*** I say…
I am anxious.
He asks why.
I haven’t blogged about our trip yet.
He says: “What is your blog going to do? Get up and run away? Is your blog going to shun you, disappear, crawl under a rock and die because you haven’t written a post?”
He makes a valid point in his teasing British way. One of the many reasons I keep him around. I know he’s right, of course. Sure the blog will not desert me. It’s the passing of time that is the source of my anxiety.
Joe and I are, once again, back in our own worlds separated by a giant pond, connected by post cards and text messages and Skype dates. Iceland feels like a million years ago. How do I begin to convey its snow capped mountains, earth smoking sulfur steam, silver light, cold mornings, hot springs, rolling brown hills, slate colored ocean with an undertone of indigo when summer is in full swing here and so much has happened since I hopped on that plane a month ago?
Because of this, because time is shifty and steals and makes details fuzzy (especially where the whiskey is involved) I must revisit those places and share the story and commit it to memory before it is gone.
I do promise to finish telling the tale by the time I turn 35, which is in a few short weeks, and will attempt to only give you the abridged version. Though so far, 300 words in, I have already failed miserably in that mission.
So here we go.
Viewer discretion is advised.
(Not really. I just felt like saying that.)
Besides, need I point out the obvious that this trip was part travel, part shag-a-thon? I don’t call him my lover for nothing, folks. The title itself is pretty descriptive and implies the action. But I will spare you the juicy details.
*** The journey.
It begins like every other one. With me over packing the eve of an early morning flight. A suitcase filled with what ifs and just in cases until finally, I begin the culling process. Suddenly everything that seemed so necessary at 10pm becomes superfluous when I attempt and repeatedly fail to close the suitcase at 1am. And all the items on my long to do list are crossed off and replaced with a simple “just pack and go”.
*** I love to fly.
I really do. Once I am on that plane, I settle in. Sure there is hardly any foot space but what planes lack in space, they make up for in the luxury of leisure. You can’t cook, clean, exercise, pay bills or do the million things you feel you ought to do whilst traveling by plane, which is comforting for a girl that is constantly on the go. I have my book, my journal, my music, my coffee. All the running stops when I sit and settle in seat D of aisle 4.
*** 13 hours later
JFK airport has become a second home since I arrived this morning. All that rushing to stand still for a flight delayed to 11pm, which brings the total number of hours since I’ve been here close to 12. That qualifies as a second home to me.
But there comes a point when you just have to work with it. You just have to see the adventure in it. You just have to crack jokes with the guy at security (a tough shell to crack, I might add) as you are removing your smelly shoes.
I share a chat with a woman who has been stranded in NYC since last Thursday due to the giant ash cloud hanging over England and is finally returning home after spending over $2K on hotel and food expenses for her and her family. That puts everything into perspective. So I lie down on the cement sidewalk, head on my bulky backpack and I listen to music and let the sun take care of the rest.
I am in an eerily Zen place. I choose to believe, as the Buddhists do, that perhaps all these delays and volcanic shit storms are simply distractions while other, bigger things are at work. I choose to believe that magic is at play here. I will not be discouraged.
*** 10pm at JFK airport.
At the gate. Curled up on 3 seats, I take a nap.
When I awake, everything feels like a movie from the 70s, featuring Iceland Air flight attendants with their hair pinned tight and little caps three inches shorter than a Shriner’s hat. Airports by night are a funny thing. Filled with folk that seem to have lost all bone structure. The spine especially. Soft shells of people generally at the point of exhaustion. It smells of McDonalds and dejection and dirty socks. It sounds of muffled voices, not conversations really, as much as sleepy statements to fill a silence sometimes best left unfilled. The echo of music coming through headphones and the beep beeps of text messages being received is a constant; such a comforting sound for the weary, the deserted, the lost… their life line to home. Because not everyone has a shoulder to lean on tonight.
It feels like a vacuum cleaner could go on at any moment.
Instead, our pilot somehow manages to trip the alarm to our gate and the obnoxious sound rouses everyone out of their slumber for a moment. And before I know it, all the people I saw at the check in line 5 hours ago reappear. Where did they go all this time?
Gate 2 is now boarding.
*** On the red eye in the sky.
Between wake and sleep. Between time zones. Neither here nor there. The space between us is getting smaller.
I fall asleep. And the reason I know this (the line between actual sleep and daydreaming with eyes closed is sometimes fine) is because I wake myself up around 3am, laughing out loud. For real. There I am, rolled up in a little ball on my seat with a blanket covering my head, giggling. I had been dreaming of my coworker and her friend falling to the ground slow mo style and making electronic sound effects on the way down. Hilarious apparently. Funnier still, is when I imagine being the person seated next to me, wondering what the hell that girl (thing) is doing under that blanket?
*** April 24. 15:05
I have landed in Glasgow. Another airport, another bar, another drink. The Scottish accent is something else. So much so that I’ve had to ask people to please repeat themselves a) because I can’t understand a word they just said and b) so I can have the pleasure of listening all over again.
When in Glescae, ah dae believe ah wee dram of the baurley-bree is in airder aye lassie? Oilin the thrapple afore seein’ a lad nivir done me nae herm. Talisker in the land of Scotch feels appropriate. Fire in the mouth. Anything to tame the butterflies (it’s a frenzy down there). Not so much nervousness as excitement. I can hardly believe that after 4 months apart, he is now sitting on a train that is inching its way from London to Glasgow.
*** T minus 30 minutes to Joe’s arrival
Soon. So soon.
Where do all these people come from?
Where are they heading?
The man in the cowboy hat with a pair of dice tattooed on his forearms and 3 rings hanging from his left ear lobe, grimacing with obvious disdain at his beer. And his wife, with the southern drawl in tight white polyester pants. Clearly from the States.
The elderly couple with thick Scottish accents. Surely waiting for their kids and grand children to arrive.
The family of four. Mother and two daughters wearing matching white and black striped shirts. Obviously Brits. England is the land of striped tops, didn’t you know? Notice next time you go. It’s like an epidemic. They’re everywhere.
Me. Girl sitting alone sipping whiskey. French Canadian. Been on a long journey. Waiting for English lover to arrive and whisk her away to Iceland… any minute now.
*** The moment
While sitting under Glasgow’s sun, by terminal 2, he arrives. I run towards him. He feels like home. He feels like coffee on a Sunday morning. He feels like breakfast in bed. He feels like clean sheets. He feels like a hot bath on a cold winter night. He smells just like the morning I left him at his doorstep a thousand years ago. Warm. Like honey. With a subtle touch of spice and leather. Finally. Finally together. Time stops. It’s not often that it does but in moments like these… nothing else matters.
(Insert fireworks here.)
(And maybe even a cheesy musical score because words do that sometimes, they turn feelings that can’t be explained into clichés. It really was a “you had to be there” moment. You had to be the heart beating in my chest to know that this small moment in time was simple like a soft exhale, yet intense like when you want to bounce off the walls, you’re so god damn full of joy).
We eventually pull ourselves together and tear ourselves apart, check in, head to the nearest restaurant and have some chili and beer and lively conversation while waiting for our flight, which ends up being delayed by a couple hours. So we pop into duty free and sample some single malts (yes, you read that right. A whiskey tasting station at the airport, people! It’s enough to make me want to move to Scotland).
On the airport floor, hundreds of people are sprawled out waiting for the plane to depart. I take a nap on Joe’s lap. It is bliss. Two hours of waiting feels like a breeze when you’ve been waiting 4 long months. I couldn’t care less where we are as long as we’re together.
*** Before I know it
The plane is flying over an icescape that looks like another planet and soon we are descending on Akureyri’s landing strip flanked by water on each side. We walk out into the cold Iceland air under an arctic moon, surrounded by snow capped mountains. It is close to midnight and the sun is still hovering low on the horizon. We enter the smallest airport I’ve ever seen and are welcomed by most authoritative polizei with giant stamps. It feels like Siberia circa 1985. I reference this because of Rocky (which I’ve evidently watched one too many times), when he trains in Siberia to fight that blonde Soviet dude, Ivan, with the ginormous muscles and icy blue eyes. Hardly relevant but it is what pops into my very vivid imagination as I am getting my passport stamped. Everyone is then herded into a room with the departure bar and duty free “closet” on one side, customs on the other, and a 5-meter baggage carousel in the middle, going round and round and round, with suitcases added only as bags are taken off. Eventually someone has the foresight to remove bags that have circled 45 times to leave room for new bags.
We are escorted to our rental car by two 16-year old boys. Our intention is to drive to Reykjavik tonight but we are told that it is a solid 4-5 hour journey. When we ask them the speed limit, one answers “Well, if I weren’t working, which I am, then I would say 120”.
When we hop in the car, it suddenly seems ludicrous to haul our tired asses all the way to Reykjavik, only to arrive at dawn, sleep for a few hours in a swank hotel and slowly drive up again the next day to explore Northern Iceland. So we make a couple phone calls and before long we are checking into a room at Gula Villan, a guesthouse in town.
We quickly unload our stuff, bundle up (it is -1 degrees) and walk into town towards what the B&B girl said was a great sandwich shop (where locals go after a night of drinking). I order a baguette with meat (which I eat when I travel), fried onions, feta cheese, red cabbage and some secret special Hlölli sauce. I don’t know what’s in it and I don’t ask. I just know that it tastes damn good.
We bring the sandwiches back to the room, plug in some music, uncork the Jura Single Malt purchased at duty free… and there is truly no place in the world I would rather be than that little inn on the northern tip of Iceland.
And this is only the beginning. To think that it stemmed from an innocent, rather random, casual encounter a year ago is testament that you never really know where life is going to take you. All I know right now is that I feel like the luckiest woman alive.