It was daylight, but not for much longer.
Dipping in and out of the shadows, I made my way through the bustling crowds towards my destination. I was at the boundary of a seedier neighborhood, one I wasn’t sure I wanted to be around when the alleys grew darker. I was one woman, alone, abroad.
The women behind the windows looked…bored. One blonde was tapping away at her cell phone. Another examined her long, acrylic nails with heavy eyes. Or maybe it was her eye shadow that was making her expression look so still. They were wearing bikinis. It was October.
A movement in my periphery startled me. My head turned, and I immediately made eye contact with the woman in the window a few feet away. She was not wearing pants. Or a shirt. As she stared back at me, a finger slowly dipped into her cleavage. She scratched, idly, and I continued on my way.
Amsterdam. Truly, a romantic city. Canals, gabled facades, and the sharp ding-ding of bicycle bells.
It was my fifth and last day in the city, and I was making my final rounds. Getting items to take home. Getting. Not buying. See, the Iamsterdam city card I bought but never used allowed me to pick up gifts for free at certain points around the city. I had plotted a general, ambling loop.
This was my last day. I went for a long walk.
You see, I like free stuff. It’s like a lingering vestige of my college career.
So I picked up a cute little Heineken beer glass, a gift bag from De Bijenkorf, and went on a free canal cruise. The sun finally peeked out from behind the gray. I stopped for lunch in Chinatown, which is how I accidentally cut through the Red Light district. The neighborhood is full of eateries, coffee shops, and bars. There are, like the rest of Amsterdam, old buildings. Cobbled streets. Trees. Like my night stroll through Pigalle, I didn’t see anything terribly scandalous. Besides the women in the windows, idly thumbing at their hemlines (if they had any). But their apathy was more humorous than anything else.
When I emerged from my late meal–ordered and paid for in a mixture of Mandarin, Cantonese, and English–pinks and reds splashed up against the nearby buildings. Evening had begun. The women in the windows were awash in the red lights that lit up the neighborhood, slouching against the window frames.
People looked without looking.
I went back to my hostel, and slept.