When the water recedes

It’s sometime in May and I am sitting on a bench trying to photograph a flock of pigeons on the Dam square with the palace in the background. Eventually, a rag-tag group of Polish men come along and settle on and around the bench next to me. One of them comes to me asking for money and we strike up a conversation about where they are from and their situation. He tells me they’ve lost their jobs because of corona. Whether that’s true or not it’s clear that they’re having a difficult time of it as they look unkempt and somewhat confused. One runs around, as if possessed, chasing after the pigeons while another, standing off to one side with a can of cheap beer in his hand, yells at passers-by. For one reason or another they can’t stay in the shelters so they sleep rough. And it’s impossible for them to go anywhere inside to get something to eat. I suspect this may have something to do with their behaviour but even so, it’s a distressing situation. I give him a little change and hope that this won’t encourage the others to come asking. We chat a bit longer before he rejoins his group. Later, while walking towards the Warmoesstraat, I pass a man sleeping in the doorway of one of the closed cafes on the Dam. It’s something I have never seen in this area before. It simply wasn’t possible because ‘normally’ the terraces on the Dam are open every day of the week and the street is packed with people. It brings to mind a comparison with ocean tides: Corona is like receding tide water. What is left behind is what the sea has spit out.

In the meantime it’s already busier again on the Dam and more terraces are open. Again it makes me think of the comparison from earlier. Now, with the tide coming in, all that once lay on the ground is washed away again by the water.

Comments are closed.