There is something peculiar, yet beautiful about the ability to bond with a stranger. Two people vacationing alone from two opposing cultures, to meet in a third.
It was 2am when she walked through the door as I sat at a lonely coffee shop table inside the hostel I'd lived in for two days. She flaunted a large grey scarf, a slim black peacoat, and a black hat covering the non-blonde roots where her hair was growing black. She appeared shy, yet frustrated as she spoke on the phone with just a subtle enough accent to determine she wasn't an American.
I had to say hello.
Nearly all European women are attractive, but she was a unique, strikingly beautiful sort of attractive that I hadn't seen thus far - ever. I discovered she was from Milan, Italy: the fashion capital of the world - hence her clothing choices. We chatted for a couple of hours before deciding to get some rest, but planned to spend some time together the following evening.
By that night, my camera had already been stolen, so I seriously regret my inability to capture her with anything but my iphone. Our adventure through the city was incredibly spontaneous. We ate at a fine burger joint, pretended to negotiated a sale with a coke dealer, and walked aimlessly in the rain. I also purchased my first pack of cigarettes that we smoked together, since it's apparently the European thing to do. Side note: It's incredible the vast difference between the smoking culture in the states versus Europe. There appears to be a wall of judgement cast upon smokers in the US. Societal constructs allow you to smoke with and around others who are comfortable with you, as long as you accept the idea that certain folk from particular classes will view you as some variety of scum for it. Europe: a large portion of the people, including very beautiful women, smoke consistently around complete strangers. I apologize for the tangent, but that detour is to briefly explain the motivation behind my cigarette purchase. And she wanted them, so there's that, too.
It was quite dreary in a peaceful sort of fashion that evening - a light misty rain, and a calm feeling in the air. We visited a few local pubs for a couple of drinks and I found she shares my affinity for fine scotch. I rarely run into anyone who enjoys the Laphroig 10 Year like I do, which essentially makes her the very best. We also were able to secure to-go cups for our beer when an individual pub closed, which is an allowance that should (but really probably shouldn't) be adopted elsewhere. We departed to one of the canals and dangled our feet between the railings of a staircase, while overlooking the crowded night life. This is about the time we met a homeless man who began with, "Hi, my name Frankie. What can I do to make you happy?" He had the most genuine smile that I'll not soon forget. We also met an English street musician, and a few other interesting characters.
At this point it was about 3:30am and our adventure brought us to a nearby club where we sat near the wall and observed people's interactions. We were the only sober ones in the establishment, and I'm certainly glad she loves people watching as much as I do, if not more.
This is the part of the story where it becomes difficult to accurately recount our adventure in a way that offers the same emotions to the reader. Any words I use will fall drastically short of the truly wonderful time it was.
I left the restaurant just shy of 4:00am to walk her to the ferry she would take to her hotel. Her favorite artist, very appropriately, is John Mayer, and we both agree "In Your Atmosphere" is one of our favorites. I played the song on repeat as we walked hand-in-hand down the empty canals of Amsterdam. By empty, I mean, it was soothingly silent, outside of the way the music echoed down the canal. We were literally the only two on the misted-over cobblestone street that would normally be occupied by hundreds. We linked arms and approached a bridge overlooking the still, and ever-silent canal. We were content. But far more than content, the moment was right, and wasn't actually as cliche as it sounds. The desire for the 'romantically-spontaneous-date' scene is something that dwells in my heart continually, but is rarely something I am able to actualize. It was right, and therefore why I will call it the utmost of contentedness, although content is usually used in a "meh-alight" fashion, but this is not how I mean it here.
We kept walking toward the ferry while making jokes about things we had experienced that day. We stopped to share a quick bite to eat before her ferry departed, and then came that mutual moment we hadn't really thought about prior. It was time for farewell. She grabbed my hand and led me out to the docked ferry where we stood facing each other for a while. We shared a kiss, and the ferry departed into the brisk, foggy, yet wonderfully still night. The 'bitter-sweet' emotion could not have been further polarized. It's much easier to connect with someone in a foreign place, knowing that you may not see them for a long time, or maybe ever again. Maybe it's the assumed lack of future commitment that makes people act this way? I'm so thankful for last night, as it was the best date I've ever had, and I never would have imagined such an evening when she walked in as I sat at that lonely table where it started. Returning to that night will be fairly easy, as I just have to close my eyes and play that John Mayer tune. It's funny how music has the ability to hold memories between its notes.
Until next time, Joyce.