Saloma

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I don’t like parties, but I had promised I’d attend this one birthday gathering at a ritzy pub in Istanbul, where I live. The upscale establishment allowed my friend to showcase his sense of eliteness. The closeted birthday boy had invited many women—his attempt to preserve his hetero image. The guests were mostly straight. I only knew one other person, his closest buddy, a short guy, well built with tattoos on his shoulder. He was closeted, or at least bisexual. Everyone seemed attracted to him. He was very seductive.

At some point in the evening, the party was beginning to bore me, so I snuck off to a quiet corner, where I could observe people without seeming obvious, fantasizing about hooking up with one or two of the men in the restroom.

Then, the birthday boy approached and introduced me to some of his friends. One stood out, a woman dressed in black, with a distinctive voice and confident manner. She was not your usual blond hottie with done-up hair and big breasts.

There was an immediate connection between us. We chatted and I learned she was as bored with the party as I was. When I let slip that I was gay, she made it clear that didn’t matter to her. We got so chummy we decided to see which of us could seduce one of the other guests, a short, hairy, and sexy pilot. She told me she could use a good wingman like me. I told her that men are easy. “Just grab their crotches, gently squeeze, and voila!”

Unfortunately, neither of us succeeded in bringing the guy home with us. But, by the end of the evening, we had bonded, exchanged Instagram pages, and promised to stay in touch. A friendship had begun to blossom.

I quickly discovered I enjoyed spending time with her. There are women for whom gay men are the perfect accompaniment, as I became for her: we were able to travel together and talk about fashion, relationships, lifestyles, etc.—everything.

One day, she invited me to visit the Princes’ Islands, a small group of islands about a 30-minute ferry ride from Istanbul, with her. The islands were covered with old wooden mansions, like many of the older parts of İstanbul, and was filled with non-Muslim residents, including many jet setters. Before I left Istanbul, she texted me with directions to the beach and a clothing-optional sunbathing area. But, for some reason, I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of being nude in front of her and others there, which was weird, since I’d been on nude beaches in Mykonos and Sitges many times.

Instead of the beach, we arranged to meet at the ferry port, where we ordered coffee. She wore a navy colored cotton dress with white dots that looked chic against her tanned skin. She listened intently as I shared some of the problems I was experiencing at my job and offered advice. I was drawn to her, lost in her strength and kindness. We were seated in a wonderful old hotel which had been part of her childhood. It felt like we were Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor, two lovers in a 60s movie. Afterward, we walked up the hill, and she showed me the many mansions and shared wonderful stories about them. The road was shadowy with trees and blossoming bougainvillea. The view from the island was spectacular.

On our way back to the ferry, she talked about her ex. They had loved each other dearly. I imagined how gentle and handsome he must have been. Later, we sat in a small restaurant and drank rosé, and she explained that, because she was from a traditional Jewish family and he wasn’t of the same faith, she hadn’t been able to continue her relationship with him.

The comfort I experienced in her presence offered me the security I hadn’t realized I was longing for. The safety I felt with her confused me. Despite the fact that I wasn’t Jewish either, I began to fantasize about how it could extend into other areas of my life. I could become her husband while maintaining a bisexual lifestyle. Was the gay path I had chosen wrong? I was alone and unhappy, spending every night hugging my pillow. Was it more important to find someone to love and trust, even if there was no sexual attraction between us?

As we enjoyed the beauty and serenity of Princes’ Islands together, I began to imagine that the bleeding scars in my heart could be healed by wrapping myself in a cocoon of her love.

When it became time to depart, we walked back to the ferry port together. She adorably waited there until I got on the ferry. I gently smiled at her, as the ferry pulled away and she receded in the distance.

She was a princess on a magical island. Her sensitive and empathic attitude towards me had made me feel safe and loveable. But, once I was back in Istanbul, and had returned to my regular life, I realized the folly in the fantasy I had imagined. We’ve continued our friendship in the years that followed, and the joy, excitement, and trust that continued to grow between us, has emboldened me to seek the same in my own relationships with men.