Grandma Must Die
By Jesse Archer
Amsterdam�s club IT was exciting and new, the Love Boat on a dance floor. Shirtless men pulsed rhythmically on stages and balconies, and around 4 a.m. promoters passed out sparklers. Within seconds the whole club was ablaze with shooting fire, and inside it all, I was kissing Michel.
We were sweaty and stuck together and� -- wow -- the feeling was overwhelming because at 21, I didn�t kiss just anyone. I�d met him only minutes before, but Michel was sexy, exotic, and remarkably well preserved for his advanced age of 30. He was a solid six-foot-four Dutch sculpture, abs outlined like a box of chocolates. It was lust at first sight.
Sex was amazing. When we woke up in my hotel, I knew we had shared something special because Michel offered to take me to his home in Rotterdam. I was backpacking across Europe at the time, so my schedule was wide open.
I got the grand tour. The Nazis had flattened Rotterdam, so after the war the Dutch bulldozed the rubble into the canals and started over from scratch. I missed the quaint Dutch colonial architecture, but Michel didn�t. At his age, he understood the city was better off with its modern architecture, bridges, and ports. Nostalgia was for dreamers. The war had paved way for today. �Like Grandma dying,� he said bluntly. �She was quite sweet, but she had to go.� I didn�t like to think of my grandma dying.
Michel used endearing words like quite instead of very and clever in place of smart, and I vowed to add these to my vocabulary. We went for a long run, and later he cooked dinner and told me of foreign adventures he�d had when he was my age (a time when his world was wide open).
Firmly planted in Rotterdam, Michel owned a home furnishings store. Clever man! I imagined bringing him back to my capitalist home -- or maybe staying put. His place was big enough for two. I wanted to latch on. I saw myself working at his store. We�d move in together. I�d sell tiles.
In the morning I was convinced Michel would ask me to stay longer; when he didn�t, I reluctantly declared I was off to Brussels. Michel took me to the train station, where I promised I�d write and call. We�d keep in touch.
Before my train pulled away, I figured he�d do that Gary Cooper thing and run alongside my carriage to make the last-minute romantic proposal. Instead he let me get away, and I wondered what went wrong. With more time Michel would see the potential I saw in myself -- although I was yet young and unaccomplished.
But I had my pride! I couldn�t return on some dubious premise, a deliberate coincidence, without a proper invitation. So I traveled farther: beyond Brussels, past Paris. I�d make him miss me.
At Montpelier, I got off the train and raced to a telephone. Michel! But his voice wasn�t breathless; it did not beg me back. He was actually baffled as to why I was calling so soon even though I had held out, had counted each agonizing hour without him. There had been 13.
I hung up and hated Montpelier because in Montpelier I began to understand the world I was traveling through. We�ve all felt that sting. A sting is the only way for starry eyes to see. For Michel, I was a pleasant diversion. For me, our time together was dazzling, hazardous -- like the sparklers.
Since then, possibility has narrowed, and I�ve mastered the obvious distinction between fun and the one. Aspects of love can be shared in an hour or less, so an overnight stay -- tour and meals included -- is a damn good deal.
It�s hard to believe there was once a time when heartbreak was huge. You grab a moment, you let it go; it�s not so awful. Enjoy it while it lasts. Amsterdam�s club IT closed long ago. Grandma had to die, too. It�s all part of growing up.
Sometimes, though rarely, I remember how it felt in Montpelier. Many years have passed, and the timing is different now. For a second I entertain the old fantasy of going back to Rotterdam and looking him up, but that�s just silly. Michel doesn�t remember me at all.