‘Hi,’ I greet her. She gives me a cursory look without responding. Realizing she probably wants to be left alone, I pick up the copy of Holland Herald from the seat pocket in front of me. I hear a sigh of relief from her as she sinks into the long and wide first class seat.

Once up in the air, when the aircraft has reached the cruising altitude, she seems to let herself be relaxed and accepts a glass of champagne when the flight attendants come by with drinks and bowls of roasted almonds.  I order a glass of dry Sherry. Then I sense her head turn side ways with her glass of champagne raised and hear her say, ‘prost.’

Magda.’ She offers her hand sideways.

Haresh.’ I introduce myself and we shake hands if a bit awkwardly. We clink our glasses  and once again the silence prevails as we both retreat to our own private little world.

‘I just left my husband!’ I hear her say, addressing to no on in particular.

‘What happened?’ Hesitantly, I venture.

‘Nothing really that I can pinpoint. I just felt so cramped and smothered, so very suffocated that I couldn’t breath. So boxed in. I just had to escape before I snapped.’

●●●

From then on until we land in Amsterdam seven hours later, sprinkled in-between our drinks and  meals, she tells me the story of her life. I have strung together here from whatever I remember of those conversations with as much accuracy as my memory affords me. What I couldn’t remember in details, I have taken the creative freedom to fill them in.  Yet, the story itself remains pretty much the same as she shared it with me. Narrated in Magda’s voice, told  in the first person to give it intimacy.

‘I was born and grew up in Alkmaar. Do you know the town in the north west of Holland? Its known for its famous cheese market.’

‘Actually, I do know Alkmaar quite well. That’s where my friend Jan Heemskerk lives.’ And I give her a quick rundown on my long and warm relationship with Holland and its people starting with my internship in the printing house Drukkerij Bosch in Utrecht, the family Tukker and my Dutch girlfriend Netty and years later me returning back to Holland to do Playboy.

‘Then maybe you will understand how I feel.’

‘I will try.’

‘Anyways, when I was old enough, I moved to Amsterdam and found myself a job, a small one bedroom apartment of my own and was living a life of a small town girl really in love with the big city of Amsterdam.

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