Beyond the Ij

It’s almost one month that I cross the Ijmeer every day to go to work. I usually go by public transport. The metro 51 at 8:17 over Van Boshuizenstraat, and the bus 32 or 33 from Central Station, down the Ijtunnel, up to Johan van Hasselweg. Therefore, I walk until the Pand Noord. However, this happens when it rains and, you know, Amsterdam is not the sunniest place ever. Although, when it’s sunny, there’s no other place where I would like to be on Earth.

In these days, I usually prefer to take my bike and going to work enjoying the marvelous show made of canals, leaning houses, thousands of smells – bad or good, I don’t care –, windows, markets, last night broken bottles. A movie starring dressed-up men and women coming fast in the opposite direction. A race where scented blond girls challenge distracted curly-haired guys that forget to keep an eye on the traffic lights.

The race ends where the water begins. I’m pretty sure that under the Ij water there are millions of bike swimming around, like riding in an underwater town. While crossing the street over de Ruijterkade, I often wondered if anybody when straight into the water rather than turn on the left, towards Central Station, or on the right, to reach the Bimhuis. I’m always careful to turn on the left, where the ferry to Ijplein starts its short trip on the Ij.

On the other side, less than one kilometer is dividing me from my workplace. On the right side, the two Italian ladies of the Café Al Ponte are always ready to welcome you with a huge smile and a good cappuccino. A nice way to feel home, a perfect way to start the day.

When the working day is over, the ritual repeats backwards. And, hopefully, with the same good weather of the morning. The ferry is always full of people. I found it almost empty only twice so far. It’s a mixture of people, bikes, motorbikes, languages, smiles, happy and sad faces, eyes focused on smartphones. Good purposes in the morning, regrets in the late afternoon.

And, most of all, the crowd waiting for the ferry on the other side. It seems like a family waiting for the return of someone in the airport terminal. Everyone with the same destiny and the same goal. They’re going either to work or coming back home. Sometimes, it happens that on the other side there are just people waiting for someone to cross the sea. Those ones, dears, are my favorite ones.

It may happen that there’s a tall guy, around 25, which is constantly beating on his bike, like he’s anxious or he has to pee and he can’t do it anywhere for the next 5 minutes. It may happen that he crosses you a bit rudely, slightly apologizes and stops just in front of the prow. It may happen that you would like to tell him some words, but it’s sunny, you’re happy and you’re also earlier than every other morning. It may happen that you catch the sight of a excessively-blue-eyed girl, around 25, blond, impatient, standing on the dock.

And it may happen that her white face transforms from dark and worried to shining and smiling, showing all the thirtytwo teeth, so brightly that she could reflect the summer sun and blind everyone on the ferry. Then it may happen that he runs towards her, throws away the bike somewhere, and they glue to each other, mouth, arms, hair, and everything else.

It actually happened and it warmed me more than the summer sun could do. I took my bike and rode to my workplace. And that smile was so contagious that stimulated the curiosity of a colleague.

«Had an interesting night?»
«No,» I answered «but I’m going to have a wonderful day».

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