It’s been twelve years since I was last in Amsterdam, and I think I’ve changed more than it has.
So we go for a dinner of steaks and frittes in The Red Light District, then we walk it off. It’s nine o clock on Saturday night. We walk past a shop window. There’s a prostitute sitting in a small red-lit room with her legs open, facing the street.
We have more in common than I first realise. She’s also on the wrong side of thirty. She’s not pretty or thin, she’s somewhere in-between.
She’s open for business. Quick blow jobs, sex, whatever you want, all for a price. (I desperately want to know how much, but I’m not able to muster the courage to ask any of the girls I see that night, and there’s no menu posted on the shop window, like you might find at a restaurant.)
I can’t help noticing that while she is open for business, she’s not quite ready yet. She sits on a stool at the window facing the street at an angle. She’s wearing a lacy bra and a black g-string that’s a size too small and I can see it’s cutting into the skin on her hip. That will leave a dent, I’m sure of it. Her skin is pale white from seeing more night than day.
We stare at each other. I’m embarrassed to be caught staring and am tempted to look away. It takes every fibre of my being to maintain eye contact. It feels so wrong to stare, we’ve always been told not to. But then that’s why she’s there. Well one of the reasons anyway. Somehow I’m more affected by my staring than she is.
She’s wearing a band to keep her hair out of her face and she’s putting on her make-up using her side of the window as a kind of mirror. I watch as she cakes on the base, and she watches me watch her. I smile at her, not quite sure what else to do with my face in this situation.
Then we walk on.
The curtain in the next window is open too. I look in. I’m in voyeur mode now. But this isn’t a shop. I see a kitchen in somebody’s home. There’s a family of four sitting at the kitchen table having dinner. Some sort of chicken meal. part of the window is sandblasted for their privacy but from where I’m standing I can still see all the way in. The mother looks up at me and catches me staring. This time I do look away, embarrassed at having intruded on such a private moment. Somehow so much more private than an almost naked woman putting on her make-up.
Next we go smoke a joint and then go see a live sex show. It would be wrong not to. It would be like coming to Africa and not eating biltong and going on safari.