Amsterdam, June 2016
by George Pringle
From “Bible for a Hopeless Girl”
In the garden of Reichts museum, all the greco statues looked haunted and grey. Looking at them, I suddenly felt horrified. Their mouths all seemed to moan. Out the gate of the garden and down some bleak side streets, it finally started to rain. I felt very strange and decided to take myself for a drink.
A woman in a pub down The Jordaan served me a beer and charged my phone. She had crumpled paper for skin and navy liner, tattooing her lids. She reminded me of a teacher I’d once had. She’d worn blue eyeliner too and was pale-blonde-grey in the same dainty way…only this woman was coarse from a lifetime worked on the floor. She pulled herself a half pint and went into a tiny kitchen where she fetched a plate of onion rings and bought it outside to some friends.
After a while she came back to wash up. She placed the glasses in the square basket and slid them into the dishwasher. She flipped the lid closed and put her hands in a accomplished way on her hips. A familiar churning started. How funny it was, I thought, to be on the other side…She looked at me with a thin smile. I know this smile well. She asked where I was from and why was I in Amsterdam. I said I’d come from London and I was over just for the day. She looked at me in disbelief.
“Just for the day?”
I shrugged, amicably…
Because I am losing my mind. Because I cannot stay in London. Because I am self-destructing.
She asked who I had come to see and I told her I was alone.
She looked astonished “Alone?”
Very alone, so alone, sometimes I’d like to die, if only there were someone to miss me.
She raised her eyebrows in bafflement, smiled awkwardly and shuffled outside to her friends.
My phone never charged, as it happened so I went straight back to the hotel. What was the use of staying out? Only to be looked at like I’m sad…
Sometimes you can go for a drink but really, only one. Any more and you’re Jean Rhys. And I thought of all the drunks in the bar and how they were largely male. How the female alcoholics were different. More self-conscious.
No, men don’t go home with a bottle of wine –
and why should they? They’d shamelessly drink the night away, needing all the attention…and so far cast into a night so strange and of their own making. They couldn’t see your pity, couldn’t see it for the trees…
No, I would stay sober. I would go to the hotel.
I lay on the bed watching Tour de France. The sun was now out and the whole room had turned a resolutely seductive hue:
I looked at my trench coat, hanging…
I felt small and blue.
And I thought a lot of how sensual it was, just to lie in your underwear. Just to lie, with smooth legs on a large white bed, alone.