“Are you hungry?” Murat asked after we shook hands and introduced ourselves.
“Yes, I could eat.” I responded, truthfully starving.
“Okay, ice-cream for dinner then.”
“Wait, what?” I whispered under my breath, convinced I misheard him.
I did not. We went to a local ice cream shop, filled a styrofoam carton with three different flavors, and ordered a side waffle cone chips to share as a side. This wasn’t my usual dinner but I figured why not, I’m on vacation.
The next day, Murat showed me a famous Maltese restaurant that overlooked the entire island. He ordered pizza and I, a salad. My way of apologizing to my body for the dairy overload from the night before. As expected, the meal was nothing short of amazing and the view was incredible. We finished the evening with a stroll through Mdina, a city that has somehow withstood centuries of erosion.
Then his simultaneously beautiful, yet haunting words echoed off the walls, “This has been fun, should we get ice-cream?”
“Again?” I thought to myself. “I love ice-cream, but two days in a row?”
We ended up at the same ice-cream parlor and indulged in three new flavors. This time trying Nutella, pistachio, and hazelnut with waffle cone chips as a side, of course.
The next morning I woke up to my stomach rumbling furiously, hungover from a week’s worth of sugar consumed in two nights. I walked into the kitchen to find Murat waiting eagerly to begin our voyage to Gozo Island.
“Good morning, what do you want for breakfast?” Murat asked, peppy as ever. “Actually, all I have are these stale, leftover waffle cone chips. So I guess this is breakfast!”
At this point I could feel my sanity escaping me. Don’t get me wrong, I love sweets as much as the next, but I’m more of an oatmeal for breakfast kind of person. To top it off, we shared some of his mother’s extravagant, Turkish pastries on the ferry ride to Gozo Island and split a slice of Apple Pie-- for lunch. At this point I just couldn’t understand. Obviously I found the entire situation to be rather comical, but at the same time I had never met someone so carefree before. It was perhaps not in the way that I would have expected, but he was just doing what everyone wishes they would, enjoying life to the fullest.
“Murat, you are so positive and energetic all the time, why is that?”
“My divorce was really bad,” he began solemnly. “It was the starting point where I lost everything in my life.”
“What led to the divorce?” I empathized.
“I was discovering the world and becoming more international. My wife was stuck local, she didn’t want to move. She wanted to chain us. It’s like when ships put an anchor down. The ships can still move but they cannot go far. I tried to do it her way but I realized that this is not the way I want to live. At the end of the day, this is a marriage. Two people are together, but you cannot make me share the same destiny as you. If someone is sad, you can try to make them happy. But you cannot try all your life to make someone else happy.”
After a fulfilling day at Gozo Island, Murat dropped me off at the airport and promised to stay in touch. Despite feeling like I gained five pounds, he left me with unforgettable memories. On the plane I started I thinking back on my stay in Malta. If Murat didn’t insist on ice-cream for dinner, I would have missed out on the best ice-cream of my life. I loved his mother’s authentic, Turkish pastries and I would have absolutely regretted not trying the apple pie.
He taught me that life is short. Quite frankly, it’s too short. It’s okay to indulge in guilty pleasures every once in a while just like it’s okay to do what makes you happy. Although I might not embrace a life with ice-cream every night and waffle cone chips for breakfast, I never want to look back wishing I did something differently.
“Like your website,” Murat spoke. “Along the way we are always changing. The best thing we can do is grow, and learn from these changes.”