The city of Haarlem shone orange in the setting sun. Summer was hazily making its way through July and the citizens of Haarlem were enjoying every minute of it. They sat outside in their cafés, eating slices of Metworst and Edam, drinking small cups of coffee with the customary single biscuit, a sign of simple, but proud Dutch Protestantism.
Others preferred something a little stronger at that time of day; by the Grote Markt men played cards in one particular café, sharing a bottle of Jenever, also known as Dutch gin, between them. Laughing and making jokes they were quite content to play cards until wife and a heavy dinner called them home.
The intellectual young men of the city were to be found a plenty in the numerous museums of the city, escorted by a young lady friend perhaps, attempting to show off their intelligence by commenting on the inaccuracies of the museum display.
Others preferred to walk along the Spaarne River and watch the setting sun reflect off the water, making it sparkle like fine South African diamonds.
In the less prestigious parts of town were to be found the brothels, the beating, seedy undercurrent of Haarlem society.
I can’t remember most of my early years, my father had been born in the fires of the Napoleonic Wars but I was born in a time of peace, though our king was still an absolute monarch at that time.
I remember the food most of all from those early years, mama’s pea soup that filled and warmed my little belly, and the cheese and sausages of course. I particularly liked her stamports; she made it by mashing potatoes and cabbage, and even bacon when we could afford it.
Papa came in late, often drunk. He wasn’t a violent drunk but he did make rather a pathetic figure. He was also a terrible gambler which was how, when I was little more than thirteen, his debts having gotten into such arrears, that I was sold to a brothel on the other side of Haarlem. Though it solved his gambling and drinking debts I feel sure, or at least hope, that my father could not live with what he had done for he was found a bare two weeks later dead in the river. Though it was ruled as death by accident, he had been walking home from a pub at that time, I like to try and think otherwise.
I hate my profession, this may surprise you, ‘Aren’t all whores the same? Yes sir, of course sir, willingly sir.’ This is just the mask we put on, like actors before the stage, we put on ours before bed. Debt brought me into prostitution and debt has kept me in it. We are charged for the dresses we wear, the food we eat, our sleeping quarters, when we manage to get such blissful rest that is.
I am mildly indifferent to the clients, the drunk and abusive ones that used to fill me with dread when I was younger I accept stoically. The act itself I care little for, it is no more than an irksome fly upon my flesh.