A story told to myself….
I did not see her coming. There was no way to anticipate how my life was about to change. It’s challenging for a depressed man feeling sorry for himself to see much of anything outside of his self focused indulgence. So there I was on Monday morning, engrossed in trying to read my Amsterdam map and did not even see her get on the tram. Looking up she grabbed my attention and I stared at her just three rows away until she glanced up at me. I looked away embarrassed. Each time I sneaked another peek, she would glance up at me a moment later. After the fourth time she smiled and red-faced, I smiled back.
Within a few minutes the tram started to slow to its next stop. She got up, took three steps closer to the door and ended up right by me. In American English (which surprised me), she said “What are you looking for on your map?” My response was “Van Gogh Museum”. She smiled and said, “Oh that’s easy. Get off at the third stop after this one, go across the bridge and keep walking to your right. You can’t miss it.” Before even a “thank you” could be formed in my mouth the doors of the tram opened and she stepped off the tram.
As the doors closed I watched as she walked away. Tall and slender but not skinny and she was about five foot seven or eight. Hair below her shoulders pulled back with a knit hat on top of her head. Dark pants were tucked into high boots that came up to a few inches below her knee (young or old, the women in Amsterdam all seem to wear boots in the winter. I had noticed on previous visits that no two pairs to be alike in the whole city!). As she walked away I studied her. With a well-fitting below the waist length leather jacket, a scarf wrapped around and around her neck with an umbrella in hand my mystery woman looked typical for a casually well dressed city woman in Holland during February.
The blue and white tram slowly began to continue south as she finished crossing the street. I was staring straight at her when she looked over her shoulder in my direction and smiled. Was she smiling at me? There was no way to know for sure, but I smiled back just in case. She then turned away and three steps later disappeared into one of the city’s numerous alley ways that tie the town together. I was lost in my thoughts as the little train gained speed headed down toward the museum section of the city.
She was gone leaving me to feel like a junior high schooler who develops a crush at first look. This woman had made a distinct impression on me, but now she was lost in the vast sea of humanity. I chided myself for not saying something to her and especially for not thanking her for her advice about finding the museum. My chance was gone. For now, there was only an image of her in my mind. Her face most of all seemed burned into my psyche. Hers were not the features of a beauty queen and instead more attractive in an honest and non-assuming way.
For the moment this encounter only made me think even more of Diane (the woman who had broken my heart days before). I missed her or at least missed having someone. The wound left from my surprise visit to her in Paris a week ago was still open and festering. How was I to know that my unannounced arrival to see my fiancée was to be a much bigger surprise to both of us? It had been very early morning when I landed and took a cab to the apartment her company provided for her. I had to knock several times before she came to the door of her apartment in a bathrobe. Her face had pillow wrinkles on it, her hair was rumpled and it was easy to see she had just gotten up. Looking through the living room and past the doorway of her bedroom, it was easy to see a man in his boxer shorts sitting on the end of the bed. In an instant I knew what had gone on.
…to be continued
For over two years I have struggled on and off to complete a fictional love story that has been kicking in my head for years. Now about half way through completion of the book I felt compelled to throw a few paragraphs out into the world and re-commit myself to finishing the story. I am grateful for your indulgence and for the hapless romantic soul within that pushes me forward to complete what I have begun.
Better never to have met you in my dream
than to wake and reach for hands that are not there.
Otomo No Yakamochi