Tünel Lokantası and White Mill are about the last two restaurants that fall behind the demarcation line of when I really started to cheat on my boyfriend. OK, so I had already done that technically, but I didn’t feel like I was in the sense that it had no effect on our relationship. I didn’t want to be with Croc, I was using him because I was alone and I needed the attention. I felt contempt for him much of the time I think, disguised under a camaraderie that I also genuinely felt.
People. They’re very confused and confusing.
Anyway, Tünel Lokantası, I went with my American friend (the fellow Time Out writer) and probably didn’t mention it to my boyfriend. I expect I only told him about reviews I did with female companions. He didn’t really ask me about them since he wasn’t interested in what I was writing – odd when you think how much of my time and attention and fulfillment it occupied. Not odd when you think my boyfriend wasn’t much interested in anything except whether I could buckle down and be Turkish – preferable village style.
I was better off going to restaurants with a friend than doing them alone and this place typified it. Male Turkish manager trying to friend me on Facebook, trying to make sure he had a way of keeping in touch with me about the review. There was no way I was going to be interested in someone that made apple crumble so badly. They took note though and improved the recipe at some point when I went back. It still wasn’t great but I didn’t have the heart to say.
White Mill was somewhere I went a couple of times with my flatmate and her crowd. Interesting collection of artists and writers and debauched partiers in their later years mostly. Not a great influence to someone trying to stick with an unsuitable Turkish boyfriend and I recognised at the time that the affair with the married sleazebag was partly some school girl unworthy attempt to fit in with the non squares.
That same flatmate, who encouraged me often to see other people – admittedly she also said I should end that relationship – when cornered later after my boyfriend found out about the guy I “really” cheated with, told him that she had told me not to do it.
Such a barefaced lie by someone that is totally new age, karmic energy, peace and love (she is now a breath coach in Bali) that I can only suppose she actually believed that version of events. She is one person I have never had anything to do with since even though she was quite a key figure in my life for a while and opened up Istanbul for me by letting me move in with her in Cihangir.
What happened around this time and that paved the way for my escape from Croc’s lair was that he had to go on a work trip for two or three weeks to the Cayman Islands. I remember a brief feeling of teared up panic at the thought of being left alone in the city. Which just shows the level my pathetic dependence had reached. When my boyfriend had gone away 8 months or so previously I had felt it was my time to own my life in the city. Now, I didn’t know if I could cope with it.
I had been drifting further and further away from seeing my future in Turkey and so, left alone again, I did what I always did. Planned my exit. I went home in April for a visa run and set up an interview in Brighton with the branch of a language school I’d worked for in London so that I had ten weeks or so of summer school work. Mum was supposedly moving to Brighton and I would then be with her to help her adjust. It was perfect and seemingly altruistic. But mainly, it was going to get me away and I know, not very deep down, I saw it as when I would feel fully separated from my life in Istanbul and able to make the break from my boyfriend.
Croc, I forgot about as soon as he left. Even though he called and texted me sometimes and there was a later point when I had to go for lunch with him and other people when a friend was visiting. He’d kept calling me trying to offer to be our guide which I rebuffed. But then later on I wanted to take her to Caretta and felt it would be rude and stupid to go there where he often ate without telling him and risk bumping into him. The other students came too and he did a couple of things I found sleazy like touching my hand across the cutlery when he thought no one was looking. But, of course, he hoped they were looking so he could keep the status thing going. That was the last time I went anywhere social with him and he made my skin crawl when he tried to touch me.
So, free of one, anticipating distance from another, acting fairly independently in terms of social life, albeit secretly and details omittingly and with the above friend’s visit (and trip to East Turkey – more of that later) in June being the only thing keeping me there any longer than I was, I was on my way out.
Until I ended up cancelling all my summer plans and then, unconnected, starting the real affair with the student I bumped into in the street and suddenly noticed. Someone I had taught for over a year solidly when my boyfriend was still in the city, but only had two or three classes with since he’d gone away. Someone I had never paid any special attention to but who I suddenly started paying a lot of attention to. Attention that was more than reciprocated.