Behind Açıkdeniz

This post comes next – I’m vaguely chronologising in a way that fits the story rather than the order I wrote the posts in or presented them in Time Out – because it’s a marker of my move to Cihangir. The scene of my Fall.

In truth I was falling the moment he left, and I realised it quite early on. But not yet, not when I ate here.

Açıkdeniz was below my new flat. I was so happy to be out of the flat in Beşiktaş. I’d been sharing with a bitter Turkish girl and a German with a twitch who was divorcing her Turkish husband. The Turkish girl was bitter because she was in her thirties and not married, which Turkish societal expectations would crush you for.

She didn’t like my boyfriend but it wasn’t actually his fault. She got annoyed because he laughed too loudly in my room once. She said the neighbours wouldn’t find it respectable. She complained that he was once seen by her brother (who was an occasional presence in the flat as he lived in her room but was never there) going to the bathroom bare-chested. The bathroom was right next to my room and his sister wasn’t in at the time. He tried to call her and sort out the bad feeling but she refused to speak to him.

Then she and the twitching German adopted a feral street cat that turned out to be pregnant and I was supposed to help take care of it. I went away on holiday once and when I got back they asked me why I hadn’t cleaned up properly two weeks before instead of how my holiday was. I was ready to leave.

Cihangir with normal people – my people, expats – was a surge of life  current and a new start about a month after he left. I loved it. He greeted my happy call that I was moving with personal criticism that took the wind out of my sails completely. I was weak for letting them push me out and for not doing anything to them. This was a key personality trait at work. Get even, get justice. Not: get over it, choose not to care or to focus on the positive.

Anyway, my flat overlooked the mosque which took me a few days to sleep through since the call to prayer starts at 5 am. At times when I felt myself drifting away from him, I would call him when the call to prayer happened and let him hear it since, in the army it would be something he didn’t have. I should have made that kind of effort more often. I had no idea how much work a long distance relationship needs.

My flatmate was a non stop talker American writer who integrated me into some of her friends and the party side of Istanbul which I didn’t get overly involved in as I’ve never been a big drinker and not always that sociable in some ways.

However, I’d had a year of being on curfew and retained a fear of being out and doing normal things. My phone ringing and me being out at a cafe round the corner would turn my stomach over. He asked me once why I couldn’t turn down some invitations just for him. It wasn’t like I was out every night or anything like it. The trouble with that kind of request is it can never be proved to be happening. For every night I wasn’t out, that didn’t count as staying in. It had to be that there was some specific thing and I had turned it down for him.

Much later on we were with a friend of his and his girlfriend and I asked her what she’d do if she wanted to go out with her friends or something while he was out of town working. She said she would stay at home and this was the answer the boys had expected. I thought they were aliens.

But they weren’t. I was.

Anyway, I do think to a certain extent, my slip into more rebellious, independent behaviour was partly down to moving to Cihangir because I was starting to be myself, starting to live the life I would have been as a single, free person in Istanbul.

And that included making some very bad decisions and trusting a friendship with my flatmate that had some aspects that were less about what was good for me and more about the lifestyle she felt was the right one. She thought I should be dating, not waiting. She had guys all over the place but was really looking for a relationship. I had a relationship but she wanted me to be doing what she was. Which would have meant looking for what I already had somewhere else.

I’d promised my boyfriend I wouldn’t teach private students at home any more. And I kept that but twisted it to being friends with more men, and inviting them over if I felt like it.

Ironically the person that in the end I cheated with had been my student in the old flat in Beşiktaş and I had never, ever, not once thought of him as anything more than a student. I was glad when he cancelled, saw it as a hassle that earned me money, would glaze over when he was talking, all the normal stuff.

I never socialised with him until I stopped teaching him. He didn’t have time for lessons anymore but  his office was minutes round the corner from my new flat. If I’d stayed in Beşiktaş, the lessons would have stopped and I’d never have seen him. I certainly wouldn’t have bumped into him in the street and suddenly noticed what I’d never seen when he was my student.



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