What I Wrote On My Way To Bruges


Did I do the right thing by letting Chantal give me two euro since she felt bad that she didn’t tell me to take the train and instead let me take the bus, which turned out to be a few euro more expensive, when you factor in having to take the train to Breda to catch it? Or is it appropriate to accept magnanimity as it is rightly appropriate to display it? I tend to think the latter question is more apropos.

Guess what happened when I got on the train. I saw some dark-skinned guy walking back and forth, cast a quick negative judgement on him, and when I finished my apple, went to the bathroom to find him there. He came out to tell me the bathroom was occupied and I saw a joint in his hand. He closed the door. I knocked. I asked him if I could smoke it with him. He invited me inside and offered me white widow. He let me smoke more than him and left me with the roach while I peed. I invited him to the upper deck to join me.

Sami is from Afhganistan, just like the two guys who waited for the bus with me in the shadows behind the building outside of the train station when I looked up and saw the plane flying with its contrail melting like vapor. They’re from Islamabaad. They’re going to London on my bus, which has a number of bald heads, young girls, and foreigners.

Chantal said that at least since I’m taking the bus I might meet someone. There is a row of Spanish girls  ahead, beautiful, fit, sunglasses-wearing Spanish girls, laughing and talking, then quieting as we pass beech trees and sunny grass strips and daffodils with neon orange stamens and birches, leafless. It’s all alive, or rather, coming back to life. The fallow fields and now, paralleling the train, the highway. To Bru-yeah, that’s how they pronounce it.

 I’m not sure if I can feel the radiation of my computer against my balls, but I think I can.

We just pulled into Antwerp, the cathedral spire in the distance. Apartments are two windows, giving them the appearance of being stacked. Overall, a small industrial looking city.

One of the Spanish girls had her hand on her head, and when i noticed her red nail polish and dainty wrists, she let me keep looking for another ten seconds before gracefully removing it and placing it in her lap. I’m glad I got to read in the sun in the train station. I’m also glad to move on. Five days in Holland was good. Definitely more French influence here, everything’s in Dutch but…

Did I do the right thing by coming North? I could have gone to Spain.

Yeah but you would have had to go to Portugal and Morocco too, then get back to Warsaw in time for your flight. It makes more sense to have come north. And plus you get to see these countries that you’d otherwise never see, just keep putting off, whereas because you want to go to Spain so badly, your putting it off will only make it that much better when you finally arrive. Then you can see Morocco and Portugal. And north you get to see Berlin, don’t forget Berlin.


And of course, we can also justify our decision by fate, you know, it happened so of course it was the right thing; it was the only possible thing.

Yeah. But the luxuriant south, with warm langurous afternoons and exceptional art–

Exceptional art? Remember “View of Delft?” And believe me you’ll be getting enough heat in India, it’ll be a hundred degrees there next month with malarial mosquitoes.

By then I’ll be able to dispose of my gray pants.
Bout time. And plus, hoodie weather is comfortable. When you get to the east, you’ll be wishing for fifty degree days. Relax, drink some pilsner, eat some chocolate and have a good time.

I fancy Bruges will be like big cobblestone squares and pointy-rooved houses, thin and wide, and quiet and starry, and kind of funky with art galleries and good pubs.   I’m going to ride into ol’ Bruges like it’s 1999.

Brussels is a bigger version of Antwerp so the houses lose some quaintness but the age, the pride in a quaint history, a large town on the way to a lot of other places, that still exists, even though most of the people here aren’t Belgian, are Afghani or Chinese or Turkish. And here things are in French and Dutch, a good EU capital for its compromised mutt heritage. There are hundred fifty foot square rectangular towers, many, black, blue. We have a forty-five minute stop in Brussels since it’s like, the capital.

I had to get off the bus and I wanted to walk to the copper dome but I wasn’t sure how far away it was. I instead became distracted by the nearest Jupiter sign and walked into a bar and bought the only draft beer, Maes. I drank it fast and heard the tapstress say da and words that sounded Eastern European. Lots of vowels. I thought they were from Romania but they were from Bulgaria. Then the guy at the end of the bar commented about the age of Europe, how the U.S. is only two hundred years old. It was only 2:35 when I asked and I didn’t have the fifteen minutes it took to walk into town because I had to be back at the bus at 2:50.

God I love German girls, a couple of pretty blondes sat right in front of me and in between their laughing and chattering I hear English phrases, “sleeping food,” “story of my life,” “sweet.” I’m going to have to ask them where they’re from.

Brenna, and they drop Americanisms because they lived in my country, one in NY, the other in Miami. They speak perfect American, without a hint of an accent. They live in London, were partying here with friends.

After I drank my beer at the bar I walked into the fruit store, which wasn’t too expensive. They sold Aryan yogurt drink. For sixty cents. But I had just had a beer. I should’ve bought one anyway because even though it didn’t sound appetizing then, it sure does now. The woman who worked there had green eyes and indeed was from Turkey, and her husband had the broad Turkish forehead and brown eyes and hair and they seemed happy.

I don’t get the sense that there’s much in Brussels, it seems rather arbitrary to be the capital of Europe, the German girls and I noted, but they said geographically it’s in the center, even though it’s not, it’s geographically central between Amsterdam, Paris, London, Rome, and Berlin, kinda. I still think back to the article in the WSJ about the world in 2014, and how the capital has been moved to Wien, which is really more geographically central, especially if we consider eastern Europe, which most Europeans don’t–and understandably, it’s not nearly as civilized as it is in the northwest.

Now with my stop next I can’t really try to fall asleep, I mean I could but I’d have to wake up in time or rely on someone to wake me, perhaps the Columbian girl next to me. I wonder what happens when you miss your stop. Sleep through it, like the Columbian girl would if I weren’t kind enough to wake her. Tough noogies, they probably say, just take the train back an hour, which is usually the average amount of time between stops. Bureaucratic service industry, telling us to be at the stop half hour before they arrive, even though they showed with only five minutes. And making me print out the ticket, god, how 20th century.

Bruges is supposed to be pretty cool. There was that article in the Times about where Hemingway would write if he lived today and while London seemed pretty obvious and then Berlin, Bruges did get one of the six votes which means that there must be something bohemian about this town of a hundred thousand, or else why would this Columbian girl be coming just for one day all the way from Amsterdam. Brussels is like the Upper East Side of Europe. I have the feeling that Bruges is the Williamsburg.

I can see myself reflecting on my time in Netherlands and Belgium in three months when shit gets really serious and I’m working in the mountains of Thailand, fondly remembering Chantal’s kindness. Then chronologically through my adventures in Germany and Poland before I got on the plane to India, where one-eyed children will beg at me. Will I give them money? Two euro?

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s