I fled from the bed. Not many things I grabbed after I instantly decided I had to go out of the flat as soon as possible. I put on my cardigan, jeans and black thick jacket/suit, then my socks and boots. I took out my wallet from my bag, it would be a simple and short journey. Then I left. It was around 1pm. I forgot to wear a bra.
Walking outside and breathing some fresh air, I was quite content to know that I also forgot my cellphone. I would be unreachable for some time, which is good when you don’t feel like talking to anyone. But I kind of regretted it because the cellphone would obviously be useful for internet, getting info about whatever faraway, strange place I would end up being in. Anywhere my feet (and my wallet) would take me to. I am free like a kite to the wind.
The first place that crossed my chaotic mind was the park. There is a lake, there are swans, less people, green field of grass stretching in your horizon—this tranquility would be able to calm me down. I reached the park within around 20 minutes. I took a stroll and then sat on one of the benches before I decided something that is, I still think it is, brilliant. I would take the train and go out of Germany! I would enjoy some city, exhaust myself, discard my night sleep and instead sleep on the train on the way back tomorrow.
But as I was strolling, I realized that another thing I also forgot is my passport, my only valid identity in this part of the world, but I didn’t give it much thought. I would make my way. I could survive this. I had survived many far worse conditions than this. Everything would be okay, I told myself.
I took the tram and then the subway to Köln Hbf, the railway station. I reached at about 4pm. It was as hectic as you can expect a railway station can be on Saturdays. I withdrew some money from Geldautomat, or the cash dispenser. I went to the information desk and asked the lady how to go to… say, Amsterdam or Paris. She asked, which one exactly, Amsterdam OR Paris? Arbitrarily I uttered, Amsterdam. The lady gave me a printout of the train schedule, the Intercity Express, or ICE train would depart at 5.45pm. I had never taken the train in Europe before, I didn’t know how to choose the train. I pressed 6pm for the departure schedule on the ticket machine, opted for return ticket for departure from Amsterdam Centraal for 11am (that should be enough of time). But I actually got the wrong train, the timetable printout says I had four trains to take, instead of the direct one. But of course I didn’t mind. In the station I bought a red shawl for a shield of my neck, only 5 euros.
The local train was quite full but I had a seat. At the stop in Eindhoven I bought myself a croissant. I was not really hungry but I realized I had not eaten anything since morning, so even the cold croissant was super tasty. The intercity train, but not the express one, was almost empty. It was like one of the trains I saw in the movies. I sat on the upper level. It’s dark outside, and I was a bit worried when I saw some drops of the drizzle falling on the window. It would be colder. It turned out to be true. It was not because the rain, but rather the wind. The wind blew from every direction and I was already shivering. Maybe I was walking in the park for too long, I felt my body had been storing the coldness I had been exposed to.
Amsterdam Centraal. It was around 11pm. A gush of wind almost swept me. I crossed lines of railways and the street, joining the crowd. A city like this should be gay, stay lively throughout the night, no? I had neither my Lonely Planet – Europe on a Shoestring edition, nor any idea of the must-see place. Like a firefly, I was drawn to the spot that bore the most lights, the Christmas market. I walked along the street, the snacks and other food on my left. Seemed like people from all over the world were as many as the local-looking.
I kept my orientation as I didn’t have my GPS-equipped device. But it was difficult as the area is not zoned in square blocks. A road became an alley became smaller alleys, and the canals were no longer pinned down in the map in my head. I let all of them blur my way. The were bookstores, sex shops, and restaurants. Unfortunately the sex shops were already closed. There were quire numerous Chinese restaurants, a Thai restaurant and certainly, an Indonesian restaurant. Two seemingly-American girls asked me to take a picture of them. I gayly did so.
A lot of bars indicated by Heineken. I randomly entered one of them as I could no longer stand the chill of the air. I sat on the bar, ordered a Cointreau and coke on the rocks. The barterder who served me looked very young, maybe aged around 15. The drink cost 7 euros. I didn’t know where to rest my gaze on. The TV emitting a billiard match, how interesting. Three men on my right were talking and laughing, loud. Then I saw myself on the mirror right in front of me, behind the bottles. My lips did not show either a smile or a pout. It must be strange for people to see me, a stranger, an Asian-looking woman sitting alone in a bar in Amsterdam, looking restless? The man on my left introduced himself, un Marocain, I practiced my French until I found him boring, like men in general. I left.
In the small alleys, some windows showcased cheerful young girls, showered in red-and-blue lights, in white underwear. Girls of various races. Smiling to everybody on the street. So this is what they say about the funky girls of Amsterdam. I returned their smile.
Another bar, another Cointreau and coke on the rocks. It was cheaper, 6.3 euros. The music played was not actually my kind of music, it was countrish or blues. But the Led Zepelin’s Stairway to Heaven and the succeeding Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters kept me awake.
A lady from Colombia came to the cigarette machine and bought a package behind me. Not too tall, not too short. Black wavy hair, lipsticked lips– maybe red. Tight top, mini skirt. Then she approached me and asked if I had a lighter. I handed it to her and she said she would return it later. I was so lonely that I thought that maybe we could be good friends. She went out and met her friends, then knocked on the glass in front of me, gave me the lighter back. So honest of her.
Sitting and watching the beer glass pads on the table, I was distracted with the scene outside. People passed, walking slowly, turning their head to the glass window next to my bar, sometimes stopped for a while, then laughed. I wondered what was going on besides the plain girls dancing and smiling. Three-four men were standing and leaning on the wall, they were straightforwardly watching the supposedly quirky scene, shamelessly. I shamelessly watched them, looked straight into their eyes. It was fun, too, to see their nervousness.
I quit the bar and went strolling to the other side of the railway station. A short building of a cafe. It says Cafe Batavia 1920. The other Cafe Batavia besides the one in my city. This part was less flashy. As I trotted on the paving blocks of the street, I saw an amusing animal, a cat! It was black with grey stripes, very fluffy due to the winter, about to eat some dried cat food put just by the door. I came near him and tried to touch him but he reluctantly accepted my intention. I meowed several times, maybe speaking the ‘same language’ can break the ice. I came closer, bowing down, squatting and stretching my hand trying to touch him, or let him kiss my finger with his nose. But he ran away, sacrificing the blessing of easy-ready food.
I didn’t realize that my cat pursuing attracted the guests sitting in the bar. Sitting on the floor, with pillows in dark colors. One of them waved at me and yelled Come on. I was brought into a shisha bar. I didn’t join the group at the front, and rather went to the bar. There were four female bartenders and the girl who greeted me spoke good English. Cointreau and coke. Eight euro something went into a wooden box that says Boîte de gâteau. The cash box. My mistake, I didn’t ask what time the bar would close. One bartender politely refused to give more drink to an obviously drunk customer. I smoked. I thought of letting him know where I was, where I had been. The English speaking girl lent me her phone and I sent a message via Facebook chat. I had to deal with the autocorrect that always suggest words with so many accented letters, which later on she told me that was Latvian. He had been worried, had not slept. It was 4 in the morning.
I had to go back, these feelings were uncontainable, still incurable. I can save the canal tour or the Van Gogh museum for next time. It was drizzling. I pulled myself together. I supposed I was done with the nuptial sightseeing. The kite was free, blown by the wind, but it is attached to a string. I went back to the station but it is only open at 6. So I took a bus to Utrecht to catch the next train. Still dark outside, and strangely silent.