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stories of the streets

published: 2014-09-19

I am stuck on a scene and exit the library. A stroll is a between-sitting-and-walking state of being, reflections are both conscious and subconscious. By chance, I am doing so in the oldest area of Amsterdam, which is the heart of my first act.
My thoughts were disturbed by loud voices. A black postman and a white woman who is pushing a bike loudly discuss the Caribbean. “Oooowh!” she keeps exclaiming, “you don’t say!” He is telling her how Surinam was once Dutch and Curaçao still is.
“That’s right” I say and they both turn to me.
“You see?” he says to her and explains to me, “she knows nothing, and she’s from here.”
In her thick Asterdam accent she explains: “I was taken out of school at the age of 14 so, hey,” and she throws her arm in the air.
“You know other things we don’t know,” I say.
“You’re damn right I do,” she says.
I hate to think in clichés, but it’s clear to me this woman has lived on the streets, has roamed them, stolen from tourists, worked in prostitution, been on drugs. Her eyes shift slightly when she speaks, her voice is as much raspy as it is loud, her face shows more lines than her age would merit. She has a few tattoos, and peroxide blonde hair.
She touches me on speaking, “I give tours of this area and yet I know nothing of our history,” she laughs, “different tours though,” and she hands me a card:
Amsterdam Underground City Walks. Stories of the Streets.
“I know these streets in a way noone else knows,” and out comes a torrent of words about – indeed – how she lived on the streets, stole from tourists, worked in…
“Are you clean now?” I ask.
She explains she was gang-raped a few years ago and it freaked her out. This is when she decided to come clean.
“With falls back into it, you know. You never clean up in one go.”
We chat a little while longer, animatedly, our conversation is intermixed with her saying “have a look at the site, no obligations, just visit it”, a few times.
On leaving, we shake hands, I move my purse from my right hand to the left.
“Oh that would not have been safe with me a few years ago.”
I walk away, and turn to watch her leave. Her cool looking dungarees, her latest fashion slippers, her accent as she speaks to someone else passing. She knows more of history than she realizes.
The main character in my novel is a prostitute in Amsterdam.
I have a card now. Even a person.
Things only happen in life when you get up off your chair. And sometimes, they happen for a reason.

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