City Winery

The past catches up - sooner or later. Sometimes in the form of a memento - perhaps a locket, or an old letter - and other times, a person. Memorabilia is easy to discard, or hide away - but people, they stick around. Worse yet, they remember. Sometime even better than you. So when a stranger from the past looks you in the eyes - and forces you to revisit those old memories - the memories you’d much rather not recall - you have no choice but to submit.

But if in that moment of, forced introspection - you manage to find within you, a morsel of peace - then sweetness, will over-flourish all bitterness, that had been left-over from the past.

Congratulations. You’ve passed the test. You didn’t want to take it, but now you’re through. And a better man for it.

As I was perusing through the contents of the new bar I work in the West Village - I noticed a wine key with a familiar logo. It was from City Winery - a restaurant where  I had worked briefly for a couple of months. The place where I lost my mind, and became stricken with limerence - a condition of love so toxic, that to even mention it, brings shame to my tongue.

But then again, we’re talking 5 years ago - so, ancient history.

At some point of the night, I passed by seats 21 & 22 - a gentleman with a female companion. I leaned in for a quick hello when I noticed the two faces. It was Chris and Helena from City Winery, my former coworkers. What threw me off was the fact that they’d been there the whole time and not said a word. A harsh bite to my sense of security.

As they gazed into my eyes, I had a sudden flashback. I recalled a moment in time when Chris and I were folding napkins in the basement of City Winery, when he confessed - how weird - he thought I was.

It wasn’t meant to be a compliment. He didn’t mean it in an endearing way - it was just, “Dude. You’re weird”.

Little did he realize, how much those words had hurt me. In a time when I was already so lost and confused, those words disconnected me even more so from my close surroundings. With one word, he turned me into a complete pariah. And I believed it. An outsider who didn’t belong. Weird. When I excused myself from the table, he inquired why I was leaving. All I could say was - “Because I’m weird”. A few days later, I walked out on the job and booked a flight back to Turkey. 

And now here we are. In each other’s presence once again. Eye to eye. I look at Chris, and he looks back at me. And with eyes of the most soft, and gentle kind - I gaze. But not at him - at my own self. I was looking inwards - to comfort that old part of my soul. The one who still inhabits quietly within. The one still semi-wounded. I put my arm around it as if to say “Hey, it’s no big deal”. This is the time to show you’ve moved on. The spotlight is yours - go take it. You’ve healed, and transformed. Let everyone know about it. 

And with that, I extended my hand out and said “Allow me to reintroduce myself”.

“My name is Uluç Ülgen”.

(Originally Published 9/14/18)