Pim died. He was in the plane that was shot down above eastern Ukraine on July 17th, 2014.
The door swings open and my date and I walk upstairs. The party’s host awaits us at the door of his apartment. “Pim,” he says when he shakes my hand and I look into two somewhat wistful eyes in a friendly face. “So nice of you to bring along a bottle of wine.”
“Two,” I say, and show him the contents of my plastic bag and nod to my date. “One for each of us.”
Pim chuckles and grins. “Come on in.”
I had heard a thing or two about Pim before I met him. In his early thirties, a degree in International Law from Maastricht, fresh out of the closet after recently ending his career in international diplomacy in order to enjoy a bachelor’s life in Amsterdam. When he formally kicked off his little get-together, I got the chance to observe him. I could not explain why but the man intrigued me. He seemed without any care in the world, the way he walked around, flirting with some of the others, making sure everyone had a good time and a full glass. He seemed to let life drip like honey from his lips. “He gets it,” I thought.
Not long after that I interviewed him for an article and I saw my impression confirmed: he drank a grand gin-tonic on the terrace in the sun and told me all about himself. It turned out we had lots in common: we both enjoyed our single life in the Netherlands’ capital city and both had a love for Amsterdam-Oost, or ‘East’, the district in which we both lived. I liked him. This man and I, I thought, should meet more often. And we did.
Almost instantly, we became good friends. We ate, drank, danced. And we talked. And as we did, it turned out that my picture of him was lopsided. He told me about his dating life, which, to his dismay, did not go smoothly. About his career, his friends from the past and from the present. Stories of a thirty-something-year-old man in the big city. Very personal, very normal.
This comforted me. If a man like this is brave enough to doubt, to be sad, to be indecisive, to be scared, then so am I.
It took a while for me to have the courage to open up to him as well. This was on a Monday in July, on a terrace at the waterside of one of Amsterdam’s famous canals. I told him about the boy I dated: how special he made me feel, how easily everything seemed to go between us. And how scared I was about the idea giving up my freedom to a boy who, on top of that, was about to leave for a trip to the other end of the globe in a few months time.
My song of self-pity was ill-received and Pim subtly reminded me about his own all-but-perfect dating life. He concluded his twenty-minute-long reprimand with an emotional: “I don’t have the choice, Michiel, but if I did, I would give anything – anything! – to have what you have right now.”
He said what I already knew deep down. Man up and go for it.
I sent him a text later that day to thank him. Three days later, I sent another to wish him a good trip and a great time. I would not get an answer.
I think of Pim, I drink to Pim, I cry for Pim, a friend who was with me way too short, who inspired me, with whom I yelled after the victory of the Dutch squad against Mexico. A man who, in both his insecurity and openness, taught me a lesson in life and in love. Thank you Pim. We had a terrific time.