Two glasses of wine, please.

by Kanak Rajadhyaksha (India)

The last thing I expected Netherlands


“A herring sandwich and a glass of wine, please” I said. The waitress smiled politely. She had asked me if I wanted anything thrice by then but I was busy trying to take a selfie. A dozen attempts later I gave up, stood my phone against a glass and set the timer. That picture is pinned at my desk – I'm sitting by the canal and a couple photobombs my effort in the background. Amsterdam isn't for the single, hearts or glasses of wine. I had taken a walking tour that day – the Ann Frank Huis, the museums, the parks, the pubs and then a canal ride. For all the prettiness in the world, I couldn't ignore the couples laying flat on their tummies by the canal, drinking beer, watching the world go by. A group of men in underwear and capes and flashing red hairbands stumbled out of a bar as I walked back to my hostel. Somebody was having a bachelor party they weren't forgetting. My eight-seater dorm was empty. At one in the morning, I pulled a beer out of my bag, propped my feet against the window, and chugged. Amsterdam was beautiful by night. I took a train to Utrecht the next day. The red haired man at the hostel reception smiled at me as I sat in the cafe. “Take a cycle”, he suggested. Grabbing a map, he traced his finger along a route marked in red. “Is it safe?” I asked. The last time I rode a cycle was 14 years ago and I didn't want to end up in the hospital. “He's going too,” he said, pointing to a man stuffing his jacket in his bag. In about ten minutes, Ethan and I were out of the city, cycling past canals bordered by greens that stretched endlessly. That cycle was huge, I had to drag my feet to stop. We rode past houses sitting squat on farms and grazing cows and ducks. We rode past a lone woman sitting at the bus stop and a store dangling a sign that read 'coconuts for sex.' Stopping by a supermarket, we bought lunch and sat by the closest canal, eating sandwiches and drinking coffee. Ethan was American, he was attending a conference, and was taking the day off. He had worked in Nepal and spoke some Hindi. I taught him cuss words that he jotted down, meanings and all. That evening as we climbed our way to the top of the Dom Tower, I couldn't take my eyes off the roofs that jutted from below, the canals that snaked across the city. Some time later, we walked to a cafe that sat partly hidden under a bridge and took a table right by the river. Round paper lights shone across the canopy. “Two glasses of wine, please,” Ethan said. The waiter smiled.