
“I love movies”, I answered, “I have a bunch of movies at home.”
“What do you mean you have a bunch of movies? Movies that you made?”
I wanted to call her a fucking idiot while I rubbed my eyes in disbelief but good manners forbade it. Also, I wanted to try really hard to be nice to her, which is a nicer way of saying I wanted to pander to her so I could maybe get into her Barbie-sized pants.
“No, no”, I laughed politely, “I own, you know, famous or classic movies on tape, like VHS?”
She nodded but I doubt she knew what I was talking about.
“I also have some movies on this new format called DVD. The picture quality is amazing but the discs are expensive so I only get movies I know I’m gonna watch hundreds of times.”
“Hundreds of times!?”, she was shocked. If she was drinking something instead of sucking on her smokes like she always did, that reaction would have been a spit-take:
“I can barely sit through a movie once. I can’t even imagine watching a movie twice or three times. That’s like torture to me, I don’t understand why anyone would subject themselves to that.”
So far, this was going really well. Yet for some reason I still held out hope. I counteracted with “Well, that’s how you, you know, see new nuances in a film that you might not have noticed before. I don’t think it’s that weird, considering this is the stuff we’re supposed to be studying.”
“Oh no, I didn’t mean weird, don’t get me wrong”, she took a step back, “I just don’t get it, personally, but I have great respect for someone who is passionate about what they’re studying. I wish I could care as much as you do.”
I didn’t know if she was being condescending or genuine but it didn’t matter. I had some kind of a positive reaction out of her. Plus, I got her to feel guilty about something she said. Maybe it was her custom to blow every guy she thought she offended in order to assuage her guilt, and who was I to spit in the face of anyone’s customs?
Oh no, for a second there I felt queasy at the thought of her protruding dogteeth rapidly scraping up and down against the skin of my penis, taking off small chunks of flesh in the process. Oh well, having to deal with a bit of cock blood was worth the blowjob bragging rights.
Someone from the class had to give us the devastating news that the screening was about to begin. He or she walked back into the room, yelling “Dead men walking!” We slumped into the screening room like the depressed working class in Metropolis.
The film of the week was Dziga Vertov’s Man With a Movie Camera, which is basically a bunch of home movie footage edited with a style that looks like an over-caffeinated ten-year-old spent an overnight session on iMovie.
If it was shot and edited today, it would be nothing more than a Russian vacation video put together by a middle-class American dad who once aspired to become an editor but is now an associate manager at Best Buy. But just because it was shot in 1929, it’s a masterpiece.
The film is a series of shots depicting Russian landmarks and dull everyday life made especially dull by the fact that it depicts Russian everyday life. It’s cut together using, wait for it, clever match cut and dissolve effects. Isn’t that neat?
Anyway, we were happy that at least this was a very easy film to tune out or make fun of a-la Mystery Science Theater, since we didn’t have to focus on the overly melodramatic plot found in many fictional silents. While half the class was catching up to their well-deserved slumber, I took our communal boredom as a chance to chat Neval up a bit more.
Mostly, I just commented on the images on screen in a snarky fashion. She didn’t strike me as a consummate intellectual, so I thought a couple of cheap jokes could do the trick. There was a scene showing a group of jewelers with long bushy beards. I immediately jumped in with “Look guys, ZZ Top’s grandparents!”
She gave a hearty laugh. I wasn’t sure if she actually got the reference or if she was laughing because everyone else was and she didn’t want people to think she wasn’t smart. Of course, she probably didn’t know you don’t have to be smart to get a ZZ Top reference. In fact that scale tips the other way.
Meanwhile, Oguz was using the fact that he was the first male from our class to lay eyes on Gizem to his full advantage and was trying his best to find a way into her Guess Jeans. From what I could see a couple of seats away, he wasn’t doing so great.
Gizem looked more interested in the film than she was in listening to Oguz trying to explain to her which Tom Waits song sounded the most guttural and incomprehensible, in a feeble attempt to look like an authority on creepy circus music.
Anytime anyone who doesn’t really give a crap about movies would rather focus on a very old experimental film instead of listening to you, you’re probably not on the right track.
Regardless of how Oguz or I did, we were given a second chance we didn’t really deserve. It was near the end of December 1997, and for film people only one word swarmed in our minds during the preceding months: Titanic.
Ever since we, especially Hollywood-leaning film buffs like Adnan and I, saw that awesome shot of the majestic ship tilting up on the ocean with people falling down to their deaths like a real life version of Connect Four at the end of the Titanic trailer, finally earning the privilidge of witnessing James Cameron’s three-hour ego trip was all we talked about.
The movie had already opened the weekend before we met Gizem and Neval. That Saturday, we ran to the nearest theatre like 90s Robert Downey Jr. to the last line of coke left at the party, eagerly anticipating the awesome sights and sounds of CGI passengers getting their spines snapped in half, only to be greeted by a bunch of sold out signs that covered the entire kiosk.
The entire weekend, even midnight screenings, were sold out. It took Oguz and I two hours to bring Adnan down from his hysterical state and convince him not to burn the theatre down. And no, back then you couldn’t buy tickets online two years in advance.
So for the following Saturday, a plan was set in place where one of us would show up at the theatre right when it opened to buy tickets for everyone. Oguz was the unlucky fellow tapped for this mission since he lived closest to the theatre and was usually too polite to turn anyone down, a lovely character trait we shamelessly exploited to no end.
When Oguz mentioned this plan to Gizem and Neval, they answered by saying that they really wanted to see Titanic. Who didn’t at the time? So Oguz used this new bit of information as an excuse to spend more time with Gizem.
Oguz knew she had to take the whole package, which also included Neval, but I think he was certain that one of his friends desperate for any female attention would jump on that grenade. There was not a shortage of such people and of course, I was at the top of that list.
So it was a date. Neval and Gizem were coming to see Titanic with us. We made sure to go see it at one of the theatres in the Taksim area, which was the main party district in Istanbul.
Taksim was full of snobby clubs that played pounding shitty techno music while strobe lights gave you epilepsy within thirty seconds stat. For some reason these were the kinds of places, no matter what kind of music they listened to and what their personal taste in anything was, Turkish college students had to fill in droves because every single one of them thought they’d get laid.
So in short, picking a theatre in Taksim gave us the excuse to take the girls to a club later on. After the movie, we agreed on the details of our meeting and we split ways. While Neval was waving goodbye, I kept thinking “Do not focus on her freaky teeth, do not focus on her freaky teeth…”