Both of us eyed the dark clouds gathering again over the Atlantic. D comes after C, and that meant winter storm Dennis was due by nightfall. Seeing neither driftwood nor fish on the beach, we knew we needed to gather provisions and prepare for the storm. As we walked back to the apartment, red-faced against the wind, I noticed that even the trash cans here in Zandvoort seemed prescient. “Push Me Down!” they screamed, in big block letters above the pedals used to open them.
Dennis brings unseasonably warm temperatures, but also pelting rain that sweeps across the town in dark sheets. Housebound again. My wife, who has the good fortune to be traveling for work and thus missing the joys of Zandvoort, suggests meditation. Or at least using this time for a good, long think about things.
It’s understandable, given the current state of our place in Haarlem, that my favorite place to think here in Zandvoort is in the brand new bathroom in our rental. Even the language learning app on my phone knows this. Hij zit op de toilet en denkt na. “He is sitting on the toilet and thinking,” I translate while sitting on the toilet. And thinking.
This reminds me that I need to clarify something with our contractor. Yesterday, he sent me a note admitting they had accidentally knocked a hole in the wall between the bathroom and a bedroom while removing the old sink. “We can fix it,” he wrote to me in Dutch. However, my knowledge of modal verbs is still limited, so I find myself fixating on whether this also means “We will fix it.” This being the land of minutely itemized bills and value-added tax, the difference is potentially a very costly one.
The anti-fog mirror in this fancy bathroom is great for all that personal reflection you suggested.” That’s the snarky little text I send to my wife after I’m done thinking about the hole in our wall. When she doesn’t take the bait, I decide to look at myself in the mirror out of spite. I immediately regret it.
Slouching towards 50, I think, taking in the spider-web of laugh lines and pain lines duking it out in the dark circles underneath my eyes. I haven’t been sleeping well since we moved to the Netherlands. Some of that’s down to my bad back. But it’s also...fear, I guess. Fear of what’s become, at least in my mind, a slow slide into middle-aged irrelevance and mediocrity. Just before my wife got offered a job here in the Netherlands, I quit a two-decade career in journalism, a career that I would call, generously, “moderately successful and mildly amusing.” The first two years of Trump, the inane shouting matches between supporters and detractors, the crass and precipitous slide of America into dumb and dumber—it all burned me out. Badly. So, I quit without a plan. When my wife got the offer to move to a country below sea level, it seemed appropriate.