Scene One (6 hours)
She is en route from Boston to Tehran and has a layover in Amsterdam.
“I could come and see you,” I say.
“You’re crazy,” she says. “I’ll be in England in a week!”
“I could come and see you…”
I leave West Oxfordshire in my car at 10pm, snatch 45 minutes of sleep on the ferry, and rock up to the airport at 10.30 the next morning, punch-drunk and aching with tiredness. Seeing her energises me in a way that a thousand Red Bulls never could. We have our Kodak moment: I spot her just as she drops her bag at her sister’s feet and runs towards me; she leaps into my open arms and lets me spin her around and around, our lips glued together like neither of us can quite believe that we’re here.
We fuck. Of course.
It nearly doesn’t happen. We’re both new to Amsterdam – we don’t know its quiet corners and secret places – and neither of us can afford to check into a hotel. Instead, we ditch her sister and go exploring. An invisible clock ticks above our heads. Five hours till she has to be back at the airport…then four…then three…
We walk through the red light district and eat pizza from a hole in the wall. We huddle and shiver together in a doorway as the grim, grey October weather beats away at our euphoria, one icy raindrop at a time. We stand firm though, even when I give in to fatigue and fall asleep on a bench in De Bijenkorf: she covers me tenderly with her coat and takes photos to stick inside my Christmas card, but when I wake up 20 minutes later, panicky and confused, she’s there to plaster me with kisses and bury her head in my shoulder.
We spot it on our way out. She grabs something – anything – off the shelf and tugs me towards it.
“Help me try this on?”
“It would be my pleasure!”
It’s more of a pod than a proper changing room. Pill-shaped, with two small, curtained-off spaces separated by a central wall, it sits in the middle of the sales floor, metres away from one of the checkout desks. Still, it’s our best shot and we both know it.
She hurries inside and I duck in after her, two hangers clutched convincingly in my hand. She closes the curtain behind me and I toss the clothes to one side – this has to be quick, but after six weeks apart we both know that won’t be a problem. I hike up her suede skirt as she yanks at my belt. She never wears knickers when she flies to see me – we both value easy access in those first, frantic minutes on the bus, or in a dark corner of the airport car park – so I win that race. My fingers find her cunt straight away and I push two of them inside her, knowing how wet she’ll be.
She finally frees my cock, the clink-clank of my belt buckle echoing loudly as my jeans slither down my thighs. A giggling fit bubbles up dangerously close to the surface. This is madness – wonderful, glorious madness – but there’s no time to think about that, not when her mouth is already on my cock and…oh…no, not like that, stop, stop!
I pull her up and spin her round till she’s facing the mirror, one arm braced against it as she teases her clit. I nudge her legs further apart, and she thinks I’m teasing, thinks I’m holding back, but I’m not and I can’t and I wouldn’t. I take her like that, both of us hoping the cheery, piped pop music will prevent the people outside from hearing our gasps and moans. I look at her face in the mirror – cheeks flushed, lips parted, eyes open wide – and she stares right back at me.
We come together. We’ve learnt to do that by then, though this time it’s happy, serendipitous accident, rather than any sort of design.
“I should buy some underwear,” she says, as we rearrange our clothing. “Can’t turn up in Tehran with my thighs still sticky from your cum.”
We walk out of the store looking tired and triumphant: just-fucked, thank you very much. I drive them both back to the airport. Her sister is bored, and impatient to get on with the journey.
“Where did you guys go?”
“Oh, here and there.”
I drop them at Departures and we kiss goodbye. I don’t get out of the car. An hour later I stop for petrol and check my phone. One text.
‘On second thoughts, who needs underwear? Can’t wait till next week…x’
Scene Two (22 hours)
Three years have gone by. We’re older and sadder; we carry around the pain we’ve caused each other and the bitter aftertaste of something that used to be so sweet. She no longer comes to England with her suede skirt and absent knickers. I no longer drive all night just to see her. There are no more Kodak moments.
Still, when it’s time to visit Iran again, she gives me a call.
“Are you seeing anyone at the moment? I have another layover in Amsterdam next month. I thought…”
I book my flight that afternoon. A hotel too, because I want to do things properly this time. It’s just sex – we both know that – but it’s sex with someone whose body I know even better than my own. Sex that feels like slipping into a hot bath at the end of a long day.
I arrive at 9pm, eight hours before she’s due in. I get the hotel shuttle and kill time at the bar. I drink, because I know I won’t sleep unless I’m at least a little buzzed, and I listen to another British guy tell me about his food services business, while keeping a close eye on the group of Scandinavian air hostesses in the corner.
Back in the room, I prepare for her arrival. I shower, and trim my beard. Condoms get scattered all over the nightstand; lube too, because she wants me to fuck her arse again (“I can’t find anyone else who will!”). I’ve brought some of the food she likes, and this goes under the bed, hidden away, to be produced with a flourish whenever she gets hungry.
I set the alarm and try to sleep. I wake at 2, and at 3, and again at 5, when she’s due to land. The text comes half an hour later. She’s just missed a shuttle, and I shower again, too distracted to read or sleep, but in need of something to pass the time.
I meet her downstairs at 6.15. Just under six hours till we have to check out. We fall on each other in the lift, and against the wall outside my door. I disentangle one hand for long enough to swipe the keycard, then kick the door shut behind us.
We exchange very few words in that hotel room. We fuck and we sleep: once, twice, three times. She knows how to get me hard again, even groggy and jetlagged from the redeye out of Boston, and I devour her body like it’s the first and last time I’ll ever feel it against mine. For one morning, nothing in our lives has changed. There’s no sadness, no pain: it’s sweet and tender, filthy and familiar, in a way that neither of us has found with anyone else, and as noon approaches I try to push that thought deep down inside me, so I don’t choke on it when we say our goodbyes.
I go with her to the airport, but my flight isn’t until 7, so I wave her off at the security gates, and she waves back with a smile that doesn’t reach her eyes. I catch the train into town. I was so sleepy the last time I walked through the streets that I barely remember them: a building here, a church there, but nothing to grab onto and anchor myself against.
I do the Anne Frank House and the red light district – dreadfully incongruous, but I’m too distracted to care about that. I revisit De Bijenkorf, but our changing room has gone, and I don’t need new underwear that day. I eat a wonderful meal on my own, with a good book, and I begin to feel myself again. I realise that I want to stay, at least for the evening, to see what Amsterdam is really like. I send a text for her to read when she lands.
‘We should do this again some time! Maybe make a weekend of it…’
I pay the bill and get the train back to the airport. This is not yet a city that makes sense without her.
Scene Three (2 hours)
I’ve broken a promise to myself, and bought an indirect flight when a direct one was available. I check my watch and Google transport options. Yes, it should just be possible. I hustle from the gate through Schiphol’s vast hallways, and out into Arrivals. God bless Schengen!
I buy a ticket for one of the big continental express trains. It takes 15 minutes to hurtle through the suburbs and into Amsterdam Centraal. The air is cold, but I am warm, relaxed and content. This feels like a palate cleanser. I buy chips from a stall outside De Bijenkorf – I don’t need to go in this time – and I sit on a bench by the canal to eat them. I make eye contact with a hooker in one of the windows above the street. It’s lunchtime and business is clearly slow, because she smiles at me and points at my chips, then rubs her belly in mock satisfaction. I smile back, but when she pushes her tits towards me I shake my head apologetically. I’ve had some great sex in Amsterdam, but these two hours are not about that. They’re about seeing something else in this city, and about knowing that I’ll be back one day to enjoy it properly.