Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Perfect Last-Night Dinner With A Real Character

I met Brian in a hostel in Ushuaia, Argentina in mid-January 2007.  We had, it turned out, tickets for the same ship scheduled to cruise to Antarctica in two days’ time.  We got to know each other pretty well our first day aboard.  I could tell right away that he was a real character, and one whose company I thoroughly enjoyed.

Brian’s half-Dutch and half-American.  He grew up in California and later moved to Amsterdam, where he now lives and works.  When we met, we were in our mid-30s and in the midst of a big adventure.  For eleven days, we cruised the End of the World--or so Antarctica is sometimes called--and shared some unforgettable times.  We vowed to stay in touch when our thrilling journey came to an end.  And, actually, we did.

Fast forward to last night.  I was in Amsterdam, my last day abroad.  It was 8:30 p.m., and I stood on the corner of Leidsestraat and Singel Canal, next to the famed Flower Market, waiting to meet Brian for dinner, completely excited.  I spotted him walking toward me, waving, and remembered him like yesterday.  I started toward him; we met; embraced hello; and immediately the chatter picked up, seemingly just where it left off.   Not a moment of silence passed between us for the remainder of our time together.  We’re both talkers.

Brian insisted on treating me to dinner in his town.  He led me to a posh restaurant and we took a seat, still talking; talking; talking.  We paused to look at the menu and my eyes couldn’t help but pop out at the selections and accompanying prices.  I had been skimping and penny-pinching for longer than I could remember.  This seemed way too extravagant.  But, like I said, Brian insisted.

I settled on the grilled tuna, which was pink on the inside and melt-in-your-mouth divine.  Brian had the steak, and we split a delicate salad, gourmet fries with mayonnaise (the Dutch way) and an excellent bottle of white wine.  I don’t know what it all added up to, but I was fairly certain the final tab exceeded what I spent during my entire time in Kosovo.

During dinner I was reminded that Brian and I do have a lot in common.  We’re both the same age; we grew up in America; we’ve both lived in California; we’re both professionals.  We love to talk and to laugh.  We’re big on adventure and travel.  Last night, we preferred the white to the red.  

One big difference, though, is that Brian is married, and I’m not.  But if I do get married, we’d have something else in common, too.   We’d both be married to men.  

I’m not sure whether it’s that latter thing that makes me so comfortable with Brian, but nevertheless I am.  Last night, perhaps helped along by the wine, I was spilling all kinds of personal things to Brian that I don’t even tell my close girlfriends.  It was great.

Sometimes, though, I find it hard to keep my train of thought with Brian.  To put it bluntly, his GQ-model looks can be very distracting for a straight woman.  But I hung in there, and listened intently when Brian dispensed some good advice on love and relationships.  A little something to take home with me across the ocean.

Sometime, mid-dinner, something totally wacky occurred to me.  Brian is, in fact, a character in the travel-memoir I’ve been writing concerning my 2007 seven-continent adventure.   He’s part of the Antarctica chapter.  And now, here I was, having dinner on the last day of this latest travel-writing adventure, with an actual character in my own forthcoming book about the last one.

It really boggled my mind.  Then again, it could have been the wine.

We could have talked all night, but Brian—being an important VP in a global company—had to get up for work the next day.  I had to get back, too, to begin packing for my morning flight toward home. Brian walked me back to my hostel, and then, more than four years later in Amsterdam, we parted ways again.  Until next time.

I stumbled upstairs buzzed off the wine and friendship, unable to think of anything more perfect than ending this current journey with a friend from a past one.  I crawled into the hostel bed, barely able to sleep from the excitement, feeling completely grateful.