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Little girl

published: 2010-04-15

Little girl. Aren’t you gorgeous? How old are you? Seven?
You flash your baby-blue eyes at me. You’re shy, but you want to be cool. So you sip your coca-cola. It has a slice of lemon in it. Very grown-up like. You pout your lips, and stare over your glass. You have already mastered a look of boredom and contempt.
Yet your foot kicks against the chair you are sitting on, in shame. You are wondering whether I noticed how you tried to get your grandma’s attention. But she held her hand up at you. The palm of her hand said: not now. It also said she was irritated. Impatient. Busy. She is going through contracts it seems. Right here, in this lunchroom. And her celphone is of great interest to her
Luckily, a plate of cookies arrives. Your face lights up in joy. But you glance at me, then jump up and run. As you run past me, your expression is
defiant. Catch me if you can, it says.
I sit here, wondering how long it will take
before your grandma notices you are gone. 30 minutes. Not once has grandma looked up.
Where are you, little girl?
I wander over to the restrooms. Have
you locked yourself up? I cough, and whistle a children’s song, and listen. Not a single
sign of youthful energy. I look for you, in this grand, open spaced
lunch room that connects to a theatre and to a space where men are redoing
the floor. They are the type of men I would not like seeing you talk to.
I find you. You are next to a woman. The two of you are in front of a computer terminal. Her hair is sprinkled in greys. You see me too and you look triumphant. See? You simply ran to your mother. Stupid me. I pretend to be looking at some wall art and return to my table. I order a coffee and start reading a book.
A few minutes later your mother comes to me.
“Was that your daughter?” she asks, “because she said she was going to the toilet. Amsterdam may seem cosy, but it’s a big city.”
I jump up and ask this friendly lady wwhether we should say something to your grandma? But what if grandma misinterprets our good intentions and gets angry at you, little girl?
I now notice the woman’s hands shake. Her modus of speech is as if she were from the fifties. Her clothes are dirty. And
she smells. Spit collects in the corners of her mouth. She has started rattling about the tram conductor and about nature and umeployment and termite and how she’d love to live with someone. “Why must we women be independent? It’s ridiculous.” After which she tells me she has a date with you next week, right here. She’ll be your friend, she says. Because there are some really strange people out there.
Where are you little girl? Where?
You reappear in a bolt, a skip and a jump. Back to sipping your coca-cola. Your grandma puts the contracts away and looks at you. I wait for her to smile. She doesn’t.

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