UNSTAD, LOFOTEN ISLANDS; NORWAY
After breakfast I went on a tinder date with a Swedish woman. She was wiry and tall wearing a perfectly fitting hand knitted, traditional sweater and neatly cuffed jeans. She was on a holiday with her german shepherd. Both were camping out of an old volvo station wagon she'd driven from Sweden. Her sideways gaze and hurried hand gestures betrayed disappointment that I wasn't tall nor an on the lamb rock and roll musician which I suppose could be erroneously inferred by viewing my internet profile.
On this morning in real life I was wearing yoga pants, running shoes, and a t shirt with the emblem of that salt girl standing under an umbrella. I was skinny, well shy of her two meter height, with a wild beard and long hair matted and tangled from sleeping fitfully in a stuffy cabin. We were superficially polite to one another and took the dog for a walk to the beach and back, after which she and the dog got into the volvo and drove on for their next destination.
I felt a bit sad afterwards, and went for a bicycle ride to the south end of the cove, past the little chapel and graveyard. Upon reaching the sheep gate I ditched the bicycle and walked to a house of crumbled stone and concrete. I climbed from there over a steep stretch of green mountainside to find a beautiful lake in a bowl beneath the peaks. The water was still and clear over a boulder strewn bottom. I thought of disrobing and swimming but decided against it when I spotted two hikers ascending from the beach below.
After dinner I rode back down to the beach again to check the surf. It was flat, foggy, and stirred up by an on shore wind. I headed back to camp, and went to the sauna. Upon opening the door to what looked like an abandoned wooden train car for gnomes, steam engulfed me. When the steam was gone I saw three naked men, two naked boys, and one beautiful woman wearing a black bikini. I was wearing the same board shorts I wore every day in Mexico over the winter if you're wondering.
Two of the men were plump and gray. I read their vibe as kind and nostalgic. Like they drink beer by the fire out of tall ceramic mugs, with rows of neatly painted flowers, in the winter, far away from society. The third man was athletically built and had a carefully trimmed dark black beard on his face. He looked fierce and confident. The woman was his wife. The two boys were his sons.
The boys were skinny and of the age that classical sculptors like to use as models when they make statues of nymphs peeing into fountains. The fierce father was egging on his sons to defeat the other adults in an endurance contest for who can stay in the sauna the longest. The children were happy to oblige.
The fire in the stove was roaring. The room grew stiflingly hot. I sat down on the bench as far away from the others as possible. The only possible place to be this far away was directly next to the stove. The other men and children were on the same bench as me but closer to the train car door. The woman was seated alone on the far end of the opposing bench. I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply. After what felt like a very long time the door opened and the cold fog from the sea rushed in. The two plump men surrendered first, laughing as they wrapped towels around their bodies and exited. They were followed by the two boys and their father. The cold sea air continued to rush in as they gathered their shoes and clothes. It was a very pleasant relief.
When the door closed again the woman struck up a conversation with me. She was a school teacher. She told me about the Norwegian school system and then how fucked up it is that Donald Trump is president of the US. She cannot believe he was elected. I contemplated offering an explanation, but was disturbed by the feeling that I'd just be repeating what I'd heard public intellectuals say on podcasts.
I could tell she was quite educated, and clever. She'd read more books than I, and memorized more world history. She knew how the economy and government of her country worked. She knew precisely how much money it cost for me to get to Norway, and henceforth what socio economic class I came from. She could cross reference that price with my biblical appearance, and deduced how I must have gotten my money. She could see that I traveled alone, and being the wife of a confident alpha male, presumed me to have a nagging sexual interest in her, or alternately to be a homosexual. She wasn't sure which.
She could see that although diminutive, the physical form seated across from her couldn't have been rendered without a level of kinesthetic intelligence enjoyed by those with high proficiency in sport, and no fear of physical labors. It was not the sort of body that was cultivated in order to curry interest from men or women. It looked more like the body of a wild animal, raised out of a necessity to instill fear, or else escape. He was older. There were lines from too much sunshine on his face, but somehow he wasn't very tired at all.
She looked at him and felt like a thief in a museum. The creature had dark eyes that rarely ventured from the glow of the fire to meet her own. When she paused from speaking, and these eyes looked into her own to ask another question, she perceived a character that mismatched the unsophisticated way in which the speaker formed his words. He asked questions and rarely spoke about himself. The only information he volunteered seemed calculated to meet a quota of politeness, as if he sought to function as a dressing room mirror lit by a savvy decorator. The thought returned to her: He wound up at this age, with statistically speaking, more than enough redeemable qualities to have a partner, and yet he traveled alone. Surely there was some damage in the backstory.
This was a mystery she didn't care to pierce. He was a good listener, and whatever he felt inside, she knew he wouldn't let it become her burden. Probably she was used to being the one who listened. When the other men were in the sauna, she hadn't said a word. When they left she spoke for well over an hour, maybe longer. The midnight sun shone dimly through the mist when she opened the sauna door to look outside.
"I'd better be going" she said. "Good night. Good luck."