Getting back to the hotel proved to be more of the same. No further discussion made the walk less frustrating and left more time for independent reflection.
The mirror in Manny’s mind kept reflecting two contrasting images that kept colliding. One was the letter that had brought him to Amsterdam. The other, more vague but nonetheless insistent was his increasing respect and involvement with Selma on a number of different levels. Her looks and mannerisms had grown more vivid by the day. Added to her basic intelligence and social charms, both of which Manny had less of, the image in the mirror was definitely crowding the letter out.
As they were getting back in the neighborhood, Manny in a moment of enlightenment reached quietly in his inner pocket, took the letter out, ripped it into several pieces and tossed it in the canal.
“Manny, what are you throwing away?”
“The letter, . . . the one that brought me here.”
“I thought you were going to keep looking for the source.
“No, definitely not. I’ve reached a point of no return on the whole idea.”
Isn’t that kind of disappointing?”
“Are you going to make me beg for the details?”
“No. I guess your patience with me and the letter since we met deserves an explanation. Thinking back on the last few days has brought me to what you philosophers might call a zen moment”
“I see, so what was the koan?
“When someone is on a quest, the value is not in what is sought and can’t find, but is actually in what you don’t find. So I discarded the reason for the search.”
“That sounds rather existential, but Camus might think it is more like absurdism than Buddhism. I think I’ll have to get back to you on that.”
On Monday they moved to the Ahlberg Hotel which was also located on Sarphatistraat at number 106. It was there they met Sander, a flaming and exceptionally helpful desk clerk. While checking them in he proudly announced that his husband, a much older retired Algerian History Professor from the University of Amsterdam was the new owner of the Ahlberg. With Sanders help and direction they decided to rent a car to drive to Leiden in the morning. Sander called a cab to take them to the Budget Rental office on the Overtoom. With no map and being essentially lost they drove around in circles and finally figured out that parking in the inner city was not available. When they got close to where they thought the Hotel was located, it was very late and dark. Manny found what looked like a parking spot within walking distance to the hotel. As fate would have it, the spot turned out to be a restricted loading zone for commercial delivery between 7:30 and 10:00 AM each morning.
Neither of them could read the sign, but Selma said she guessed it would be safe at least until 9:00 AM. It was towed at 8:30 and impounded at a lot on the outskirts of Amsterdam.
Sander again called a cab to take them to them to the impound lot. After shelling out € 360 to get the rental car released and driving back to the hotel they agreed to be more cautious about where they parked when they got to Leiden.