Chameleon Chapter 13 - The Dutchman
The first stop on my trip was to Amsterdam. I was so sad to leave DC, it overshadowed my excitement for leaving to go on this trip where I would have more freedom to move, explore, and experiment than any other time in my life. It was a true privilege, but I was still having lots of feelings about leaving my life behind. I spent my day teaching my final Monday morning yoga class for a while, running last minute errands, and reminding myself that I was making the right decision, and then I was on a plane. And then I was in Reykjavík-Keflavík Airport in Iceland. And then it was morning and I was in Amsterdam. I was doing this thing!
Traveling alone has been one of the most rewarding challenges of my life and I used to scoff at it. I had traveled alone for work and didn’t like it. It was weird and lonely eating and wandering by myself and awkward as I imagined everyone around me wondering why I was alone. But I was determined to give it another try and I’m glad that I didn’t let that fear hold me back. One of the important things I learned quickly is that you are only alone if you want to be. You can meet people anywhere and you are much more likely to do so while traveling alone than if you with someone. I also learned to appreciate the flexibility of it, especially because I tend to be so accommodating to the desires of others, even preemptively thinking about what that person may want over asking myself about what I want. It’s good for me to be forced to figure out what I actually want to do with no one else’s influence.
I arrived on Tuesday and explored that evening and Wednesday. After a museum trip the second day I stumbled into this corner bar called Café Wetering to dry off from the light, steady rain that had been falling all day. I was the only customer at first, but they had a fireplace so it was perfect. The bartender was cute and nice, and even though I still felt uncomfortable being alone at a bar, I wanted to practice NOT feeling uncomfortable and it felt like a good place to work on it.
Another thing I learned is that while I’m exploring a new city, I like to go to the same place more than once. It helps me familiarize myself with the area and gives me comfort in routine. It also facilitates connections. The next day I ended up near the same bar after I left another museum, so I walked back in. I sat down at the bar this time instead of at a table because I wanted to get over my discomfort and talk to people. This was also due to the fact that I had spent two days not really talking to anyone, and I was ready to socialize. There was a different bartender and I sat next to a guy who I quickly realized was a Spanish speaker. We ended up chatting a bit, he was a veterinarian from Argentina. While I was turned to speak to him, I observed Jochem come in and then felt him sit down at the barstool on the other side of me. I noticed him of course. Mainly because he was super tall and he had the best sweater I had seen in Amsterdam. A huge, thick corded, off-white, wool beauty – yes I’m talking about the sweater. He started up a conversation in Dutch with an older man (who he told me later was the owner of the bar) and with the bartender. He was tall and lanky with blond hair and a strong nose. Not really my typical type, but that sweater was something special…
The Argentine eventually left and I spoke to the bartender a bit and then Jochem and I chatted, intermittently at first. The bartender poured us more beers. We kept talking. I asked him for a recommendation for a good place for dinner once I found out he lived in the area and he gave me a few options. The bartender poured us each another beer and then I decided to go eat. I looked at him as I was finishing my beer and said, “So are you going to come with me to dinner or what?”
This sweet, practical man paused to think and I almost revoked my invitation. I was thinking to myself, if this dude has to think about coming to dinner with me, this may not be worth it.
I later learned that dinner with me had not been in his plans for the evening (obviously) and he had told his father’s girlfriend he would work on her website – so the pause was him recalibrating his expectations for the evening – but his pause raised the bar (and my interest) even further.
He finally shrugged and said sure, so we left to eat. We ended up at a Belgian place (it was already quite late and I was already quite tipsy). Our conversation over dinner was substantial, interesting, intense, and thoughtful. I liked him. We locked eyes a few times and the conversation would pause for a few breaths. He would bat my hand away when I tried to bite my fingers. I grew increasingly more attracted. Besides brief moments when I caught him looking a little longer at me, I couldn’t really tell if he was interested or not – he had paused before agreeing to go to dinner with me after all. We stayed for a couple of hours, I was drunk by the end but I didn’t want it to end. We left and started walking. He was holding the far handlebar on his bike, walking it with an ease that can only be felt by a person with that much distance between his hands and feet. He happened to live in the same part of town where my Airbnb was. I was wondering if he was going to make a move. Then he teased me about something and I half-turned to face him and gave him a playful shove in the chest and the next second I just pounced.
The beer had emboldened me, sure. But my actions – being friendly to a man at a bar, asking him to dinner, kissing first - were also in-line with my recent efforts to be more assertive in these situations. To be the one that pursues. And he didn’t seem to mind. We started kissing right there on the sidewalk – it got intense quickly, he dropped his bike so he could use both hands. I was unconcerned about any onlookers, it helped that it was so late that there were hardly any people on the street. After a few minutes of enthusiastically making out, we collected ourselves and kept moving but I stayed connected to him – his arm draped around my shoulder. We stopped to kiss again. This time him pressing me up against a wall. We eventually made it outside his apartment building.
Oh, I’m coming to your place?
Yes with finality. I liked that. No pauses this time. He had his hands in my pants, I had mine in his. We could barely make it inside. The next morning I left around noon. Jochem was finishing up his masters and didn’t have anywhere to be that morning, so I stayed later than I would have. It turned out that he worked at Café Wetering and had been discussing his schedule with his boss the day before, which was the reason he had come in. Turned out, I liked him when I was totally sober too. Turned out, he didn’t mind my company either. I left feeling giddy, empowered, sexy, and also hungover. I had to move apartments to the place, Jes and I would be staying for the weekend.
After Jes came into town, we met up with Jochem at a place he recommended on the water called Pllek. I just wanted to be around him. Even now, when I think about sitting somewhere with Jochem, all I want to do is curl up around him and have him envelop me in his long arms. I want to tuck myself under his arm and camp out. No other way to describe it. Day three of my trip and I meet someone that makes me feel like this? Empowered, vulnerable and excited. Shit.