This post was originally published on Beacon Reader, an experiment in crowdsourced publishing that has subsequently ceased to exist. RIP Beacon Reader.
For the first time in six months of traveling around the world, I’m not sure I should be leaving the place where I am. There’s usually some gentle force in the environment pushing or pulling me to my next destination, outweighing the static force that holds me still. But here I am, leaving the Netherlands tomorrow, and all I want is to do is stay.
I arrived at the decision to travel here in a seemingly random manner. But there’s actually a methodology to my plan that goes back to the most stable activity I engaged in in New York: going to my favorite bar in Brooklyn on Tuesday nights. I never went to bed at the same time, woke up at the same time, or went to any place in the city with any kind of routine—except for the Larry Lawrence. That’s where I met Tom Smith, chatting across a tea light and drinking away the burden of knowing too much.
We barely got to know each other before I was at his going away party. He was moving to Austria to work for a company that figures out how to keep us all from annihilating ourselves with nuclear weapons. I went to his going away party at our old wagon wheel bar and ate one of his Star Wars cupcakes. We messaged each other intermittently over the years, and then all of a sudden I was being propelled from Berlin to Amsterdam and I messaged him to see if he was still in Vienna. “Come to Amsterdam, I have a place to stay in The Hague.” And so I did.
When I saw him, he was greyer than I remembered, but it may have been a reflection of his suit. His eyes drooped with sleeplessness and pure exhaustion. He told me his work had been killing him, and I assured him I was a low-maintenance guest as we traversed the wavy Dutch cobblestone paths through the city center. We ascended the two elevators to reach his penthouse apartment in the fourth-tallest building in the city. He apologized for the place being a mess, as he hadn’t had time to unpack since he’d moved in. There were boxes, papers, tools scattered over every available surface, from kitchen counter to coffee table. I told him I’d help him get settled.
We went to dinner in China Town that evening and regained some semblance of our past selves. We talked about the guys in our lives, and gossiped a bit about our mutual friends back at the Larry Lawrence. I told him I was digging the lifestyle in Amsterdam, and he told me I should go to a place called “Kramers” that was a coffee shop on one side and a bar on the other.
The following day, I walked all around town and ended my trip at Kramers. I tried to buy weed but they wouldn’t let me because I didn’t have a Dutch ID. New law as of a few months ago says they can’t sell to foreigners. I looked around the smoke-filled bar at all the grungy hippies and middle aged men, wondering which of them would be the one to offer their spliff to me. I sat drinking a Leffe at the bar, returning emails from a mid-day New York City on my smartphone when I caught a burst of blonde hair out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head to glance at him, and he looked at me and smiled a smirkish, cocky smile. I turned my head back to my phone before I smirked back.
A minute later, an arm reached past me on the left and grabbed a jar off the table filled with dried green leaves.
“Hey what is that?” I asked the arm, following it up to glimpse the face framed by two asymmetrical swathes of blonde.
“You don’t know?” he asked, piqued by my naivete. I shook my head. “It’s like an herb. You mix it with weed instead of tobacco,” He started to walk away and then turned back to me. “You can come try it if you want.”
And that was how it started: the most insane fling of my life. Inside the little glass room meant for smoking cigarettes, which we occupied against its purpose to smoke this novel concoction, Nicholaas and I blazed and he asked me how old I was.
“How old do you think I am?” I asked.
“23,” he replied.
“I’m 27. How old are you?”
“Nothing.” I smiled smugly and he stared at me intently with his wild blue eyes.
His English was good but not perfect, but still he spoke it effortlessly. I didn’t plan what would happen at that point, I simply opened myself to the possibility of it by conducting myself as someone who had made up her mind that it wasn’t a good idea. He was too young, too cocky, and he ran out of Kramers to meet a friend at the train station and left me standing there holding the burning spliff. Flaky.
Three days later, we were fucking on LSD on an island North of Amsterdam while everyone back home was eating Thanksgiving dinner.
I have been living the dream here, existing in domestic bliss with an awesome gay man and having some of the best sex of my life with a 23-year-old Dutch god; managing my publication online and organizing the apartment while Tom does his part to save the world. Tonight when I was packing, he told me I was like Mary Poppins for him, and that this was the first time he wasn’t lonely since he’d moved here. His eyes welled up, and I realized that he looked vibrant and rested and healthy, a different person from when I arrived. And I’m packing, and packing, and I can’t bring myself to finish packing. But I guess I should go and preserve this memory forever, carrying it with me as I traverse the other side of the world as a new standard for what life can be if I follow my impulses.