Friday, January 27, 2012

Yellow Roses in the Canal: Phoenixterdam I Won't Forget You


She stood at the rail of the bridge and threw them

The cool night air hit my skin, heightening my already awakened senses in the afterglow of the rijsttafel dinner. We rode our bicycles over together to have a drink at the bar across from her apartment, where the bartender and the guy playing jazz guitar both knew her name.

I don't remember much other detail about that night in Phoenixterdam. I know they went around and lit candles on the tables in the bar at some point. I know the jazz guitar player stayed way late, as late as the few of us who were still left kept applauding his songs. To tell the truth, I thought she was out of my league, but she kept laughing at my jokes, and it wasn't about buying drinks because she paid for several rounds herself, so I stayed and alternated between saying things that made her laugh in her beautiful way, and listening to her spin out her tales of the various beaches she had visited, or would visit, or was thinking of visiting, since October in Phoenixterdam brings such thoughts of warmer, sunnier places to mind when the weather is rainy and cool.

Eventually the bartender shooed us out the door by turning the lights back on. The jazz player played his last song, took a bow, drank the beer I got for him, and headed out. The bartender walked over to our table with a vase full of yellow roses that were past their prime but still fragrant and lovely, took them out, wrapped them in a ribbon and a bit of newspaper, and handed them to her. Kiss on his cheek, more of her beautiful laugh.

We walked out the door arm in arm, and neither of us wanted to do anything else besides walk along the canal together in the cool, foggy night. Maybe out of my league, but she felt right walking next to me, as we fell naturally into a walking rhythm where our steps matched and felt like together we could walk anywhere, and talk about anything.

The warm babbling river of words of our conversation did not stay with me all these years. But we strolled for a long time, lost track of what hours might have been passing, until the sky started to warm up with signs of dawn approaching. I'm sure we spoke of what we believed, what we hoped for, something about injustice and the plight of the poor of the world. I'm sure I talked about the statue of the four people entwined with barbed wire and morphed into nuclear missiles that I had seen on the street with all the museums. I do remember that at that point she walked over to the railing with the roses she had been carrying on some sentimental mission. She stood at the rail of the bridge and threw them into the canal, saying, "For all who come later!" 

She said she knew a coffee shop that never closed, and asked if I wanted some breakfast. The question was so right at that moment, because we were both feeling chilled, and all walked out. I'll never forget our breakfast in Phoenixterdam, in part because she made the best omelet I've ever tasted, up to that moment, and ever since. The bright sunshine of dawn streaming through the window is a moment I return to on the rare occasion of seeing yellow roses floating in the canal, riding by on my bicycle.

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