. . . since I have (according to me) been declared an outcast loser in my own city—


I love Turkey and have been meaning to go back for nearly two years. Did you know I went to Istanbul and Ankara back in October 2022, mere weeks before I moved to Berlin? I remember writing a massive essay about it . . . but then never finishing it. Such is my tale. Well, I went because the company I worked for sent me there. I didn’t spend a single Turkish lira the entire time . . . they covered everything, and I had one of the best weeks of my whole life, when I hadn’t anticipated such a thing at all. Ain’t that nice?

And what’s even better is that I quickly befriended some of my Turkish colleagues there, who were unfailingly kind to me. Most of the Americans I was with, they stuck to themselves, and ONCE THE WORKING DAY WAS DONE, they would immediately take the shuttle back to our hotel, which was high upon a hill like Xanadu in Citizen Kane. As for me, I went out every night with the Turks . . . with Aysu and Demet and her boyfriend Ege. They made me Turkish coffee and tea, and shared their cigarettes, and had me try raki for the first time, which you wash down with black carrot juice. Anywhere we went, whenever I tried to pay, they would not let me.

Here is Demet (left) and Aysu (right) and my dumb ass (middle (lol)):

I remember the last night I was in Ankara, we all hung out in the mall parking lot. It was raining and Ege rented one of those dumb e-scooters, and he lit a cigarette for me and set me loose. I was ripping around all over the place and I felt a way I had not felt since I was in high school, which was almost certainly the last time I’d ever had fun in a mall parking lot. At midnight we split up into different cabs and I promised them I would be back. Before I got in the car, they gave me the Turkish hug, the double hug, and I felt this utter sadness to be leaving them. Back in my hotel room, I ran a hot bath and sat down in it and teared up. I always feel a little tender when people are so sincere and kind to me when they could just as well have shrugged and gone home. But the Turks wanted to know me and be my friend, I wanted to know them and be their friend too. I guess sometimes I just get lucky like that.

FORGIVE ME, but I must once again quote ‘NO LONGER HUMAN’:

. . . natural friendliness which never became oppressive. Friendliness with no ulterior motive, friendliness stripped of high-pressure salesmanship, for someone who might never come again.

Sometimes when I watch Demet’s Instagram stories, she’ll have written something in Turkish, and I have to press the little “translate” button to figure out what she’s said. Turkish is an insanely complicated language to me on par with Polish. Instagram seems to buckle under the weight of its obtuseness, but I usually get the gist. I believe I am her only American friend, and so sometimes she’ll translate things just for me, knowing I’ll see it:

Last week I saw one of her stories and, when I got to the bottom of the paragraph where she explains that she hadn’t overexposed her film as she’d originally thought, my face turned warm:

And so, for god’s sake, of course I have to go back now. I’m leaving in three weeks. Demet and Ege have insisted on meeting me at the airport, even though it will be quite late, and they’re letting me stay with them and their kitten, and apparently one more kitten because they’re kitten-sitting. Demet wanted to take me to Cappadocia, which is the Hot Air Balloon Capital of The World, being that “Ankara is boring” (so says everyone in Ankara) . . . but I don’t know if we’ll have time. However, this is OK. Much as I like Turkey, I’m only going because I want to see my friends. I promised them I would, and it is a promise I am happy to keep. I can’t think of nicer people to travel nearly 1,300 miles across the Black Sea to spend a few days with. You know?