Suddenly it’s there, the city of Groningen. Other cities introduce themselves slowly with fringes of industry, suburbs and posters under flyovers advertising parties and restaurants. The approach to Groningen, by contrast, is marked by stretches of green interspersed with small churches; it’s a view like the one knights on horseback used to have, who saw cities materialise out of grassy meadows. From the roof of the library you can see the fields surrounding the city. Amira fixes her gaze on the pointy orange and flat grey rooftops with narrow strips of street in-between. The clock of the Martini Church tower is at eye level; the guy talking on his phone some distance away from her is not the one it was all about before.
She feels the night linger in her body like a sweet imprint. Flexing the muscles in her vagina, she remembers her orgasm. Skin remembering skin. The sweat on his back and her fingers tracing drops; the surge within her moving her, going to her head. Gentle energy enveloping her day like smoke.
This city is young, the expectation of a new academic year resonating from its windows. These squares are theirs. It is they who set the closing time, guzzling golden liquid on its terraces in the evenings. Chewing folded pizzas, sucking nicotine into their lungs during breaks on the classic stone steps. It’s the end of summer and the city awaits them, the sound of bicycle wheels echoing on carless streets. The city is patient; time is not of the essence here and the clubs don’t disgorge their last guests until the cockerels crow in the open fields surrounding the churches. They don’t hear the cockerels, the music still ringing in their ears, the kisses from other students sticky in their mouths.
Amira and the guy it wasn’t all about last night leisurely take the escalator to the ground floor. He is her opposite, looking like the prediction of a fortune-teller at a foreign fair: You’ll meet a tall, dark stranger with eyes to drown in. Her gaze rests on his mouth. The moment you decide whether you fancy eating someone’s face takes less than a second.
The guy it was all about yesterday looks more like a character in a pastoral romance: tall with strawberry-blond hair and freckles beyond his face and neck.
‘Having a shower,’ his message said, ‘door is open.’ She entered his house, next door to the Minerva student association, and climbed the stairs, which were less worn down than those in the average student house.
Water drips from his body in the bathroom, the towel still dry in his hand. He turns his head and they kiss. Stroking his back, she thinks of a summer’s day by the lake and cups his buttocks in her hands. The fabric around her breasts absorbs his drops.
‘Hey,’ he says.
‘Hey,’ she replies. ‘Looking good.’ Reading his body, her eyes follow his freckles to where they disappear under woolly chest hair. His mouth tells her he’s done this before. Taking his time, which suits this city, he kisses her, his lips soft and wet like the water that is not drying.
An orgasm is down to the receiver, not the giver. Any moving curtain, stray sock beside the bed or glimpse of a living room with glasses full of liquid is too much reality for her to come. Her senses should do one thing only: focus on what’s happening inside her, on the repetition of movement, the pressure on the organ with 8,000 nerve endings. She pushes him away from her; he increases the intensity of his movements. Seeing pornographic images in her mind’s eye, she pulls his thigh towards her, flexes her muscles. He rubs the tip of her clitoris and she feels the friction coincide with the movement inside her. Everything swells. The clitoris is a big organ really: it has arms and endings that make everything warm and moist. But that’s too long a sentence to think about as the sensation surges beyond her lower abdomen to her head, like drugs finding their target, until her muscles go limp. She takes his hand and breathes out.
‘Turn around?’ she asks.
He closes the mirrored door of the closet beside the bed. She knows he’s looking at full buttocks, his own hips. She tosses her hair over her back, while he strokes her in small circles until she replicates what she just did. The advantage of being a woman is that she can repeat things without falling asleep first. He sighs as they lie side by side, folds himself around her while she thinks this is what bodies can do. She feels his sweat like warm sunshine on her back, his breath caressing her shoulder like a summer breeze. It’s as if the entire closed-off space is afloat.
Amira and the guy she’s with today reach the bottom of the escalator. Standing outside, the Forum towers over them and, across the square, a student calls after her new sorority group. The terrace nearby is quieter.
‘May I have your number?’ the guy asks.
She takes his phone and keys it in. It’s her final day off before a city in the west expects her return. She sucks in the air, a bag from the lingerie shop in Zwanestraat dangling from her arm. The lady who had helped her had run her professional gaze over her breasts. ‘Turn around?’ she said. She adjusted a strap and Amira saw how her breasts were supported by the bra, shaped by the underwires. It made her thirsty. Now she looks at his mouth. Folding her hands around his neck, she kisses him. She feels that he’s not used to this, uncomfortable in the visibility of the moment. With her free hand, she grabs his buttocks. He tries to break away from her, but she pushes him against her. He freezes under her touch.
‘History,’ she says close to his ear, ‘needs more women who bite.’ She sucks his neck.
Then she walks away from him, crossing the square. She has time for another round.