Buzz aldrin what happene.., p.16
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       Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?, p.16

           Johan Harstad
 

  We sat at a table near the stairs leading up, and it was still early evening, it wasn’t usually crowded before midnight, earliest, up to then we could move between tables with ease, maneuver over to the bar, order ourselves a beer, Föroya Bjór, always Föroya Bjór. Which cheered me up, I think. And I remember this evening best of all. We sat there, in Café Natúr, on what was essentially my first evening, I was still tired, the nausea and panic still crept up on me, as they would for months to come, letting go isn’t done in a day, but I’d already noticed them come less frequently, the gaps between the moments when I lost perspective were growing longer. I was already beginning to relax more, could feel it in my shoulders, things would go all right, I thought, things might work out, I thought. And that was what began happening around me, pieces began falling into place, not because I’d finally bent down to hunt for the pieces that had sailed over the table’s edge and disappeared to the floor, but maybe because I’d spent weeks letting go already, giving up on my half-hearted attempts at self-repair, screwing together the bolts without any blueprint handy, sticking myself and the shattered pieces back together, I’d spent weeks lying in bed on my back, or sitting at the open window at night, and slowly but surely I’d created new pieces, an entire new jigsaw puzzle, I’d finally let go, and it wasn’t until this moment, here and now, that things started to go on track, and I began putting the new puzzle together, and the pieces looked better than the old ones. Thought of de Lillos’ songs that night: Are you trying to find yourself? What if the man you found, was a man you didn’t like, who you’d have to live with for the rest of your life?

  We sat in Café Natúr late into the night. We drank beer, we talked, I talked more than I had in my entire life, my throat was raw, but I talked, truthfully, in the main. It flowed, poured from my mouth every time I opened it, perhaps I was too talkative that night, but I didn’t care, it felt good to be able to tell people things, to feel that every story was potentially interesting, I told them about Stavanger, about Helle, about my song at the Christmas Ball so many years ago, about how we got together, how I succeeded in getting the snowball up on the school roof, twice in a row, even though I’d been trying for years before, each time I’d walked past in the snow, and I told them about Father who waited for his science journals and large insurance payouts, about Mother who swam in formation and helped kids, I told them about Jørn and Roar, talked about the moon expedition and Buzz Aldrin, the eternal number two who was barely remembered, about the Voyager probe that traveled farther and farther into space with messages from earth to whomever was out there, talked about the trip to Kjerag and about my job, the job that had vanished without trace, and they sat around me, Anna, Ennen, Havstein, and Palli with big ears, as though they’d thought I’d never start to talk, and perhaps I hadn’t believed it myself, but here I sat, talking myself hoarse and happy and wishing it would never stop, that the bar would never close and that we’d never have to leave and go home. I talked and they asked questions about Stavanger, because Anna had been there years ago for a conference on salmon farming, I think that was it, but don’t quite remember, and I told them about the band, about how Perkleiva had gotten the gig along with the Kulta Beats at a concert on the quay here, and Anna and Ennen said they’d been there, they’d seen Jørn and the band, they’d been good, really good, a great sound, and I was happy to hear that, happy for Jørn, happy things had worked out without me, happy the chain had held together even if the weakest link had snapped at the last lap, and Ennen interrogated me about Helle, what she looked like, what she liked, why she’d left, and how I felt. The thing I didn’t tell them was the one thing I didn’t know; how I’d ended up out on the Hvítanesvengur that night, after being in Tórshaven. Why I’d lain in the middle of the road. Why I barely remembered anything from the moment of boarding the boat in Bergen.

  And then twelve o’clock came, and suddenly the bar went into chaos. As though the whole town had been pacing back and forth outside, checking their watches, waiting to storm the palace on the stroke of midnight. In minutes the place was completely full, and we had to pull our chairs closer into the table and hold our beer glasses extra tightly to stop them from being knocked over as people walked past. It was Friday, and there was a concert on. One of the local bands would save the world tonight, and they plugged their equipment in and turned all the switches on. And then she started to sing. It was the Cranberries. It was Björk and Motorpsycho stirred together in a bowl, and she sang beautifully, danced back and forth on the stage and shouted into the microphone, and she looked so cute, so sweet, but then, everybody did that day, like Smurfs, and Havstein leaned over the table towards me:

  “Sleipnir,” he said.

  “Eh?” I answered.

  “They’re called Sleipnir,” he repeated. “They’re amazing.”

  “Sleipnir?”

  “Yeah.”

  We didn’t get to say more, Telda thundered in with a roaring version of “I Put a Spell on You” and it was Marilyn Manson at 200BPM, a hurricane was let loose and beer rained from the upper floor, lights flashed over the bar, and there was a deafening din, Anna and Ennen disappeared from their chairs, clambered over the audience to get closer to the stage, found themselves an inch of space and began to dance, as off-beat and out-of-rhythm as earlier in the day, although in here it looked right somehow. Or perhaps it was the beer. Hard to tell. Havstein smiled and nodded at me, and Palli sat as quietly as he had all evening, Indian Chief, he tapped the rhythm carefully with his index finger on the table, lit himself a cigarette, Clint Eastwood cool, and watched the girls as they mingled with the rest of the public, and soon this bunch of dancing individuals became a pulsating mass that grew hotter and hotter until the windows were covered in steam and I had to take off my sweater, sit in my T-shirt, which to my surprise bore the words Please Take Me Home in big, blue letters against the white fabric, and our glasses started to refill themselves.

  We left Natúr for Club 20, a nightclub up by the movie theater, where everything went at double speed, and at five-thirty we finally said our goodbyes and left for home and my ears were ringing, I had problems hearing what people said to me, had to concentrate hard, Anna and Ennen talked at me in loud, precise tones, dragged me between them through the streets in the town center, Havstein and Palli bringing up the rear. I hadn’t eaten properly for a month, hardly eaten, and I wasn’t sure which way the earth was rotating, but I felt sure it was the wrong way, and they dragged me between them up to the SMS shopping center, where we’d left the car, they got me in and shoved me in the back seat against one of the doors, head jammed against the window, lips and cheeks leaving marks on the glass. Havstein drove us home that night. He always did; didn’t drink beer, drank soft drinks, drank water. That’s how it was. Dr. Driver.

  We drove home. And I was happy.

  I was awfully happy.

  I might explode at any minute.

  Kodak moment.

  But I didn’t go to sleep. I stayed awake all the way home, was allowed to keep the window open, because it still wasn’t really cold, so I lay with my head against the window’s edge and looked out toward the dark mountains surrounding us, the still cloudless sky, and it all seemed so endlessly vast at that moment, even though it was a miniscule country. The smooth grass-covered mountains rose around me on all sides, a scattering of birds that had the stamina to fly by night, birds that had gone astray from Norway perhaps, believing they’d flown to Iceland, or worse, the USA, and the waves crashed against the quaysides in the settlements that we passed, and against the rocks below the roadside barriers. The odd car would pass in the opposite direction, and for a moment I’d be blinded by the light until the noise melted away behind me and only the sound of the Subaru was left.

  It took a good hour to drive back to Gjógv, which was more or less on the other side of the country. Not a great deal to do. Just to sit quietly. Let myself be taken along, I’d begun to get used to it. And the long drive cleared my head little by
little, technical faults were being repaired, and with that everything I’d managed to keep in check all evening came back too, it crept in through the window, and rolling the window back up didn’t get rid of it either, it just perched at the back of my head like a much-too-wise owl, hell bent on reminding me constantly how fabulously wise it was.

  “Go to bed now? We can’t go to bed now, surely? There’s no way.” It was Ennen talking, we’d just gotten back home and were standing in the living room at a loss, and Palli wanted to go to bed, he was tired, had had a long day at work.

  “But Palli,” Ennen said, “just look out of the window. Can’t you see how beautiful it is? How often is it like that? For more than an hour or two? Hardly ever.” I was tired too, in my body at least, my muscles ached, my throat hurt, but my head didn’t want to go to bed, it wanted to stay up, so I cheered Ennen on, and Anna joined us, of course, since she had nothing to get up for in the morning. Havstein wandered soundlessly out into the kitchen, rummaged, returned with a bottle of wine for us and was met with exclamations of gratitude. Palli smiled, “I’m really tired, so I’ll be off to bed,” he said, and padded out. I heard him go up the creaky stairs and suddenly the sound seemed so familiar, as though I had heard it all my life.

  We sat in the big chairs and sofas in the enormous living room, under the twelve-foot ceiling, and Ennen was everywhere at once, back and forth between the sofa and stereo system, playing all her Cardigans records for us, Emmerdale, Life, First Band on the Moon, and Gran Turismo, and she played some of the songs again, the really good ones, the best ones, the ones she knew by heart, and Havstein opened the wine, found three glasses, I struggled to keep my head from drooping onto my chest, it had grown so heavy, filled with all kinds of junk and too much fresh air. Anna sat next to me in the brown sofa farthest from the other chairs, Havstein had pulled one of the big wing backed chairs across, and Ennen stood up most of the time, or moved back and forth across the floor as she sang, hummed, and shook her head in time or out of time with the music.

  “Do you like the Cardigans?” asked Havstein.

  “Yes. Sure. They’re all right,” I answered.

  “They’re the only thing she plays, the only thing she listens to. Aren’t they?”

  “Yup,” said Anna, smiling at Ennen who was standing next to one of the loudspeakers listening for new nuances in Nina Persson’s voice. “Aside from the Cardigans, she’s completely indifferent to music.”

  “A kind of song autism,” I suggested.

  Anna laughed and red wine sprayed out of her nose, blotting the pale tablecloth on the table between us, and Havstein lay a protective hand over his glass, drawing it closer to him. I don’t know why, but that was the kind of thing they found funny.

  Ennen put “Your New Cuckoo” on and came over and sat in the sofa with us.

  “What are you all talking about? Mattias?”

  “Rain Man,” said Havstein, cracking up even though it wasn’t a particularly good joke, but it was very late, or early, who knows, depending on the way you looked at it.

  “Havstein and Anna say you only listen to Cardigans,” I said.

  “The Cardigans,” she corrected. “And so?”

  “Oh, nothing. It’s just, well, it’s a little … unusual. Listening to only one band.”

  “You should start a Cardigan’s Army,” said Havstein, pulling himself together, but continuing to snicker, a little schoolgirl in his chair. “Like the Kiss fans did.” Ennen was getting riled and began to raise her voice, a finger pointed at Havstein: “I just can’t be bothered listening to other bands, when everything I need is in this band. What’s so wrong with only listening to the Cardigans, if they’ve got everything I need? What’s the problem, huh?”

  “Nothing,” answered Havstein.

  “Are they that good?” I asked.

  “And better.” She turned towards Anna: “It’s not like I’ve never listened to anything else. I have, I liked Prince when I was younger. Michael Jackson. Depeche Mode. Stuff like that. But only the Cardigans stand the test of time.”

  “What about the Beatles?” I suggested.

  “Nahh.”

  “Radiohead?”

  “Nope.”

  “Björk?”

  “Björk?” She thought about it. “No. Not anymore. But I really liked her band KUKL in the old days.”

  “But don’t you ever get bored? Of listening to the same songs, over and over again, I mean?”

  “No. Not really. What’s the point of buying CDs if you’re going to ration their use and hold off from playing them? The Cardigans make me happy. I don’t get bored of them.”

  “But we do,” laughed Havstein. “God almighty, I don’t know how many times I’ve wanted to hide those CDs of yours, but it must be pretty often.”

  Ennen looked straight at him.

  “And do you know what would happen then?”

  “Yes.”

  “What would happen?” I asked.

  Anna laughed.

  “I don’t dare think,” answered Havstein.

  “You’re probably wise there,” said Anna.

  “Anyway,” said Ennen, “the Cardigans might be one thing, but the stuff you listen to, Havstein, is another disaster altogether.”

  “True!” burst out Anna getting up and going over to a little pile of CDs next to the stereo.

  “Can I, Ennen?”

  “Yeah, sure.”

  Anna took off the CD that was on, found another one, and it went quiet for a few seconds before the room filled with a blend of danceband boogie, blues, and a caterwauling sound, hardly beautiful, and I suddenly realized this was what I’d been hearing in the mornings, and not the radio, as I’d lain in my room all those weeks.

  “Havstein,” I said, looking at him and trying to remain serious. “What is this?”

  “This is Kári P. The Faroe Islands’ big hero.”

  “Carrie?”

  “No, Kári. Kári’s a man, can’t you hear, co-ry.”

  Ennen sat on the sofa and grinned, giggled, shook her head and shouted over to Anna: “One more time!” and Anna played the same song again. Gó∂borgara-shuffle.

  “Play the one with the sax part in it,” shouted Ennen.

  “Sangur umflyting?”

  “Yes!”

  Anna put another track on. It began with a moody sax solo and was a ballad about how the poor were forced to move out, and the rich moved in, because the world was changing, times they were a-changing, and Kári sang mournfully, a guitar in the background, not as ghastly as the last track, but I wouldn’t have wanted to buy it, even less wake up to it.

  “This is a tremendous song,” Havstein suggested, “It has something really relevant to say. Just look around. There used to be lots of people living around here, and now, there’s hardly a soul. The lyrics are bloody brilliant, he really gets in there.”

  “Yeah, sort of,” answered Anna. “It’s just he shouldn’t sing them.”

  “Maybe he could have just recited them instead,” suggested Ennen.

  “Or just printed the text on the cover and released an empty CD, sold it with magazines for housewives.”

  Somebody passed me the cover, Anna I think. The CD was called Vælfer∂arvísur. The image on the front was a kind of collage, that kind of worked. The background was done in pencil, the right hand side was taken up by mountains and a tiny village that almost seemed to be erasing itself, rising on the other side was a black tower block. An elderly man walked through a door in the middle, and a fisherman, holding a piece of fish wrapped in paper, stooped to get through the low door, stepping onto a chessboard where the black and white squares didn’t tally, an impossible game, with only four pawns. Tarzan swung on a liana toward the chessboard, and a man without eyes, mouth, and arms sat in a chair at the back of the room, and down at his feet, three American soldiers held their hands up to shield their eyes. An angel watched over them all, or had forgotten their existence. It should have meant something to me, b
ut it didn’t, I got nothing from it, except that it was about things that didn’t turn out right, that everything was hopeless, but that nobody cared.

  And we listened to the rest of the song, the mournful saxophone reminiscent of times gone by that would never return, things that had gone askew and could never be repaired. Kári believed in what he sang, without a doubt, he did his best, and that was good enough, people moved from their farms, moved into town, into tiny rooms with scarcely room to turn, and Kári lent his voice to the cause, and for moments you could go along with it, until the saxophone forced itself in again, stealing the show with its pathetic cooing, so there was nothing to do but give up, and a moment later we were onto the next track again, back with the Gó∂borgara-shuffle and everyone in the room fell about laughing, while Havstein sat there looking offended, tapping the beat with his foot, trying to keep it discreet, trying to convince himself it was a good CD, that Kári P. was a good man, that it was worth listening to, that it meant something to him, I watched him go through the arguments in his head, there was something sad about it, but I said nothing.

 
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