I decided 2018 was my ‘year of yes.’ Shonda Rhimes said that saying “yes” to everything for a year of her life changed her completely, and I decided to do the same. I was going to say yes to everything, no matter how painful or boring it may sound. I had been planning a trip to Amsterdam for a few months already and as the trip arrived in January, I was very excited to get out of the country.
I went alone because everyone annoys me on trips, but also because I love afternoon naps, which always irritate my ambitious friends in foreign places. Going in winter was a great idea, too. The dramatic lighting from the Christmas lights in leafless trees along the canals made everything seem very romantic. I made sure to keep no schedule during my trip so that it would be easier to say “yes” to anything that popped up along the way.
Outside one of the museums, one small pop-up shop I visited unpacked like a messy suitcase, its tote bags and van Gogh prints hanging from stands and t-shirts hung from the makeshift ceiling inside. It was bursting with touristy crap, with just enough space for a cash register inside.
This is where Micah was, counting the magnets. I walked in and as I glanced at him, he said “i’m doing inventory today,” to me in broken English as if apologizing for allowing it to happen to himself. Later that night as he moved his hands up my legs on his couch he will tell me he pegged me immediately as an American, but never revealed to me how.
We started chatting about ourselves, and finding things in common, decided that this American and Amsterdammer were going to sit down and talk about life in our respective countries that evening together.
I came back later and found the shop packed up into a neat little box the size of a phone booth. He was leaning against his work van, waiting for me. “You have two options,” he said, walking up to me. “I care very much about animals and their safety, and on my way here this morning, there was a duck on the side of the road. I want to rescue it and bring it back to a small body of water nearby. We could go rescue it, assuming it’s still there, and then get coffee.” He paused for dramatic effect. “…Or if that’s too weird, we could just forget it and get coffee somewhere.”
I feigned my indifference, but really I couldn’t believe my luck. I’d already felt like I was on a wild adventure outside my comfort zone: It was my first day alone in a foreign country, meeting up with a guy i’d met three hours prior. I couldn’t’ve asked for better stories like this to bring home, so of course I couldn’t say no. Shonda Rhimes prohibited it. I told him yes.
We drove to a busy neighborhood where the regular, non-rich Amsterdamers lived. Whereas bicyclers clogged the streets near the canals and museums, here there was an even ratio of cars and bicycles. Micah kept his eyes to the surroundings as we passed them, searching for the duck. I watched as we passed small parks with children and parents, architecturally pleasing apartment buildings, and Dutch versions of restaurants and corner stores back home in the states.
“I just saw it,” he said, quickly looking in the rear view mirror. “I’m going to pull over up here.”
We parked the van and made our way to the median in the road. “Is this duck dead?” I asked, figuring it was so. We’re definitely looking for a flattened duck carcass.
Micah didn’t answer, but what i’ve edited out here is his continuous ramblings about his views on life. He was either an existentialist, or someone who had a very dark past and was now trying to mend it by only doing good, positive things in the world. He knew that in order to be a light in the world, you must do good things. You must always be kind. You must always think positive thoughts, rescue animals from the highway, and give your date two options when the first one might be a little crazy.
We walked on the median for a few minutes, the cars rushing past us on both sides before Micah perked up. “There it is.” He quickened his step forward and stopped abruptly.
I stood on my tippy toes to look past him as he bent down. It was dark by this time, but I could see Micah pick something up with his thumb and pointer finger, holding it up to see in the street light. I thought it was gross to pick up the dead duck with his fingers, until I saw what it was. A mop head. It was the top part of a mop. To clean your kitchen. He held onto its white cotton strands, stained by the dirt from cars. If what he said about thinking positive was true, I could feel the negativeness emanate from him. I tried not to laugh. He took the mop and out of frustration, flung it into the grass. I thought this was rude, considering he cared so much about animals. Does littering not factor into these beliefs?
I consoled him and he tried not to show his embarrassment. We walked back to the van without saying anything and we decided to carry on with the date, post duck. We drove to a pool hall where we played a few games. It felt cool to hang with the locals, although i’m sure they could tell also that I wasn’t from around those parts. As the night went on, he eventually forgot about the duck and we ended up having a good time. Later on as we walked to his car from the pool hall, he grabbed me as I stood in the bike lane and kissed me as bicyclists whooshed past us, some of them ringing their bell in anger. One bicyclist yelled out to us “Are you crazy?!” and as I unlocked my lips from Micah’s I yelled out “YES!”