In a hash bar, Dwight likes to talk and repeats Dat’s Amsterdam after everything he says, like this is the only city in the world where the unexpected happened and he needed to put a verbal exclamation point at the end of each story.
The other night, he tells me, he and a friend were walking through the Red Light district when someone accidentally bumped into them. The stranger apologized, but Dwight’s friend started to smack the guy in the face. Then the stranger pulled out a knife and stabbed him. Dwight’s friend was bleeding to death in his arms and asked Dwight to shoot the guy, who by this time had put the knife down and sat on the sidewalk. Dwight said people had paid him to do bad things and that he had bullet holes all over his body, but he couldn’t justify shooting the guy.
We smoke in silence for awhile as a strobe light makes everybody look like they’re in pieces. I think about the discos I used to go to in the summer, and how the strobe light broke everything around me into fragments, and I’d try to read the expressions on the faces of the girls I was dancing with, expressions that would disappear for a second in the blink of the strobe and then reappear, and I’d wonder if I missed an important frame from that expression, a clue as to how they were feeling about me.
What do you do in the states, Dwight asks.
I tell him that I work in an office and inhabit the spaces of people who are on vacation, or out sick, or who need to be replaced for various reasons.
At night I go to topless bars, or a movie.
In the summer, I mow the lawn.
In the winter, I shovel the driveway.
You need to party, he says, with a smile that stretches like a rubber band.
Later, the prostitute in the window motions for me to come over, then whispers in my ear that I won’t feel lonely anymore.
Afterwards, I lie in her arms for a long time. I pay extra to do that.
I tell her that I’d like to rent a bicycle, how it’s been a long time since I felt the breeze on my face while riding a bike. Yes, there are many bicycles here, she says, and, did you know, that many end up in the canals.
There’s a mystery about the canals, I say, especially at night.
The prostitute whispers that the canals are cemeteries for many things.
At night I walk along the canals and think about the abandoned bicycles the prostitute mentioned, sturdy new chrome that once sparkled in the sun, now rusted and disfigured. A teacher once told us about the Pearl Harbor memorial, how you could see the sunken ship just beneath the water.
There was a resting place for everything.