When the Boss arrived nearly an hour later, he slid in next to me at the table and launched into the self-aggrandizing patter he'd started at the cafe. He told me that he was divorced and that now he wanted nothing to do with Turkish women. He told me he sold carpets to celebrities in Los Angeles. He told me he could win over any woman on the dance floor.
My eyes met Amy's. We ordered more beer.
Being unfamiliar with heterosexual dating rituals, Amy and I do not know how to flirt with men. Likewise, we have no skills for giving them the brushoff. When the Boss said we should dance, we played along, despite the fact that we dance only at weddings and in our own kitchen. We suffered through a slow dance like awkward middle-schoolers.
Despite two beers, I was startlingly sober. I suspected there was no alcohol in the beer.
Amy, I decided, was getting the better end of this deal. Sure, Esref's arm was still lingering behind her shoulders, but they were talking Kurdish politics.
My conversation with the Boss was along a different tack. Did I have a boyfriend back in Los Angeles? Who was my last boyfriend? How long exactly had I been without a boyfriend? Was I looking for a boyfriend? Didn't I want a boyfriend?
My answers were honest. I'd been without a boyfriend since 1990 and no, I wasn't actively seeking out another one.
The Boss looked me over and smiled, a bit sheepish. He shook his lowered head. If there was a title for this image, it was "Lothario Defeated."
"Here," he said, "just give me a kiss on the cheek." It was a consolation prize.
Until he turned his head quickly and pecked me on the lips.
There was nothing lewd about this behavior. It was just adolescent. If he thought that his kiss was going to produce a Prince Charming-style transformation, he was wrong. My cheeks burned, but it was too dark to tell.
He wanted to dance again, but I was having none of it. Amy and Esref sided with me, and we watched as the Boss hit the dance floor alone.
I'll say this for him: Boss man could dance. Really dance. As in, if this whole carpet-exporting and cafe-owning thing didn't work out, he could live on tips as an exotic dancer in the U.S. He moved so dramatically, so unself-consciously, that people stepped back and watched. He was in jeans and a white cotton sweater that glowed on the black-lighted dance floor.
Later, in the marble and wood ladies' room, Amy and I plotted our escape.
"We're really tired," I said upon our return. "Walking around Istanbul has worn me out."
If Esref remembered that we'd spent about the bulk of that afternoon in the cafe, he said nothing.
The Boss retrieved the check, which was outrageous for seven buzzless beers. We offered to pay half, and — even after hours of bragging about his carpet-cafe empire — he accepted.
I got into the front passenger seat of his Nissan, Amy and Esref in the back, and the Boss drove us home, listening on the radio to the same horrible Euro-pop. There was no drama. No resistance. No excuses. They drove us back to our hotel and we thanked them.
And then he drove off. The last man who ever kissed me.
Robin Rauzi is an assistant travel editor and keeper of the Slow Motion Tourist website.