We were crossing the Ij to Amsterdam North with the ferry, and he asked me, with eyes wide open, if there were fish in the Ij. I was struck by the question. Fish in the Ij. Damn. I had never thought of it. I used to have cool conversations all the time with artists and creatives of all sorts, folks of different nationalities who could speak at least a couple of languages, and had university degrees, and were cosmopolitan, and well-travelled, and kept themselves busy with exciting occupations, and knew a lot of complex stuff about fields of which existence I ignored. And then this guy I had randomly met at a party asks me, in his broken English, if there are fish in the IJ, and I am mindblown. Who would have cared for such a seamless, simple thing like the aquatic vertebrates living down under water? To what sort of person could this piece of information matter? At that moment the love seed germinated.
At first, I didn’t know what to do with him. Or with myself. So I did what I do best: I suggested we cycled and I improvised a lot of talks. Once we sat on the shore overlooking the water, I noticed I finally had become relaxed. We were communicating in two different languages (when one would fail us, we would resort to the other), and I recall my deep curiosity regarding this stranger, this uncharted universe unveiling as we spoke and interacted. Now that I think about it, I believe love is a direct consequence of curiosity. You can only love what you are curious about in the first place, and if you set yourself open to that unknown. Isn’t this one of the most incredible experiences of being alive? The flow in discovering a new person who crossed our path and who, for some weird reason, has this capacity of putting us under a spell.
I was busy as hell when I met him, and I didn’t really feel, at that point, that I had the time or the mental space for romantic encounters. Besides, I had only logical reasons not to get close to him, the first of them all, his age. He was younger than me, and I’m not into younger folks; quite the opposite in fact. And yet, there I was, getting more and more fascinated by this person who had come from a country I had never visited before, who had flown across continents, just to land in Amsterdam and ask me about the fish in the Ij, and sit by my side, one sunny Monday afternoon at the NDSM. I remember him asking me if I could understand what he meant. Despite his lack of fluency in English, I did understand him. This being had something so recognisable to me that words didn’t matter. There was something in the quality of his energy that just matched mine. He had very dark eyes and hair, broad shoulders, and very masculine features which I happen to find extremely attractive but objectively he probably wasn’t the most handsome guy around (in a city like Amsterdam, the competition is fierce). But he was for sure the most spontaneous. He had this liveliness to him that made him absolutely adorable. He was creative, open, and he was focused on the world around him, absorbing every single detail, actively involved in the course of events, engaged in life. He also seemed to be the least self-aware person in the world. When he was with me, he was present, and he made me feel one hundred percent present as well, which is something that rarely happens if you honestly think about it.
This person made me think of the big love stories in my life. It was there: the sparkle which elevates things to the extraordinary, was right there. This indefinable thing that makes you connect and synchronise to someone on the deepest level, regardless of if you know the person for long or have just met them, this irrational phenomenon that you can’t grasp and which gets you from the inside, this miraculous tissue that seems to connect all the loose dots inside of you, giving them extra significance and logic – despite all of your paradoxes, or maybe exactly because of them – , this missing piece that makes everything whole. There is no way back after you recognize this manifestation.
Maybe you want to know how this story turned out. Well, my summer love went back to his country; I went travelling. We carried on with our lives and never talked much since our goodbye. I am happy to know that he is happy, and I think that if you ask him, he would probably say something similar about me. Love is not ours to own, is it something we release out into the world. Such an experience is always something to be grateful for, regardless of distance, regardless of outcomes. This summer love made me aware of something that is essential to me. Something I might have disregarded for a while. It reminded me of the sparkle. That sparkle that I hadn’t felt for such a long time, that just makes life expand. The starting point for a long-lasting relationship. This summer love gave me a sense of direction