When I finally walk in, he’s already there: the guy who responded to my personal ad in the Groene Amsterdammer. Luckily, the smile plastered onto my face hides exactly how much of a rush I was in. He looks nervous.

An acquaintance who always looks like she has just walked out of a skincare advert takes our order. I may have chosen this place to show off all the extraordinary people I know. I’m curious how she sees my companion: he’s young and has a pair of eyebrows that add an extra layer to any eye contact. We make light work of lunch – my breakfast – despite the physical effort involved. The bagels are almost impossible to cut. We spend hours drinking tea. We talk about our regal dreams and about the dog that was just wheeled into the café in a pushchair. Occasionally, I glance over his shoulder at the waitress.

A procession of elderly people on an audio tour is just passing as we emerge from the deli. Led by a guide, they do not seem to see us, just the city. Entranced, they just about run us over. “They look like they’ve been allowed out of the old people’s home for the first time in years”, he says.

A potential romance can have the power to reset your gaze – just like for this group of wayward old-timers who have to get used to the tall buildings of Rotterdam. I silently wonder whether I’m not clinging to a fantasy (with exquisite eyebrows) just because I’m bored with my current situation.

I haven’t yet gone to sleep when I order a croissant and a cow’s milk cappuccino in Altstadt Delfshaven the following day. I just had to witness the last moments of club Poing – yet another cultural beacon to disappear into the night. My black make-up has smudged and melted down my face, and my red lips are completely gone. A young father casts a disapproving look at me and my panther-print dress.
Then I get a message from my admirer with the exquisite eyebrows: ‘Lots of love from up North’. It’s someone tentatively bearing their heart to me – and now it’s my turn. I try to focus – but suddenly I don’t know what I’m looking at.


Giselle Timmers 1_2023_2560_Pauline Wiersema_Levien Willemse

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