Amsterdam. A story of misfortune

Things between me and Amsterdam never worked out very well not to say they could not be much worse. I was nineteen years old when I came to see the city for the very first time. I was quite a distracted person , some might they say this never changed but nevertheless I had my head full of romantic pictures. I saw me and K. my boyfriend back then wandering around tiny streets, sneak around old book-stores, climb upon an old attic of an once magnificent Dutch merchant and to hop on a boat to see the famous canals. But nothing like this was about to happen. When we arrived somewhat around 9 PM, K. left me and the luggage behind to sort out some kind of accommodation. Soon after he left I was surrounded by a group of drunken, old, probably homeless men, they all smelled as if they had breakfasted raccoons. They barked at me in Dutch, but even worse they laughed at me wholeheartedly and I was unable to figure out why I made them laugh so hard. K. neither came back nor picked up the phone while I desperately tried to call him. After two hours of waiting now surrounded by a group of ten men who gnarled and laughed and drank I decided to leave and probably looking like a clochard myself with a heavy rucksack on my back and a even heavier rucksack clinging on my arm I walked off and marched straight into the hotel closest to the station. The hotel was shabby and smelled of sweat and fast sex. Finally K. remembered my existence and called in the background I heard a female voice. I cried my eyes out and met him in the next morning. The girl he preferred to me was called Marijike or Anike and did not look a bit distracted at all but healthy with her long blonde ponytail, her broad hips, and shiny pearl- white teeth, she looked very, very protestant, self confident and with disgust I noticed that K. stroke softly along her dimple chin before he turned towards me. K. mumbled an excuse and asked for his bag. For a second night I lay on the bed and cried like an old beaten dog, than I bought a train ticket and left. I swore to myself that  I would never, ever set my foot into this city. A few years later, my dear companion of former days F. had passed all his exams and was now  formally a doctor. This called for a celebrational trip and he as a magician could not have done better, presented two tickets for a trip to Amsterdam. I tried to smile. Maybe I thought, I will see now the canals, the tiny streets, the old magnificent buildings in the Prinsengracht and happily wander through the Rijksmuseum. I did not look right or left when arriving at the station, the hotel looked nice, F. was happy and I knew his friends for years. I was not concerned when thy headed off to do whatever because they were no longer 18 but mature men. And 200 metres away from the cosy and lovely smelling hotel I bought myself a wonderful pair of lemon colored summer sandals with wedged heals. I strolled around and looked down at my feet. Amsterdam,I thought deserved a second chance. I went back to the hotel to doze a bit in the friendly sun. I must have slept for a good while because when I woke up I had missed several phone calls by F. I called him back and was barely able to understand what he was saying. But I understood enough to realize that he was stoned and drunk. Still in my new, beautiful shoes I hurried down and when I reached the place, I heard F. saying sorry and then he vomited and my beautiful lemon colored shoes, were no longer, new nor, lemon- colored. The taxi driver neglected to take F. in and so he leaned on my shoulder and we stumbled along. I would swear that I saw Anike or Marijike at a corner, laughing at me with her shiny pearl- white teeth and her very, very protestant manner. The shoes went into the bin, F. could not walk nor talk for the following three days. Then we had to get back to work. I swore to eternity never, ever to return to Amsterdam. The years passed by. Friends told me of concerts in the Concertgebouw with beaming eyes and praised the newly opened Rijksmuseum. I smiled and denied. Then a fortnight ago, L. called me, she had booked a trip to Amsterdam but O. lying in bed with a heavy cold, would never make it over there without coughing his soul out. Just for three nights, she said and please join. She patted my hand and looked like a puppy. I sighed and agreed. We arrived, the hotel in the Apollolaan most pleasant, the sky blue and the Rijksmuseum a splendid temple of art. Oh, Frans Hals. L. had to drag me out with mere force. A friend had recommended a restaurant. Specialized on fish, L. said and smiled gently. Fine with me and off we went. Oh, said L. look oysters. I looked and shook my head. Though he salmon was tasty and according to L. the oysters were as fresh as the day itself. I nodded. We strolled back slowly and went to bed early. In the middle of the night L. woke me up. She was feeling unwell, she said and for the next three days I accompanied L. to the bathroom and back to bed. Obviously the oysters were not that fresh anymore. And I could swear somewhere at a corner a group of homeless men gathered, laughing out loud. When leaving the town I swore again, may all other people see the canals, walk across the tiny streets and watch out for the buildings of the old, once so splendid Dutch merchant families, Amsterdam will never, ever see me again.

7 thoughts on “Amsterdam. A story of misfortune

  1. I had some bad luck in London. Or perhaps not bad luck, London just seemed to hate me. I have never felt so bad in any place, and I do not even know why. I have not given it another try yet. Also, I want to go to Barcelona next year, but I am scared. For some reason, Barcelona seems scary. Perhaps because of all the bad things I heard about Catalans. But I should go and see for myself.

  2. Charming, funny, and wistful. The ending of this piece is made powerful by your circling back to the homeless men and your long-time wish list of sites to see. For some reason, „…they all smelled as if they had breakfasted raccoons,“ especially tickled me. Oh, how I love your writing.

  3. I have never been to Amsterdam and actually was never keen going but after reading this charming tale I am tempted to visit this cruel city. Staying far away from alc, drugs and oysters of course. 🙂

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