Windows on the Canals

by Jordan Zinovich



Maria spent the early evening shaving.  Her legs were smooth, arms and belly, too, so she started with her armpits ― lots of hair there; gently, gently.  Then, when she’d finished and oiled, she stripped naked and pulled a plush grey chair over to the mirror.  She sat down on the edge of the chair, spread her legs, and slipped her right hand down into the tangle.  Lots of hair there, too.  She dipped a tentative finger into her pussy, just to see how wet she’d get.  A few soft circles around her clit, slide into the slit.  The walls gave gently to her touch; a sudden slick gush.

Ach!  Best to get back to work ― time enough to play later.  A scentless gel hissed from the can, coming blue into her hand.  She spread and lathered it, raising a froth that covered her so completely she could have worn it in the window.  Her blade was new, but she started from her navel and worked down.  She wanted some practice before she got to her labia: no sense taking chances.  Each stroke tugged a little as the hair gave way.  At first it seemed to sting, but the rhythm and cool touch of air that followed lulled her.  She began enjoying it.

By the time she’d finished and oiled there wasn’t a trace of hair anywhere from her navel to her asshole.  She checked twice, then stood and took a last look at herself.  Her new short hairdo looked good.  Just a few slight stretch marks at the edges of her nipples.  She’d do.  And there was still time to go in and check on the baby before she left; perhaps even to lie down beside him for a while and listen to him breath.  Thank God she’d managed to get them both out.  Now she had to keep in mind that she was just doing this to pay the rent.

Searching the Past

Midnight, and Sava feels almost as if he has ridden the darkness here.  The clang of a bell in the night.  He’s getting closer; has felt it for more than a week; day by day, each day edging towards the next.  Now he’s circling ― spiraling really ― towards the heart of a memory.  He thinks of the squatters who helped him, the beautiful young man and young woman fully alive in their wildness.  He thinks of the years that have flown from him like a flock of birds.  A man should neither enter the world nor search the mausoleums of his past alone.  But Sava was alone now.  The bicycle spins him toward the Rondakerk, where his Europe first began.  He is the black shape where a man once was.

He slows down.  The old hotel hasn’t changed ― from the outside, anyway.  Around it red lights glitter off the canals.  Funny he’d never noticed them on that first trip.  He’d seen only what he wanted to see then.  What is he doing here now?  He isn’t certain.  Only one thing’s for sure:  the person he’s searching for is long gone, his innocence with her.  He rides with his memory as company, the hotel and the red lights fading behind him ― under the walkway, along the river, looping into the Jordaan.

Paying the Bills

Before opening the curtain Kati stepped back to glance at herself in one of the two mirrors in the room:  one stood at the head of the bed and the other ran the full length of it.  “The better to see you with, my dear,” she thought to herself as she chose the longer of the two.  What she saw in it pleased her.  The black eyes ― black, black eyes ― were her grandmother’s legacy, as was her dark skin.  None of her brothers or sisters had skin quite the same color ― “coffee and cream” was what one client had called it.  The cream that lightened it she’d inherited from her mother’s Russian sailor, and the peach colored bikini top and thong she wore set it off perfectly.  Just for the pleasure of it she untied her top and let it fall.  Cupping her long fingers under her breasts she hefted the weight of them.  Even before the implants they’d been lovely and large ― now she felt like Sophia Loren.  The large dark nipples darted out at her, lengthening and puckering as the air stroked them.  She lifted one to her lips, hardening it under her tongue.

She ran a hand down across her flat stomach to the top edge of her thong.  Her ring finger slipped in to stroke the stubble over her pussy.  She really should shave again soon, but none of her clients seemed to mind and she kind of liked the way it felt.  They liked the navel piercing, too, and the dangling gem she wore there.  But it had been a long time since a man had licked her pussy; too long.  She couldn’t let them do that any more.  Absently she gazed at her hips.  A woman’s hips, she thought, not too wide, with enough muscle on her thighs and bum to give them grace.  Her legs were nice, too.

Then she wrinkled her nose in disgust.  If only she could do something about the hair.  That she didn’t like.  It looked good enough, worn in rough ringlets that seemed a bit like snakes.  But it was coarse and hard; wiry and kind of crusty.  It was the one thing Africa had given her that she didn’t like at all; the only thing.  But the complete package was pretty good she decided as she tied the top back in place, and with a sharp smack she hit her butt with her open hand.  “Okay, Latina, time to pay the bills,” she said.  Stepping forward, she pulled open the curtain.

The Watcher

He was definitely going in, but not immediately.  It was quiet tonight and Hans was enjoying himself.  He leaned back until the trunk of the tree supported him, the rough bark digging pleasantly through his light jacket.  The water in the canal behind him lapped softly against stones.  A small boat passed by, its passengers’ laughing voices drifting over him, its wake slapping the walls of the canal wildly.  "I’m going to stretch this out a bit," he thought.

He stood in the shadow of the tree looking diagonally across the entrance to the street at the two windows plainly in view.  The window on the right opened onto the street, the one on the left centered in a door with stairs behind it.  A red light burned steady above each of them.  The door on the left opened and a man exited, striding away without looking back.  When the door closed a woman stood behind it.  She was light-skinned, with shoulder length auburn hair.  A cobalt blue velvet bikini top and bottom accented her voluptuous breasts and hips.  Hans caught the glint of a gem in her navel.  She was so perfectly proportioned that she looked smaller than she really was, he could tell that from the size of the stool beside her.  She hadn’t noticed him and probably wouldn’t, so her movements remained unselfconscious.  He let his eyes drink her in.  Pulling her hair back she looked appraisingly at her reflection in a mirror mounted beside the staircase.  Then she glanced up and down the street to check for traffic and settled herself on the stool, positioning her legs so that she was comfortable but they showed to good effect.  Her waiting game had begun.

The curtain of the widow on the right, which had been closed when Hans arrived, parted a few minutes later.  No one stood in the newly revealed interior; and no man came out.  Then he noticed that the seated woman was talking and saw a slight movement on the left side of the curtain.  A slim woman stood there in black fishnets and a bustier.  She was putting on lipstick, loosening her long straight hair; black hair, he noticed.  When she was satisfied she stepped sideways into the center of the window and looked Hans full in the face.  His heart almost stopped beating.

He smiled, but she didn’t respond.  Did she see him?  Probably not, though her eyes seemed to search the night, looking right through him.  Her skin was olive colored, her hair feathering at her shoulders.  Her eyes were wide and dark, her fine thin shoulders squared to him.  The navel in the perfect center of her belly puckered to kiss a tattooed constellation of stars that spangled upward along one thigh, disappearing and reappearing through the black thong she wore.  Her finely boned body wasn’t as voluptuous as the other’s but was no less enticing.  Hans’ evening had just grown immeasurably more complicated and exciting.  He knew he would choose between them, but couldn’t think how.


Marwan knew both the boys on the Vespa and shrank back into the shadows when they turned off the bridge and started down the street towards him.  He knew perfectly well that they wouldn’t see him, but still strove to be invisible ― best not to give them an opportunity to identify him.

He’d spent the past half hour among the crowd of men strolling casually along the canal, pausing from time to time to admire the windows.  There were two tiers of them, one at street level and the other immediately above them, and the women that occupied them were clad in only the briefest of underwear.  Some were fleshy, others slimmer; some were young, others aging; women of every imaginable race and color all there for one reason.  Marwan preferred this red light district over the others closer to the center of the city.  The women here were more discreet.  In the other districts they often left their windows open, playing current Middle Eastern pop tunes loudly and dancing seductively to the rhythms.  Here they left a man alone to wrestle with his own demons; to come to his own decisions.  Marwan knew he was one of the needy men looking in from outside, he didn’t need his nose rubbed in it.

He had been in Amsterdam for a year and a half now, working whatever jobs he could find, whatever shifts he could get, sending every spare eurocent back to Algeria to his wife and daughters.  He’d found an inexpensive apartment close to the Javaplein, which he shared with eight other men.  There weren’t enough beds, so they took turns sleeping.  They cooked together to save money, talking over their meals about the villages they’d left behind in Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, and Turkey.  They all socialized at the mosque on the Zeeburgerdyke, a community without women taking solace in Islam.  When, from time to time, one of them disappeared for a night or two, the others knew where he’d gone.  They knew that sex with a prostitute was a sin, just as drinking was a sin, but they were men.  Men have weaknesses.

The two boys on the Vespa were Moroccans.  They lived in a shared apartment a few streets away from the apartment Marwan shared.  They were radicalized, supporters of Hezbolla and Hamas, among those who had celebrated the killing of the infidel filmmaker Theo Van Gogh by dancing in the streets.  This was something they’d planned loudly in the mosque, and Marwan didn’t want to be any part of it.  Had he realized that tonight was the night they’d chosen he wouldn’t even have been here.

Just off the bridge the driver turned the scooter on to the sidewalk in front of the street-level windows and slowed down.  He cruised the length of the block, forcing the men in front of the windows off into the street while his partner leaned his enraged face as close to the women as he could.  FUCK you!  FUCK you!  FUCK you!  He screamed as loudly as he could, singling out each woman in turn.  When they reached the end of the block Marwan watched them cross to the next and heard the hate-filled cry continue on down the street.

Marwan’s heart was a well of pain.  He knew these boys were confused and lonely; that they needed and wanted sex and would probably come back to some of these very same women later in the night.  He also knew that their needs disgusted them; that once they’d had sex they were as likely to turn violently on the women as they were to leave quietly.  He saw some of the women laugh derisively at the boys as they passed by.  “That,” he thought, “is not a good idea.  They would as happily kill you in the name of Islam as they would fuck you.”

That stopped him: that word in his head.  Fuck!  He had saved for a month for the opportunity to visit one of these women, but until this very instant he hadn’t thought of it as fucking.  The reek of the pissoirs near the canal suddenly overwhelmed him.  His lust shriveled and vanished.  Though it was as sinful to drink as to have illicit sex, Marwan decided that he was going to get stupid drunk.  He’d sleep it off down by the Amstel, clean himself up in the morning, and go home to the knowing smiles of his friends.  And tomorrow evening at the mosque he’d hear the tale of the righteous Moroccan boys and their condemnation of the filthy infidel whores.  With sudden decisiveness he turned from the canal and started down a backstreet toward a bar he knew near Sarphati Park.

Giving Thanks

The erection stood up pink in the palm of Sophia’s hand.  It wasn’t particularly large; a nice size really ― the size that wouldn’t hurt her if he asked to stick it in her ass.  It was even kind of pretty.  She squeezed a cool dollop of kay-y jelly out on the head and rested her index finger on top of it.  “This is the first time I’ve done this,” she said, making a fist and spreading the goo down the shaft in one quick stroke.

She felt the man pulse and heard him groan.  “The first time you’ve fucked for money?” he rasped.

“Of course not,” she said, stroking hard for a few more strokes, making him groan again.  “I’m a prostitute.  But this is the first time I’ve ever put jelly on under a condom.”

“I need it,” he sighed.  “Otherwise the latex rubs me raw.”

“I don’t know,” she said.  “Are you certain it won’t slip off while we’re fucking?”

“It won’t,” he said.  “It just makes it move a little more freely.  Trust me on this.”

Sophia glanced down at his face.  It was quite a pleasant face; the kind of face that normally told the truth.  His eyes were closed, but just a minute earlier they’d been open ― unable to pull away from her― and she’d known from his look that he’d knocked on her window because she was black.  She glanced into the mirror beside the bed.  She was definitely black; ebony black, so black that her nipples were the only darker possible shade of black ― roughened velvet extensions of her breasts.  Everything about her was black: hair, eyes, skin ― only her teeth, her nails, the palms of her hands and soles of her feet, and the bright pink slash of her cunt weren’t black.  She smiled, letting the black light in the room turn her teeth blue.  Then she looked back to the pale erection, warm now, and throbbing under her hand.  She stopped stroking and carefully rubbed the excess gel into his thigh before reaching for a condom.

“All right,” she said, unrolling the latext sheath down the shaft.  “I’ll try it.  But I’m going to feel to make certain it stays in place.”

She bent over and took the pretty penis in her mouth, closing her lips around the head to work its sensitive ridge.  The man groaned again, completely her captive now.  In a few minutes, when he was near, she’d straddle him and take it up inside her.  But she was going to try to be careful, not take him too far along so he’d come too quickly.  She wanted to enjoy this first-time experience.

As she felt his hips rise toward her mouth Sophia thought again of the Sudan.  The girls she’d grown up with, the ones who hadn’t fled with her, would be excized by now.  They’d have been slashed and sewn up, and were probably unable to even pee easily.  And, if they’d survived the operation, for the rest of their lives they wouldn’t feel anything but pain when they had sex ― torn open and re-sewn each time they had a baby.

Life in the West isn’t so bad, she decided, slipping her mouth past the glans and as far down the shaft as it would go.  Just four days of this each week and I can pay my rent and go to school.  Perhaps I won’t work so hard tonight.  I’ll let this one stay with me a little longer than usual, just to celebrate a bit.