Before coming to Istanbul, I was warned on several occasions not to fall in love here. I told everyone there was nothing to worry about. I had zero interest in getting into a relationship. I came here feeling broken and bitter about love and I had no intention of putting my still-fragile heart in harm’s way again – and it would certainly be in harm’s way if I met someone wonderful because our relationship would surely end with my departure from Turkey.

In my first few month’s here, I was quite successful in my attempt to remain single. Nobody who approached me was worth my time. I could think of a hundred reasons not to get involved with just about every man who approached me, not least of which was that they were only interested in me because I’m an American, which translates to “easy” in Turkish man-speak. There’s some crazy belief here that if you approach any American girl she’ll bed you in two seconds flat. I actually had a guy flat-out ask me if I’d at least be up for sex when I told him I wasn’t interested in a relationship with him. So tempting … but NO. Ick.

In addition to all of these wonderful propositions I received daily – from the postman, the restaurateur on the corner, carpet store owners, grocers, passersby on the street, married men who stalked me in Starbucks – I was still in contact with my ex, further torturing myself and keeping myself locked in the past. I had come here to forget him, but I was still holding on to him from thousands of miles away.

So I decided to let go. I forced myself not to call or write to him anymore – and he certainly never took the time to call or write to me. A month went by with no word from him, then two. I began to feel free again and I knew I had finally left him in the past where he belonged. While this was a huge step forward for me, it would also be my downfall because it meant that my heart had room for someone else to move in … and move in he did.

I met Murat one month ago and he had me wrapped around his finger in just a few short days. I made a couple of attempts to keep my distance, reminding myself that I’d be leaving soon, that I wasn’t ready for a relationship, that I had promised myself I’d stay single until 2010, but they were all in vain. Murat made my heart happier in the first couple of days we were together than I had been in a year. He made me laugh and made me feel special in a way that no other man I’ve dated this year has done.

He also made me love this city. Before I met him, I thought Istanbul was alright. It was a cool city and I liked it here, but now it’s much more to me. Now I’ve seen Istanbul from a whole new perspective and it’s made me appreciate all the things that make Istanbul unique. I’ve discovered parts of the culture that would have been hidden to me without a Turk pointing it out to me. What I loved most about the places he showed me though was that I felt like he was showing me a part of himself. He took me to see live local music at a place he’s frequented for years. He introduced me to Tavla (backgammon) and a game called Okey. He got me to finally smoke nargile (hookah) and he introduced me to the wonderfulness that is salep. He also got me to try kokoreç, which I would have never known about without him. It’s one of my favorite foods here now (so great when you’re out drinking).

But most of all, he made me feel loved.

Unfortunately, things have been up and down since then, mostly because of cultural differences in dating and communication, but also because of the impending doom of our relationship, which can last two more months at most. Murat said to me the other day that knowing our relationship is going to end is kind of like knowing when you are going to die. It absolutely broke my heart when he said it because I knew he was right. I wanted to keep living in a dream world where one of us moves to the other side of the world to be with the other, but it is hard to argue with the reality of our situation. He has his life here – his job, his friends, his family. And I have to finish my masters program, which will keep me in the U.S. for at least another year. A lot can change in a year.

The thing is though, if I knew when I was going to die, I think I’d make the best of it – and I’d likely try to find some way to make it not happen. I’m not the type of person to just lie down and die because somebody says it has to be so. Fuck that. This is MY life, right? I can make it what I want and what I want right now is to find some way to make this work. I just wonder if he feels the same way…

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