This episode is part of a series. I moved to the Netherlands when I was 23 years old. That was in 2016. I have lived in Zuidoost, Nieuw-West, the Eastern Docklands, the Houthavens and Noord. Following are my stories, although memory loss and imagination have all been great problems of mine. The hard-core version now only exists in someone else’s brain. All names have been forgotten and changed.
I’m leaving town. For the past month, I’ve been staying in Oostzaan, at Lily’s place. I met her for the first time back in her hometown of Edinburgh, Scotland, on a mad three day trip with four boys I’ll talk about later. We had a few too many drinks and convinced her to move over to the Netherlands, the best place on Earth for each and all of us then. From the original group, Lily and I are the only ones still regularly hanging out. No one knows. We meet for a quick trip to the coffeeshops in the center, only to get her hash, or for never-ending benders in her attic. I have all my stuff there - in boxes piled next to the Halloween decorations she has yet to use. We had to move my stuff to the storage in West. She offered to do it with her new car, a Volkswagen caravan that she’d fixed to travel to Portugal with this summer of 2021. I was unhappy with myself… I still had no fucking clue how to drive a car and had promised her last year that I would not ask for her help moving boxes again. Unfortunately I kept making the wrong calls, and never learning from experience. This time, the whole shebang happened because I was following the pangs of my pussy.
Lily had said, several times, “to keep the stuff up in the attic”, but she was being her usual sweet self. For a while, she’d been talking about moving out of the country as well, and intended to sell the house. Both of us also knew that, until then, she would throw as many somewhat regular sex parties as possible, and the attic was always a favorite for people. Everyone loved coming in there. No one was expecting to be using books as orgy props.
We went to the storage unit a bit before 11PM. There was a slight rain falling and carrying the boxes for the umpteenth time felt foolish. Ruud, from the Mini Opslaag storage company, had given me the unit closest to the elevator. In all my mindlessness, I couldn’t figure out how it worked. I had Lily promise she would not carry any boxes - that I would do it all by myself. But after I got stuck in the merchandise only elevator, we ended up going up and down the stairs. That was at the beginning of this month. Last December, I was moving out of the studio in Holendrecht to live with Basil and a boy I still cannot remember the real name of, in Amsterdam Noord. The life in Holendrecht had been special, to say the least. The bay windows of the studio were going from the floor to the ceiling, offering a continuous view of the construction site in front of the apartment. They were building the new OurDomain apartment complex, thousands of euros per unit, and gentrifying Zuidoost. The area was somehow empty, only a few neighbourhood streets with families and older people, and then an industrial estate and some greenery. With Oliver, love of my life, we would go on walks regularly, because the size of the studio meant we felt like we were sitting in our own tombs, enclosed within four walls. Soon enough we would meet people dressed cooler than our friends, who were as cool as ice. Lily helped me with that move from Holendrecht to Noord as well, of course, coming this time with her small, red, trusty Mini, and waiting outside the building as Oliver and I were throwing everything to the bin. I had tried to sell the furniture on Facebook Marketplace, but it was too last minute, and I couldn’t keep up with the people wanting to show up at random times. A man from Facebook rang the bell and tried to come inside the apartment for a clothes dryer I had put up for 5 euros. By the time he got there, the dryer was already sitting in the trash outside. Lily and I were carrying a table (a perfectly fine one, which Oliver and I had found outside an office building) in the corridor towards the elevator when he showed up. He tried to say he had a written agreement with me for the dryer, and I was telling him to just pick it up for free. He wanted to pay for it, and he also didn’t want to move out of the elevator. Oliver was freaking out about the time - we were throwing things out, while simultaneously repainting and cleaning the apartment. All because the housing agency thought it was a good idea to tell the new tenants to come for the visit and move in on the same day. I was screaming at the man from Facebook, who barred the access to the elevator for a good half an hour. Then I was screaming at the new tenants, who were trying to come inside the apartment with their own set of keys. Oliver then realised that he couldn’t book an Uber and hadn’t thought of a means of transportation for his own stuff. I really needed to find a somewhat stable living place. But that place was also not in Amsterdam Noord.
The reason I eventually had to move out of the apartment with Basil was not due to Ymere, the building owners, like I had told everyone around me. The truth was that Basil and I had lied to each other from the very beginning. He said the contract was for six months, but that there was a possibility of renewing it with the housing agency, if I was making over 3000 €. He was the main contract holder and wanted to move out of the country after six months, and said he could transfer the contract to me. Over those months, we’d written to Ymere for me to take over the contract - continuously but to no avail. I didn’t have the paychecks. Ymere never asked for them. There was no way to transfer the contract even if I was registered at the address - unless both of us could prove we had been partners for at least two years. We had started living together near the Buikslotermeerplein for 3 reasons: no one else would accept my cat, I had a sensible look to me - enough to convince him I wasn’t going to give him any trouble, he thought I was cute - and I wanted to fuck him.
This episode is the second part of a series. I moved to the Netherlands when I was 23 years old. That was in 2016. I have lived in Zuidoost, Nieuw-West, the Eastern Docklands, the Houthavens and Noord. Following are my stories, although memory loss and imagination have all been great problems of mine. The hard-core version now only exists in someone else’s brain. All names have been forgotten and changed. This is the link to the first installment.
Content warning for this episode: mentions of rape
Les had come to Amsterdam a couple of months before me, sharing a house for the summertime with a group of happy French people. Like everyone, he had struggled to find somewhere to live. A bit after the school year started at the Sandberg Instituut in September, he moved to a new apartment in Kraaiennest with a classmate; I would come to visit now and then. I was still writing my thesis about an obscure, devout Catholic and hater of women when the winter hit Amsterdam,and I got stuck in Les’ room. His flatmate was somehow bizarre, and would always lock his door. He would be in his room or outside the house. When he was outside the house, Les used to break inside the room. We’d sit on his bed and at his desk, touching his books and running our naked feet on his wooden sculptures. During a night of such shenanigans, Les struck me on the mattress and fucked me in the ass. Later on, I said I’d yelled, he said he thought that meant I wanted it. From Kraaiennest, biking to the center would take an hour and from these months, I strongly remember my hands and feet feeling numb, frozen.
Not long after, I signed a contract with a company to work their customer service and Les and I found a 40m2 room in a flatshare with Danielle, a graphic design student at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and Sophia, a photographer. We called it the Loft - or at least, that’s how my brother would call it when he came to spend Christmas with me that year. For a while, life in the Loft was absolute harmony: we ate the same food everyday (oatmeal with spirulina, rice and sriracha, smoked mackerel and sourdough), went out for ice creams on the Mercatorplein and played games. There were all sorts of games: posing as antisocials in the room while a birthday party was going on on the balcony, eating spicy and spicier, pissing in the elevator, stopping the spurt to run through the corridor that led from the first apartment to ours and go again, stealing leeks from the Dirk on the Mercatorplein but paying for everything else (always only buying leeks - the rest of the shopping having instead been done at the market and at Jumbo), crying behind sunglasses in the metro going to OCCII for a gig. We also had this game on the bike: you were only allowed to touch the handlebars with the tip of your fingers and the pedals with the tip of your toes, otherwise it meant you weren’t a True Rider. I had gotten this granny bike - pedal brake and handbrake - and it was the best bike I’d ever have all these years: sturdy, fast and neon green. It got stolen one afternoon, after I had locked it in front of the office building.
The job was paying really decent: I saved 1000€ every month in the first year - this never happened to me again. There were also other perks: if you wanted, you could start as early as 7am and be finished by 3, the café/bar next door would give you whole bottles of wine for free if you came by on a Friday evening; above all: people were thirsty. Les was entertaining the idea of being a cuckold and fantasized about me fucking colleagues in the basement.
Our roommate Danielle was finishing her last year in Graphic Design: she had found an internship at a studio in Berlin and was set on leaving this goddamn town. In the meantime, she was praying every night on the balcony. A few weeks before flying to Mexico for a month, where my cousin was teaching French, I’d started joining her outside.
In Mexico, I did all this:
dull austere walk
closed sunday shopping mall
three hour film watched over several days
butternut potatoes onions in the oven
piss behind concrete
sweet pink coconut drink
3 ways to know if a person loves you
missed (artificial island) beach opportunity
bright neon yellow windcoat, knee patches, repair kit, wickedly designed air pump
taro bubble tea, orange fruit cake with cream, sweet cha siu bun, the sea, behind a church, 1st prize fish, kip
singing for god
liked youtube videos
maestro credit card
new lovers in panorama mesdag
funny horoscope on the train
fetishist videos exhibition
cold text on irony
sitting on a private bench
I came back to the Netherlands on the last day of October, scorched by the sun and drenched in sweat. Les told me about the new Fine Arts students, especially about this young girl, who introduced herself with a performance. To get to know her , you were allowed to touch one part of her body. Les touched her ear.
He soon had touched her entire body, making sweet love to her in the studio she rented from the school. He said he wanted us both but I knew he didn’t want me.
Sophia invited me to eat Vietnamese food on a narrow street off Nieuwmarkt. She said I looked good all in black. Her friend said my skin is one of those which never age. Danielle then took me to the Rietveld flea market to help her sell her old clothes. I added a few of my dresses to the bag and we set up shop with the others in the gymnasium. We would take turns smoking cigarettes outside or tending to the stand. When I was busy with the latter, girls would come and try to steal shit off us (me). They’d take and put in their sleeves or pockets. Or they’d ask if they could take pieces to the toilet to try on and never come back. I couldn’t describe who they were to Danielle.
Les and I met for the last time in front of the Dirk on the Mercatorplein. He said he was leaving me the room and I could do whatever I wanted with it. I had my siblings come and stay for a month, bringing youth and foie gras with them, from which Danielle secretly ate a piece everytime she opened the fridge. Les said there was something wrong with me, that I was never doing anything. He posted a picture of my bruised legs on Instagram and then a smiley picture of Nicola, the young girl. A day later, he posted a smiley picture of me and a picture of Nicola’s bruised legs. Nicola was my doppelgänger. She also bore the last name of my favorite film director. Les had never expressed any interest in him, nor did anyone else I ever got involved with.
He left in the opposite direction from the house, going east on the Clerqcstraat. Danielle said it’s not because someone doesn’t do anything that you don’t love them anymore if you did before. She didn’t know I had done something. Les and I go way back and you cannot draw a conclusion on us, having read this. I had destroyed our home.
I am obsessed. Obsessed with love. It has always been this way, from childhood romances to proper boyfriends. Nothing else exists for me anymore. I become twisted. I am fascinated by every gesture and word, remembering everything, writing down some. Oliver used to forget where he’d left his keys, bankcard, lighter. I would remember exactly where they were, at all times. Not because I was aware of them always but because I knew he would lose them at some point or another. This became worse with the years: I was only attracted to people who were also prone to fascination, people who were maniac about something, like vinyl devotees, cinema buffs. I got into boxing, football, junk food, techno, and a bunch of other things: not pretending to, but actually knowing them throughout, like a real fan. At one point of time or another, I could discuss the records of each Klitschko brother, I knew when this compilation of The Numero Group came out, when that center back transferred to another team and what impact it had on society then; I could relate to historic nights at Fabric which I didn’t even attend. I felt like there was so much I didn’t know and I was falling in love with all that my lover loved. I wanted to be everything for them: I had the Tiger Balm to cure bruises and strains, I could cook their favorite teenage meal better than the actual food joint itself, I knew telephone numbers, I produced amateur porn videos for them to watch, I created video games for them to play, I would sit there until the very end of the night. And everything had to look like it wasn’t simply pretending because it couldn’t be. My friendships were also like that, albeit less intense: I had to be everyone’s secret best friend. I was not telling a story twice. And if it had to happen, then it wouldn’t be me saying it.
Later in life, I met other women like me. Lily was one of them. We were sitting in the backroom of her house, when she mentioned Frans for the first time. They’d met when she went to the sexshop he was working at and bonded over their taste in music… and lust. I loved Frans from the moment I met him. He was into poker, cooking and domination; he had long, messy blonde hair, a pair of glasses and a tiny little belly. Lily had found her partner in crime: he advised her on which restraints she should get for the bed, cooked lavish Italian food on any day or night we were more than 3, supplied us with old disco tunes that wouldn’t leave our mind for days and was a couch friend of mine at after-parties, showing me “videos he would always go back to”. Lily started organising her house like a little entertainment venue: if he was to mention something he liked, she would get it to the house. Knowing next to nothing about poker, she got us a set with proper chips; she also had a new console and the games he wanted to play; she had a subscription to this and that channel so he could watch late-night reruns of his favorite shows. He wanted to have sex with a lot of people: that’s when her attic became a love dungeon. I only attended these when Frans was around, as we had an understanding. Sometimes, we would end up skipping sex completely, just sitting by ourselves and playing a game. Frans taught me how to pretend to be shit at darts but hit the bulls-eye in case of extreme necessity - Lily and I were both entertaining this outdated fantasy of going to bars and destroying men at their own game. The three of us had different plans to make (more) money, each in our own way but at the center of our relationship was the downtime excitement: we were waiting on the reopening of casinos in the country.
But Frans came long after Tristan. If I was obsessed, Tristan took it out of me, at least for some time. After Les and I broke up, I had little less than a month before having to pack everything again, the lease on the Loft having ended. Les had come to pick up his belongings on a day I was out the house, but he never helped with actually moving the furniture out. We also had next to nothing: the mattress, which was destined to the garbage anyways - Oliver having accidentally poured a bottle of soy sauce all over it, then sweated a three-night bender out on it. We also had that Kallax shelf from Ikea, which I gave to the next tenants for 20 €. Then, there was the table and its trestles, which were worth nothing and were barely doing their job. I carried the bare mattress out to the trash on December 31st, after my siblings had left to go back home.
Tristan was from a different department at my work, but I would sometimes see him around our area, or downstairs smoking. His studio near Amstelveen, at the outskirts of the city, was rented out from a company similar to Ymere. They would put out new rentals every new Monday, at 9:00. On a first come first served basis, they’d all be gone in seconds. Tristan had a hack however: there was no need to log in at 9:00 and hopefully refresh the page until anything showed up, but connecting at exactly 9:02 would secure you the winning hand. Very loud, with a slightly raucous voice and a sense of fashion that reminded me of some end of the 90s - early 2000 pop/rock bands, I was instantly drawn to him. He embedded a fantasy of the past - everything about him that I would end up abhorring I first loved. Tristan knew something.
I saw him at the local bar on a Friday night, with earplugs on in a corner, listening to something other than the music that was playing. He was checking a mix from his own radio show, making sure the sound came out alright. Tristan and I left the bar together and stayed awake for a while. We didn’t fuck. He talked extensively about: a time he almost died, which was grand and mental and which I have no recollection of at all - it could have been a volcano eruption or a nuclear war, his past lives as a successful DJ and producer in Ibiza, and his fall-out with his then-partner, who is now a household name and has made a career for himself. We listened to their debut album, a trance progressive record I still come back to from time to time these days.
Tristan never told me his age, nor much about himself, only made-up things. As such, I found out he wasn’t so into music; rather, he was dragging his past lives around him, now squeezed into the box his actual job had made for him. I never used his hack, by fear of having him as a neighbour and not being able to ever shake him off. He loved to act out his love for me - in the supermarket, walking on the streets, in the office, at parties. He got into trouble with friends of mine often, fighting to take care of me if I was too out of it, fighting with strangers who “gave us a bad look”. None of this mattered too much to me - I would later go out with people who took this virile shit even more seriously - however as plainly as I can say it: in cold blood, there was nothing for me to take from him. Because he was lying, my obsession had nowhere to stick. Tristan made all my passions insubstantial. I forgot everything I had been entangled with.
I went to Scotland with Noe, Felix, Dean and his boyfriend, met Lily, kissed someone I hadn’t asked the name of and the relationship with Tristan faded away. Free from my obsessive behaviour for a while, I started a period of wavering and of drugs… and drugs…