Behind Helvetia, Kosintza and Zazie

The post I’ve been most dreading. In fact one I was going to skirt over the worst parts and present a less personally unpleasant version of. Lying to yourself is easier the more you do it so I would almost have been offering a version that seemed true, even to me.

That verisimilitude would have gone largely unnoticed by you. I’d have put just enough in to make it sufficiently shameful that you’d feel my sense of disgust, maybe even forgive me for the lesser crime I’d admitted to. I’d have taken that forgiveness too, such would have been the believability of the more palatable version of events that I’ve more or less completely spun for myself over the years.

Small wonder that two of these three restaurants don’t stand out much in my memory, Helvetia and Zazie, because in January when I was eating at them, I was preoccupied with the fact I had lost all honour and slept with someone else, five months after my boyfriend had left.

Slept with being way too poetic a term.

What really happened was a I let someone fuck me.

That would be bad enough but even it is not the exact right shade of wrong. I’d simply stopped finding reasons not to and told myself it didn’t matter.

1:0 crocodile to Stupid English Girl.

I think ironically the deciding factor was in having gone home for Christmas and felt so removed from both my boyfriend and the slimy student. I was immune from falling for him in any way so I couldn’t keep up the energy needed to withstand the encircling. I even remember thinking very clearly to myself “This is what is going to save me from the relationship with my boyfriend; what’s going to save me from this?”

But since I knew I had no real feelings for Croc, I knew I would be able to wriggle out at some point, I suppose. His grip would only increase but I was the one with the power because I didn’t care like he did. I’m not a very future focussed person. I look at the present and make most decisions there – which has good and bad consequences. This being the latter case. In fact the present wasn’t that great either.  He fancied himself in love I think. He said once he wished he had met me before his wife. His wife of a long time and mother of his daughter. I didn’t find that romantic; I found it false. The sign of a person who would negate anything that no longer fit.

Anyway, I think it happened twice. Both times I was grossed out. I’m sparing myself no detail that’s still within the reach of memory and I’m still grossed out.

The first time I was barely present physically, mentally, emotionally. He saw it, or felt it more likely, and had to finish himself off. A particularly unpleasant memory: he kind of contained everything in his hand. I was repulsed even though, if any of it had come near me it surely would have been worse. He said himself it was like I was not there. Where I was, I don’t remember. I cried afterwards. I knew I had crossed a line I could never recross and I remember wanting him gone as soon as possible. That didn’t  bother him enough to stop him trying again a few weeks later.

Stupidly I was still giving him lessons. I tried very hard to get out of them but he was too clever and somehow managed to turn the conversation so that I came out of it believing carrying on lessons was the better course of action. I even admired the way he did it, ever the sucker for clever words and someone that could best me verbally.

One lesson, he had been out of town so arranged for the lesson to be on the other side of Istanbul at, I supposed, a cafe. In what was a veritable flurry of lies, it turned out the cafe I’d supposed us to be having the lesson at was his friend’s flat. At first he said it was his flat, but I knew he didn’t have other property. Then he said he and his friend joint owned it for hanging out at. I wanted to know why they did that as why else would you than to bring women to? Then he said he’d got keys off his friend. I can imagine the really nasty conversation that must have been.

I pinned him down over the whose flat it was thing all evening and he admitted he couldn’t say X because I wouldn’t like it, nor Y because I wouldn’t like that either. I’d like to think it would be a wake-up call to anyone when no version of a lie or truth is going to be palatable to a girl who cried the last time you fucked her and who you had to trick into being in a vulnerable enough place to do so again. But no, it wasn’t. And why concern yourself with that if the result is right there within reach?

I naively attempted to just do the lesson. It didn’t last long. I felt so awkward I almost had sex again just to get the hell out of this flat I didn’t want to be in, in a part of town I didn’t know. It was over fairly quickly. I leapt into the shower straight away then sought comfort for how horrible I was feeling with the only person there. Him.

Because really, this was all my fault. I’d accepted the attention, the dinners, the company, the friendly ear, the admiration, the lifts. He’d been to my house for lunch, he’d driven me to the airport at Christmas. He’d even once, to my intense shame (why is there no word stronger than that? More filled with self contempt?), picked me up from where the bus dropped me from visiting my boyfriend and dropped me home. So I had to accept a certain amount of my side of the deal. Or so I thought.

I didn’t put enough value on sex because I never counted sex that I felt no connection during. I’m not sure I’ve changed in that. I just no longer have sex that doesn’t connect. But it made me give something that of course had importance to him and a huge value to my boyfriend.

I realised later on, funnily enough because of my boyfriend and his Turk warped values over honour, that women don’t fully know how much they give a man when they sleep with him. We’re amazing. Every glimpse, every touch, every soft and wet place they get to explore is worth more than most of us ever realise. They’ll do almost anything to get it. I honestly don’t think women yearn for men as much as they long for us. Not in that visceral, primitive, purely physical way.

Anyway, restaurants – if anyone cares. These three were all finalists in the Time Out Istanbul Awards. Purely nominated and decided by the Turkish version of the magazine so mostly made up of advertisers in the magazine. It was a total fix as were the reviews in the Turkish version most of the time. It was my insistence that we got the list and I could at least review some of them. Under my own money I think too. We got to go to the awards night but not as anyone special, just plebs.

Zazie I went with my Monday women’s class – the ones I got out of watching my boyfriend play football by teaching. They actually read their review and got in touch with me somehow to tell me they had acted on the feedback I’d given them about their service. Helvetia I went once with my American friend and once with Croc, but later on when I was only participating in the attention side of the deal.

Kosinitza stands out much more. Not only was it superb, people literally came from other cities to eat there, it was round the corner from my boyfriend’s house. He never knew anything about this renowned restaurant of course. I can’t remember if I had wondered about it before or after seeing its name in the Awards list. I went with the friend who had got me the Time Out gig but later on I took him there too. I expect I had a better time with my friend.

I think I could go back to Kosinitza now without connecting it to anything other than amazing food.

So that makes everything OK then, doesn’t it?





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