“Please believe me. I never expected to find someone like you,” Mehmet says, across the restaurant table. “I like you. I really like you.”
“I really like you too,” I reply, not sure where he’s going with this.
When his dark eyes fill with emotion, I know there is more to come.
“But…I have only one wife. I am sorry she is no longer with me, but she will always be my wife. You understand?”
“Yes, I understand.”
“You are my very good friend,” he says, warmly.
I reach for the bottle to pour myself another glass of wine and to have something to do with my nervous hands, but he stops me, gently, his hand on mine.
“It is the man who pours the wine,” he says, apologetically, before refilling my glass.
When we get home, we hug each other goodnight. Mehmet kisses me on both cheeks as is his habit. He is darkly handsome, charmingly European, and age appropriate. But he goes into his room and I go into mine, and I know I won’t see him until breakfast.
When Mehmet reserved a room in my Albuquerque BnB in October, 2019, he fit seamlessly into my life in a way no other man has. He insisted on serving me a Kurdish breakfast, eggs lightly scrambled in olive oil with fried peppers and tomatoes; or a delicious Turkish breakfast, made up of a dozen tiny bowls of something delicious, and seven olives, precisely, for good luck. Then he left me alone to write, occasionally knocking on my office door to bring me a bowl of sliced plums and a cup of mint tea.
Together, we walked the dog along the Bosque trails on those golden autumn afternoons. He’d shoot photo after photo and we’d marvel at the flocks of ring-billed gulls and sandhill cranes assembled on the sandbars. Mehmet walked a few steps ahead of me, so pleased with each blue-sky day that he’d kick up his heels like Dick Van Dyke’s chimney sweep in “Mary Poppins,” his sixty-seven-year-old, boot-clad feet coming completely off the ground.
We were compatible in so many other ways — like our similar early-to-bed, early-to-rise habits. We only pushed ourselves to stay out late for the weekly Jazz Jam in Old Town. He loved jazz to an extreme, singing along to…