Anne Frank once wrote: “Paper has more patience than people.” I’m now going to put that adage to the test by not writing or calling anyone while I’m here in Amsterdam (at least for as long as possible) and see what happens with only you to confide in.
Today, my first day in Holland, I visited Anne’s former hideout, now a museum on Prinsengracht. She would have been touched by the very long queue of tourists (half a million a year!) waiting to see the place where she had penned her diaries, as she thought “no one would be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year old girl.” She also would have been overjoyed to see her beloved chestnut tree still gracing the street, where people now indulge in outdoor cafes on surrounding bridges, boats putter along the canal, and bicyclists zip by in the shadow of the Westerkerk.
Inside the Annex, or Achterhuis, I slipped through the secret bookcase and imagined the Frank family’s arrival in July, 1942. It’s unbelievable that they managed to survive for over two years in such cramped quarters, even inviting four others to join them. Because they were forbidden from leaving the Annex, let alone peering out the curtains, Anne had created her own way of staying connected with the outside world––she clipped photos of Shirley Temple, Greta Garbo, and other movie stars from smuggled magazines and pasted them onto her bedroom walls.
The kitchen looked as if Anne were about to show up at any moment and make us a bunch of her “notable biscuits.” Very little had changed since August 4, 1944, the day she and the others were arrested there and dispersed to different concentration camps. I tried hard not to think of the fatal outcome for all but Anne’s father, Otto, and focused on the countless pages of paper that comprised Anne’s diaries. Not only had she filled the original “Kitty,” but had continued sharing her innermost thoughts in exercise books and on tracing paper.
After this pilgrimage to the Annex, I returned to my B&B located in a residential part of the city. Nothing fancy, but easy on the pocketbook. At the top of the very steep staircase is a shared kitchen with a computer terminal. Although it was fairly dark, a strong light emanated from the monitor. Sitting at the keyboard was a man I mistook to be the manager. I asked him if it was possible to make a cup of tea.
When he turned to face me, his eyes sparkled, and the top of his head lit up like a halo from the electric light. “I’m not sure. I’m only a guest here,” he said, rising from his chair and plugging in the hot water heater. He must be the tallest person I’ve ever seen close up. In a distinct British accent, he introduced himself as “David.” “From the sound of it, I’d say you’re from America,” he said. “Let me guess—East Coast?”
“You’re pretty perceptive.” I extended a hand. “I’m Linda from Boston… although at the moment, I’m living in Budapest.”
“Budapest…hmm,” he said, wiping his horn-rimmed glasses with the end of his striped blue tie. “Never been. What’s it like?” This, dear Diary, launched a three-hour conversation in which we talked about our recent travels, jobs (he’s in serious negotiations for a consulting job with a local IT company here), and family backgrounds. He was most attentive and at the end of the night asked, “How long did you say you’re staying here?” Maybe it was the way he gently rubbed his chin when I reminded him of my three-night reservation that led me to believe he was a little disappointed only two nights remain.
Whether or not I see David again, it was the most stimulating talk I’ve had with an available man in ages. At least I think he’s single—he doesn’t wear a wedding ring, although some husbands play hide and seek with theirs, like the naughty Ádám.
Around midnight, we walked to our respective rooms (his down the hall). He wished me “Cheerio” and said he’d also be remaining at the inn for a few days and that we’d see one another again. I’d already decided to cancel my plans to attend the Concertgebouw tomorrow night and instead will loiter in the kitchen to increase the chance of that happening.
I sank into my bed and after daydreaming for a time, picked up these blank pages. A very good “Cheerio” night indeed!