One is sure to see a lot from the tram’s window while commuting from one side of the city to the other, in my case from East Amsterdam to Amsterdam West. I left home feeing slightly bored, then missed the tram and had to wait in the cold for ten minutes before the next one came. Once inside though, getting warm and with the prospect of a long journey ahead, I could finally relax and get into one of those states I love most – the contemplative state.
The tram tends to get busy at Dappermarkt, with all kinds of people stepping in with bags full of groceries from the market. In front of OLVG hospital, a woman is drying her eyes with a napkin while a man – her husband? – tries to comfort her. Many passengers get off at Weesperplein, while just as many – mostly students – get in. Their enthusiastic and loud voices cannot be ignored. A group of gentlemen in elegant suits, white napkins on their lap, are having lunch at the American Hotel’s brasserie, at Leidseplein. I bet they talk business. The tram turns left at Elandsgracht, and we’re officialy in Amsterdam West. Before I get off, at Bilderdijkstraat, I have time to look up and see the apartment where Nico used to live before moving back to Paris. We had some good times in there. I wished she didn’t have to leave.
I stop at Lot Sixty One to buy some coffee beans. I also order a cortado, which I enjoy at their cosy location on Kinkerstraat. As I leave, I remember the purpose of my visit on the westside: there is something I need to deliver at my former address in this part of the city.
I make a detour to Ten Katemarkt, because I just cannot pass by without checking the market stands. Ten Katemarkt is after all the place where I used to come to get my groceries while living in the West. We have a history together. I walk all the way through, hoping there are still some cinnamon buns left at the bakery. There aren’t. “Mangoooos! We have good mangoooos!” A voice is so strong, it almost makes you cover your ears and speed up at the same time. Instead I smile. It’s the salesman at the fruit stand by the corner. He is constantly yelling all kind of slogans, while serving customers. It’s a past life he reminds me of, when I was buying fruits from him. I almost cannot believe it was possible to forget the yelling salesman.
My father calls as I am back to the tram stop, waiting for tram 17 to get me farther west, to my destination. He is in a good mood, and he wants to know what I’m up to on my day off. So I tell him about my plan. I need to deliver a book. I also tell him what we’ve been up to lately, such as taking ceramics classes. “Ceramics?” My father is surprised, in a good way. Then we talk about my photography projects, my books… “I am happy you get to do all these things you like,” my father concludes and I have to agree with him. I am already in the tram and I take pleasure in how speaking Romanian always raises eyebrows and makes people stare at me. This language must sound very strange to Dutch people.
We end the conversation as I get off at Postjesweg, and I already feel like I am having a great day. You see, my father has this amazing power of reassuring me that everything is going to be all right. Few people have this. It has nothing to do with what he says – we can talk about apple trees, for example – it’s in the way he talks. His strength, his energy. I feel safe when I talk to my father.
I turn right, then left, until I find myself walking along the Antillenstraat. That’s right. I came to Antillenstraat to bring what belongs to Antillenstraat – my latest book. The Loft on Antillenstraat. This thought comes to me out of the blue and it makes me smile. It also makes me feel proud. It’s been a long time since I was walking down this same street, carrying Albert Heijn bags with groceries and a bunch of their signature tulips, on my way home. For some reason I cannot let go of these memories, nor do I want to. Antillenstraat will always be my street in Amsterdam, the place where it all started – my new life, my Dutch life. And, just like back then, I cannot walk down this street without looking inside people’s homes, remembering what made me fall in love with the Netherlands so badly.
I have problems identifying the exact door where I used to live. Really, Andra? Did you actually forget the door you opened every day, for two and a half years? The Loft on Antillenstraat has to get into the right mailbox, one shared by the apartment on the 3rd floor and the loft on the 4th. I slip the book in, satisfied. Then I type a message on my phone: “I let the book in the mailbox. Take it when you get home. Your name is nowhere on the book, I hope the neighbour on the 3rd floor won’t take it.” (Although, come to think of it, I would get it if I were him.) “Great! You made me happy! Thank you,” the answer comes. It’s Alehandra, the girl currently living in what we call our loft.