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Friday, January 15, 2010

Dutch Mills

Was it meant to be that way, to invariably fall in the arms of a new city only deep in the night? In the small hours of Monday I stepped out of the train station in the center of Rotterdam. She shuddered at my sudden appearance and defensively grabbed my throat with a bitterly cold hand. I pulled my collar high around the neck, squinted into the wind then walked north in search of a taxi. She relaxed and apologetically let go. "You're late", she said under her breath, vapor rolling with her words and disappearing instantly. Remnants of Christmas ornaments and lights shined and blinked for no one but me as the snow covered sidewalks were left completely deserted. Whoever celebrated here were gone, hiding within the comfort of quaint small apartments. If they were sleepless tonight and looked from behind their wide un-curtained windows to the streets below, they would see the shivering shadows of naked trees and the hunched figure of a lonely traveler seeking a warm bed.

I stared at her as the cab gobbled the chilly asphalt. So young, she looked, racy, tempting and in vogue. Rotterdam was completely destroyed by the Luftwaffe on May 14th, 1940 and rebuilt from scratch thereafter. Her modern skyline caught my eye and tickled my fancy. I have never met any city so adolescent and tempting like her before.

The steamy jet of water washed the dust from the lengthy traverse off of my body but did not bring solace to my mind. I was weary and tired and only a telepathic whisper, a sigh of relief, emanating from within brought sleep to my eyes. I dreamed of nothing in the short time I rested before my day began, before the next seventy two hours heartlessly kept me awake and on the run.

I was able to take short walks in between meetings. After the mutant tepid winter of the Levant the subzero temperatures felt imperative to my biological calendar. Memories from the distant past danced in my head. It had been a long time since I lived in such a cold place, yet the images were hopeful and alive. I longed for a frost that turns warm in the holding of hands. I saw our footprints in the snow, large and small entwining, crisscrossing as we hugged and swayed in a slow amble along a white path.

When it was finally over, the work, we dined in a superb seafood restaurant on the River Ijssel. Vitor, an epicure with a kind heart and a priceless sense of humor from Galicia and I sat across the table. Amid laughter and good food he talked lovingly of his homeland. I have learned more about what Spain is and is not that evening than I had from reading the many history books once upon a time. We drank a silky Caiño Blanca harvested from near the Minho river in Galicia, he told me. We talked of fish and wine, of La Coruña and Rotterdam, of the folly of men and the eternal beauty of women. Well past midnight we rode through the  countryside toward Schiphol airport near Amsterdam. As the sparse old Dutch mills stood silent in the dark modern ones turned incessantly in the wind. The forty five minute drive passed in the blink of an eye as the good times always do. We hugged for an everlasting minute in the lobby of yet another hotel. "Be safe my friend Vitor", I said. "See you in March, God only knows where, dear Abufares", he replied.

I did not have sufficient time to lose myself to slumber. Instead I tossed and turned waiting for icy take-offs and landings and a tiring drive home in the rain.

"Sleep well and hold me tight", I dreamed of the words kissing my forehead then capering down my face.

"Goodnight", I closed my eyes and floated in an azure womb of adoration unbeknown to the mass of desperate men. I did not stir a muscle for the next fourteen hours.

Good morning World, I am back in Tartous.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

good morning to you too, and welcome back!

w.b. yeats

Gabriela said...

What a lovely account of your trip. It will always amaze me, how you manage to shape beautiful thoughts using words just as beautiful.

BIL said...

Abufares;
A cold Amsterdam night, warmed with your friends enjoying good food and wine. Sounds like you had a wonderful albeit short trip. Of course the best part of it all is to be home again. Say hello to all. <;-))

Isobel said...

This post was certainly worth the wait. When I finished reading it, all the words praise and awe I know created a bottleneck going from my brain to my mouth. All I could utter was "Wow!" But that's not what I meant. You're writing is stunningly beautiful. It actually gave me shivers...and not from the cold. That still doesn't come close to explaining my thoughts on this piece but it will have to do for now. Well done, Abufares, and welcome home.

أنا سوري said...

Never seize to amaze Abu Fares. Doesn't the frosty weather make you feel alive though? We've been dealing with it here in DC for 3 weeks now, but I find the ice and snow just fascinating. It always reminds me how lucky we are to have warm veins underneath our layers of clothes. Welcome back my friend.

abufares said...

@w.b. yeats
Nice to hear from you. I hope that you and yours are doing well and hopefully not too cold :-)

abufares said...

@Gabriela
I'm glad you enjoyed the read. I would have liked if I had the chance to know Rotterdam more. Unfortunately though I saw very little of her. It's not the best of times to travel to the north of Europe of course but the cold was indeed very much welcome.

abufares said...

@BIL
Food and wine in the right company make for one of life's greatest pleasures.
Get well :-)

abufares said...

@Isobel
After reading your comment I came out with the realization that writing is giving me a pleasure, a kind of satisfaction, unbeknown to me before.
Your balsamic words make the effort worthwhile and much much more.
How can I ever thank you enough?
I have to find a way :-)

abufares said...

@Ana Sourie
So nice to see you here my friend. Ten years ago I experienced first hand the cold of DC. I stayed out and visited all the monuments I missed in more tolerable weather. I love walking in the cold and you're right it must be "our" hot blood that keeps us warm and happy.
Thank you for being here and looking forward reading you.

Anonymous said...

is this a wikipedia article about rotterdam..damn boring

abufares said...

@Anonymous

I'm so happy my article had this effect on you. My intention exactly.

Whenever you feel excited and in need of dampening the effect, come again.

Karin said...

I can imagine the ice box you dipped into when arriving in Rotterdam .... Brrrrr!!!! I have been to Holland several times but never to Rotterdam and am happy you had a good impression, a good time! I love Holland, the people, the countryside ...
It must have felt like heaven being back home with family and "humane" weather!
Your way of narrating goes under the skin - BEAUTIFUL!!!
Great post Abufares - as always!!
:-)

abufares said...

@Karin
Holland is a great place. Amsterdam remains on top of my all time favorites list.
Rotterdam is more modern and business oriented but I was able to walk on my last night along the River Ijssel all alone. Perhaps it was my loneliness or an inherent charm that made the brief 5 minutes feel like magic.
Munich (in your company) some day?! I hope so.

Joseph said...

The warmth of Tartous and the Mediterranean you carry Abufares, tames the weather and transforms those little encounters into sprinkles of magic. Welcome back.

abufares said...

@Joseph
Thank you for your beautiful welcome. Your words are as refreshing as a cold spring in the middle of summer, as warm as a soft blanket in the dead of winter.

Anonymous said...

(( Thank you for your beautiful welcome. Your words are as refreshing as a cold spring in the middle of summer, as warm as a soft blanket in the dead of winter.)).

100% Tartoussi!!
Cheers.

Joseph said...

Thank you Abufares for your bedutiful words. I'm humbled, yet again. I passed by last night to thank you, something distracted me and I left without saying a word. My apologies. Have a nice day.

KJ said...

And no matter how often or far your travel, better places they may be, nothing compares to sleeping on your own bed

abufares said...

@KJ

Theoretically speaking, you're right :-)
How about that for a weird answer?