Buzz aldrin what happene.., p.12
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       Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?, p.12

           Johan Harstad
 

  How long did I stand like that? Minutes, probably, before I eventually lifted my feet to walk toward the big kitchen, walked through the room, past the windows, out to the left, into the entrance hall. I hadn’t noticed it when I came in earlier, I’d been so tired, but now I saw how enormous the hallway was too, it was nice here, clean, as though there was caring in the walls, and somebody had put their spirit into concealing the Factory under a layer of paint, behind the plants in their big pots, and under the rag rugs on the floor. I walked through the hallway, toward the door at the other end, and reached another steel door, I turned the handle, expected the door to squeak, but it made no noise, I opened the door, went into the room, into a narrow hallway, and my sneakers left an echo as they met the light blue linoleum. Then two more doors, less solid this time, ordinary wooden doors, labeled simply Cloakroom A and Cloakroom B. I chose to start at the wrong end, opened door B. It was dark in here, I fumbled for the light switch, found some plastic device high up on the wall, turned it and the room lit up. I was standing in a locker room. It looked like any other locker room. Metal lockers, worn-out stickers stuck there by the workers who’d stood here once, who’d pasted their opinions to their lockers: No to NATO, No to the Atom Bomb, No to everything! Yes to nothing!, and the like, and stickers from cars, models that weren’t even sold anymore, and some of the stickers were torn, somebody had tried to scrape them off, given up half way, ripped off the parts that didn’t grip the metal and left the rest. In the middle of the room was the obligatory divided bench with its furrows and marks, it triggered thoughts, I imagined entire lives, I saw those cold February mornings long ago, the workers as they walk in, wearing thick clothes that they hang in their lockers, putting new stickers over old, digging their working clothes out, stiffened with old dirt, sweat, and the atmosphere’s sleepy, little is said, another day among many, and somebody has to keep the wheels turning, there are fish to be filleted, cleaned, sorted, salted and packed, I don’t know, sent out to vans to be driven to town, in the afternoon, and the vans will stop beside the big ships, the doors will open and the cases will be put on pallets, lifted onto the ships, and the ships will sail off, toward Shetland, toward the Orkneys, toward Norway, who knows, England, France, Italy? To whoever wants it, to whatever people don’t have enough fish for themselves, and these ships will meet other ships halfway on their way from England, from Iceland, taking fish the other way, and somebody will give a signal out there on the sea, a blast on the horn, a flash of a ship’s lantern, and the fish will be unloaded on the quay of some other harbor, and more vans will fetch cases, drive them to the stores, and the cases will be opened, their contents displayed, and the mothers, the fathers will stream into the stores, place the fish in their shopping carts, in their baskets, in their bags, and the fish will be prepared in countless kitchens, the children will turn their noses up, demand more salt and pepper, Father will talk about his day, Mother will talk about her day, and fish will be eaten over the entire land and the ships will have turned back long ago, started their return journey, and back at the factory people will have been in the locker room again, will have sat on the wooden bench at the center of the room, leaving their traces in the wood, pulled on their trousers, boots, sweaters over sweaters and jackets over the top, gone out to their cars, set off for home, a whiff of cod already at the back of their mouths, walked into the house, to the dinner table where Mother has just served the fish she got at the shop, freshly delivered from Glasgow or somewhere, and it is the fabulous fifties and the children are still obedient, sitting around the table, greased hair, neat shirts and pullovers, clean hands folded, and they say grace, give each other Pepsodent smiles and the fish is eaten, and they talk about their day and the daughter sits with her uncreased skirt under the table, white stockings, very thick, plaits in her hair, and Father talks, something or other he’s read in the paper, and the rest listen, Father knows so much, Mother’s so clever at making food, at sewing, she washes the dishes and helps little sister with her crocheting, knitting, she talks about the future, about finding a good husband, she talks about Father who’s upstairs with the son of the house, doing geography, reading about China, and China’s full of Communists, but it somehow still gets by, and the evening will come, the night will come, and in the morning Father will get into his car again, drive to the fish factory up north, thoughts filled with the world, and ten years later he’ll come home one afternoon, tired eyes, but tonight it’ll happen, tonight Discovery’s crew will land on the moon, the Eagle will come down in the Sea of Tranquility tonight, and nobody has a television set yet, TV won’t come to the Faroe Islands until well into the eighties, at least not Faroese TV, and nobody even has a satellite dish yet, so everyone will sit in front of their radios instead, and they’ll stay up all night, in the living room, in front of the fireplace, Mother on the sofa, big brother on the sofa next to kid sister who is already thinking of abandoning the Faroes, of venturing out into the world, one foot in another revolution, she eyes the patriarch in his chair, and nobody says anything, nobody talks, they sit listening to the radio, waiting, and the first man gets out, the first man speaks from the moon and nothing will ever be the same again, not now, and it’s hard to get up the next morning, more wearisome than usual to make the drive northward to the factory, but minutes before he arrives, the cloud cover breaks and the sky turns blue, it’s the middle of summer and most people are free, on vacation, but the fish won’t wait, the fish go on swimming, and somebody has to be at work, to keep the wheels rolling, the world turning, he leans over the steering wheel, looks up at the sky, tries to see the moon, even though it’s the middle of the day, and he stares up, pulls the car over, stops, stretches right over the wheel, looks up, up, up, and somewhere up there are men who have walked on another planet, and when he looks down again, looks out at the road, he catches sight of the other cars, a dozen cars, that have also stopped, the other workers, and they’re all staring upward, and they all start their engines again, drive in a column for the final stretch, mumble among themselves in the locker rooms, and nobody puts any new protest stickers up today, nobody has anything to say for now, and although men are walking on other planets, there are fewer fish in the sea, and early in the seventies the lockers are shut, the stickers are removed, the lights turned off, and the factory is closed, kid sister goes to Scotland, and then to England. Big brother goes into sheep farming with his father, and together they wait, in front of the radio in the evenings, for news of better times, of other journeys to space, or for the announcement that the islands are to get their own television channel, and the announcement is finally made in 1984, and they go out together to the shop in Tórshavn that sells TV sets, they buy the cheapest model and Father and Son install it in the living room, Mother redecorates the room to match it, there are shows each day, and in the winter of 1984 they sit glued to the Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, and one evening several years later, on the news, they show pictures from the old factory up there, the production hall, the locker rooms, and Father sees his old locker, gets the whiff of cod somewhere at the back of his mouth, it’s been mutton mainly in the last few years, and kid sister rings every month, she’s fine, has gone up in the world, talks in broken English, is expecting her second, and they must come over, when the new baby arrives, of course, they say, of course we’ll come, and then it’s evening again. But then one day they go. To England. They look her up, show the piece of paper with her address on it to the cab driver, he knows where it is, and they drive to one of the worst areas of the city, in the East End, she lives in a third floor apartment in what they call a council flat, it’s drafty, she’s pregnant, her new husband isn’t bad, no, he really isn’t, but things aren’t easy, and this job of hers, the one she’s told them about for so long, it doesn’t exist, she is short of money, they are short of money, it’s expensive to have children, it costs to live in this city, and Father, Father is obliged to open his wallet, to pull out the pound notes, and he treats them to dinner
, everyone, this extended family, they sit in a restaurant in Soho, a good restaurant, they drink wine, and it’s quiet around the table, what can one say? The eighties that hold so much promise. The nineties which will be so mundane.

  I turned the light out, closed the door carefully after me, tried the other door, while I was at it, Cloakroom A, and that door could be opened too. It was another locker room, not quite so tatty, barely used. It seemed it was being used for storage, cases piled high, right to the ceiling, old mattresses, fishing equipment, food, beer, and the like. A storeroom.

  I looked at the clock. Ten past five. I didn’t know when Havstein would be back. Some time this evening. He was in Tórshavn. Talking to Jørn, and to Roar too perhaps, and the guitarist, Tomas. Or perhaps just to Jørn. Hopefully just to him. The others didn’t have to know everything. They’d hear it anyway, of course, but they could get the summary from Jørn, he’d know what to say, what to do, and I knew he’d call my parents. He’d call Mother in the afternoon, or talk to Father if Mother wasn’t the first to pick up the phone, and I knew more or less what Jørn would say, almost down to the words he’d use. Mother would want to phone here, but she wouldn’t have the number, of course, and Father would want to come, fly up here, to talk to me. But I couldn’t talk to them now, I didn’t know what to say, and Jørn would tell her she had to wait, that they’d all have to wait, because I’d come back, of course I would, I’d come back to them all, but I had to sort myself out first, I just needed some time to think, because things had happened so fast in the last months, the last year, things had wound fast forward on the video player and the tape had gotten completely stuck. A tangle of tape. There was no use pulling it out, taking hold and just pulling. The entire machine needed to be opened up, carefully, and the tape needed to be wound out with a pen or pencil, and then wound back into the cassette, put back in the machine and run again. I needed a cassette cleaning kit, a complete overhaul.

  Jørn was my man now, and I pictured him and Havstein, whom I didn’t know, sitting in a café down in Tórshavn, Jørn resting his head on his hand, beating out a rhythm nobody heard on the bridge of his nose with his little finger, and Havstein talking away, saying things, I didn’t know what, but I hoped he’d say that things had got tangled inside me, but that the movie could still be shown in full at a later date, no sense demanding a refund. You just needed patience in this theater, projectionists who didn’t take a break as soon as the film had started to roll, but who stayed there, sitting in the control room, just in case.

  Then the impulse took me: I had to get down to town, had to talk to him myself. Or he could come up here. Jørn. I closed the door of Cloakroom A, ran into the kitchen, fetched my jacket, went out in the hallway, on with my shoes, opened the big, heavy, steel front door and went out, the weather had turned, it had begun to rain, mild drizzle that soaked me through in seconds, I crossed the field, heading for the road, and then it hit me, I didn’t know which way to go, there was nobody around, but I walked farther and farther from the Factory, searching for a bus stop, some sign of public transportation, anything. I had to talk to Jørn, tell him things would turn out all right, and hear him say it too, that things would turn out all right, things were just a little tiring now, weren’t they, I was just worn out, but it would pass, Jørn was down in Tórshavn, and I missed him, and I walked along the road, my hair wet, a wind was beginning to blow, the rain stopped and suddenly I saw what an idiot I was. Surely it would take hours to get to Tórshavn from here. Even if I was walking in the right direction. Even if I wasn’t just way off track. And I found no bus stop. Saw no buses. Havstein might be coming back by now, and there wasn’t any point in going down there. So I stopped, in the middle of the road, up on a hill, complete engine stop. I was here, here in this place. Gjógv. On the Faroe Islands. And this was where I was going to stay. Until the tempo slowed. Until things stood still. I turned, began to walk back, back down to the Factory, I wound my way back to the start, moving mechanically down the road, the wind at my back. Heavy clouds had begun to make it dark, the green around me was turning to brown, to gray, and the lights were coming on in some of the houses, curious Faroe Islanders hid behind their curtains and watched me as I passed their wooden houses, running the gauntlet, and neither side was invisible to the other.

  He stood farther up the hill. I’d come almost all the way back to the Factory. He stood at the little crossroads where the path leading to the Factory met the paths down to the sea and a little cluster of houses to the left. A small boy stood next to the Factory’s mailbox, he looked at me as though confronted with a dinner he didn’t want, but which he might manage to eat if he had to.

  Then it started raining. Again.

  The same kind of rain as earlier. Not a heavy rain, a barely audible drizzle, but a rain that went through your clothes within seconds, I pulled the zipper up on my thin jacket, right up to the chin, my trousers clung against my thighs. I walked toward the boy by the mailbox, and he simply looked up at me as I walked past, I tried to give him a smile, a child-friendly smile, but didn’t quite manage it, he waited until I’d gone a few meters past.

  He said something in a strange, high voice.

  I stopped, turned, didn’t understand a jot. “Sorry, I don’t speak Faroese,” I answered and walked on, but he chirped up again in a language I did understand. Danish.

  “I asked if you lived there, at the Factory.”

  I stopped, turned, didn’t really know where I lived, so I told him I’d arrived that day, that morning. He was nine or ten, eleven perhaps, and small, smaller than most youngsters of that age I could think of, he had glasses, almost invisible wire frames, and he might grow into a handsome young man, very handsome, in ten years, the handsomest in the village, or perhaps the one nobody noticed, all according to chance, impossible to tell. He was wearing a thick bubble jacket, black, a black bubble jacket and the rain was soaking through the fabric, making him cold, and he pulled his zipper up higher, hands in pockets.

  So, where do you come from? he asked. Norway, I answered and he said he’d never been there. But he’d been to Denmark, he’d been to Copenhagen twice. Tivoli, he said. Red hot dogs, I said. YES! he said, Red hot dogs are nice. Norway’s just like here, I said. Except with trees. And a few more people. But otherwise the same. He looked away, to the side, he didn’t quite know what to say, it was raining, it was cold, and we didn’t quite know what to tell each other, I had no news from the Western Front, so I said What are you doing out? I’m going to Óluva’s, he answered quickly, turning and pointing down toward one of the houses, a wooden house at the edge of the cluster. Girl friend? I asked, out of duty. Friend, he answered, equally practiced. Great, we had the formalities over with. My name is Sofus, he said. Mattias. There are fifty-four people in Gjógv, said Sofus. That’s not many, I answered. No, he said. Hardly any. Then he said Bye bye, and hurried down the road in his sneakers, shouting out for Óluva when he’d nearly reached the house, and I saw a shadow behind a window that looked out, called back and disappeared. I heard the door open and close. I walked the final short stretch up to the Factory, opened the door and walked in, nobody home and the sound of nothingness.

  I was wet again, to the skin. I took my jacket off, hung it on a chair, feeling ashamed, hoping that Havstein wouldn’t come back just yet and see my wet jacket, realize that I’d been out, that I’d been on the point of giving up, and I didn’t know Havstein as a man, but I felt a huge respect for him, automatically, like the obedient dog I was, a dog that wags its tail when you arrive. I lay on the sofa and played dead, put the TV on with the remote control from the table, but I must have pressed the wrong button, because I couldn’t get a single channel, all I got was snow, and after half an hour it was losing its appeal, and I turned it off, looked at the clock. It still said half past seven. Looked at the ceiling, tried to think, but didn’t know what to think about.

  Havstein didn’t return before it had begun to be dark, it was probably already eleven, pe
rhaps twelve. I heard the car stop just outside, the tires crunching in the gravel, the noise of the car door being opened and closed, his footsteps at the entrance, and a moment later he stood in the living room. I lay with my back to him, couldn’t see him, but knew he was there, felt a change in air pressure, as though the space taken by his body made the air press itself farther into the room. I waited for him to say hello, to begin to talk, waited for him to tell me what Jørn had said, and what he’d said to Jørn. Wasn’t sure I wanted to hear it at all.

 

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