Reconnected, we drive to Krefeld to have dinner the night of the New Year. Staying out late, we  leisurely stroll the deserted streets of the town. Stop frequently at store fronts and window shop. Four years earlier, she wore her hair very short. Now seeing her in a longer than shoulder length hair, I am blown away by how breathtakingly gorgeous she looks. Her radiant smooth skin matches the color of her hair, her shy smiles has me absolutely captivated.

Playfully, I say to her: ‘I’ll marry you when your hair grows down to here,’ pointing to the small of her back with the blade of my hand.

‘Be careful what you say, because my hair grows very fast. In fact, I did have it down to my waist up until a month ago.’ She responds with an impish smile on her face.

And our game begins, as if we were an engaged couple, soon to be married. We pick the bridal gowns and the tuxedos that she and I would wear on our wedding day. We build an imaginary house and begin to fill it with the furniture we see on display. We select baby clothes and the little booties and bonnets for our baby. Even toss around a few names for the daughter we would have. And as we continue our silly little make-believe game, I imagine her walking down the aisle, her radiant face luminous behind the veil.

My plan is now to spend the remaining eight days of my escape from Chicago in Amsterdam. Something I had dreamt of doing with Karen. But it wasn’t meant to be. And now my fickle heart is longing for Fe to explore with me the canals, the bridges and the alleys of the Venice of the north.

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On that Sunday evening, as I stand over one of the thousand bridges of Amsterdam and watch the canal floating down below, I see in its ripples the faces of the women that dot the canvas of my emotional landscape.

Netty, who worked at Drukerij Bosch when I was an intern there seven years earlier,  now lives in Amsterdam. It’s been nice seeing her again, but I can still feel a certain amount of tension linger  between us. Her girlfriend Reneé, on whom I had an incredible crush, leading to a few stolen kisses, is now married and also lives in Amsterdam. Both Netty and I went  to see her and her husband one evening. There is also Carolyn. I thought she was pretty and liked her American way of dressing in blue jeans and a simple top. Lacking of any visible makeup and the hair almost touching her waist. She reminded me of Joan Baez . But I don’t carry any  deeper impression of her. And of course, there is Karen, back in Chicago – the woman I have run away from. But the face that superimposes all of them is that of Fe’s.  What I see clearly in that fluid water is the parting  image of her, clutching the bunch of red tulips, her eyes fogging up and the tail light of her disappearing train.

Having spent the whole weekend together, walking around Amsterdam till wee hours of the morning – still feeling weary and sleepy after the late morning breakfast, we are lying sideways on her single bed – talking, almost whispering – sharing with each other and feeling a certain   closeness at our parallel stories of the bruised hearts, I am overwhelmed at the silence that has fallen between us. Us staring deep into each other’s eyes.

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