by Michelle Seyner28 Sep 2019
Part I - Drizzle
It was raining. The sweet, soft sort of drizzle
that made my hair frizzy and the streets
of The Hague dappled with diamond-like
drops. I was heading home with the
steady pace of someone longing for a
cup of coffee and a meal to chase the
cold of Autumn away. Grey clouds
chased each other, clumping together
in growing packs, arguing
with each other over how much
rain they would unleash,
and how quickly.
The sound of heels approached
in my direction, but most of my
focus was on gauging if I
would make it home before
the clouds were done arguing,
before I would turn up like a
drowned kitten on my own
doorstep, and the heels clicked
toward me, but I ignored it.
The only attention I usually
pay to strangers on the street,
is zig-zag-ing around them.
I hobbled toward my promised
coffee with the slight, but
distinct limp I have, and
passed the inhabitant of the heels.
From my peripheral vision I
noticed she was a well-dressed,
good-looking white woman.
Estimated in her forties, but,
I'm exceedingly bad at guessing,
and my estimates tend to be
on the slightly offensive side,
to the receiver. I didn't give a shit, anyway.
Age was never a thing I gave a flying
fuck about. The rain was getting sharper,
like tiny needles.
Icy little projectiles, heat-seeking your skin,
and stinging you. I turned up the collar
of my coat and passed the lady,
continuing my race against the impending
torrent of rain. The street was deserted, except
for her and me. Even the cars looked
huddled. I was about two meters
further, when her heels stopped
marching. I took notice, but walked on.
She probably dropped something.
I kept walking. I already imagined
the home-y sound of my coffee machine.
'Excuse me,'she said. The heels
turned and walked in my direction
So, the BAD part about being one
of only two people on the street, is
you being addressed when the
other says: 'Excuse me.'
Part II - Torrent
I half-turned, looked at her.
Fancy Lady, indeed. Like she shopped
in boutiques only slightly cheaper
than the average run-way model would.
Fancy Lady actually grabbed my
arm to turn me more toward her.
'Excuse me,' she repeated.
I shook some of the rain out
of my long hair and instinctively
backed up, freeing my arm. I figured she
wanted to know what time it was,
or she needed directions.
Instead, she studied me as if
I was some undiscovered species
of her least favorite insect.
'Yes, ma'am?' I replied,
hoping my voice
conveyed the right mixture of
politeness and urgency to
get out of the goddamn rain.
'You're not entirely DUTCH, are you?'
she interrogated, visibly pleased with
herself. I was twenty, but for a moment,
I felt like a 12 year old.
I knew what she meant, of course.
This wasn't my first "You're not FULLY
DUTCH, are you?'- tango.
Nor was it the last.
She had scooped the "foreignness"
off my face with the glee of a Girl Scout
on a scavenger hunt.
She was all but purring with
satisfaction, as if it was
a secret I had desperately
tried to hide.
The REAL question was,
hidden under her fancy clothes,
her expensive perfume, and her
deceptively benign tone:
'You are not fully WHITE, are you?'
Which is why I replied as I did.
'No, ma'am,' I replied, trying to make
my polite tone as icy as the rain that
pelted us both, 'I am Indo.'
'Are you?' she gave me the quick, top-to-bottom
look-over glance that is meant to be
humiliating. You know, like the rich
girls at the party would look at my
old dress and then say: "Nice dress..."
'You should consider yourself LUCKY
that you still look so WHITE,' she quipped.
And she turned and left me there,
staring after her in shocked indignation
and insulted disbelief.
Even her damn hééls were marching smugness.
My limping home - step, clúnk; step, clúnk -
was exactly what
seething rage sounded like.
About ten minutes and me
being a drowned kitten later,
I poured water into the reservoir
of my coffee-machine,
and mumbled to my empty house:
"My passport says I'm Dutch."
28 September 2019.