Harry

Jul. 21st, 2005 05:12 pm
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Aldo and Jaap had left, and I was standing by myself in The Web when I noticed an attractive man looking at me. 

He was sitting against the wall, across from the stairs.   Slim, tanned, clean-shaven, he was wearing an olive green tank top and jeans.  He was lightly muscled.  He saw me seeing him look at me, and then he turned away.  I circled the bar, trying to look casual and confident, and then stationed myself at an angle from him.  He ignored me as steadfastly and indifferently as if I weren't even there.  I waited long enough to salvage my pride, and then wandered away.  "He's out of my league, anyway," I thought to myself as I slipped out the door and headed off to the fresher pastures of Warmoestraat.

I was deep in the Argos, pretending not to recognize the two skinheads from Paris who stood beside me, not recognizing me either, although we had been in exactly the same proximity four or five times at Cox in the last couple of months, when I noticed the guy in the olive tank top had arrived.  "Great," I thought.  "Another chance to be ignored."  I went and bought another beer and perched myself on one of the narrow shelves that pass as benches, just at the top of the stairs that lead from the lower front bar to the upper back bar.  Then suddenly, there was a clearing in the crowd, and I realized that the guy in the tank top was sitting directly across from me.  Smiling at me.

My immediate reaction, to be honest, was to think, "Fuck you, buddy.  Don't you remember blowing me off at The Web a scant 45 minutes ago?"  But he kept smiling so sweetly and insistently that I had to smile back.  We grinned at each other for a few more minutes, and then I summoned up my courage and crossed over to him.  "Ik spreek geen Nederlands,"  I stammered.  Naturally, he replied, "Where are you from?"  He introduced himself as "Harry."  He told me I was handsome, and I told him he was handsome, and we chatted about how I came to be in Amsterdam.  We agreed that having a year off from your job was a fine thing. 

Then:  "I'm in a similar position to you; well, I'm off work for a while too."

"Oh?  Vacation?  Looking for work?"

A tiny but perceptible pause, then:  "Disability."  "Yeah," he continued, "I've been on disability for three years now.  Can't work."

I offered what I hoped was a supportive but matter-of-fact smile.

"A while ago I had an infection in my brain," he said.  "It screwed up my vision on one side.  I don't see so well anymore.  Sometimes my friends think I'm ignoring them."

We talked a bit more, about Amsterdam, about my vacation.  Then, rather abruptly, he jumped to his feet.  "Well, I've got to move on.  It was nice meeting you.  I hope you enjoy your stay.  Maybe I'll see you later.  Bye."  Then we brushed our cheeks together -- three little kisses in the Dutch style  -- like old friends saying good bye.

Harry had a gently winsome smile, bashful and tinged with sorrow.  I saw him again later, across the street at The Eagle.  He was sitting by himself, smoking.  I smiled from across the room, but he just ignored me.  When I passed his perch a few minutes later, he was gone.
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Paul Leonard

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