After my appearance on the Dutch Pauw & Witteman show of November the 1st I was approached by a publisher, with the simple question of whether I intended to write down my story in book format and have it published. Having answered 'yes' to this question, I thus found myself in the train to Amsterdam yesterday, to discuss said book with this publisher. Although I'm hardly unfamiliar with the literary world, it would be the first time ever that a book of mine would actually ever get published by an actual publisher. Self-publishing such as on Scribd doesn't quite compare.
The train journey to Amsterdam itself was rather uneventful, although instead of doing actual work on my laptop I mostly found myself talking with my boss on IRC, to discuss details around the apartment I intended to rent in Karlsruhe. I definitely wasn't feeling bored during this trip with so many distractions, though I reckon the guy who was sitting behind me in one intercity train didn't agree with that judging by the heavy sawing noises heard throughout most of the journey. As usual the Dutch rail (NS) was messing things up again with track errors and shortages of trains, but this didn't prevent me from arriving in Amsterdam on time.
Finding the publisher's office wasn't hard either, being located near the central station. It mostly took me along the Singel street, which I guess is one of the better (read: more expensive) sections of central Amsterdam. Shaking off the smell of weed still stuck to my clothes after walking past two dozen coffeeshops, I arrived at the office and had to wait shortly before the publisher herself came to meet me. Walking up to her office, we settled in for a chat over a cup of tea and - in my case - a glass of water.
This chat turned into two hours during which we discussed both my story, the book, the planning, and most important of all which language to write it in. My suggestion that I would write it in English and translate it myself into Dutch once the English version became stable enough was accepted. I'm not even the first author at this publisher to do things this way, as it turned out. My thought hereby is that by writing it in English I can feel more unrestrained and natural while writing it, while also making the option of an international publication much easier, as the English-language market is one of the biggest out there. I'd not feel comfortable translating it into Japanese or German, though :)
Though no contract got signed yet, I didn't leave empty-handed. We agreed that I would start writing some sample chapters and send those in for approval by the end of January next year. I also got a chance to look at some of the other books published by them and got to take a few of these books home with me, including the newest book by Arnon Grunberg and Jan van Aken. With how many adult-oriented Dutch language books I had in my possession before yesterday (zero) it at least provides me with some nice study and reference material while I am writing my own book.
Walking back to the station after all this it was already getting dark. I decided to not follow the same route back, but instead cross the canal first and take another street back to the station. While initially this street I walked on seemed more pleasant, with much wider sidewalks and such, I quickly got a nasty surprise. Maybe the leering by the men I passed was a hint, or maybe something else tipped me off, but when the string of red windows appeared and I walked past them I realized that I was much closer to the infamous part of De Wallen - Amsterdam's Red Light district - than I had figured. It were less than ten windows total, but it did fill me with a sensation of... wrongness, as though I was seeing something which should not exist.
The first window I saw didn't even have a red light behind it when I approached it. It was some side room of a building, with windows on the side and front. Inside in harsh, white light a girl was standing in her underwear, shaking loose her hair. The room she was standing in was sterile, with tiles everywhere and a black, plastic-like 'bed' in the center. The first comparison which popped up in my head was that of an abattoir. Having seen the latter plenty of times, seeing this scene made me realize how similar both places are. In one humanity is murdered with every cow's, sheep's or pig's eyes which turn glassy as the struggling ceases. In the other humanity is murdered by reducing a thinking, breathing human being into a mere blow-up doll.
While I wouldn't call myself a rabid anti-meat activist and though I didn't become a vegetarian because of 'those poor animals', I'd be lying if I didn't say that I have never felt comfortable with seeing an animal getting killed and butchered. Similarly, the thought of what happens in those abattoirs of love and intimacy fills my mouth with bile. It's such an affront of the pretence we like to wrap around things which could be uncomfortable. Those images of happy cattle in the sunshine in stark contrast to both sides of their corpses dangling from the ceiling of an abattoir's storage room. The images of a happy couple, embracing and kissing, in stark contrast to the heavy grunting and wet sounds on top of a hygienics-approved sterile surface, cast in a red glow with nary a word or gesture of tenderness exchanged.
Makes one wonder what one would call someone who gives up on sex because of how icky it is after realizing the above, much like how someone becomes a vegetarian after seeing how cows get to suffer before they end up priced really cheap in the refrigerator of the local supermarket.
A next thought was that it would be easy for me to step inside one of those rooms and within moments lie there, grunting like that. The thought immediately following that one was that it would probably take a lot of explaining and embarrassment to let the other side figure what exactly was going on with this quaint body of mine. Not that I would ever actually attempt anything like that. To me sexuality in general and sex in particular is something I loathe and resent almost more than Dutch physicians. To me sex means pain, frustration and traumatic memories. Maybe that's why I hate seeing those red windows even more, as what I feel inside resonates with the cold, uncaring world I know exists behind them, making me even more aware of this pain inside of me.
Such thoughts pass through one's mind before reaching the station and boarding the first train home. Going online on my laptop I was greeted by my boss who told me that he had received a copy of the rental contract from the landlady of the apartment and thus I probably had too. This turned out to be the case. I told him that I would be snail mailing her the requested copies of the contract the next day. That just left me with organizing the logistics of moving a few boxes with belongings from my current location in the Netherlands to the apartment in Karlsruhe. The current idea I have and which hopefully works out is to have one of my colleagues drive a van from Karlsruhe to my location after which we can put the boxes in and after ensuring everyone is well-rested and fed, drive back to Karlsruhe.
If that works out, then I just have to get settled in my new place, find or buy the furniture, curtains etc. I still need and start the negotiations about my new job contract as I'll be living in Germany instead. Still enough things to worry about after moving, in other words, but it should mean that my new life can finally start. As a person, a woman, a developer, author and also intersex activist.
Interesting times ahead, indeed.