After the war, I found myself in Amsterdam

I like to take long walks and imagine that we are somehow together again. Night falls and I find myself surrounded by darkness in an apple orchard.

I like to take long walks and imagine that we are somehow together again. Night falls and I find myself surrounded by darkness in an apple orchard. 

You were sick and I wanted to cheer you up. Dessert and reading a good book always had that effect on you ever since you were a child, you told me once.

At night, I dream. I toss and turn. Cry out your name. When I woke up, I thought to myself that I should have made my way to America, not to Amsterdam.

I look for your face. I search for you amongst the survivors but I cannot find you because you are dead. 

Pain. Heavy dense knots of pain, well, it lingers like the charred smoke and the cries of the deaf children. 

Then there is silence. There is the bloodstained redness. There are old people. Their faces were lined with age.

Some young people have forgotten how to be young.

I know you will come out of the dense mass of bodies and call out my name. I will turn to you. Tears running down the hollows of my cheeks and we will embrace.

We will mourn for countless deaths and I will ask, “Do you still remember?”

The roses that I grew at the back. The edges of their sepals are now brown and wilted. The fragrance is sweet. I kept this memory at the back of my mind to tell you.

I am looking for you. I am searching for you amongst this black dense mass of bodies.

I cannot find you…

I cannot find you. You, ghost. Once my friend, then my husband, then my lover. We would take long walks. You would play the piano for me. 

Then after the war, it was just me longing for you. I remember the searching, the hoping, grappling with the hooks of issues, eating fish again, just remembering its taste.

I would look at the side of my bed where you should have been. Asleep. Now all that awaits me at the end of the day are empty rooms.

You are so innocent and tender. I want to tell this new and brave world filled with playgrounds of World Fairs and butter.

This is the real world. The killing of innocents. Innocents who wore yellow stars. You never found me as I thought you would and every night I would take a tour through Hitler’s never-ending war.

Yes, the night might be tender. Even the light of the lamp might be tender. 

Everybody after the war who had lost anything, possessions, material possessions, art, money, family members, God Himself. Everybody was poor now. Everybody needed a miracle.

Then I found you. I kept finding you as I walked the streets of Amsterdam. Up streets. Down streets.

Convinced by watermarks or a painting by a street artist. I would hear your voice as I passed by a couple eating outside a café.

I would turn around, my heart beating fast. Of course, people would look at me curiously. I would ignore them.

‘Tell me who the man in the painting is. I will pay you to tell me.’ I would say feeling helpless seeing the half-smile on the artist’s lips.

‘I imagined him.’ The artist would say. ‘You do not have to pay me a cent. I imagined him. You are still attractive. You are a beautiful woman, why do you not pose for me.’

‘I am a writer. Not an artist’s model.’

I turned my head. I ignored him and started to walk away. I thought to myself how you could imagine someone who is real? Who had a childhood? Who rode a bicycle? Who built model aeroplanes as a hobby?

‘Mad writer. Madwoman.’ He sucked the words under his palate as if he was eating the flesh of an orange.

‘Have a meal with me. Come let us have a drink. You are a beautiful woman but your eyes are so sad.’ Said the drunkard on the corner. I looked into his face as I passed him. 

I could see he had been a beautiful youth by the lines on his face. I saw a snowfield in his eyes. Bombs were falling and I remembered the trains.

‘Kiss me, my pretty liar. My beautiful fool. Kiss me on the mouth.’

I am sure I have heard that voice before. Somewhere. Somewhere. I walk fast. I can hear footsteps behind me.

‘You must have money on you. Give me what you have and I will let you go. You do not have to be afraid of anything.’ I could hear laughter in his voice. He knew what was coming to me. I did not.

‘I do not have anything. Please, just let me go. Do you not think that we all have not suffered enough by taking money from a widow?’ Those words caught in my throat.

‘Has nobody told you that these streets are dangerous at night? This place especially.’

I did not have to turn around to come face to face with the thief. I had passed the drunkard earlier in the evening. He had followed me. Arms were around my waist lifting me and I struggled.

‘No, do not struggle. If you do that, you might make me want to hurt you. I just want a kiss. One kiss and then I will let you go.’ I can smell the wine on his breath. I can see the dirt under his fingernails. He has not bathed in days. I know it will not end with one kiss.

Bombs were falling again and I remembered the trains. The sky turned black out like a gun. I knew with certainty that this would be the last time that I would remember the guns the SS soldiers carried everywhere they went.

Abigail George
Abigail George
Abigail George is a researcher and historian. Follow her on Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram @abigailgeorgepoet.