Missionary Position(4)

By: Daisy Prescott

Ah, that’s him. Backpack Romeo stood in front of me.

“Um, no. I mean, yes, I speak English. No, the chair’s not taken.” I fumbled to emphasize my words with random hand gestures.

“Hey, you’re the woman from the airport!” Backpacker sat in the chair opposite me and stuck out his hand, introducing himself as Rob.

“I’m Selah. Nice to meet you.”

“What are the odds we’d run into each other again?”

“What are the odds?” I echoed.

He missed my lack of enthusiasm and continued with his awe over the universe crossing our paths not once, but twice.

“I mean, I’m in Amsterdam, not knowing a soul, and here you are again. Maybe it means something?” he asked, lowering his eyes to my chest.

“I know. Gin joints etcetera.”

When he lifted his eyes to my face, his blank, but eager stare told me he had no idea what I meant.

“This place is a gin joint? Like they only serve gin?” He flipped open his guidebook and scanned the page.

“No, it’s a line from Casablanca. Something about out of all the bars in the world, you walked into this one. You know, the inevitability of universe?”

He blinked at me for a few beats.

“Casablanca? The movie?” I asked, hoping to clarify it for my moppet-headed friend.

“Never heard of it.” He had a lopsided smile. “Your eyes are really pretty. Like the color of limes in a gin and tonic.”

I wanted to bang my head on the table. Instead, I asked him the obvious question about what had brought him to Amsterdam.

“I’m backpacking for a month on my own before starting my study abroad in Munich.”

“I studied abroad. Eons ago. Before cell phones and laptops.”

He openly gaped, his forehead wrinkled in thought. “Shit. You’re like my mom’s age.”


In his eyes I could see myself shriveling into an old crone like the queen in Snow White. I rubbed an invisible wart on my forehead. When I didn’t respond, he fumbled to apologize.

“I thought you were a lot younger. At the airport, you looked hot. I mean, like young hot, not like mom hot. Not that my mom is hot. Well, my dad thinks she’s hot. And Brad from high school totally had a crush on her.”

Someone needed to stop his rambling. My cupcake and beer buzz were dissipating fast.

“I get it. I hide my old age well.”

“Are you backpacking through Europe, too?” he asked.

“Um, no. Hostels and sleeping on trains is for you young people. I’m here for work and a little play.”

“Play?” His voice sounded hopeful and intrigued. “What kind of play?”

“Oh, you know, visiting the Rijks and Van Gogh Museum.” I didn’t mention my cupcake and being slightly stoned. Or my accidental visit to the infamous window women. And certainly not what was tucked inside of the purple bag at my feet.

“That’s play? What about dance clubs and cafés? Aren’t those why people come to Amsterdam?” He pointed at the famous Bulldog bar across the square.

“Ah, therein lies the difference. Museums are play for me. Spending a few hours looking at amazing art is good for the soul.”

He grimaced. “Sounds like homework.”

“A lot of those old master paintings are of naked women.”

Sweet boy’s cheeks pinked at the mention of naked women.

“Or do you prefer the ladies in the windows?” I enjoyed toying with him.

The pink deepened. “I haven’t been to that part of the city … yet. Are they really naked?”

“Sadly, no. Most wear lingerie.”

“Wow. They don’t have that kind of thing in Iowa.”

“No? No naked women in the Midwest?”

His shaky laugh revealed his embarrassment, his bravado gone. “We have naked women, but not out there in public.”

Backpack Boy was a puppy. Although I was flattered, in a way, by his fumbling attentions, hooking up with him would be a mistake. Puppies were cute, but too much work. If I were to have an affair, I didn’t want to waste energy training him. For the first time in hours, my mind drifted to the card in my purse.

I faked a yawn and blamed jet lag as an excuse to say good-bye to young Rob. Wishing him well on his adventure, I left him and the noisy square behind. Visiting the past had been fun, but it reminded me how different I was now. I touched Anita’s card inside of my bag, deciding to text her brother in the morning.

KEEPING MY PROMISE, I texted Gerhard shortly after waking. I left out the part about superior genes and affairs between grown-ups, and stuck to basics—his sister told me to do it.

I had finished walking through half the Rijksmuseum when my phone pinged with a text in response. Gerhardt replied if Anita said we should meet, then we should. He explained he had something immediately after work tonight, but suggested we have a drink at a hotel bar. I recognized the name of the hotel immediately as one of Amsterdam’s nicest. Point one in Gerhard’s favor—he was a grown-up. We agreed upon a time and gave descriptions of ourselves so we could find each other. His description wouldn’t help much: tall, blond, and probably in a suit. I would be easier to spot in the sea of Dutch supermodels.

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