September 20, 2004

Charlie's Albatros

By Tenzin McGrupp

Ophelia took an extended drag on her cigarette. She purposely took her time before she smoothly exhaled towards the direction of the tiny candle in the middle of our squeaky table. Ophelia sat mesmerized by the milky designs of smoke rings that mingled with the stagnant air. She was polluted. The absinthe slowly hit her. One second she seemed fine and coherent, and the next instance she was muttering in broken English and LA speak, twitching and waving her left hand at an imaginary fly. We had been sitting in the poorly lit Albatros Café on Westerstraat Street for over an hour, and in that time we attempted to discuss the various interpretations of Blade Runner, and I polished off three Amstels. She barely touched her tea, instead she put a hefty dent into the pack of Gitanes she had bought during our desperate search for hash and French smokes in the early afternoon. Opehlia could chain smoke like a World Champion. For the entire time we were in Amsterdam together, I swear she had a lit cigarette in both hands, even when she was in the shower.

“Don’t look now. But that smelly German guy from Dam Square just walked in.”

Of course I turned around and Ophelia was right. Lars was standing at the bar looking in our direction. While we had been taking pictures in Dam Square, a scraggly looking, lanky guy wearing a faded Italian football jersey walked up to Ophelia. I thought he was homeless because he was looking for spare change and cigarettes. He pestered us until I gave him a few Euros and he left. He must have followed us to Albatros, which was over thirty winding blocks east of Dam Square.

He walked over and whispered, “Charlie. I got it.”

He extended his right hand as if to shake hands with me. I stared at the dark lines of dirt underneath his fingernails. I reluctantly obliged. While shaking hands, I realized he slid something into my palm; a small piece of magazine paper rolled up to the size of a silver dollar. I unwrapped it and I saw white powder sitting in the middle of a vodka advertisement. Absolut Nose Candy.

“Charlie. Do you want?” he whispered again as he circled our table twice, obviously agitated, both times tripping on the chair next to us.

“If I buy it will you leave us alone?”

Ophelia gave me a revolted look like, “I can’t believe you’re buying drugs from this loser. What are you … a friggin’ cokehead from the Valley?”

I threw a couple of twenty Euro bills at him. Lars rubbed his blood shot eyes and ran out the front door.

“You’re not actually going to do any of that? Are you?”

“Come on? I’m going to sell it to the first batch of dumb American frat boys I see.”

She snickered, sluggishly lit up another cigarette, then mumbled, “Decker was a Replicant, you know that?”

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

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