The first night at the restaurant when I met Mustafa, I thought he was nice.
Ignorant, but nice.
He had joked with my group of friends, had given me a discount card, had been friendly and welcoming.
The perfect example of the famed Turkish hospitality.
I immediately liked him.
Then, he told me the story of how he had gone up to a customer and asked if her “melons” were real.
He told the story with such glee and asked me what I thought of it.
I thought the woman he talked like that to should have wound up her arm and socked him one. But, I said nothing.
Like I said, ignorant.
When I returned to the restaurant two days later to meet up with Ash, we chatted. A nice, friendly conversation where I was introduced to the (now annoying phrase) “I take you to sky.”
I smiled politely. I had no idea what he meant.
Ash had to explain it to me.
Whenever I would see him, he would say that phrase to me. Smile spreading across his tanned, leathery skin, teeth blackened around the edges peaking from between his thin lips.
I thought he was just being a flirt. I can handle flirts.
I was wrong.
The next day, after I had been fired from Murat’s, he listened to me as I told my story through tears of what had happened … that I had been fired.
He brought my breakfast. Water. He offered his brother and Ash’s apartment for me to stay in for a week. He arranged a job for me.
His kindness was needed, and I appreciated every thing he was offering.
I didn’t know if I wanted to stay in town.
When Ash arrived to work, I told her what happened and we had all planned on going to the beach that afternoon.
Only, Mustafa informed Ash she had to stay and work. I didn’t want to go with him alone, but he had arranged so much for me … I didn’t want to be rude and insult him by not going.
As we wound our way around the mountain roads, we chatted. He asked me if I wanted to come and live here next year and work for the restaurant.
He told me he had five kids. That he was 35. That he thought I was pretty.
The closer we got to the beach, the more he was hitting on me. The more he said he wanted to “take me to sky.”
When we finally arrived to the sea, we drove onto the sand, passing families who had made makeshift tents along the beach.
He parked and grabbed two beers and we began to walk.
“Let’s walk down a little,” he suggested.
“I like it here,” I told him.
“No, we keep going,” he told me.
“Mustafa, I have a bad knee. I am hungover. I don’t want to walk down further. I want to sit here.”
“The sand is good for your knee. I have a bad knee too, and my doctor told me sand is good.”
I ignored that little piece of information and instead planted myself in the sand. He followed suit.
“Here,” he said, opening a beer and handing it to me.
“I don’t want to drink, I already told you that,” I said. When he had stopped at the store and asked if I wanted to drink, I had told him I wasn’t interested in tossing any back.
We sat in silence for a minute, then the heat started to get to me. I took off my dress and told him I was going in the water.
“No,” he said. “You stay here with me.”
Excuse me? Did he just order me to stay there with him?
I said nothing. We sat in silence again.
I am not staying in this town.
I began to formulate my exit from his arrangements. I looked out towards the sea and wished I could be free. Wished I could be enjoying my time at the Aegean Sea and not wishing I was somewhere, anywhere, other than there with a married man with five children who clearly had no problem cheating on his wife.
“Fine,” he conceded. “You want to go in the water, go in the water.”
“Thanks,” I said and huffed off.
For a few minutes, I just stood, knee-deep in the warm sea. Wishing myself to another place. Trying to work out in my head what I needed to do to get out of there.
He came into the water with me and walked past me, towards the gentle waves.
“Come swim,” he instructed me.
I shook my head “no.”
“I’m good here. This is perfect,” I explained.
He swam a bit, then began walking back towards me. Instead of stopping to talk to me, he stomped his legs like a child through the low surf, muttering to me “If you thought I was so dangerous, why did you even come here?”
For god’s sake. Was this really happening? Couldn’t we just be friends and hang out?
“I don’t think you are dangerous,” I began.
I just am not interested in your advances.
“You are different now, D,” he said, and walked back to his towel.
I looked around. I could just make out the cruise ship in Kusadasi’s harbor … a small speck in the distance.
We were far from home. And I had to do damage control.
“I’m sorry you think that, Mustafa,” I said, placing myself on the towel next to him. “We’re friends. I don’t think you are dangerous.”
He rolled over, putting his back to me, throwing a proper grown-up hissy fit. He was a boy who was not getting his way. And, apparently, this didn’t happen to him a lot.
I looked at him, his tanned body curled into the fetal position, his dark wavy hair parted down the middle grazing the sand.
I give up.
We laid in silence for an hour, then he informed me it was time to go. We packed our stuff, still not speaking, and got into the car.
I decided to remain friendly with him. He hadn’t cornered me like Murat had, he just needed to know I wasn’t interested in him “taking me to sky” or anywhere else.
“You have a nice lil’ nap?” I asked as we got in the car.
“Yes,” he answered, turning the music up.
He sped around the turns in obvious rebellion to my request to slow down. On the way en route to the beach, I had asked him to drive slower and he had responded “of course, my love. You are precious cargo.”
I ignored it was we whipped around the mountain bends.
Then, we were slowing down. We were pulling into a field on the side of the road. Then, the car was off.
What the hell?
“D,” he said, turning to me, frozen in the passenger seat. “I need to sleep for a little.”
“What? We are 15 minutes from town,” I said, bewildered by what was happening.
He popped his seat back and looked at me. “Give me 30 minutes.”
“Fine,” I said, frustration running through me. “I’m getting out and will wake you in 30.”
I walked around the little field, across the street to the hotel.
I could always just hop a mini-bus.
After a few minutes, I walked back towards the car. It was gone. I didn’t even care.
I surveyed the scene for a moment, looking around to see who I could ask for some lire to get a lift back to town, and then his white car pulled up from behind some trees.
“My brother called, there is a big party in the restaurant, I need to go back.”
I returned to the hotel where I had my first confrontation with Murat, then went back to dinner with Nathan.
Mustafa had returned to normal, asking me when I would start work at his friend’s bar.
“Oh, Mustafa, I think I am not going to stay here,” I said.
“Fine. Do what you will.”
Ash came over and I told her what had happened.
“He likes you,” she informed me. “He wants to take you to sky.”
“Shit,” I responded. “Can you tell him I have a boyfriend and that I am not interested, please?”
“No problem, dude.”
The next night I met Ash at the restaurant.
“I told him the story about your boyfriend back home and how you are in love and things are rocky right now, but you would never cheat on him or be interested in anyone else,” she relayed.
“He doesn’t get it. He still wants to get with you.”
I threw my hands in the air.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I exclaimed. In real life, attention like this doesn’t exist for me. But, in Kusadasi, the men just didn’t understand “not interested” means “not interested,” not “oooh, yeah, baby. I have a boyfriend. You have a wife and kids, but to hell with them. Let’s go get drunk and do the nasty.”
What a perception of Western women.
At that moment, Mustafa came to our table, all smiles.
“Let’s all go out tonight,” he said.
I exchanged a look with Ash that said “I am not going without you.”
“We can go out for a drink,” I responded, knowing Ash wouldn’t leave me.
That night, Ash, her boyfriend and I went out.
“When we get back to the restaurant, we are going home,” she said.
“I’m not going out alone with him,” I whispered. “No way in hell. A group is one thing, solo is just not going to happen. He doesn’t get it and I don’t know how to make myself more clear without being a bitch. And, he’s been really good to me, I don’t want to be a bitch. I just want to be his friend.”
She and I devised a plan to get me out of the remaining hours of the night with Mustafa. I would say I have a Skype interview with someone in Los Angeles and had to leave by one in the morning. It was midnight.
We got back to the restaurant and had an Effes, Mustafa sitting across from me.
“Where are we going?” he asked me as Ash and her man prepared to leave.
“We’re not,” I said.
“You promised, D.”
“I said I would go out, Mustafa. I went out. I didn’t realize you were working until 2, and I don’t want to stay out that late. Plus, I have to go back to my hotel in a few minutes to do an interview.”
“I could have gone out with three other girls tonight,” he said proudly. “But I had plans with you.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, rolling my cold mug between my hands, avoiding eye contact.
“Do your interview at the restaurant.”
“What? No, I can’t.”
“Why can’t you? We have a computer. Then, when you are done, we can go out.”
“No,” I stood strong. “This interview is important to me. I need to do it on my terms. In the privacy of my room.”
“Then when you are done, you come back here.”
“No,” I said slowly. “”When I am done, I am going to bed. It is late. I am tired.”
“What’s wrong with you?” Mustafa asked me. “You were different at the beach and you are different now. I am a sensitive guy. I like you.”
“Mustafa …” I began.
“Forget it. This is your holiday. You do what you want.”
He got up and walked to another table, sulking.
One of his staff came up to me and told me they would be walking me home instead of him.
“Great,” I said. “Let’s go now.”
See ya, manboy.
I walked into my hotel room and closed the door, deciding that moment I was ridding myself of the entire drama of the men in Kusadasi.
The next morning, Ash messaged me on Facebook.
“I quit the restaurant,” she wrote.
She launched into a story about how Mustafa wouldn’t speak to her and when she asked him why he told her she had turned me against him.
“Does he not get it?” I asked. “Why on earth would he think I want to be with him. He has no reason to think I am remotely interested in him.”
Ash left the restaurant and came to my hotel, where we drank away the afternoon and evening.
The next morning when the Fez Bus picked me up in front of Tourist Info and Scotty greeted me with a hug and kiss, one of Mustafa’s staff walked by me, shaking his head in disgust at me.
This time, I didn’t even care.
As we drove off, I looked out the window at the town that had held me captive for entirely too long.
“Don’t worry, D,” Scotty told me after we had talked at length about the hell I was living in Kusadasi. “You’re with me now.”
I smiled, leaned back in my seat and closed my eyes.