Behind FastWok and Cezayir

There’s nothing massively significant about these places in themselves, other than the emphasis on international. Turkish food is amazing and varied but even that gets boring after a while and you start craving something otherly or Turkish but less predictable. It’ s a need for variety and spice that my boyfriend just never had and a constant indication of my potential for boredom due to lack of stimulation.

FastWok was dire but look how desperate I was for it to work, to provide that hit of Elsewhere. Cezayir, I went to with friends. The first person to take me was the French guy meaning, since he had left by the time my boyfriend went to the army, that I must have been on an allowed friend night. It was the time when I was allowed out and we then met my the American guy and a friend of his while my boyfriend was out somewhere nearby with his friends. It turned out we were actually on the same street of bars and we met briefly for a few minutes and he said hello, suspiciously but attempting to be civil if not genuinely friendly. It wasn’t that comfortable but as the French guy noted, my boyfriend had clearly made a big effort there. To be seen by his own friends talking to the guys I was hanging out with instead of being home alone or accessorising him must have cost face and squeezed his small reserves of cultural acceptance.

We separated and I ended up with the others at some rooftop reggae bar. Too noisy, not my kind of place at all and I spent most of the time talking to the French guy. I either called my boyfriend or he called me, as seeing him earlier made me want him to be with me, sharing my evening and making it more fun as I only really liked nightclubs when I was with him. I don’t think that was a being controlled thing, I’m not generally a fan. I prefer places you can talk. Maybe that’s why I liked clubs with him – we didn’t have enough to say to each other to sit for hours in sophisticated bars.

Anyway, when he arrived we didn’t stay much longer and he wasn’t happy that I was in a place with all those “negroes”. But I don’t think we had an argument, I was happy to go home and happy to go home with him. I hoped, that having met the French guy it would allay some fears for him, put a name to a face and lose the threat. It didn’t and that was a friendship that I neglected badly because of it.

Another time I went to Cezayir was with a private student I loved, her husband and another teacher she had had – an English guy. Interestingly she told me – I knew loads about the private lives of my students as English lessons are something like therapy – that in her marriage she had been the one to do the Freeze Outs if she was angry about something. Her husband was a talker and eventually she learned to talk it out and not nurse the anger until she couldn’t not communicate her feelings and resolve things productively. A sign I took to show that, you know, you work these things out over the course of a long term relationship as you grow together.

Another sign I took reassurance from was that her husband was a huge football fan and her young son took after him. They loved Fenerbahce to the point of tears at the loss of a game. My boyfriend was obsessed about Galatasaray in a way that I couldn’t relate at all. I’ve always thought how telling of emotional maturity it is that girls obsess over boybands as teens and boys have their football team. Girls grow out of it.

She had a lot less close relationship with her son than her daughter (ages approx 8 and 4) and she realised one day that, in order to get that way in with her son, she needed to try and do the football thing. It didn’t matter if she wasn’t a fan, it was important to him and that was a bond maker worth far more than personal feelings.

So, just because, to me, watching a football match was eye-freezingly dull, it mattered to my boyfriend and I tried to sit with him and not make a point of being bored or doing something else. After all, we would lay down together on the sofa which was nice and there was always half time. He even bought me a pair of Galatasaray cropped sports trousers that I genuinely liked, he had some too, and still have. Wearing shit clothes around the house and looking a complete state was or is a Turkish thing – house pajamas. I hated sitting around in unflattering clothes and he looked ridiculous but there is some logic to comfort and not bringing your outside dirt to to the sofa. I’d make other concessions too and dutifully (not begrudgingly actually) bring him the fruit bowl and a knife or the nuts and nutcracker, and make tea.

Tea making is THE wifely ritual and we’re not talking putting a bag in a mug, in Turkish you “cook tea” and it takes about 20 minutes. I approached it like cooking, or like the way I cook, and just threw in tea leaves and water in whatever amounts without measuring or paying too much attention. It took me years to notice (meaning receive repeated instruction and take it in) that there was an ideal heaping of tea and a particular level of water to put in. You were supposed to make masses of it, with a mountain of tea and a sinkful of water. If you don’t put enough water in the bottom pot, the resulting tea cooks too strongly and even if you’ve got plenty of water in the pouring part, it isn’t good. Or something like that. I’m happy to say I no longer remember nor have to care.

My least favourite job was getting rid of the tea mulch later (if I was being especially well trained) or the next morning, as you had to dump the soggy mess into the bin and rinse the pot out for three hours, clogging up the sink and getting tea leaves over whatever else was in the sink (on a not very well trained day if I had not washed everything up). The wet tea would always make the bin rancid and drip everywhere when it was emptied. I hated the bin being swampy but at least it was the one household chore I didn’t do. Taking the bin out, I claimed, was a man’s job. And he always did it uncomplainingly as a result. Ah, equality – who needs it when you’re getting out of one of your most hated chores?

I did find a way into football after a while. Betting on it at the bookies. We won the first time we did it together and I was hooked. He had some tips for predicting games – Turkish teams play much worse when they’re not in their home ground for example because they are very affected by the support of their own fans. And probably their mums are in the stands, willing their little princes on – but they didn’t work reliably enough for us to win again. In fact, that win of 50 lira had been because I had predicted an against the odds draw so I felt like football gambling was my new special talent.

The problem was I had no loyalty as I later devastatingly proved. Whichever team I had bet on was the one I wanted to win. If I had bet on a draw, neither side scoring was cause for celebration. But at least I now cared. The other problem with it, that later became an issue to hold over me, was that English people get on with each other by taking the piss, with banter, so to me pretending to support his nemesis team was funny. Galatasaray hate Fenerbahce and vice versa. They don’t care as much about Besiktas and are partly united with them in a mutual hate of the ones that wear blue and yellow stripes instead of red and yellow or black and white. It’s so passionately childish, How could I not take the piss?

After The Fall and during The Bad Times, he got it into his head that I supported Fenerbahce (really and obviously I couldn’t care less about any of their silly teams) because the guy I’d cheated with supported them. In actual fact, he supported Besiktas and I knew that, but I pretended to have no idea what team he followed and said it had never come up. So any Fenerbahce win (and there started to be a lot of them because Galatasaray became so shit. He actually gave up being  fan for a year or so which he had told me one never, ever did. Your team was your team – like marriage, he said. I took it upon myself to urge him back to the fold, taking it as a sign that if Galatasaray could win back his favour, so could I. Interestingly the new girlfriend coincided with a return to form for the team and a re-embracing of the team for him. Relationships were earned on the merits of your performance, not feelings.)

You might wonder why, if Fenerbahce were winning all the time and Besiktas were not a significant threat, that I didn’t admit to the real football nonsense of the other guy.

Good question.

Anytime we drove from the Asian side to the old part or the city centre, we passed the Besiktas stadium. There was much more pain to be had from the lesser team.

There’s one more but of acidic nostalgia to the football and gambling theme. What a rich seam this is! Once the gambling was a set part of our football routine, I took it pretty seriously and would fill out the coupon which he would place on the way home from work. It goes without saying that a bookies was not a place for women, plus they were small, so even if we went together, I would wait outside. Once, in the year before he went away, I had a friend visiting so would neither see the match nor be around to make sure the bet was placed but he said he would do it. I reminded him and he said he had and he relayed the results to me via text. I think we stood to win a quite satisfying amount and the game progressed excitingly and ended very close but with the result that we’d won.

He called me or I called him and it turned out he had forgotten to place the bet. But he’d wanted me to have the excitement of the thing so had kept up this pretense, he even laughed when he told me (but actually I think there was a slight embarassment to it – at being caught out or at having lied, I’m not sure but if there had been another result to the match I would never have known). I went cold. I felt like he was making fun of me and stringing me along like the silly little girl he so often acted as if I was – or I felt he did. I pointed out that what he had done was lie to me, a thing he had a very strict code about. At that time he saw me as a very honest person and I still was then.

He immediately expressed contrition, saying “I feel more bad than you do”.  Whether this is a typical Turkish sentiment or one of his, I don’t know but it is meant to mean “My sadness at the wrong I’ve done you is so great, it is even worse than you feel and that’s how sorry I am.” But what it effectively does, and this is very definitely an outlook he displayed later, was deny that my feelings were as significant as his. No matter how bad I felt or how sorry or how sad or how awful his treatment of me was, it was trumped by the injury I had done him. Never mind that what I had done was in the past, though he relived it as much as possible to keep it present, and his emotional punishment of me lasted about two years with very little time off, I could never suffer equal injury.

I didn’t know all that then. All I knew was joy! I was In The Right. And he was unequivocally In The Wrong. This almost never happened. It was the only time he ever, to my memory, admitted culpability for anything. I muttered something about not wanting to talk about it now and ended the call saying I’d speak to him the next day. I had all night to revel in it. I can’t remember what happened afterwards but I expect he apologised and I was grave but magnanimous.

What a ridiculous sham of an adult relationship.




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