Amsterdam: Don’t Give me the Red Light

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How weird to be back in a city again. I have to say, going to the city life in Amsterdam and Utrecht right after my week on the tiny island of Jersey really heightened the experience for lots of reasons. In Jersey, though I felt very physically ostracized and out of place with the bike riding (who knew there were laws with bikes), quiet atmosphere, reserved conversations, and terrifying earthquakes that were really windstorms, I felt remarkably at peace and comfortable. Each thought was a fantastic conversation and I felt like the world could be lived more simply than I had even imagined. On top of the location, I spent the afternoons and evenings with my Scottish friend Susan and her boyfriend Gary. They are figuring out how to live together, and I watched them call each other out for not getting the oil for the heat, dance in pajamas, and veg out with tv, wine, and chocolate after a long work day. I laughed with Susan as she planned out her simple wedding and then laughed harder when she brought it up casually around Gary. She would say yes if he asked, she nudged and he laughed as well. They are in love in this adorably domestic way, a way I only pretended to know in my past relationships.

It took 6 hours to get from Jersey to Amsterdam, where my college friend Tammy and her fiancé picked me up. It was pretty apparent Tammy wasn’t happy. Literally. The first thing she said was “I hate it here I hate his family and I’m not happy,” so I’m not psychoanalyzing or anything. I sort of laughed awkwardly because I didn’t know how to respond and I thought maybe she was exaggerating or something. I was glad to be there because at least it’s a taste of home and I thought it could make her feel better.

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On Saturday Luc and Tammy took me on a tour of Amsterdam. We stopped by a coffee shop, smoked joints, went to the canals, saw the Anne frank house.  Though Tammy had told me horror stories about how mean the Dutch are, I found them to be all around nice and helpful. I tried to explain that sometimes cultural barriers make us think it’s personal when really it’s just a different way of talking. No, she insisted, they are all the same like your mom isn’t that right Luc? He nodded sheepishly and I dropped that topic because I was high and have the tendency to talk before I think.  I took in the city.  It was just how I pictured it and I was loving the sunset over the canals and the the clean streets, until I got to the red light district.

I don’t really know what I was expecting. I think I expected some sort of euro rendition of a New Orleans colored street with dancers. I’m not even joking. From the stories my friends told me, it seemed like this awesome place full of life and fun and dancing and music. There was no music on the street, just normal stuff coming from some restaurants and bars. It was crowded like New York and with people who walked with the same drunken urgency as your corporate boss at the company Christmas party.

The red lights illuminated windows with barely covered women moving their hips and heads provocatively inside while men pointed and continued down the street or walked in quickly and then the red light would go out. The girls looked and smiled or shot dominating glares or bit their lips flirtatiously to get the attention of the crowds, but whatever they did it never met their eyes. They could be smiling or leering or giggling or touching themselves or pointing or glaring but it didn’t matter: their eyes held the same dead expression. They looked bored; bored and tired the way I used to look on a Thursday around 3pm, sitting in front of a desk submitting budget reports for weekend approval. The whole place sort of hardened and died for me then and I just wanted to smoke my blunt in my room and not talk to anyone. As we passed by one building, a guy in his early 20s came out of the building hurriedly and then rushed past us. Is that sex, I thought. Like, is that sex by pure definition? Is it possible that the human experience actually be numbed by a store bought orgasm? I thought about my last relationship and how I felt when I found out he cheated on me. I wasn’t as shocked as I was disturbed. I remember the unsettling question that nagged at my heart I’m the days that followed: was it so easy to throw away a relationship for 13 minutes (maybe less) of meaningless sex?

Watching that guy leave the red house like it was a typical Friday night reminded me of that feeling, and that was the final straw for me really so we started to make our way back to the train station. I trailed behind Tammy and Luc as she explained exactly how she wants him to tell his mom they are eloping and Luc nodded nervously.  Maybe the store bought orgasm is easier.

I stopped and got a space cake and devoured it because I wasn’t already tripping out without it, and thirty minutes later I was high out of my mind but that was okay because if life was that sad then I’m allowed to be that stoned.

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And now I’m sneaking tokes in my room and being a skeptic to all things involving relationships. All love stories are the same aren’t they? We are always falling in or out of love and in both states we are constantly dreaming and thinking and fantasizing a million different stories. Does it ever stop and just become one good story?

love is merely a madness

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